School age campaign

Giggles Early Learning is supporting the statewide campaign against lowering the starting school age in Tasmania. Picture: Ashleigh Force.

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Legislation. The campaign against the lowering of the school age has amped up across the state.

In Smithton, Giggles Early Learning is flying the ‘Say No’ banner ahead of the Legislative Council’s sitting to determine the outcome.

If the act is passed, from 2020 the voluntary starting school age will be lowered by six months, meaning that if parents feel their child is ready they may enrol in kindergarten at three and a half years of age.

However, many disagree with the proposal.

The most vocal of whom has been Giggles owner Linda Wooldrage who has actively campaigned against the change since it was first proposed.

“We have to get this right for our future, our children have the right to an education of high quality,” she said.

“It will be a real shame to see so many early childhood services forced to close, which will reduce access for the younger age group.”

Mrs Wooldrage said the argument should be about more than cost, rather in the best interests of children.

“Whilst the government’s intentions are honourable this is not the right way to go about it. Lowering the school age will further contribute to inequality, bringing about more disadvantage to children who are already vulnerable.

“If the government want to address access to early learning for all, then the best investment they can make is to fund children to attend existing accredited childcare services for free.”

The state government has given reasons for the proposed change in stating that evidence shows investment in high quality early learning improves educational outcomes in later life, this investment is particularly important for disadvantaged children, allowing them to have access to quality learning sooner.

The Australian Childcare Alliance has recently set up a new state body in Tasmania, with help from local early childhood education and care service providers, in order to address the issue.

They say the state government’s plans to lower the school starting age goes against the best practice research.

Anyone against the proposal can sign a petition available at www.childcarealliance.org.au.

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