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The best start for every Victorian child

The Victorian Government has committed $9 billion to expand kindergarten programs across the state.

This means that:

  • From 2023, Free Kinder will be available for all Victorian three and four year old children at participating services in both standalone (sessional) services and long day care (childcare) settings – a saving of up to $2,500 per child, every year.
  • Over the next decade, Four-Year-Old Kindergarten will transition to ‘Pre-Prep’ – increasing to a universal 30-hour a week program of play-based learning for every four-year-old child in Victoria.
  • 50 Victorian government-owned and affordable childcare centres will be established. These centres will be built in areas that have unmet demand and will make it easier for families to access childcare. The first of the centres will be available in 2025.

Having Free Kinder supports every Victorian child to get the best start in life no matter where they live. It is strongly encouraged that all children attend kinder programs for two years before school as a crucial part of their educational journey.

These major new initiatives are in addition to the roll-out of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten across the state. The Victorian Government is investing $5 billion over the decade to deliver 15 hours per week of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten for every child.

Free Kinder in 2023

Free Three- and Four-Year-Old Kinder will be available across Victoria at participating services in 2023 at both long day care and sessional (standalone) services.

Free Kinder means more Victorian children can have the best start in life, no matter where they live:

  • For three-year-olds, this means from 5 and up to 15 hours per week of a kindergarten program
  • For four-year-olds, this means 15 hours per week (600 hours a year)

Free Kinder means a saving of up to $2,500 per child, each year, and also means more than 28,000 Victorians can return to work, including almost 26,600 of which are women.

Participating kindergarten programs will receive funding directly from the Victorian Government, so families are not out of pocket (and don’t have to claim the savings back). If your child attends a kindergarten program within a long day care setting, a $2,000 Free Kinder subsidy will offset the kindergarten program component of your out-of-pocket fees.

Long day care centres will be required to pass on the full amount to parents as a direct reduction in their out-of-pocket fees. This will provide a free program for some families and a significantly reduced cost for other families, depending on service fees, number of days attended, and the amount of Commonwealth subsidy received.

Make Everyday A New Adventure

When to start Three and Four-Year-Old Kindergarten

Use the Starting Age Calculator to enter your child's birth date to find out what year they can start Three and Four-Year-Old Kindergarten.

Families with children born between January and April can choose which year to start Three-Year-Old kindergarten. These children can start in the same year they turn three, or in the year they turn four years of age.

Due to staffing requirements, some services may ask that children start attending kindergarten only after their third birthday. This may mean that some children may not start attending their kindergarten program until part-way into Term 1.

If your child will turn six in late December (between the last day of the school year and 31 December), they can attend Four-Year-Old Kindergarten in that year and attend school the following year.

When your child starts at kindergarten directly relates to the age they will start at primary school. Speak to your local services about the best time for your child to start at Three-Year-Old Kindergarten.

What you need to know

There are a few things you need to know when making this decision:

  • Kindergarten services are required to have a different ratio of staff to children, this will vary depending on the children's ages
  • Some services might not have the number of staff needed to accommodate two-year-olds. For these services, your child must have turned three before they can attend
  • If your child turns three by 30 April and you would like them to start kindergarten that year, you can still enrol your child. Services will hold your child's place until they are old enough to attend.

If you have any questions, contact your local kindergarten service. Services can contact for more information.

Look for the Kinder Tick when choosing a kindergarten service

Choosing a quality kindergarten service will ensure your child gets the most from their time at kindergarten.

The Kinder Tick helps Victorian families find a funded kindergarten program for their children.

Look for the Kinder Tick logo at your local childcare or kinder service, on the service or centre’s building or grounds, on their website or in their information materials.

You may wish to visit a service or centre to meet staff to help you decide which service will best suit your child.

The benefits of attending Three-Year-Old Kindergarten

  • Research shows that play-based learning is a powerful way to support children’s development. These benefits last into the school years and beyond.

    Did you know that 90 per cent of a child’s brain develops by the time they turn five?

    The evidence also shows that two years are better than one when it comes to early learning.

    A quality kindergarten program will have more of an impact for children who start at age three rather than four. The benefits are even greater for children who are in vulnerable circumstances.

    Research shows two years of kindergarten will give Victorians the best start in life. Two years of kindergarten are better than one. It leads to even more positive effects on child development. Children who attend a kindergarten program are less likely to be developmentally vulnerable at school. Quality play-based learning is a powerful way to support learning and development. Key skills for life. Creative thinking, social and emotional skills, early literacy and language skills.
    Children in Year 3 who attended kindergarten were 15 to 20 weeks ahead of those who did not. At age 16 students who had attended two to three years of kindergarten had higher scores in English and maths. For every $1 invested in early childhood education, Australia receives $2 back over a childs life.
    ¹E4 Kids, University of Melbourne ²Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education Project, Department for Education, United Kingdom ³A Smart Investment for a Smarter Australia, PricewaterhouseCoopers & The Front Project
  • Children are given the opportunity to use their imagination and practise important skills, such as problem solving, through play-based learning.

    Children start to learn literacy, numeracy and language skills at kindergarten. They also learn how to get along with others, share, listen, and focus their attention.

    Teachers and educators help children become curious, creative, and confident about learning. Often, they will introduce a play-experience, idea or topic and let children lead their own learning through exploration and experimentation.


    At kinder a children will learn about the world through play, to get along with others, share, listen and manage their emotions, to build their language skills and learn about numbers and patterns, and become curious, creative and confident about learning

    Kindergarten programs are designed to meet the needs of their local families. All kindergarten programs work with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. This makes sure the programs are right for children's ages.

Finding a kindergarten that suits your family

To find services offering free and government approved kindergarten programs with play-based learning, visit the Find a KinderExternal Link website.

Find a Kinder program map

Talk to your local kindergarten or childcare service about their enrolment process. A central enrolment system may operate in your area. To find out more, contact your local councilExternal Link .

Three-Year-Old Kinder programs are for between five and 15 hours each week from 2023.

As there are different hours available for Three-Year-Old programs, you may have more choice in session times.

Some services have shorter session times, which might suit families with older children at school. Longer hours may work better for other families.

Kindergarten programs are also available in different settings, including standalone kindergartens and long day care centres.

What is the difference between a kindergarten program in a long day care (childcare) centre and a standalone (sessional) kindergarten?

Children can attend a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program at either a long day care (childcare) centre or at a standalone (sessional) kindergarten. These services are also likely to offer a Four-Year-Old Kindergarten program.

A long day care centre can offer a full day of education and care, including a kindergarten program. The teacher-led kindergarten program is integrated with additional hours of education and care. At a standalone service, a kindergarten program will only operate on certain days and at specific times. These days and hours are set by the kindergarten service.

No matter where your child goes to kindergarten, teachers and trained educators will lead the program.

How much kindergarten costs in 2022

  • In 2022, three-year-old children across Victoria can access at least five hours of a funded kindergarten program each week. These program hours will increase to 15 hours a week for 40-weeks of the year by 2029.

  • The amount families pay will vary depending on the type of early childhood education service their child attends. For kindergarten programs in long day care centres, families usually pay a per-day fee. Eligible families can receive a rebate on this per day fee via the Commonwealth Government’s Child Care Subsidy.External Link

    Sessional kindergartens will ask families to pay a per-term, semester or yearly fee. Fees vary and are set by providers.

  • Government funding significantly reduces kindergarten fees for families. For some families, it means that the their children can attend kindergarten programs for no or very low cost.

    The Victorian Government covers around two-thirds of the cost of an average funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program. This funding is provided directly to the kindergarten services. This allows children to access up to 15 hours a week of funded kindergarten delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher.

    This is the same way that costs work for Four-Year-Old Kindergarten.

  • Three-year-old children who are eligible for the Early Start Kindergarten program are entitled to 15 hours of free kindergarten each week now, no matter how many hours are offered in the standard program.

    Early Start Kindergarten is available for children who are:

    • is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
    • known to Child Protection or have been referred by Child Protection to Child FIRST
    • from a refugee or asylum seeker background.

    Three-year-old and four-year-old children eligible for the Kindergarten Fee Subsidy can also access a free program. This will be a 15-hour program for four-year-olds and a program of between 5 and 15 hours for three-year-olds, depending on which the service is in and the number of hours offered,

    Speak to your kindergarten service about your family’s eligibility when you enrol your child.

Kinder Kits

All children starting free Three-Year-Old Kindergarten, including Early Start Kindergarten and Access to Early Learning, in 2023 and 2024 will be eligible to receive a Kinder KitExternal Link , helping them develop their love of learning at home as well as kinder.

The Kinder Kit contents have been carefully curated and provide educational and fun items to support three-year-old children to develop their skills and creativity as they learn through play.

Transitioning to Pre-Prep from 2025

Four-Year-Old Kindergarten will transition to Pre-Prep in stages from 2025. As Pre-Prep gradually rolls-out over the next decade, children will receive up to 30 hours per week of high quality, play-based learning in the year before school. By 2032, children across the state will have access to 30 hours of Pre-Prep.

Pre-Prep will be rolled out across Victoria in stages, ensuring our most vulnerable and disadvantaged children are prioritised for earlier access, no matter where they live, as well as Aboriginal children.

Read more on the Pre-Prep webpage.

This privacy noticeExternal Link explains how the Department of Education will be handling personal information as part of the Best Start Best Life reform consultation and engagement approach .

Reviewed 01 March 2023

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