N.S. auditor general releases report into province's pre-primary program, which includes 9 recommendations
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's Auditor General has released her report into the province's pre-primary program - a $53 million project aimed at in-school education for four-year-old children.
One of the findings in the report included a lack of planning before it was implemented.
“It was a very short time frame from when the program was announced in April 2017 to when it started to roll out in September of that same year,” says Kim Adair-Macpherson, Nova Scotia’s Auditor General. “With only five months between program announcement and launch, the department didn’t complete a thorough planning process, which may have contributed to some of the issues found in our audit.”
Another area of concern surrounding the pre-primary program was a lack of background checks for individuals working with students.
“Background checks are especially important for staff working with young children to ensure the learning environment is safe,” said Adair-MacPherson in a news release on Wednesday.
According to Derek Mombourquette, Nova Scotia's education minister, that was an issue with an outdated file and it was quickly corrected.
“We sent a directive to ensure that all the files were updated and that everybody was signed off on and all the background checks were done. Everybody signed off and have been before they got into a classroom with students,” says Mombourquette.
The report also said the program was rolled out without consistently ensuring staff had the required qualifications or orientation before working in the classroom.
The president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Paul Wozney, says he agrees with a publicly funded pre-primary program, but in agreement with the auditor general, he says this announcement was rushed ahead of a provincial election and it has come with a cost to older students.
“What we have is a significant number of schools that have had their operational functional capacity diminished. There are schools that have lost library programs, lost access to dedicated spaces for music and the arts,” Wozney says.
There was also an effect on licensed day cares where some students and staff left for the school-based program.
"I had strong educators. I wasn’t able to meet their hourly rate. I wasn’t able to meet the benefits, their schedules,” says Jodi Mackinnon-Leblanc, who operates a child care centre in Yarmouth, N.S.
In the report, the auditor general made nine recommendations to improve the program.
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, which is responsible for the program, has agreed to all of the recommendations and says they will begin implementing the changes this year.
The pre-primary program is now in its fourth year and provides programming to almost 6,200 4-year-old children across Nova Scotia. The program originally started with 891 students.