$250m kindergarten safety net

NINE hundred new teachers would be employed under a $250 million NSW Opposition proposal to catch kids struggling with words and numbers at kindergarten age.

Detecting literacy and numeracy problems at an early age – and not when children were at high school when it was widely regarded as too late – might also help stop fundamental social ills arising from poor education, NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said.

State Lismore MP Thomas George said the plan would ensure children in the Lismore electorate would develop literacy and numeracy at an early age.

“Under State Labor too many children in the Lismore electorate are unable to adequately read, write or count by the time theyfinish primary school,” Mr George said. “Sadly for most of these children, by the time they reach high school it is almost too late for them to recover these skills.”

The needs-based plan, which would be rolled out over five years, is designed to look after children identified as struggling in national tests and allocate additional resources to the child, not the school.

If there were 20 children in asingle year group needing help, they would get more resources than a group of 15, education spokesman Adrian Piccoli explained, adding the student-focused policy was unprecedented in NSW.

Existing testing regimes in kindergartens would be used to identify children at risk and then make sure the resources and teachers were targeted to the children needing them the most.

Mr Piccoli said the support would be available for all children who needed it, and accused the State Government of failing to improve the performance of children.

One-in-five students in Year 9 either barely made the minimum standard, or fell short in literacy and numeracy, Mr O’Farrell claimed.

Catching struggling students would not only help individual personal and professional development, but also have a ripple effect in the community

“A dollar spent ensuring children are better educated is a dollar saved in either remedial education or in other problems that arise across society,” Mr O’Farrell said.

The proposed plan would employ an additional 900 teachers, extend the current program from literacy to include numeracy, and guarantee that 16,500 children across the State would have access to intensive one-on-one assistance if deemed necessary.

It would also shift responsibility for preschoolers from the NSW Department of Community Services to the Department of Education to streamline the transfer.

Mr George said all children had to the right to achieve in reading, writing and maths.

The plan has the support of the NSW Teachers’ Federation.

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