As recently as the last NSW election in 2015, there was an acknowledged need for 45,000 or more places in outside school hours care (OSHC, or OOSH) in both public and private schools.
In 2019, a new election promise from the current NSW Government (Coalition) might come close to resolving that deficit if they are re-elected, with the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announcing yesterday that “Before and after school care will be made available to all parents with children at public primary schools by 2021 under a NSW Liberals & Nationals Government.”
The 2015 promise set up a fund of $20million to create additional places on applications from principals. In 2019, the promise has expanded to a broader package of $120million. Will the money do the job needed to help children spend quality time away from home, before and after school?
Noticeably, unlike the recent ALP announcement where the language of learning was applied to the ECE commitment, this strategy is heavily skewed towards ‘making life easy’ for parents and for school principals. Children barely rate a mention, and OSHC educators? Not a word.
What’s on offer?
Premier Berejiklian says her government, if re-elected, will invest $120 million to “dramatically expand before and after school care, providing working families more access to affordable, convenient and flexible services”.
“We know a major challenge for working families is accessing affordable and convenient before and after school care,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“I want to ensure that care is available to everyone who needs it and at a location that is convenient.
“It isn’t good enough for there to be growing waiting lists for before and after hours school care while community resources remain under-utilised.”
This compares to the NSW ALP policy commitment of making OSHC facilities mandatory in all new schools, and promising a ‘review' of the Department of Education’s tender processes that many feel are skewed against parent-managed and not-for-profit OSHC providers.
How would it work?
The Liberal policy states that public primary schools in Sydney, Newcastle, Illawarra and the Central Coast as well as major regional centres, must open their playgrounds, halls or classrooms for before and after school care and school holiday care from 7am to 6pm. This may overcome one barrier OSHC providers find, where some school principals will not make space available for an outside school hours service – sometimes because they have pre-existing or more lucrative contracts in place with other parties such as martial arts or dance schools.
schools…must open their playgrounds, halls or classrooms for before and after school care and school holiday care from 7am to 6pm.
In small or remote area schools, where onsite OSHC services may not be viable, the Liberal policy says the NSW Government will provide transportation to offsite providers. The policy does not currently explain how this will be achieved in areas where travel to and from an alternative provider would take as long as the hours of service needed.
Specialist lease team
Education Minister Rob Stokes said the policy will also make life easier for schools, with the creation of a new specialist team in the Department of Education to coordinate services and manage leases to relieve this burden from principals.
In the past decade or so the Department has come under fire for its leasing arrangements to OSHC providers in public schools. The management of assets is at the fore, with commercial tendering practices leading to the loss of some long standing community operated services in favour of stronger business cases from commercial providers. At a recent pre-election forum, OSHC leases were a hot topic and the Liberal/National, Labor and Greens representatives all vowed to ensure not-for-profit providers concerns received fresh attention.
Look for more stories on this topic in future issues of Amplify.
The $120 million Liberal/National election commitment includes:
- $50 million over four years to help schools buy new equipment and expand their facilities
- $40 million over four years to provide rental subsidies to service providers located at public primary schools if they can demonstrate savings have been passed on to families – expected to reduce fees by up to $225 per child per year (read CELA’s CEO’s comments on the need for strict spending rules in similar situations)
- $20 million over four years for an implementation fund focused on schools where a standalone service may not be viable, including smaller schools and rural and remote communities
- $8.5 million over four years for a team of specialists to help coordinate services and resources on an area or regional basis, to make it easier to setup and maintain a service and to take the hassle out of managing contracts with providers for principal
- $2 million for a new website and mobile app to allow parents and carers to search for and book student places online.
Meet the author
Bec Lloyd is the founder and managing director of Bec & Call Communication, providing professional writing, editing and strategy services to the school and early childhood education sector since 2014. In 2018 she launched UnYucky mindset and menus for happier family mealtimes. Formerly the communications lead at ACECQA and BOS (now NESA), Bec is a journo and mother of three who produces Amplify for us at Community Early Learning Australia.