By Lanie Tindale
The Marrickville community is celebrating an Inner West Council motion that ensures that the May Murray Early Learning Centre will remain on Premier Street.
A petition created by parents Shae Phuong and Annabel Prince garnered over 1100 signatures in support of protecting the 24-place child care centre.
Ms Prince, mother of May Murray student Oliver, said parents are grateful for the “incredible local community” who supported the Save May Murray campaign.
“The support from the local community for our small little centre was amazing and we are so grateful.
We’re thrilled with the result.”
Ms Phoung said while she wanted to the centre to remain where it was “selfishly for my child”, the “reverberations made by one little place across the whole community” showed its significance.
Cr Anna York – who presented the motion to Council – said relocating the centre and the children would disrupt what makes the centre special.
Councillor Sam Iskandar – who seconded Councillor Anna York’s motion – sent his own children to May Murray.
“It was very important for us because we’re coming from a non-English speaking background and that was the case for most of the families here,” said Cr Iskandar. “[May Murray prepares the children] very, very well to go to the next school and be accepted there, so it was a very important learning process for the kids.”
May Murray came under threat when Inner West Council staff proposed to move it to the new Steel Park childcare centre in order to be able to funnel in children from the soon to close Globe Wilkins preschool.
Located in the grounds of Wilkins Primary School, the Inner West Council has been advised by the NSW Department of Education that the licence to the premises of Globe Wilkin’s Preschool will end in 2019.
A spokesperson from the Department of Education told City Hub:
“The Globe Preschool was established in the early 1980’s within the Wilkins Public School buildings. At that time student enrolments at the school were significantly lower. The preschool currently uses four classrooms.
“In 2015, the preschool was advised that when the lease with Inner West Council expires in December 2019 the school students will have priority for the use of school buildings to ensure that it can provide teaching spaces and classrooms for students.”
Cr York and Cr Iskandar also proposed motions expressing support for Globe Wilkins Preschool.
Cr York said the Council desperately doesn’t want to see Globe Wilkins close.
“Globe Wilkins is another beautiful, unique, high quality Council-run service on Wilkins Public School grounds and we desperately want to see it stay open in its current location,” she said.
“The school itself is under pressure, they need more classrooms, but the solution can’t be to close down and throw out an amazing preschool on the grounds, there needs to be a solution for the entire school.”
The Department of Education spokesperson told City Hub it was “continuing to liaise with the council over this matter.”
The department – who emailed City Hub on Tuesday 21stof August, one week after Council passed a motion to protect May Murray – said:
“Council has stated the … children currently enrolled at Globe Preschool could be relocated to an alternative council preschool at the May Murray Centre.
“The department continues to look at ways a preschool can operate on the school site while at the same time addressing the needs of the school. Any new arrangements for a preschool will require an Expression on Interest and tender process.”
Ms Prince also expressed support for Globe Wilkins Preschool.
“I really hope that Wilkins Public School and the Department of Education are able to find a way for them to all stay in that one space and that everyone can be supported there and get the resources that they need,” she said.
Both Crl York and Crl Iskandar said there is a need for high quality early childhood education in the Inner West.
“I’m a mum of a three year old and another one on the way, so I have firsthand experience of the important part that good quality early education and care plays [for] families in our area,” said Crl York.
“[T]here’s a really critical role for childcare services, but particularly for Council-run childcare services, [for] the fact that they are high quality and they’re integrated in the community.”
Cr Iskandar said childcare is a very important step in learning and preparing the kids for big school.
“If you start early preparing the children to be successful in their school, that’s the way, otherwise you will have a problem you’ll have to solve in primary schools, then in the early high school years,” he said.
Corrections: A previous version of this article stated that May Murray Early Learning Centre was a 50-place centre. It is actually a 24-place centre, and Globe Wilkins Preschool has 50 places. The statement from the Department of Education said “Council has stated the 20 children currently enrolled at Globe Preschool could be relocated to an alternative council preschool at the May Murray Centre.” This figure is inaccurate as Globe Wilkins is a 50-place centre.