Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (22 September) . . Page.. 1972 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
It was pointed out to the committee that some children who are in full-day care are not able to access preschools. While new models such as the co-location of child care and preschool have been introduced, unfortunately government has not taken a strong enough role in evaluating and supporting these initiatives. The committee has recommended that the department develop a statement on different models of service delivery for consideration in future provision of early childhood services.
Two other very important issues came up. One was support for teachers. We have made a recommendation on that, as well as asking the Government, or the department and the Government, to review the support that is provided for teachers in the field. The other area of concern was support for teachers and children and families who have special needs in the preschool sector. We have also made a recommendation that government look at that issue.
In conclusion, I would like to say that we do have a very good preschool service in the ACT. We should be proud of it and we should be protective of it. I believe that in this particular area we are doing the right thing. Quite a number of submissions pointed out that the money spent in the early childhood years is money well spent; that it will save money being spent later on, quite a lot of money in fact. This is once again an argument for putting money into prevention and early intervention and for acknowledging the long-term benefits of taking this approach to the funding of services.
I would like to acknowledge the work of our secretary, Judith Henderson, who was extremely hardworking in this committee and helped produce a very excellent report.
MR BERRY (10.44): I was a recent recruit to the Education Committee, and it was quite gratifying to be involved in what in the early stages looked like a skirmish around preschool, because it gave me an opportunity to better understand the mood of the community in relation to preschool education. It is a while since I had to trouble myself with preschool education, though as a grandpa now I have a four-year-old lining up for preschool education. It does sharpen the senses in relation to preschool education if you have children, grandchildren or other relatives involved in or about to be involved in it. That is why there was so much community upset at the release of the Auditor-General's report and what I perceived and what many in the community perceived as an early attraction by the Government to the economic rationalist view that the Auditor-General had taken in relation to preschools and preschool education.
That is not meant to be a reflection on the Auditor-General. Auditors-General can take a fairly rationalist approach to developing reports in relation to the use of public buildings and the provision of services by staff. It is important that those statements be made, because they do increase the heat of, and interest in, debate about issues, in this case preschools. For those who have young people either in the system or about to be involved in the system, even for people who have had young children who have successfully completed their preschool years, there is a great deal of interest.
I go back to my earlier point. At the first meeting, at Hawker Primary School, the community was extremely agitated and upset about what I earlier described as a certain attraction by the Government to the economic rationalist approach to preschools. I am pleased to say that the Minister pretty soon measured the sentiment