Reflections on 2023 and a look at the year to come

Thank you for your expertise, passion and commitment – you make a big difference in the lives of children and families.

Dear colleagues

This is our final edition of Early Childhood Update for 2023, as we get ready to farewell what’s been an exciting and very busy year for the early childhood education sector.

On behalf of the department, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you and your colleagues for your work this year. The skill you bring every day, combined with your commitment to your work, is central not only to children’s wellbeing, learning and development, but also to making our communities more supportive, positive and vibrant places.

This year has also been notable for the progress we have made together with the Best Start, Best Life reforms.

In this edition of Early Childhood Update, we share the results of the extensive consultation process conducted to inform how we design and implement the next stages of the reforms.

The release of the ‘Best Start, Best Life Transforming Early Childhood Education Together: what we heard, what we're doing’ report is a significant milestone, and I would like to thank the more than 5,000 Victorians who contributed their feedback – this includes families, early childhood educators and teachers, providers, peak bodies and experts.

This valuable advice has informed the new workforce and infrastructure strategies. The Best Start, Best Life Workforce Strategy: Continuing to value and grow the kindergarten workforce outlines how we will work with the sector to grow and support the workforce. The Building Blocks: The Victorian Government’s Best Start, Best Life kindergarten infrastructure strategy outlines how we plan to create spaces for learning, expand existing services and drive the growth required to deliver the reforms.

We are very excited to share these plans with you now, as we look ahead to the important work to follow.

Three-Year-Old Kindergarten: full-steam ahead

Three-Year-Old Kindergarten went from strength to strength in 2023: flexible hours have been successfully rolled out across the state with services offering between 5 and 15 hours of a weekly program.

While some services are already offering 15 hours of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten, we are seeing an exciting and steady increase towards 15 hours occurring year on year for the remainder of services. Our collective efforts mean we are on track to reach 15 hours statewide by 2029.

Reflecting on the Victorian Early Years awards

The Victorian Early Years Awards gave a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the people who work in early childhood education and care, and to recognise the significant difference this workforce makes to the lives of children and families across the state.

It was a fantastic occasion that highlighted once again the exceptional work you do, and as we approach the end of another big year, I can only reiterate my words on the night, in congratulating all the nominees and winners. You can read all about the awards later in this edition.

Continuing strong participation and enhancing practice

I‘m proud that together, we have maintained the high rates of kindergarten participation including for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in both Three- and Four-Year-Old Kindergarten programs. Equally, the high participation rates of refugee children and children experiencing vulnerability are a reflection of the supports you’ve put in place to be more responsive to children and families’ diverse needs. This includes the continued implementation of School Readiness Funding, the strong take-up of Early Start Kindergarten and engagement with Koorie Kids Shine.

More recently, we’ve announced that we’ll have 11 new services delivering a bilingual kindergarten program from next year. I’d like to congratulate these services, and I look forward to hearing more about their programs in action in 2024.

For your teams, 2023 has been an opportunity to join more than 2,200 colleagues for the inaugural Best Start, Best Life Education Leaders Conference, supporting educational leaders and practitioners.

This year’s launch of the Coach and Mentor Training Program aimed to provide experienced teachers and educators an opportunity to build and further develop their coaching and mentoring skills. Thanks to the support from the sector, the majority of participants who completed the program came from leadership roles and have worked for 10 or more years in a kindergarten program. This is a great step forward in enabling important opportunities for experienced teachers and educators to progress their careers.

I wish you all the best for the festive season and hope you take the chance to reflect on your exceptional achievements this year and enjoy an extremely well-earned break. My colleagues in the department and I look forward to working with you to support the delivery of high-quality early childhood education in 2024.

Jenny Atta
Department of Education