Private operator saves the day

Narrandera Out Of School Hours (NOOSH) service will close its doors on Friday, after the decision was made not to renew the contract agreement by approved service providers Leeton Shire Council.

A local childcare business has stepped in to save families left in the cold by the closure of the Narrandera Out of School Hours and vacation care service.

After many years of service to the Shire, Narrandera Out Of School Hours (NOOSH) service will close its doors on Friday. This comes after the decision was made not to renew the contract agreement by approved service providers Leeton Shire Council.

Mayor Cr Neville Kschenka said the facility had been an important support for many families and Council appreciated the hard work invested in establishing and continuing to provide this service over the years.

“Leeton Shire Council has partnered with Narrandera Shire Council to continue the operation of this valued service since 2012,” Mayor Kschenka said. “Unfortunately without an approved provider the NOOSH service cannot remain open.

“Council is continuing to investigate alternative options to provide out school hours care for families in Narrandera Shire.”

Families using NOOSH and all employees have been informed of the decision to close, providing time to make alternative plans for care.

Bright Horizons director Rebecca Barnes said the phone had been running hot since announcement of the closure and the centre was able to offer 10 places to NOOSH children.

“We have been in contact with the Council and are able to take some children on – we are a long day care centre catering for children aged zero to six, but our school care is open to children aged up to 12,” Mrs Barnes said. “We are open from 6.30am and take the children to school and close at 6.30pm.”

Mrs Barnes said Bright Horizons also catered for vacation care of primary school aged children.

“We have quite a few families coming from NOOSH to start on July 1,” she said. “The parents were relieved – we have been operating for many years with before and after school care but I don’t think they knew about the service. We are open half an hour longer than NOOSH was.”

Mrs Barnes said the fees would be subsidised through Centrelink, therefore not leaving NOOSH families out of pocket. The NOOSH service had been incurring an operating deficit and Council was faced with subsidising the service to the tune of $25,000-$30,000 a year.

The Council-owned NOOSH building is located at Narrandera East Infants School and, according to Council, its ongoing use and maintenance will be revised.

Council was told at the June meeting, a revised licence will give consideration to increased access and usage by the school and an assurance of the availability of the building for any future Out of School Hours service operator.

Narrandera Shire General Manager George Cowan said clarification had been sought from the Member for Cootamundra’s office on the government’s position on funding, processes and procedures for OOSH.

“One of our primary schools is desperately waiting but I’ve had no response yet,” Mr Cowan said.

Narrandera resident Glenys Walton spearheaded a meeting between former NOOSH committee members and Council in a bid to save the service.

“Council has tried every avenue possible but it is hard meeting the government requirements and, unless a private enterprise took it on, unfortunately it had to close,” Ms Walton said. “It was sad to see it finish as it was something we worked on for a long time – the reason we handed NOOSH over to Council was the government requirements were getting harder for the average person without special training in that area to run it.”

Ms Walton said NOOSH catered for larger numbers of children for vacation care.

“The holiday care could be the big gap in the community and I’m not sure if the other centres could take on the overflow,” she said.

Meanwhile, the NSW Government has invested $120 million into before and after school care for all children at public primary schools from 2021.

Consultation began with principals and school communities in May with parents able to register their interest in a before or after school care service where they might not have one, via Service NSW from July 1.

Ms Walton said the program was not advanced enough to offer the immediate help required by NOOSH.

“If the government announcement had have been for this year, the service could have been handed over for a school to run with it but there is that (time lag),” she said.

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said schools in major regional centres would be required to open their playgrounds, halls or classrooms for before and after school care and holiday care from 7am to 6pm.

At smaller or remote schools where an on-site service is not feasible, transport will be offered to get students to and from offsite providers or other schools.

For the July school holidays, the Narrandera Shire Library will host activities for children and young people:

  • Tuesday July 9 & 16   2pm-4pm     Lego Club
  • Wednesday July 10   10am-12pm    Craft
  • Thursday July 11 & 18    10am-11am     Little Lego for pre-schoolers
  • Friday July 12 & 19    11am & 2pm     Movie Sessions
  • Wednesday July 17   10am-12pm     Crafts, French Knitting & Cross Stitch

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