Save Our Schools today accused the ACT Government of deception about its new early childhood education policy. SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that the policy announcement was a shameless fraud.
“The policy is fraudulent because no new schools are being established and no additional funding is being provided.
“The schools listed by the Minister for Education as new already exist – they are not new schools. They are schools that will be partially closed under the Government’s school closure program. In each case, they are being reduced from complete primary schools providing seven years of schooling to P-2 schools.
“The Minister is trying to make a virtue out of denying the residents of Isabella Plains, Lyons, Narrabundah and Page/Scullin access to a complete primary school facility in their neighbourhood.
“Early childhood education is already provided in these schools. They all have early childhood teachers.
“The P-2 model has the virtue of providing integrated early childhood education but it has the disadvantage of requiring a transition to another school after Year 2. Parents need to be aware that a later transition can also create learning and social development problems for some children.
“Neither is it necessary to adopt a P-2 model in order to have community schools. Integrating education with ‘one-stop’ family services from birth has been successful in many complete primary schools.”
Mr. Cobbold said the Minister’s claim of giving early childhood education top priority was false as there is no additional funding attached to the policy announcement.
“It is a policy without funding commitments. Without additional funding to provide extra staff and resources there can be no expectation of increased education benefits.
“Nor can the public expect any future savings to public expenditure as the Minister claims. He says that research shows that each dollar invested in early childhood development can save up to seven dollars in later public expenditure. But, there is no new funding attached to this announcement and thus no gain.
“How can the Minister expect benefits from a nil investment?
“The Minister is also ‘gilding the lily’ about the Government’s past initiatives. He stated that the Stanhope Government reduced class sizes in the early years of school. In fact, it was the Humphries Liberal Government, with Bill Stefaniak as Minister for Education, which introduced class size reductions for Years K-2. The incoming Stanhope Government simply picked up Liberal policy and added another year.”
Mr. Cobbold called on the Stanhope Government to use part of its suddenly discovered massive budget surplus to increase funding support for early childhood education and to address learning needs at other levels of government school education.
“The ACT Government has one of the strongest financial positions of any government in Australia. It had a budget surplus of $120 million last financial year. It has accumulated budget surpluses of $735 million since 2001-02 while ignoring fundamental issues in government school education. A further $320 million surplus is estimated for the next four years.
“It is time the Government put its rhetoric into practice.”