The West

Padbury kindergarten teacher Cathy Witney with children, parents and other teachers. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

WA's community kindergartens are fighting for survival after enrolments fell almost 30 per cent in the past two years.

Five centres have closed and others have cut staff as more parents send their children to on-site kindergartens at public schools.

Teachers and parents are rallying to save the centres, which offer the same curriculum as school kindergartens but operate autonomously on local government land.

The number of centres across WA has fallen from 33 to 28 since 2010 and enrolments have dropped from 1203 to 863 during the same period.

Some, such as the Padbury Community Kindergarten, are starting to accept children from outside their catchment area to boost enrolments.

The centre faces losing one of its teachers next year after numbers fell from 40 to 32.

PCK teacher Cathy Witney said some parents were not aware that community kindergartens were an option.

"Community kindies have a greater level of parent involvement," she said.

"A lot of parents like the fact it's stand-alone and all funding goes directly to the kindergarten.

"It's a good link between home and starting formal schooling."

Mother-of-four Tessa Esparon, whose has two children at the Padbury kindergarten, said it was an integral part of the community.

"I had the option of sending my son to the kindergarten at my daughter's school this year but I didn't because I believe in supporting community kindies - they're an institution," she said.

"Both our teachers have worked here for 25 years and have been dedicated, supportive teachers and members of our community."

"They have a kindy of such high quality."

Teacher Michelle Williams, from Bullsbrook Community Kindergarten, said she was forced to drop down to one class this year after student numbers fell.

She said it was hard to compete with kindergartens at schools because they had access to a bus service but community kindergartens offered cheaper fees of $60 a year.

Garry Hewitt, acting executive director of the Office of Early Childhood Development and Learning, said the Education Department was committed to supporting community kindergartens.

The West Australian

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