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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 11 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3299 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

To alleviate anyone's misconception of what a part-time preschool is, saying that a preschool will go from full time to part time does not mean that the number of hours available for preschool sessions for any one child will be reduced. Each child will continue to get the same 101/2 hours a week, as they do now. The term "part-time preschool" refers to a preschool that offers a full 101/2-hour week program for one group of children. A full-time preschool provides two 101/2-hour programs for two groups. The words "full time" refer to the fact that the teacher is full time in a program that offers preschool sessions for the two groups. I think it is important to make that distinction, Mr Speaker.

I am aware, following some comments Ms Follett made, and some other comments I saw by Ms Tucker, I think, who also has made some representations to me, that there is a question about families enrolling late. Some families come in only at the end of the year. The system is the system you had. The department has to do its planning. It has to work out what it needs to do, with reasonable lead-up times for the new year. That has been done. That was done at the end of August. I reiterate, Ms Follett, that if you have any other suggestions I am delighted to have a look at them and see whether there is any way that can be improved. I think it is important that families of preschool students realise that they certainly should register in August where they want to go, because that certainly does assist with planning by the department.

I have heard - I think this might relate to the North Ainslie area - that the Department of Defence might have some people coming in. Just as the Education Department needs lead-up time before people are posted, I would hope that the Defence Department would know of its intention to post certain people. For example, Warrant Officer Bloggs and his two preschool-age children and Captain Mary Smith and her one preschool-age child might well be posted to Canberra, and they could be going into quarters in Ainslie. I would hope that other departments might be able to assist in that regard. Ms Follett, I simply reiterate that if you have any ideas on how the system can be improved, in view of those difficulties that the department does have, I would be happy to look at them.

MS FOLLETT: I know I am pushing my luck with a supplementary question, Mr Speaker, but I will ask it anyway. The Minister mentioned that enrolments were down. Minister, will you instruct preschools to reopen their books for enrolments if, as has happened in at least one preschool, they have been advising potential enrolments that they cannot be accommodated for the coming year because that preschool is to go part time?

MR STEFANIAK: As I indicated, Ms Follett, if you have some further suggestion I would be happy to take it on board and see whether that is possible. The current system is that, if the number enrolled is a certain amount at the end of August and there is a preschool in the adjacent suburb which is full time, overflows can be picked up. Ms Follett, if you have any definitive suggestions, I am happy to put them to my department.

MR SPEAKER: It being 3.00 pm, in accordance with the resolution agreed to earlier this day, I call upon the Treasurer, Mrs Carnell.

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