Extra year of funded kinder

10 Oct 2018 Seymour Telegraph, Seymour VIC (General News) A re-elected Victorian Government has promised an extra funded year of kindergarten for three-year-olds. Under the plan, every child will have access to at least five hours of subsidised three-year-old kinder by 2022, progressively scaled up to 15 hours a week in the next decade. Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said Labor would invest almost $5 billion during the next decade to make sure children were ready for school and set for life. She said many families were forced to scrimp and save to cover the costs of three-year-old kinder, about $5000 a year for 15 hours, while many children missed out. Recent research by community service provider Uniting showed nearly one in five families did not have their children enrolled in early learning because of the cost. But under Labors plan, around a quarter of Victorian families would pay nothing, while for families with a higher income, the 65 per cent of the kindergarten cost would be covered, consistent with the current subsidy for four-year-old kinder. This represented a saving of at least $3500 for families whose children attend a standalone kinder. All the evidence shows that early education can shape a childs entire future, Ms Symes said. Its why this extra year of kinder and all the learning and play that comes with it will make the world of difference to local children and local families. Those with children at long day care would also benefit, with the centres receiving funding to employ teachers in their three-year-old rooms. The Municipal Association of Victoria cautiously welcomed the proposal, but feared for the future of the four-year-old kindergarten program. MAV president Cr Mary Lalios said while the additional investment was encouraging, four-year-old kinder program funding remained at risk because it was only promised until the end of 2019. Australia lags behind many other countries in providing two years of funded preschool for our children. First and foremost we need to prioritise two years of kinder participation for our most vulnerable children, she said. National and international research unequivocally demonstrates the benefits of quality early education. There are two critical questions facing councils and families: how will it be delivered? And will all parties commit permanent federal funding for four-year-olds, which is currently set to end in December next year?