What you need to know
The Victorian Government is investing almost $5 billion over the next decade to deliver 15 hours of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten a week, with the roll-out beginning in 2020. This will be available in both sessional (standalone) kindergartens and long day care (childcare) centres.
This will be the largest social, economic and educational reform in early childhood education in Victoria’s history.
Right now, kindergarten programs for three-year-olds cost Victorian families around $5,000 a year for 15 hours a week – while some families see their kids miss out completely.
With the introduction of funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten, around a quarter of Victorian families will pay nothing at all in sessional kindergartens.
For families with a higher income, the Victorian Government will cover around two-thirds of their child’s kindergarten costs, consistent with the current subsidy for four-year-old kindergarten. This represents a saving of at least $3,500 for families whose children attend a sessional kindergarten service.
Families with children who go to long day care centres will also benefit, with these services given funding to employ teachers in their three-year-old rooms.
The Victorian Budget 2019-20 invests $881.6 million in the roll-out, which will give children access to two years of funded kindergarten programs led by a teacher before starting school. It’s part of a sweeping $4.1 billion investment in education this year – from kindergarten programs and schools through to higher education and TAFE.
The Budget includes $473.2 million to co-invest in new and expanded kindergarten facilities, when and where they are needed most.
And it invests $92.4 million to support the early childhood workforce through more professional development, mentoring and financial support so children have access to highly trained teachers and educators.
A child who has attended two years of a quality kindergarten program will, on average:
- have better cognitive and social skills when they start school (including better development in language, pre-reading, early number concepts, non-verbal reasoning, independence, concentration and social skills)
- have higher exam scores at 16, including better grades in English and maths
- have better social and emotional outcomes at age 16
- be more likely to take more final year exams and to go on to higher academic study.
(Reference: Sammons, P., Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Siraj, I., Taggart, B., Toth, K. & Smees, R. (2014). Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education Project, Department for Education, United Kingdom.)
Evidence shows that investment in early childhood education has significant social and economic benefits.
For every $1 invested in early childhood education, Australia receives $2 back over a child's life - through higher productivity and earning capacity, and reduced government spending on health, welfare and crime.
(Reference: A Smart Investment for a Smarter Australia, PricewaterhouseCoopers & The Front Project)
Three-Year-Old Kindergarten will become available in stages. In 2020, three-year-olds in six government areas will be able to access up to 15 hours of funded kindergarten each week. These areas are:
- Northern Grampians
- South Gippsland
In 2021, families in the following 15 local government areas will also have access to up to 15 hours of funded kindergarten each week:
- Central Goldfields
- East Gippsland
- Southern Grampians
- West Wimmera.
These first roll-out areas have been chosen because they will have the capacity needed to offer kindergarten programs to local three-year-olds. They are also areas with higher than average educational disadvantages.
From 2022, three-year-olds across the rest of state will have access to five hours of a funded kindergarten program each week. The hours will progressively increase to 15 hours a week for 40 weeks of the year by 2029.
Children eligible for the Early Start Kindergarten program can still access 15 hours of free kindergarten each week throughout the roll-out period. Early Start Kindergarten is available for children who are either:
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, or
- known to Child Protection or have been referred by Child Protection to Child FIRST.
Reviewed 07 October 2019