It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn to the festive season – and beyond that, to the New Year when children head off to child care, kindergarten or school.
Chances are, the upcoming holiday season could see many families tighten their belts as interest rate hikes and rising living costs dig into household budgets.
The good news is that families in Victoria have plenty to celebrate in 2023, with a new financial helping hand from the state government that gives kindergarten-aged children a wonderful head start.
The new Free Kinder Subsidy introduced by the Victorian State Government is shaping up to be a game-changer for young families. As Ingrid Stitt, Victoria’s Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-Prep points out, the Free Kinder program will enable children to “dream even bigger”.
What is the Free Kinder Subsidy and how can families benefit? We have rounded up some common questions from families. Click on the quick links below to jump to any section.
What is kinder in Victoria?
Is kindergarten compulsory?
Will kindergarten benefit my child?
Why ages 3 and 4 are the kindergarten “sweet spot”?
A saving of up to $2,000 per child, per year
How families can benefit
Is my child eligible for the Free Kinder Subsidy?
How much can I save with the Free Kinder Subsidy?
It has been advertised as “free kinder”. Why do I still have to pay fees?
Can my child complete a second year of funded kindergarten?
Will this impact my Child Care Subsidy (CCS)?
Why families love G8’s kindergarten programs
How do I enrol my child for G8’s kindergarten program?
In Victoria, “kinder” refers to kindergarten. It involves two years of play-based learning programs available for children aged three to five.
Kindergarten programs offer a variety of learning experiences. The common thread is that it’s delivered by qualified early childhood teachers in both long day care and standalone services. For children attending long day care centres, kindergarten programs are delivered as part of the centre’s daily activities.
While it’s not compulsory for children in Victoria to attend kindergarten, most children (92% of 4-year-olds) attend at least the second year – or the 4-year-old kinder. Many families quite rightly see it as a way for their child to build the social, mental and physical skills needed for school.
Absolutely. There is growing evidence that quality early childhood education and care give children developmental opportunities and improve school readiness.
Moreover, kindergarten programs can help children become “school ready” by developing learning-related skills, such as the ability to:
- express thoughts
- adopt appropriate behaviours
- show curiosity and persistence
Long story short, attending kindergarten can give your child a valuable head start when school rolls around.
Children’s brains are amazing. They learn so much, so quickly.
From age 3, there is a key window of opportunity to enhance their learning, development, as well as social and emotional well-being.
Access to a high-quality kindergarten program is one of the few proven strategies for lifting educational outcomes for all children, and evidence shows that two years of kindergarten have more impact than one.
Here’s the exciting part for families in Victoria!
The Free Kinder subsidy is expected to benefit 140,000 families attending a funded kindergarten program in both sessional kindergartens and long day care services in 2023.
At G8’s early education centres, three-year-olds and four-year-olds will have access to 15 hours per week (600 hours a year), from 2023. Depending on your child’s specific enrolment details, families would be eligible for a fee reduction of up to $2,000 a year.
Free Kinder won’t just ensure more children benefit from a quality kindergarten experience. The Victorian state government estimates Free Kinder will also allow more than 28,000 Victorians to return to work, including almost 26,600 women.
That makes Free Kinder a win all round – an educational head start for children plus the opportunity for families to boost household income at a time when many could really use the extra cash.
Not surprisingly, Ingrid Stitt says, “This is such an exciting time for families and the young learners who are able to attend free kindergarten for the first time.”
The Victorian state government says families with children born between January and April can choose which year to start 3-year-old kinder – either the same year they turn three, or in the year they turn four.
To be eligible for the Free Kinder subsidy, a child needs to attend at least 2 days in a long day care centre with an early childhood teacher. Families should check with their centre for information about days and times the kindergarten program is delivered, and whether it is funded.
In a long day care setting, the Free Kinder Subsidy can be up to $2000 a year and is divided by 52 weeks, which means a $38.45 reduction per week.
We have some examples as a rough guide to how much you could save.
For instance, as the table below shows, if your CCS works out to 85%, a 12-hour session could cost just $11.60 per day allowing for Free Kinder, or $174.15 over a 5-day week.
For a family with a 60% CCS percentage, a single 12-hour day could cost parents just $73.35, or $302.80 for a 5-day week as shown below.
Or, for a family whose CCS subsidy is 85% of fees, a single 9-hour day can cost $36.37, or $241.20 over a 5-day week.
The government has introduced the “Free Kinder” program to improve access and affordability of registered kindergarten programs through a subsidy for families.
In a long day care setting, our educators and teachers provide a full day of education and care with an integrated kindergarten program. These extended services and hours incur additional operational costs which a standalone kindergarten program, which only operates for selected times and days, would not incur.
Due to these additional operational costs and the broader service provided, families enrolled in the kindergarten program from 2023 will still need to pay some gap fees. Fees will certainly be reduced for eligible children, when compared to current fees and fees of ineligible children.
A child currently enrolled in a funded three-year-old kindergarten program cannot attend another year of three-year-old funded kindergarten. However, if in consultation with your centre’s early childhood teacher, you believe that your child would benefit from repeating three-year-old kindergarten, they can attend as an unfunded child who doesn’t receive the government subsidy, if there are vacancies available.
A child currently enrolled in a funded four-year-old kindergarten program may be able to attend a second year of funded kindergarten if assessed by your centre’s early childhood teacher that a second year of kindergarten is appropriate. There are guidelines that an early childhood teacher will follow to identify if your child is eligible. It is important that you and your early childhood teacher work together to achieve the best outcome for your child.
No. The Free Kinder subsidy is separate from CCS, and its credit will be applied after any CCS is paid and appear as a financial credit adjustment.
The annual subsidy will be applied to a family’s account in monthly credit amounts at the beginning of each month from March 2023.
At G8 Education, our kindergarten program provides children with opportunities to practice and learn how to:
- Use language appropriately to communicate their ideas, feelings and needs – strong oral language skills are the basis for literacy learning in school.
- Use numeracy skills through early mathematical play including patterning, counting, sequencing, comparing and sorting shapes, and spatial awareness.
- Develop social skills to make friends and play collaboratively with peers.
- Develop emotional skills including the capability to self-regulate emotions and behaviours.
- Develop motor skills and core strength to participate across the day and to help prepare their body for formal learning in school.
- Become more independent in self-care.
- Creatively express ideas and feelings through art, dance, and dramatic play.
- Develop the confidence to ask and respond to questions, explore, make predictions, and solve problems of interest.
In the prior-to-school years, children build the brain connectors for all future learning through active engagement in a play-based program.
Families are children’s first and most important teachers, so trust that we will learn from you about your child’s strengths, interests and needs. We also support you to build on your child’s day in kindergarten by keeping you informed about their progress in learning and developmental outcomes.
Choosing the right program for your child is an important decision for families and we are here to help. To give your child a fantastic head start on their education journey, call into one of our centres in Victoria, book a tour and secure your place. It’s a great opportunity to meet the team, see children at play and discover how your child – and your family, can benefit from Free Kinder.
If you are a current family and want more information about the funding of your centre’s kindergarten program, speak to your child’s centre manager.