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School starting age back down: just smoke and mirrors, more policy on the run

Children's Services

United Voice, the early childhood union, skeptically acknowledges yesterday’s announcement by the Tasmanian Government that the lower school start age will be optional, not compulsory.

Jannette Armstrong, Tasmanian Secretary of United Voice, says “The Minister’s back down is a small step in the right direction. He has done just enough to look like he’s listening, without actually listening to the experts at all.

“Listen to the experts. That is what the Government should have done from day one. Instead, in response to enormous community pressure, Tasmanians are getting more bad policy on the run.

“This announcement sends the dangerous message that this Government supports very young children in formal education, but this is not what the evidence tells us is best. Too many children will still end up in formal schooling too early.

“It is confusing for parents and will be chaos for educators.

“One aspect of the announcement United Voice cautiously welcome is that the National Quality Standards (NQS) for the early years could apply to Tasmanian Kindergartens. The union has campaign hard on this issue since the Hodgman Government first mooted the changes.

“The National Quality Standards are parents’ assurance their young children will be educated and cared for in a quality, age-appropriate manner which meets their developmental needs. We keenly await more details from the government about how the NQS would actually apply to Kinders.

“For the sake of Tasmania’s children I hope Jeremy Rockliff has learned the important lessons of this sorry saga.

“It’s not good enough to ignore the evidence, to fail to consult the community, or to make policy on the fly on such a critical issue.

“Public meetings and forums on this issue will continue across the state.

“United Voice looks forward to working with the community and the Government to create the best outcome for our youngest Tasmanians,” says Jannette Armstrong.