Parents caned by preschool fee increase

PARENTS at nine public preschools in the Hunter returned to school this week to find they had to pay higher fees.

It is the first rise in public preschool fees since the state government announced the plan in last year’s budget.

At Waratah, fees went up from $5 a day to $20 a day this year. At Windale and Irrawang Public they went up to $10 and at Edgeworth and Telarah Public they went up to $15 a day.

It is $20 a day at Stockton, Mayfield West and Cardiff South Public Schools and $30 a day at Elermore Vale.

The NSW Opposition urged affected parents on Tuesday to sign its petition against the rise. It wants to collect 10,000 signatures to force NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to debate and defend the policy in Parliament.

Opposition Leader John Robertson said the rises equated to up to $150 a week for families. ‘‘Many parents will be unable to cope,’’ he said. ‘‘Children should never be denied preschool because of their parents’ lack of financial means.’’

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said many parents had already enrolled and felt locked into fees they never budgeted for.

‘‘I fear many will be forced to withdraw their child altogether – or cut the number of attendance days per week.’’

Cessnock MP Clayton Barr said some of the preschools were in the region’s most vulnerable communities.

An Education Department spokesman said the policy would bring preschools in public schools in line with the wider early childhood sector.

He said families experiencing financial hardship were entitled to fee relief.

‘‘The department is not required to provide preschool for everyone,’’ he said. ‘‘Its mandate is to provide for the most disadvantaged children, particularly those who would not otherwise be able to attend preschool.’’

To sign the petition call 92302689

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