Axe may fall on 200 jobs

Bethany Hiatt

More than 200 education jobs may be under threat if Federal Government funding for extra kindergarten hours is withdrawn.

Education Department director-general Sharyn O'Neill said preliminary budgets released to schools yesterday funded kindergarten students for only 11 hours a week, even though schools have been operating at 15 hours a week for several years.

She said the extra four hours was provided under Commonwealth national partnership funding, but no decision had yet been made on whether that would continue after the current agreement ends in December.

Ms O'Neill said if the funding did continue, schools would get another $48 million for kindergarten students.

But if it was cut, schools would have to shed staff.

WA Primary Principals Association president Stephen Breen said if the Federal Government failed to fund the extra four hours, public schools would lose more than 230 full-time equivalent jobs.

"I don't think parents would be too happy moving from 15 hours to 11 hours," he said.

"It would be a massive interruption to the way we organise our kindies and our schools."

Education Minister Peter Collier said he would be disappointed if the Federal Government reneged on the funding arrangement, but the State Government would not pick up the shortfall.

"If the Federal Government is serious about improving the educational quality of students throughout the nation, they need to ensure that they honour the national agreement with regard to universal access," he said.

A spokesman for Federal Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley said findings from a review of the agreement on universal access to early childhood education would be presented to education ministers next month.