As a parent of two children who have been through preschool, I’m not qualified to say whether moving the kindergarten system from Human Services to the Department of education, and the preschools to primary school grounds, would be an improvement in terms of “educational outcomes” (ick). My feeling is that children are too poked-at, hothoused and forced to perform like seals as it is. But I think these pundits are all ignoring the fact that such a move would be a disaster in terms of access.
The short hours of preschool mean that children whose mothers are employed are the ones who must have a preschool in the same building as their child care– otherwise, going to preschool may be physically impossible, in the absence of long-suffering grandparents, nannies, or similar, to ferry them around out of work hours.
When I returned to work, in both cases, I managed to find a Community Child Care centre with a kindergarten in the same building complex. Unfortunately, the Community child care centre system is under attack from the for-profit system and an apathetic government.
If the responsibility for kinder was moved to the Education department, kinders would be on school grounds. (Where is the extra space going to come from? It’s not as if our inner-urban schools are spoiled for space!) Even where primary schools are lucky enough to have a before- and after- care centre, these aren’t long day care centres and in no way are they suited to children of preschool age. Is the education department going to provide the long day care? Yeah right!
It’s futile to move the system to a new paradigm where the educational technique may be more whizzbang but kids with working parents miss out. These are likely to be the kids of ordinary workers who can’t pay someone to take little Tarquin to kinder. The ones who probably need kinder the most.