Delivering infrastructure capacity

What we heard

We heard that our sector partners need additional funding to deliver the volume of kindergarten facilities our communities need.

Funding needs to reflect shifting financial conditions and other challenges and changes.

Our local government partners said that early childhood education and care is one of several competing priorities in delivering high-quality services to their communities.

They also said their budgets are more constrained since COVID-19, and some communities are still recovering from extreme weather events.

We heard from all our sector partners that rising construction costs are a challenge.

What we’re doing

We have significantly increased the funding rates for Building Blocks grants to build or expand facilities to create more kindergarten places.

Supporting projects through grants has been critical to the success of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten and will remain key to implementing Pre- Prep.

In response to concerns around the cost of providing infrastructure, and in recognition of the critical contributions of our partners to the reforms, we have now increased funding rates significantly.

Grants to co-invest in new early learning facilities, for example, have increased by 166% - see Table 1 below.

These boosts will help our partners increase sector capacity so that children in their communities can access the full benefits of two years of early learning.

Grants will contribute substantially to new-builds, extensions, and major renovations, with construction costs fully funded for many projects.

We are continuing to offer modular kindergarten grants, which are delivered on behalf of grant applicants and fully funds the delivery of buildings and outdoor learning areas. A co contribution is only required for items above the standard scope.

Table 1: Capacity-building rates for grants and Building Blocks Partnerships projects.

Build type

Previous scalable* grant rateNew scalable* grant ratePercentage increase
Expansion (based on a 33-place expansion)$900,000$1,500,00066%
New Early Learning Facilities (NELF) (based on 2 x 33-place rooms being delivered)$1,500,000$4,000,000166%
Integrated Children’s Centre (ICC) (based on 2 x 33-place rooms being delivered)$2,000,000$4,500,000125%

* Grant contributions are scalable to places delivered. For example, while a 2-room NELF would be eligible for up to $4 million, a 3-room NELF would be eligible for up to $6 million.

What we heard

We heard that in some LGAs, a large number of projects will be needed to ensure children have access to a full program of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten and Pre-Prep, and some of these will be complex and costly to deliver.

Local governments and service providers said they’re seeking the most cost-effective way to make sure their infrastructure is fit for purpose and will cater to projected demand.

We heard that dealing with ageing infrastructure, or infrastructure that is no longer fit for purpose or has barriers to expansion is among the complex challenges.

What we’re doing

We’re expanding our existing Building Blocks Partnerships (BBPs), which give our partners certainty and flexibility for long-term infrastructure development. We’re also keen to agree partnerships with more local governments and not-for-profit providers.

Under BBPs, local governments or not-for-profit providers work closely with the department on a strategic pipeline of projects to meet demand for kindergarten. BBPs support our partners to plan long-term for their communities’ needs, confident that substantial funding will be available to support them.

BBPs have already been agreed with 11 local governments, providing $181 million to support 74 projects. We’ll be working together to expand these to account for Pre-Prep, and we encourage other local governments to consider the benefits of a BBP.

We will continue to share plans for KOSS with our BBP and other sector partners – so they can factor these into their planning. We’ll update them in the KISP estimates too.

The substantial increases to Building Blocks Capacity Building Grants have been offered to eligible existing and future BBP projects.

Due to their collaborative and long-term nature, BBPs allow greater flexibility for our partners than applying for grants. We work closely with partners to ascertain the optimal solution for complex projects, where for example, infrastructure is no longer fit for purpose.

Through BBPs, the department will also consider, on a case-by-case basis, exceptional funding allocations to ensure required projects are able to progress.

What we heard

We heard that the volume of infrastructure required is too great to be delivered only by sector partners.

What we’re doing

As well as providing higher grant rates for partners investing in new and expanded facilities, the Victorian Government will deliver more government-owned kinders.

To enable families to have choice and flexibility, and in acknowledgement of the scale of the reforms, we are investing in different models and modes of infrastructure delivery.

We’ve committed to building 180 new government-owned kindergartens, on or near school sites where possible. Once these are planned, they’ll be reflected in the KISP estimates.

To support this, we are already assessing the feasibility of school sites across the state to have a co-located kindergarten.

As we understand the potential for situating kindergartens on school sites, we are engaging with the sector.

We are also delivering 50 new government-owned and operated ELCCs, which will support the delivery of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten and Pre-Prep, as well as providing childcare, in areas of need.

The first four centres will open in 2025, with the remaining to be delivered progressively. All will be up and running in 2028.

What we heard

With significant investment in new and expanded infrastructure, focus should be given to making learning spaces that are fit for purpose and adaptable for different needs over time.

What we’re doing

We continue to offer a range of grants under the Building Blocks program that support expanding buildings and upgrading them to ensure they support quality learning and that all children can participate in kindergarten.

We will consult with the sector on further improvements to designing high-quality learning spaces.

Kindergartens on School Sites (KOSS)

The KOSS program delivers sessional kindergarten facilities on Government school sites. These are leased and operated by local governments or not-for-profit providers.

Delivered for the start of 2023 in partnership with Darebin City Council, the Reservoir East Family Centre, on the Reservoir East Primary School site serves as a community hub providing three kindergarten rooms and consulting rooms.

Building Blocks Grants: Modular Kindergartens

The Modular Kindergarten Program offers 1, 2 and 3-room templated buildings and outdoor learning areas. The Victorian Government delivers and funds the Modular Kindergarten projects on behalf of grant applicant. A co-contribution may be required for items above the standard scope, which is defined in the Building Block Guidelines.

Grants are open to all not-for-profit organisations and can be delivered on department or third-party land.

In 2023, a Modular Kindergarten grant was delivered at Foster Primary School, a collaborative project between the local service provider Prom Coast Centres for Children, Foster Primary School and the department. The 1-room, 33-place Modular is being used for Three and Four-Year-Old Kindergarten.

Building Blocks Grants

Building Blocks Capacity Building Grants can fund new builds – both Integrated Children’s Centres and traditional kindergartens, and expansions.

The Victorian Government supported Uniting AgeWell to refurbish an existing space to create The Herd Intergenerational Learning Centre in Mornington.

The centre houses a 66-place kindergarten alongside the aged care facility, allowing young children and older residents to come together for activities such as art, music, lunch or storytelling.

The children gain an extended family, and learn about ageing and accepting people of all abilities. The aged-care residents benefit from the physical activity of playing with the children, while enjoying the spirit that children bring to their home environment.