Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has delivered her first Private Member’s Statement this term, highlighting the Government’s commitment to ensure students at all NSW public primary schools can access before and after school care.

The $120 million election commitment is on track for 2021, with consultation underway now.

Ms Cooke spoke about the policy and its impacts in the Cootamundra electorate in Parliament this week.  

“In Junee, we almost lost our Out Of School Hours service in a mess of red tape late last year,” Ms Cooke said.

“I’m so grateful that the Minister for Early Education Sarah Mitchell heard our call for help and that we were able to save this service.

“It’s about more than just convenience out in the bush, it’s about the survival of our small schools. If we can’t provide after-hours care we can lose students to major centres.

“As a Government we need to make living and sending your kids to school in our small towns work for families, so that they can continue to thrive.”

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said consultation would begin in Term 2.

“We will work closely with our schools, P&Cs, principals and parents – as well as the before and after school care sector – to develop flexible and creative solutions that offer parents support and choice, as well as ensuring schools have the equipment and resourcing they need to deliver these wonderful services,” Ms Mitchell said.

Schools in metropolitan and major regional centres will be required to open their playgrounds, halls or classrooms for before and after school care and school holiday care from 7am to 6pm.

At smaller or remote schools where an on-site service is not feasible, transport will be offered to get students to and from offsite providers or other schools.

A new specialist team in the Department of Education is being created to coordinate services and manage leases to relieve this burden from principals.

The $120 million strategy, over four years, includes $50 million to help schools buy new equipment and expand their facilities; $40 million to provide rental subsidies to service providers at public primary schools if they can demonstrate savings have been passed on to families; and $20 million to help schools where a standalone service may not be viable, including smaller schools and rural and remote communities.

Parents are encouraged to provide feedback for the need for a service in their area through Service NSW from July 1, this year.