The Coalition has pledged to invest $1 billion this year to begin the construction of 500 new preschools, moving forward with its core education programme of providing free pre-kindergarten to all four-year-olds.
The state will provide five more days of school each week before kindergarten to every four-year-old by 2030, fulfilling the major electoral vow.
The $5.8 billion once-in-a-generation reform, which was a cornerstone of the state budget from the previous year, will be hastened so that 50,000 children will have access to the free pre-kindergarten year by 2027.
Construction on the first preschools was initially scheduled to begin in the second half of 2024. In order to provide universal preschool, NSW will ultimately need 100,000 seats for children under five.
Out of the first 500 spots, 131 will be near schools in western and metropolitan Sydney. Another 67 spots are slated for the Hunter and Central Coast, 58 for the New England region and the state's north-west, and 56 for the Riverina.
The locations were selected based on the availability of land, bushfire mapping, the supply and demand for early childhood programmes at the time, socioeconomic rankings, and more. Also, the government has given priority to locations without an early childhood programme within walking distance of a school.
The programme, which will see the state government engage with the early childhood industry to produce the tens of thousands of seats required, is being implemented in tandem by NSW and Victoria.
In addition to expanding already-existing community preschools and lengthy childcare facilities, this will involve building new facilities for schools. In 71 preschools, a pilot of the programme will begin this month. The reform's various components, such as improved attendance, longer operating hours, and programmes to help students transfer to high school, will all be tested during the trial.
Research reveals the first five years of a child's life are crucial for their development and highly predict not only how they will perform in school, but also their long-term health and their engagement with the judicial system.
The chronic lack of childcare spaces in Sydney and rural New South Wales, according to Premier Dominic Perrottet, would be addressed by the pre-kindergarten programme.
Tens of thousands of children across the state would benefit from a jumpstart on their education, setting them up for success in the future, according to Perrottet. "With our universal pre-kindergarten programme, which will provide every child with access to free, high-quality learning in the year before they begin school, NSW is leading the nation.
Families must endure lengthy waitlists or far-reaching drives to the nearest childcare facility in more than a third of the state's municipalities.
The first item on the legislative agenda for a re-elected NSW Liberal and Nationals government would be "cementing universal pre-kindergarten as a new component of the education path for children in NSW," according to education minister Sarah Mitchell.
For our youngest students, universal pre-kindergarten will need 100,000 spots; we will provide 50,000 of those in the following four years on school grounds alone, Mitchell stated.
Although thousands of new early childhood instructors are needed to implement the initiative, several experts have cautioned that the widespread labour shortages could jeopardise the ambitious ambition of the state government.
If Labor wins the election on March 25, it will support the pre-kindergarten policy and make a commitment to developing 100 public preschools adjacent to government primary schools during its first term in office.
In order to provide preschool for four-year-olds to all children sooner, it has also stated that it will invest $60 million in new and expanded preschools that are housed alongside non-government institutions.
NSW Coalition Fast-Tracks Free Pre-kindergarten In Major Election Pitch, The Sydney Morning Herald, March 7, 2023