Early learning and child care are becoming more accessible to Island families with the opening of 358 new child-care spaces over the past six months.
The Prince Edward Island government is working with community partners to improve an early childhood sector that is already recognized as among the best in Canada. Education, Early Learning and Culture Minister Jordan Brown outlined progress in several areas today (September 19) during a visit to the Wee the West early childhood centre in Bloomfield, where 50 new spaces opened just this month.
“Early learning and child care is the top priority for many Island families, and we are seeing positive results from the work we have done with the community to open new centres and add spaces and hours at existing centres across the province,” Minister Brown said.
“The 358 new spaces include many infant spaces, rural spaces, and extended hours that make life easier for parents who work seasonal or non-standard hours.”
The PEI Action Plan for Children aims to expand access to early learning and child care, and support children who can benefit the most from high quality early childhood experiences. The plan was launched in August 2017 and is supported by federal funding of $10.5 million over three years.
“The Government of Canada is committed to helping middle class families access and afford quality early learning and child care,” federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said. “The PEI Action Plan for Children will ensure that more families and children have a real chance to succeed across Prince Edward Island.”
“Prince Edward Island’s growing population includes many families with young children, which is increasing the need for early learning and child care,” Minister Brown said. “In response, we are supporting the expansion of spaces in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall where the population is increasing the most. At the same time, we are responding to needs in rural areas where seasonal employment and a smaller population can make it more challenging to operate viable centres.”
Seasonal spaces and extended hours have been offered in Montague, Souris and Tryon. Full and part-time spaces have been added in Belfast, Montague and Bloomfield, with more spaces expected to open soon in other rural communities.
Regulation changes are planned to increase the number of licensed family home centres in the province, and child care subsidy funding has been increased to include more children who can benefit from early childhood programs.
Katie Melville of Wee the West said the 50 spaces in her new centre will make a real difference for West Prince families.
“The location of our centre in Bloomfield Corner is much more convenient for families who were travelling longer distances, and the fact that we are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. is much appreciated by parents who do seasonal work,” she said. “The family is a key part of our play-based program and we are very focused on keeping parents informed of their child’s development.”
Currently throughout the province there are 3,358 spaces and 143 licensed programs including 47 Early Years Centres, 27 early childhood centres (non-designated), eight preschool centres, two family home centres, and 59 school-age centres.
“For too many PEI families, the absence of affordable and quality child care services means making difficult choices,” Member of Parliament for Egmont Robert Morrissey said. “The Prince Edward Island-Canada early learning and child care agreements will ensure higher-quality services that are accessible and affordable to all families, enabling children to reach their full potential.”