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July 18, 2009

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CUPE BC calls for universal kindergarten for 3-5 year-olds

Union urges government to prove its commitment to quality child care in schools

BURNABY — The introduction of all-day kindergarten in B.C. public schools for children aged three to five may significantly improve the lives of B.C. parents and children and needs to be introduced as soon as feasible, the B.C. division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees says in a briefing paper submitted to the provincial Ministry of Education today.

The brief, a response to the Ministry’s consultation paper, “Expanding Early Learning in British Columbia for Children Aged 3-5,” argues that a publicly-funded integrated system of early learning child care is the most effective way to ensure that all B.C. children have opportunities to reach their full potential.

“This province is lagging behind other jurisdictions on its early learning and child care commitments,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill, commenting on the brief.

“Quebec has a universal childcare system. Manitoba has a five-year plan that includes huge increases in the number of child care spaces, child care centres, and new nursery schools. In Ontario, the question isn’t if but rather how to put in place a universal full-day kindergarten for four- and five-year-olds. It’s time B.C. got moving on this.”

CUPE BC’s submission to the Ministry includes 11 guidelines to make such a program work in B.C. for children aged three to five. These include ensuring that the program is universal, free of charge and optional; that the province provide full funding to school districts for all-day kindergarten and wrap-around child care (care before and after school hours); that “Big Box” daycare multinationals and other private operators be excluded from the system; and that kindergarten classrooms targeted for the program be converted to “play-based” settings, with early childhood educators, certified teachers and educational assistants providing the curriculum.

The brief also calls for a transition period of three to five years to allow child care workers without certificates to upgrade their credentials; adequate provincial funding for early learning for children with special needs; and full accessibility of the program for children in rural communities.

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CUPE BC submission108.36 KB

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