HALIFAX: Pre-Primary programming is on the government’s agenda.

On July 17, the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development announced a new Pre-Primary program set to kick off for the coming school year.

New locations for the program will include Bayview Education Centre, Cape Breton Highlands Education Centre/Academy, Fanning Education Centre/Canso Academy, Felix Marchand Education Centre, Inverness Education Centre/Academy, and St. Mary’s Education Centre/Academy.

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Current programs at Chedabucto Education Centre/Guysborough Academy and East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy will transition into Pre-Primary programs.

“The evidence clearly shows that Pre-Primary programming is very helpful when it comes to transitioning kids into an academic learning environment,” said Education Minister Zach Churchill.

“It helps them with the social transition that occurs when they enter into the school system and it’s tied to really good out comes through the rest of their academic career. Only 25 per cent of preschool aged kids were accessing this sort of programming in the province.”

Churchill said educators with a post secondary credential in early childhood education will run the various programs. As for classroom space, he said the programs will be made available where there is space in schools.

“In some cases, we’ll be working with the private providers, who are currently delivering these services at a cost to parents, to actually do this for us at no cost to parents,” he said, noting the program coincides with the school hours and school year. “This will roll out over the course of the next four years and we will be achieving 100 per cent access to the program from one end of the province to the other.”

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) representatives questioned the government’s decision and are asking the province to hit the pause button.

“This sector has been plagued by high staff turnover and low staffing levels due to inferior wages and working conditions,” stated CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen.

“The situation will only become worse, as ECEs with a degree, leave child care centres to work in the new school board provided classrooms where, presumably, they’ll receive better wages, benefits and a pension – something many early childhood educators in the province don’t currently have. The minister is rushing this program through without adequate planning. Solving one problem, in this way, will only create more problems.”

NDP Education and Early Childhood Development spokesperson Claudia Chender also questioned the government’s decision.

“The time for consultation was months ago or more,” said Chender.

“Now, families and child care providers are left to scramble to figure out their plans for September. This is another instance of poor judgment and top-down decision-making from the Liberal government.”