Funding cut fears for kindergarten

Parent Jill Willetts with Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk.
Parent Jill Willetts with Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk.

The State Government currently funds 11 hours a week of kindergarten, with a further four hours funded federally.

But the Federal Government is unsure whether it would continue to provide this funding once the agreement expires on December 31.

Jill Willetts, from Palmyra, has a three-year-old daughter who is due to start kindergarten next year.

She said she was afraid the program may not be as extensive as it was when her now Year 1 daughter attended.

‘Kindergarten, for some children, is the first time they have entered into a formal classroom setting,’ she said.

‘What a shame to take this opportunity away from teachers and children who share in the same love of teaching and learning.’

Mrs Willetts said kindergarten gave children a chance to build social skills and develop an awareness of social etiquette.

Children who required intervention with learning problems also relied on early detection of these issues.

‘Cutting back on the time a child is in a setting with peers and qualified professionals is reducing the opportunity to pick up on possible difficulties a child may have,’ she said.

WA Education Minister Peter Collier said he would be disappointed if the funding was dropped.

‘It is the responsibility of the Federal Government,’ he said.

‘If not, we as a State Government are going to have to find a way to fund those hours.

‘I would be devoid of responsibility to go into the community now and say we’re not going to be able to provide those four hours but that, of course, will mean cutting other programs.’

Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk said any changes to kindergarten would be a big disruption for local families.

‘In this area there are 260 estimated enrolments just in our public schools for kindy next year and our local private schools have kindy kids enrolling next year too,’ she said.

‘In Parliament, the Premier said to make up the loss of Federal funding there would have to be $47 million worth of cuts elsewhere.

‘This is actually a hollow win because it is at the expense of another service being cut.’