Tea Gardens Primary OOSH to close at end of 2023, working parents left without options

Local working parents and Tea Gardens Primary School students affected by the impending OOSH closure. (L-R, back first) Kara, Renee Bellom, Jade Watt, Sam Anderson, Sunny, Kate, Archer, Otto.

WORKING parents around Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest face serious problems as the Out Of School Hours (OOSH) service at Tea Gardens Public School closes at the end of Term 4, 2023.

Email notifications from contracted OOSH operator St Nicholas occurred on 16 October, stating the closure was “due to the operational impact of persistent, sector-wide critical staffing shortages”.

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St Nicholas, part of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, commenced service in early 2021.

A spokesperson from the Diocese told NOTA, “All parties were notified at the beginning of the term to allow sufficient time for a new provider to commence operations.

“We are working closely with the NSW Department of Education and Tea Gardens Public School to ensure a smooth transition, and the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle appreciates the inconvenience this may cause to the Tea Gardens community.”

Local parent Sam Anderson told NOTA that “no alternative was offered”.

“This is very difficult for someone who’s just re-entered the workforce after finding a decent position in the field in which I trained.

“They offered only two online drop-in info sessions, on Tuesday, 17 October, 1pm and 6pm.

“OOSH at TGPS allowed me to work as a chef, but next term I’ll be stuck again, we only have a term to organise for next year.”

Parents stand to lose work-hours, or must commute to Karuah and back twice daily, where the nearest OOSH service is run by Karuah Preschool.

“Karuah Public School faced a similar crisis last year, but community members spoke to us, we identified significant need in the local community, assessed how we could take it on, and have been running since July 2022,” said a Karuah Preschool spokesperson.

“Carers, cleaners, hospitality workers are all younger demographic here, many are parents, and the cost of living is exorbitant, too,” said Jade Watt, Manager of Tea Gardens Boatshed, a parent herself, with several parents on staff.

“A little consistency would not go astray in preventing our predominantly younger workers from leaving town altogether.”

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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