The best start for every Victorian child
The Victorian Government’s $14 billion Best Start, Best Life reforms are the most significant change to Victoria’s early childhood sector in a generation.
- Free Kinder: Starting in 2023, all children in Victoria who are 3 and 4 years old can access Free Kinder. This is available at both standalone (sessional) kindergartens and long day care (childcare) centres. This means families will save up to $2,500 per child each year.
- Three-Year-Old Kindergarten: The roll-out of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten continues, with programs increasing to 15 hours a week across the state by 2029, providing Victorian children with 2 years of a quality kindergarten program before school.
- Pre-Prep: In the next 10 years, Four-Year-Old Kindergarten in Victoria will change to 'Pre-Prep'. This means that every 4-year-old child can go to a play-based learning program for 30 hours per week.
- Early Learning Centres: We’re establishing 50 Victorian government-owned and operated early learning centres. We will build these centres in areas with the greatest need. This will make it easier for families to access childcare. The first of the centres will be ready in 2025 and will be co-located at Eaglehawk North Primary School, Moomba Park Primary School in Fawkner, Murtoa College and Sunshine Primary School.
The Best Start, Best Life reforms are providing all Victorian children — regardless of their life circumstances, background, or postcode — access to 2 years of quality kinder before they start primary school.
This means Victorian children will benefit, and so will their families – saving money and providing more options, making it easier for parents and carers, especially women, to work.
Kindergarten programs in Victoria
The benefits of attending 2 years of kinder
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.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 kinder. 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.
Kinder programs are designed to meet the needs of their local families. All kinder programs work with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. This makes sure the programs are right for children's ages.
Free Kinder is available in Three- and Four-Year-Old Kindergarten programs across Victoria at participating services at both standalone and long day care services.
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 kinder 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).
For families with children enrolled in standalone kinder programs, Free Kinder means a free program at participating services:
- For 3-year-old children, this means a free kinder program of between 5 and 15 hours each week (200-600 hours each year).
- For 4-year-olds, this means a free kinder program of 15 hours each week (600 hours each year).
For families with children enrolled in kinder programs at long day care services, Free Kinder means a fee offset of up to $2,000 per child at participating services:
- For 3-year-old children, this means from $666.67 (for a child enrolled in the funded kinder program for 5 hours) to $2,000 (for a child enrolled for 15 hours).
- For 4-year-old children, this means $2,000 for children enrolled in a 15-hour kinder program (600 hours a year).
Long day care centres are required to pass on the full amount to families 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.
Your child can only access one funded kinder program at a time. This means that only one service can claim kindergarten funding for your child and pass on the Free Kinder savings.
See what kinder is like
Experience a day in kinder, where learning through play makes every day 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 3, or in the year they turn 4 years of age.
Due to staffing requirements, some services may ask that children start attending kinder only after their third birthday. This may mean that some children may not start attending their kinder program until part-way into Term 1.
When your child starts at kindergarten directly relates to the age they will start at primary school. When enrolling at Three-Year-Old Kindergarten, we encourage families to plan ahead and consider the age they would like their child to start at school.
If your child will turn 6 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.
Speak to your local services about the best time for your child to start at Three-Year-Old Kindergarten.
There are a few things you need to know when making this decision:
- Kinder 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 2-year-olds. For these services, your child must have turned 3 before they can attend.
- If your child turns 3 by 30 April and you would like them to start kinder that year, you can still enrol your child. Services will hold your child's place until they are old enough to attend.
How much kinder costs
All Victorian children are eligible to access Free Kinder at participating services. If a child is not attending a Free Kinder program, the amount a family pays will vary depending on the type of early childhood education service their child attends.
Some standalone kindergarten services may choose to not participate in Free Kinder. These services will ask families to pay fees termly or annually. These fees are set by providers.
As a condition of Free Kinder, services must offer a free 15-hour program. However, some standalone services may choose to offer additional kindergarten program hours on top of the free 15-hour program.
Services may charge families for the additional hours. The fees for these additional hours can be set at the service's discretion, in consultation with their community, and are not subject to funded kindergarten fee policies.
3-year-old children who are eligible for the Early Start Kindergarten program are entitled to 15 hours of free kinder each week now, no matter how many hours are offered in the standard program, no matter where they live. Early Start Kindergarten is available for children who are:
- 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.
3- and 4-year-old children eligible for the Kindergarten Fee Subsidy can also access a free program. This will be a 15-hour program for 4-year-olds and a program of between 5 and 15 hours for 3-year-olds, depending on which the service is in and the number of hours offered.
Speak to your kinder service about your family’s eligibility when you enrol your child.
Three-Year-Old Kinder programs are for between 5 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.
Kinder programs are also available in different settings, including standalone kindergartens and long day care centres.
Children can attend a kinder program at either a long day care centre or at a standalone kindergarten.
A long day care centre can offer a full day of education and care, including a kinder program. The teacher-led kinder program is integrated with additional hours of education and care.
At a standalone service, a kinder program will only operate on certain days and at specific times. These days and hours are set by the kinder service.
No matter where your child goes to kinder, teachers and trained educators will lead the program.
Choosing a quality kinder service will ensure your child gets the most from their time at kinder.
You may wish to visit a service or centre to meet staff to help you decide which service will best suit your child.
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 , 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.
Reviewed 16 August 2023