Businesswoman Cathy Bennett is urging the local business community to support full-day kindergarten.
In a lunchtime address to the St. John’s Board of Trade, Bennett — CEO of the Bennett Group of companies, with interests in the restaurant, construction and property industries — told a packed house at the Holiday Inn that the best way to help children in the province reach their full potential is full-day senior and junior kindergarten.
“Overall research findings favour full-day kindergarten over the half-day program we have now,” she said. “These studies suggest that full-day kindergarten is especially effective for children who are socially or educationally mismanaged. There are also a few studies which found that children who attend full-day kindergarten are less likely to enrol in special-education classes. And there is not one study that I can find which demonstrates a single academic or social advantage to restricting children to half-day kindergarten.”
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, on hand for the luncheon, said she was delighted to hear Bennett’s speech.
“Most social programs and most social issues due have an economic side to them, and you can build a really positive business case for most social programs, and what she did here today was just wonderful.”
The Conservative government has been studying the benefit — and cost — of full-day kindergarten. Education Minister Clyde Jackman told the Telegram last week that while the government hasn’t arrived at a final cost estimate, he believes full-day kindergarten will one day be implemented.
“I suspect at some point we are going to have full-day kindergarten,” he said Feb. 6. “We are looking at it seriously as a government, based on sound educational practice. It’s something that I can conceivably say I think we will be entering into.”
Jackman said the problem of cost isn’t as much about annual cost but about the extra classrooms the school system would need.
Sharon Horan, the senior vice-chairwoman of the Board of Trade, commended Bennett’s remarks.
“We need to make that link and make people realize that as we improve the education system of our youth, when we improve the opportunities for our young people who are working to have access to good day care and not worry about where their children are and who’s picking them up at 12 o’clock, that this is really good, not only from a social context but from a business context as well,” she said.
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