The anti-corruption watchdog may be asked to investigate a number of public schools where lucrative contracts to run after-school care centres at public schools have been awarded to private companies.
Robyn Monro Miller, the chief executive officer of Network of Community Activities, said the situation was “out of control” and that not-for-profit services run by parents were being overlooked in breach of NSW Department of Education guidelines.
“There are people out there who think they can make a profit from out of school hours care,” she told the ABC.
“I’m concerned that decisions are being made on who win tenders by how much money a school could get from an out of hours provider and that’s not a good basis for making these decisions.”
Last month, parents at Haberfield Public School in Sydney’s inner west received a letter advising them that out of school hours care was being put out to tender.
“Why would we need it to go private, so we could raise prices?” said Melissa Kemp, a member of the parent-run Haberfield OOSH (HOOSH) Committee.
The Department of Education said the decision was made after attempts to negotiate a licence agreement with HOOSH had failed.
Up until now, the not-for-profit centre had been paying the school a token rent of $1 a year.
The HOOSH committee was informed that under the new licence agreement that would be increased to $40,000 a year.
The Department of Education said the fee would be even higher for a private operator.
Parents were assured there would be no change in the number of after-school care places and the current provider HOOSH would have the opportunity to submit a tender.
Worry over affordability of care if HOOSH loses contract
But many parents were worried about what would happen if HOOSH lost the contract.
With 150 children on the waiting list for after-school care, Peter Erken considered himself lucky to have a spot for his seven-year-old daughter Sophia.
“Median house prices are up in the millions and rents are like $1,000 around here for a house for a week, so you can imagine both parents have to work,” he said.
“If you can’t fall back on the public school system to support you, who are you going to fall back on?”
Bryony Mica works part-time and has a daughter in Year 3 who goes to after-school care two afternoons a week.
Her younger daughter is due to start school next year.
“I’m not quite sure what I’ll do if I can’t get her an after care place,” she said.
“The options could be that we have to enrol her at a different school.”