Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: Back to school with a boost

The start of a new school year is a time of excitement and renewal, a time for children to recommit to their learning, to set ambitious goals, to start fresh.

After 2020's widespread disruptions in education systems, it's especially important that parents can approach the 2021 school year with optimism and confidence.

The NSW government has a number of initiatives to support every child to flourish.

A landmark $337 million program will see up to 5500 educators employed in government schools (and non-government schools where there is an identified need) to support students through small-group tuition. As well as ensuring student outcomes remain 'on track', this program will also create jobs for teachers, university academics, post-graduate students with appropriate qualifications and pre-service teachers.

If your child is an athlete (or aspiring athlete), the Active Kids program will provide two vouchers of $100 to use towards their sport or active recreation costs each year. These vouchers can be used with registered activity providers, all of which are listed on the Service NSW website. Voucher 1 is valid January to December and Voucher 2 is valid July to December.

The Creative Kids program helps children unleash their creative potential. Parents can apply for a $100 voucher per calendar year for each student aged 4.5 to 18 enrolled in school. Similar to the Active Kids program, the voucher can be directed to a registered activity provider for tuition or registration fees for creative arts, speech, drama, dance, digital design, coding, and music lessons and activities.

The temporary COVID-19 free preschool funding program eases cost of living pressures and support the provision of 600 hours of early childhood education in the year before school. The program targets families and communities most in need.

For more information about Active Kids and Creative Kids, as well as other NSW government savings and rebates, please visit www.service.nsw.gov.au/campaign/cost-living

Let's make the 2021 school year one of discovery, curiosity and joy. But for now, stay safe and enjoy the last beautiful weeks of summer!