Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.
The Southern Cross : March 2012
March 2012 Page 7 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross news | By Rebecca DiGirolamo Catholic preschools desperate to maintain weekly playgroups are having to shuffle around pre-schoolers, reconsider pre- entry sessions and rework classrooms in a bid to meet a Federal Government deadline to increase preschool contact hours by July. Eight Catholic pre schools in South Australia, partly funded by the Department of Education and Child Development, must increase pre-school contact hours from 11 to 15 a week by term three under the Federal Government's universal access to early childhood education model. All the preschools contacted by The Southern Cross are running their playgroups from the pre school under the current 11-hour/week schedule. However, under the new Federal arrangement, most pre schools will have to remain open full-time, five days a week to meet the 15- hour quota increase, leaving most of the pre schools unavailable for playgroup and pre-entry sessions. Catholic preschool teachers and playgroup directors have told The Southern Cross that ceasing playgroup sessions are not an option and the new changes -- while accepted and supported -- are putting pressure on schools to come up with "creative" solutions to best use of existing preschool areas and resources. "Not having playgroup was never a consideration," said St Margaret Mary's School pre school teacher Michelle George. The Croydon Park pre school, purpose built last year, will be used by the playgroup while the preschool children access the school oval, hall and ICT centre as part of their regular program. "Utilising the preschool building supports playgroup children to confidently and successfully transition to preschool. It also provides a valuable opportunity for the community to familiarise themselves with the preschool program," she said. For St Joseph's School Payneham, relocating the playgroup to another area of the school was also not an option, said playgroup co-ordinator Manuela Ciniglia. The preschool will introduce the 15-hour week in term three. "Continuing playgroup is important to the school due to the interest by the local community and parents who already have siblings at the school and it promotes the school for new students," she said. St Thomas' School in Goodwood has decided to amalgamate its pre-entry classes with the playgroup. "It would be a great shame if playgroup were to close because there are real benefits to having them," said St Thomas' School principal Liz Thomas. "Playgroup is a fabulous opportunity for parents to network and spend quality time playing with their children." St Joseph's School West Hindmarsh principal Philip Schultz said: "We are committed to playgroup." The school is considering its options and plans to introduce the new reforms in Term Three following consultation with the school community. "Playgroup is a wonderful way of strengthening community," he said. There are also concerns parents may not even take up the voluntary jump to 15 hours a week as it may conflict with notoriously difficult-to-secure child care arrangements. Our Lady of the Visitation preschool, in Taperoo, has been involved in a Federal trial of the 15-hour week for the past three years. Pre-school coordinator Monica Sharman said the initial uptake of the full week was slow, however most students were now receiving 15 hours of contact weekly. Ms Sharman said the school was able to convert a classroom which the preschoolers used while playgroup was running in the preschool. "Without that space we probably wouldn't have been able to have our playgroup," she said. At St Joseph's Memorial School Norwood, the playgroup (called Piccolos) has been relocated to a former Reception classroom, leaving the preschool available five days a week from Term Two. "Playgroup is a vital and valued part of our pre-school and we are very fortunate to have been allocated the room next door, called The Piccoli House, to use for playgroup and pre-entry from now on," said pre-school director Gail Mantel. Playgroups • Our Lady of the Visitation: Wednesday 9-10.30am. P: 8248 2480 • St Joseph's Hectorville: P: 8337 6044 • St Joseph's Memorial School Norwood: Friday 9-11am. P: 8364 1164 • St Joseph's Ottoway: Monday 1-2.30pm. P: 8447 4969 • St Joseph's Payneham: Monday 9-11am. P: 8362 2153. • St Joseph's West Hindmarsh: Friday 9-11am. P: 8346 6569 • St Margaret Mary's School, Croydon: Monday, 9-10.30am. P: 8245 5800 • St Thomas' School, Goodwood: Friday 11am-- 12.30pm (from Term Two) P: 8271 5674 PLAY TIME: St Joseph's School Payneham playgroup co-ordinator Manuela Ciniglia says the playgroup will continue despite Federal Government changes. Playgroups survive By Rebecca DiGirolamo Fresh concerns for the wellbeing of young Vietnamese asylum seekers recently transferred from Port Augusta to a Darwin detention facility have emerged as the visiting director of the Jesuit Refugee Service Asia Pacific reaffirmed religious persecution in Vietnam was a reality for outspoken Catholics. "Holding children in detention for a long period of time remains a matter for concern," said Sister Anne Higgins OLSH, from Whyalla who often visited Vietnamese children and young adults detained at the Port Augusta Residential Housing Facility until last month. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) transferred 14 children and 14 adults (the majority of whom are Catholics) from the Port Augusta facility, where they had been detained for the past six months, on February 5 to the Darwin Airport Lodge -- an alternative place of detention as part of a "routine" relocation. "If there are reasons for not yet placing the group in community detention, it would have been preferable to continue their detention in a facility such as that of Port Augusta where there is a semblance of more normal living and the care appropriate to their age and circumstances can be given," said Sr Higgins. It is understood the group of children and young adults arrived at Christmas Island by boat in April/May last year seeking asylum. The particulars of the their cases remain unknown, however Vietnam is renowned by human rights groups as a hot spot for child trafficking and religious discrimination. Father Bernard Arputhasamy SJ, in Adelaide last month for the launch of Project Compassion, told The Southern Cross religious persecution in Vietnam "is still a reality". He said Catholics who wished to actively comment on social issues against the Communist state were reprimanded: "It's a big risk." Port Augusta Parish Priest Father Paul Crotty was concerned the move to Darwin and uncertainty of the future could affect the wellbeing of the young asylum seekers. "Some were wondering what was going to happen (to them) and some were distressed about going to Darwin," he said. Fr Crotty, who shared Mass with the young asylum seekers in Portt Augusta on the eve before their transfer, said their faith was an important part of their wellbeing and their coping skills. Last month The Southern Cross revealed Port Pirie Bishop Greg O'Kelly SJ 00first raised the issue of a lack of formal education and community contact for the asylum seekers with Immigration Minister Chris Bowen as early as September last year. The DIAC said the Bishop's offer to school the refugees at Catholic Caritas College in Port Augusta was not taken up as costings had not yet been provided by the Church -- a claim Bishop O'Kelly has since firmly rejected. A DIAC spokesman said the asylum seekers transferred from Port Augusta to Darwin on February 5 were now receiving education at public primary and secondary schools. Darwin Bishop Eugene Hurley said the young asylum seekers had been able to attend Mass at Darwin's St Mary's Star of the Sea Cathedral and were being visited by diocesan priests. Concerns for youth in detention