Walking into the Summer Hill Childcare Centre, it's clear that the children and workers alike are busy and happy. I went to meet the centre's director, Roberta de Souza, to find out more about child care in the inner west of Sydney. Sitting among the children, who range from three to five years old, de Souza was critical of government policy, which she said undervalues childcare workers. “It supports nurses, fire fighters, ambulance drivers. But we are also providing an important service – to future adults.”
Thousands of children starting preschool in NSW this week will be charged fees of up to $40 a day for the first time at government-run preschools. Last year, Premier Barry O’Farrell’s government introduced fees without consultation for the 100 preschools run by the Department of Education and Community Services (DEC). Most are attached to public schools. Many parents had already accepted a preschool place for 2012, or even enrolled their child, before learning that the previously free classes would attract daily fees.