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Outback towns to pioneer universal pre-kindergarten

Deputy Premier Paul Toole and Nationals candidate for Barwon Annette Turner discussing the pre-kindergarten concept with BDCS General Manager Prue Ritchie. Photo TWH

Tricia Duffield

Families across the Far West will be among the first in the state to benefit from the NSW government’s landmark reform to introduce a universal pre-kindergarten year of education for every child in NSW.

In Bourke on Friday, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Paul Toole, said towns like Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett and Lightning Ridge could be among locations across NSW to begin rolling out the first stage of the universal pre-kindergarten policy in early 2023. “This investment will be a game changer for our youngest learners who will benefit from a full year of quality preschool education at no cost to parents,” Mr Toole said.

“Six of the seven locations trialling this program are in regional areas – and that’s because this government is building a brighter future for families right across the state by investing in early childhood learning on a scale never seen before in Australia.

“So next year the Bourke preschool will be set up for free kindergarten to ease the cost of living for parents,” he said.

“It means kids get the opportunity to get into pre-school, it’s affordable for everyone, and Bourke is very fortunate to run that trial.”

“I’m calling on interested providers across Bourke, Cobar and Coonamble to submit their expression of interest and be involved in the trial for 2023.”

Minister for Education and Early Learning, Sarah Mitchell, said other locations included in the first year of the program include Mt Druitt, Wagga Wagga, Kempsey, and Nambucca.

“This first stage of universal pre-kindergarten is a design and trial stage that will allow us to gather crucial information for rolling out the program across the state,” Mrs Mitchell said.

“We are continuing to work collaboratively with families, peak bodies, service providers and schools to develop the best model of universal pre-Kindergarten for NSW.”

Eligible services are invited to have their say and ask questions at workshops in pilot regions during November 2022. Expressions of Interest close on 16 December 2022.

Services in the Bourke-Coonamble-Cobar statistical area are eligible if they meet certain criteria – this includes Enngonia, Brewarrina, Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Collarenebri, and Nyngan.

The first 6 months of the pilot will be a planning and design phase, with expectations to commence 5 days of preschool in the year before school from July.


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