Nfld. & Labrador

Junior kindergarten gives kids 'best start in life,' cuts down child-care costs: advocate

An education advocate says implementing junior kindergarten is one way to better educate children and offset the high costs of child care in Newfoundland and Labrador.

With child-led policy, affordability will follow, parent says

Robyn Legrow, left, and Gillian Pearson say early childhood education would be beneficial for children and help with the high cost of child care. (Jonny Hodder/CBC)

An education advocate says implementing junior kindergarten is one way to better educate children and offset the high costs of child care in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Robyn LeGrow, program and communications manager of the Jimmy Pratt Foundation, which advocates for publicly funded early childhood education for children age two, says while early childhood education has a bit of a different focus from child care, initiatives like junior kindergarten have added benefits.

"Child care is based on putting the mother back to work, which makes perfect sense, and we are all about that," she said.

"Early childhood education also focuses on the child, and giving the child the best start in life."

That's why LeGrow is advocating for a publicly funded early childhood education program, and she says it's money well spent.

Return on investment

According to research at the University of Laval on Quebec's daycare system, there's a significant return on investment on public money spent on early childhood education.

"For every one dollar invested into their daycare program, they see seven dollars back in taxes and other fees back to the government," LeGrow said.

LeGrow says early childhood education, like junior kindergarten, could help support young children — and the province's economy. (Here & Now)

LeGrow also said some young children don't get the support they need for social and emotional issues until they're old enough to go to school, something that could be improved with junior kindergarten.

"In some of our family situations now, five years, or at least four years, is way too long to go without any eyes on a child," she said.

"Ideally, we need to get them into a system that can support them and give them the interventions that they need early."

Care and costs interconnected

Gillian Pearson is a working mother in St. John's with two children who has started a group on social media to bring together parents looking for affordable, accessible child care.

Pearson said while she has a family member who helps take care of her infant, many families aren't as lucky and can't afford to pay for daycare.

"If both of my children were in daycare full time, we would be looking at a pretty substantial bill, upwards of $2,000 a month, and that's not even the highest that you might find in the metro area," she said.

Pearson said a play-based education program for young children, which allows them to explore and discover, would help children's development and make child care more accessible at the same time.

If you were focusing on child-led policy … affordability and accessibility will come after it.- Gillian Pearson

"We were using child care as a catchall phrase, but early childhood education is so extremely important, and it is really important that we educate the public that play-based learning is incredibly important for the development for children," she said.

"If you were focusing on child-led policy, meaning first and foremost, whatever you are designing has the child's best interests in mind, then affordability and accessibility will come after it. It's all very interconnected, and that's what we're trying to advocate for."

Pearson and LeGrow will both be part of a forum on accessible child care at the Paul Reynolds Community Centre in St. John's at 7 p.m. Monday.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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