By Greg Warren MP

14 March 2024

Mr GREG WARREN (Campbelltown) (11:19): My question is addressed to the Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning. Will the Deputy Premier advise the House on how the New South Wales Government's historic investment in 100 new public preschools will ensure greater access to early childhood education?

Ms PRUE CAR (Londonderry—Deputy Premier, Minister for Education and Early Learning, and Minister for Western Sydney) (11:20): I thank my Parliamentary Secretary for that important question. There is so much evidence, and parents across New South Wales know, that education must start in the earliest years of a young child's life. We know that those first 2,000 days are critical for early intervention as well as setting up the transition to kindergarten. Every school I go to, the principal or the kindergarten teacher can tell me that they can see a difference between the children who have been through early learning and those who have not. As a government, we are committed—unlike members opposite, who just discovered this at the end of their 12‑year term, on the eve of an election. We have invested the largest amount ever in public preschools in New South Wales. In fact, we are doubling the number of public preschools in New South Wales. That will be a life‑changing outcome for so many children across the State.

Our $769 million investment will mean that we have identified, through a rigorous independent process, schools across the State that will be getting a co‑located public preschool—a free public preschool where teachers deliver world-class play-based preschool education to prepare children for kindergarten. Of those 100 public preschools, 49 are in rural and regional New South Wales. Those sites were chosen on educational need and projected demand. It is a novel idea for members opposite, to look at projected demand, childhood development data and socio-economic data—where it is needed to turn the dial for families.

The SPEAKER: Members will come to order. There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber.

Ms PRUE CAR: More than 600 stakeholders were consulted in this rigorous process, but the impact on—I will focus on the rural and regional impact of this announcement, in particular. There are communities in regional New South Wales that have never had such an investment in preschool learning as this investment and what it will provide for them. The response to the announcement in those local communities, I have to say, has been overwhelming. Their response still is that they have been crying out for this investment—like at Warialda, where the member for Northern Tablelands did not just welcome it, he said he was feeling quite excited. We are all quite excited about this. He is an excitable person. [Extension of time]

Continuing in that vein, at Boorowa Central School the member for Cootamundra was not content with just being excited; she said that she was beyond excited. In all seriousness, a quality education should not be determined by where a person lives. We know that the evidence stacks up, that the educational outcomes for our kids—if they get the opportunity of that preschool education, it makes a material difference in transition and outcomes. We have to make sure that we continue this investment in rural and regional New South Wales despite the fact that the excitement does not pervade throughout the National Party room. I know the member for Dubbo was a little bit miserable about this, but the Opposition should be reminded that it did not deliver a single public preschool in its 12 years in government—not one.

The SPEAKER: Order! Opposition members will calm down. They are provoked too easily.

Ms PRUE CAR: Members might remember that what actually happened was, on the eve of an election, after more than a decade in power, the former Government said it was going to promise 500. It had 12 years and did not deliver, and now we are proudly going to deliver 100 public preschools. I cannot wait to see those little people walking through those doors at the beginning of their educational journey.