HALIFAX: Zach Churchill, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, chatted with The Reporter last week in relation to the looming expansion of the province’s pre-primary program.
The program will expand to 56 new schools this September, and it will mark year three of a four-year roll-out. This will bring the total number of schools in Nova Scotia delivering the program to 201.
The expansion will see 84 new classrooms and based on Grade Primary enrolment data, it is anticipated about 1,400 four-year-olds could access the program.
Not one of those expansions will take place in schools under the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial or Strait regional centre for education. However, Churchill gave a pretty good reason for that.
“The Strait along with CSAP received full coverage last year, and the feedback is very positive from parents and teachers,” he said. “The first cohort of pre-primary students is now in primary, and we’re now hearing from primary teachers saying these students are demonstrating increased academic abilities, better self regulation and emotional behaviour.
“That’s exactly why we’re doing this. We know it gives students a leg up.”
Government will invest about $10.2 million this year to expand the program, bringing the total annual investment to $34.2 million.
This year, more than 3,000 children enrolled in the pre-primary program. Pre-primary implementation in the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial and Strait regional centre for education is completed, and the Tri-County and South Shore Regional Centres for Education will have full implementation once fall comes around.
The expansion of pre-primary will save families thousands of dollars in child care costs and create more opportunities for early childhood educators in Nova Scotia, Churchill said.
About 224 more early childhood educators will be needed to support the new classrooms. More than 400 early childhood educators will be employed by the program next year.
“It’s a good thing for kids and the early childhood educators across the province,” he said. “We’re creating over 500 new jobs in the early childhood education space. There’s never been a better time to get into early childhood education.”
Families who live near a school community that is offering pre-primary and wish to register their child, can contact the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial or their regional centre for education.
“We know how critical this is for the success of our kids and how important it is for families,” the minister said.