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Boost in early childhood scholarships, rural preschools

A record number of early childhood scholarships have been issued to attract workers, while 49 new public preschools will be built in rural and regional NSW.

A supplied image obtained on Friday, February 16, 2024, of Ella Neve, 19, is the recipient of an early childhood scholarship issued by the NSW government. Image AAP

Ella Neve didn't always have the best experience at school. 

But she wants that to change for kids entering the education system for the first time. 

The 19-year-old is part of a record number of applicants for an early childhood scholarship issued by the NSW government in a bid to attract new workers and help retain those in the ailing sector.

"I'm the start of a child's introduction to their education," she told AAP. 

"It's a chance to make a difference and it's a very rewarding job. 

"I love it." 

A record 2328 people have applied under the Early Childhood Education and Care Scholarships program.

A total of 1875 early childhood educators are looking to upskill and 453 are looking to enter the sector.

The scholarship funds are helping Ella complete her full-time traineeship at a childcare centre in Wollongong, south of Sydney.

She hopes to begin study for early childhood teaching at Charles Sturt University in Sydney this year.

"It's a really good opportunity," she said. 

"There's a struggle to get educators ... (the scholarship) is a huge factor for many people wanting to study or upskill". 

The scholarships program financially assists people wanting to enter the workforce and existing staff looking to boost their skills.

Successful applicants can receive up to $25,000 for early childhood teaching qualifications and up to $5000 for diploma and certificate III ECEC and OSHC qualifications.

Applications are being assessed, with some already notified of their success.

Up to $29.4 million will be available to support this year's scholarship program as the government assigns up to $17.1 million on top of the $12.3 million committed in the 2023/24 budget.

Education and Early Learning Minister Prue Car said workforce shortages continue to be a challenge in the early childhood education and care sector.

"These scholarships give people financial support while they are studying, offering them a chance to learn new skills without taking on additional strain during a cost of living crisis," she said.

The scholarships are aimed at overcoming worker shortages in the childcare sector.

One hundred new public preschools will also be built across the state, 49 of which will be in regional areas.

"New preschools – in places that desperately need more early learning support," NSW Premier Chris Minns told a country Labor conference on Saturday.

"We know how important this learning is for young brains."

"It's also a huge help for families ... It means they won't have to fork out so much for that last year of childcare, particularly when both mum and dad work."

Preschool locations include the Hunter, Illawarra, Riverina and southern NSW.  

The preschools will be co-located with primary schools. They are part of the government's $769 million pledge to build 100 preschools by 2027.

The government said co-locating preschools with primary ones would ensure children are ready for kindergarten. Parents with more than one child could also avoid travelling to multiple locations. 

Premier Chris Minns said investment in early childhood education had lifelong benefits and was key to getting parents back in the workforce.


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