Early childhood teachers, educators and education leaders hold some of the most important jobs for Victoria’s future. Their skilled work helps to lay the foundations for lifelong learning and sets children up for happy, healthy lives. Early years education is life-changing for children and supports a bright future for our communities and makes our state a fairer place for all Victorians.
Five years ago, the Victorian Government announced the staged implementation of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten to give Victorian children the opportunity to benefit from 2 years of play-based learning in the crucial years before school.
The roll-out so far has been a success, thanks to record investment and support, and the efforts of our sector partners. This has been further underpinned by the skill, professionalism and dedication of our early childhood workforce.
As we move towards the next stage of the $14 billion Best Start, Best Life reforms with the introduction of Free Kinder and the transition of four-year-old kindergarten to Pre-Prep over the next decade, we know that continuing to grow our kindergarten workforce while supporting and retaining our existing highly skilled teachers and educators will be critical.
The insights that have been shared by early childhood teachers and educators, together with service providers, peak bodies, unions and tertiary education providers, have shaped this next stage of our workforce strategy.
A consistent theme from the Best Start, Best Life consultations is the importance of valuing and supporting teachers and educators regardless of the setting in which they are delivering a kindergarten program. We heard that pay and conditions is a key part of this and that differences in arrangements across the early childhood sector is a challenge.
The Best Start, Best Life Workforce Strategy is the third phase in our collaborative approach to attracting and retaining our kindergarten workforce. It builds on the 2021 Next Steps in Victoria’s Kindergarten Workforce Strategy paper, setting out new initiatives that respond to what we have heard and building on the range of programs we have in place as part of our $370 million kindergarten workforce package.
I know this is a time of significant change in early childhood education, not only in Victoria but across Australia. We welcome the opportunities arising from the Commonwealth’s renewed focus on early childhood and support the Commonwealth taking a greater role on national workforce challenges linked to wages and conditions, given their responsibility for the broader early childhood education and care sector. We will continue to work with the Commonwealth as they implement policies to support workforce attraction and retention across the country.
Implementing the Best Start, Best Life reforms will be complex, but we have time on our side and a highly skilled and engaged workforce. Our workforce initiatives build on the sector’s own efforts to support the kindergarten workforce and will continue to evolve over the life of the reforms.
An Early Childhood Education Workforce Reference Group of teachers and educators will be established to enable me to hear from our kindergarten workforce on the implementation of the Best Start, Best Life reforms. This will ensure that the deep knowledge and expertise of Victoria’s skilled teachers and educators continue to inform our collective work to value and grow our kindergarten workforce.
Hon Lizzie Blandthorn MP
Minister for Children