Childcare sector says hundreds of jobs will go if Tasmania lowers school starting age
16th August 2016
Tasmania’s childcare sector fears hundreds of jobs will be lost if the Government lowers the school starting age from 2021.
The Government wants to reduce the compulsory school starting age by six months, which would push the voluntary kindergarten starting age down to three-and-a-half years.
Early Childhood Australia (ECA) this week distributed pamphlets warning the change would reduce childcare enrolments by 48 per cent.
Tasmanian branch president Annette Barwick said that would make dozens of childcare businesses unviable and cause up to 700 job losses.
“Basically it is a higher cost – they will either need to downsize, or some services won’t be able to remain viable and will need to close,” she said.
Ms Barwick said 54 services were at high risk of closure with many of those in small communities.
“That means that working families, accessibility and also affordability will be jeopardised,” she said.
She said the closure of childcare businesses and job losses in the sector would have flow-on effects for other local businesses.
“Providers of consumables to services, providers of toys and equipment – that’s all going to be impacted on, either if a service closes or if a services downsizes,” Ms Barwick said.
ECA also warned the remaining providers might have to increase fees, a fear shared by Clarence Alderman David Hulme.
“If you have children aged between three-and-a-half and four leaving child care and going into formal schooling, that lowers the average age of children in child care, which means you end up having to have higher staff ratios and that could potentially lead to higher fees,” he said.
This week the Clarence Council passed a motion by Alderman Hulme to write to Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff asking he take into account the impact on early childhood businesses when implementing the school starting age changes.
Education Minister disputes job-loss figures
Mr Rockliff conceded lowering the school starting age would have an impact on the early childhood sector, but rejected ECA’s claims.
He said a report commissioned by the Education Department cast doubt on ECA’s modelling.
“An independent report by Deloitte shows that the ECA has overstated and double counted in their analysis,” he said.
“The Education Act changes are about improving educational outcomes and opportunities for young Tasmanians and, in turn, improving our state and strengthening economy.
“We firmly believe the sector will have a strong future and we will work with them to ensure this over the extensive implementation time.”
The report used Commonwealth Government data to analyse Early Childhood Australia’s modelling and concluded the number of hours Tasmanian children were enrolled in long daycare would drop by about 20 per cent, not the 48 per cent predicted by ECA.
The report also found ECA overestimated the proportion of Tasmanian children in long daycare and predicted job losses would not be as severe as ECA warned.
ECA said it stood by its modelling, which it said used data from Tasmanian services and had been independently analysed.
Mr Rockliff will announce the final changes to the Education Act this week when he tables the draft legislation in State Parliament.