Parents drive 20,000km for preschoolers

Parents drive 20,000km for preschoolers

News
Aa

Travelling thousands of kilometres every year for preschool is putting pressure on NSW families in this drought.

Aa
Rachael Litchfield drives 240km a week to make sure her son Will can attend the nearest preschool. Photo supplied.

Rachael Litchfield drives 240km a week to make sure her son Will can attend the nearest preschool. Photo supplied.

One family in NSW will travel 20,000 kilometres this year to make sure their child can attend preschool - well above the average national motor vehicle usage.

According to motoring statistics, cars in Australia travel an average of around 14,000km in a year.

But travelling thousands of kilometres every year for preschool is putting pressure on NSW families in this drought.

Isolated Children's Parents' Association NSW (ICPA) president Claire Butler said this pressure was seeing families consider pulling their children from preschool due to travel costs.

The ICPA passed a motion at its conference recently, put forward by the Wentworth branch, to request the Transport Minister provide School Drive Subsidy for remote preschoolers because face to face preschool in remote areas was a "challenge to achieve".

"With the drought worsening, many families are finding themselves time and money poor and preschool is presenting a challenge to their families when no travel assistance is provided," the motion said.

"One of our families will travel more than 20,000km just to attend preschool this year. Other families are choosing not to attend face to face sessions as the costs are too great to attend. Early childhood education is vital for the development of our children prior to commencing schooling."

In August/September 2017, ICPA surveyed 111 people from rural and remote areas of NSW who said there was a need for preschoolers to access the rural school bus. Of those surveyed the average distance from homes to preschools was 47km. "This is still relevant today, we are not talking thousands of kids that could be exempted," Mrs Butler said.

"The federal government put out a strategy that every child should have access to 600 hours of preschool in the year before school. That's great but how do we get children to access preschool when they live remotely."

She said those families who did not have access to bus runs, should be able to access the School Drive Subsidy (around 60 cents/km only one way travel) that was available for school-age students but not preschoolers.

"It doesn't fully cover the costs driving to school but it's helpful," she said.

She said another issue was there were no provisions for preschoolers to catch bus.

"If preschool can get on the bus they might be able to boost numbers to keep bus runs going when there are only five to six kids," she said.

Every week Rachael Litchfield drives 240 kilometres (around 10,000km a year) to make sure her son Will can attend preschool. Mrs Litchfield puts her eldest children on the bus to their school 6km away and then she follows another school bus towards Wentworth where Will attends preschool.

"I literally follow the school bus most of the way there, Will could catch that bus," Mrs Litchfield said.

Transport for NSW is not considering extending school bus passes to preschool age children due to safety concerns.

A NSW Government Spokesperson said Transport for NSW was working with the Department of Education to investigate the options available to assist in getting preschool aged children to preschool.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by