An Extra Year of Schooling

It has been called “a game-changer!” I am referring to the NSW Government’s latest budget pledge worth $5.8 billion over 10 years to help introduce an extra year of education. The most significant schooling reform is offering five days per week of pre-kindergarten to every four-year-old by 2030.

The Government will be working with the early childhood sector to create the tens of thousands of places needed, including adding new facilities to schools and expanding existing community preschools and long daycare centres. Premier Dominic Perrottet said the decision to introduce a universal, pre-kindergarten year of learning reflected the importance of early education to children’s future. “This is incredible reform that will change lives,” he said.

For the AGBU Alexander Primary School community, this statement seems outdated by a decade. Unfortunately, by the time this policy has been fully implemented, it will be trailing our school for over two decades. This is based on the fact that in 2013 we introduced our current Preparatory (Prep) class for children from 3½ years of age, designed to make the transition to school a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Research shows that the first five years of a child’s life are critical for their development and strongly predict how they will perform in school. Childhood experts agree that attending a high-quality program prepares children for Kindergarten and beyond. This is why Alexander school offers a Preparatory class for children the year before starting school.

All parents strive to find the best option for their children, understanding that a sound foundation will prepare them with the skills and qualities they need for a fruitful school experience. Early Learning and Care Council of Australia chief executive Elizabeth Death said the policy was a “game-changer in Australia”. “We know that children who start behind often stay behind, and we know that learning starts at birth, so extending the universal education system to include the early years makes perfect sense,” she said.

The Government’s reform also depends on recruiting and retaining early childhood educators and teachers. We have been focusing on this area and have successfully maintained high-quality care in our Prep class with qualified teachers and early childhood educators. We know what it means to have an experienced, nurturing and dedicated early childhood teacher like Mrs Talar Bedikian at the school. Over the past decade, we have seen and experienced what a Prep class means for our school and families.

While the NSW Government’s decision is a welcome announcement, the members of our community do not need to wait for another ten years. Therefore, we extend a warm invitation to community members to visit our school and see the unique learning environment for our students from Prep to Year 6.

Manoug Demirjian

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