My question is for the Minister for Education. What will the minister do to support the hardworking kindergartens in my electorate of Hawthorn as they are faced with growing demand for four-year-old kindergarten and braced with excitement for the rollout of three-year-old kindergarten? Early childhood education gives our children and grandchildren the best possible start in life, and continued support from the Andrews Labor government shows we are the Education State. I know, locally, West Hawthorn kindergarten has applied for funding towards an extra classroom to increase their capacity in terms of students and hours, to provide a meeting room for parents and to refurbish their toilets. I support this application, and I look forward to the minister’s response.
It is great to hear about the excitement in the Hawthorn electorate for the roll-out of funded Three Year Old Kindergarten, which will commence in the electorate in 2022. This landmark $5 billion election commitment will be the biggest reform in early childhood education in the state’s history, and is leading the nation.
The first stage of the reform has started successfully this year in six Local Government Areas (LGAs), but we know that we must grow and adapt as the scale, size and complexity of the reform increases.
Expansion of the kindergarten sector under Three-Year-Old Kindergarten
The government’s historic commitment includes $1.68 billion for building the Education State, through co-investments in early childhood infrastructure. This will be the largest investment ever in Victoria’s early childhood infrastructure.
As part of the 2019/20 State Budget, the Victorian Government is already investing $473.2 million over five years in early childhood infrastructure.
In planning for how we can best work together to meet demand for kindergarten places, we have been listening closely to our sector and local government partners, and peak bodies, through the Kindergarten Capacity Assessment Program survey, with 95 per cent of early childhood education and care services in Victoria taking part in this survey.
To respond to what we heard, the government launched the Three-Year-Old Kindergarten Infrastructure Strategy, which sets out the approach for investing the Victorian Government’s record infrastructure funding in the most effective ways possible, including providing greater flexibility, certainty and investment to the sector.
The government has also committed to ensuring that there is a kindergarten onsite or next door to every new government primary school that opens from 2021. The Department of Education and Training will continue to work with local government authorities through existing processes to ensure this commitment is supported by effective planning.
As part of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten infrastructure investment, the Victorian Government will deliver new kindergartens on a number of existing school sites. Through consultation and planning with local government authorities, schools and existing early childhood providers, new facilities will be delivered in ways that best meet the needs of local communities.
Co-locating new kindergartens with primary schools helps reduce the burden on parents and carers by helping them avoid the dreaded “double drop-off”, makes the transition to school smoother for children, and will also help Victoria to meet future demand for kindergarten places.
We are also improving the way we work with our partners to make investment decisions, providing clarity across the sector about which projects need to be prioritised so that the greatest number possible of families and children can enjoy the benefits of funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten. In consultation with the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Victorian Government is pleased to offer local government authorities a one-off planning grant to support their co-operative work with the Department of Education and Training, as part of a $4.4 million package.
As part of the Three-Year-Old Kindergarten Infrastructure Strategy, we also recently launched the new $156.6 million Building Blocks grants program, which will streamline all pre-existing kindergarten grants into one process.
Building Blocks includes significant increases to the maximum state funding contributions for projects and offers new delivery options such as purpose-built modular kinder facilities.
Applications for funding are now open for local councils and not-for-profit organisations delivering kindergarten facilities, who can apply fo r up to $1.5 million for a New Early Learning Facility, including under the new modular kindergarten facility option, up to $600,000 for an expansion, or up to $2 million for a new Integrated Children’s Centre.
The Andrews Labor Government is also supporting the sector to build the early childhood education workforce, with more than $92.4 million already providing scholarships and incentives. Financial packages are available to those who choose to start studying or upskilling to become early childhood teachers or educators. Since 1 October 2018, more than 900 people have taken up generous financial support to study and work in early childhood.
We have also now added the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care and Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care courses to the Free TAFE course list, making them tuition fee-free for eligible students.
There are also financial incentives on offer for those looking to teach in one of our early roll-out areas.
West Hawthorn Kindergarten
Subsequently to this question being raised, I am pleased to inform you that West Hawthorn Kindergarten have been successful in receiving $500,000 to contribute to an upgrade at their service.
Boroondara City Council applied to the Children’s facilities Capital Program, on behalf of West Hawthorn Kindergarten in the latest round of grants. The application sought funding of $500,000 for an Early Learning Facility Upgrade.
The project will increase the licensed places of the kindergarten by 22, through the construction of an extra classroom, a meeting room for parents and upgrades to the toilets and storeroom.
This upgrade will support the kindergarten to increase the number of places available for their Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program, as well as increasing their hours to 15.
Congratulations for recently announcing this much-needed funding for West Hawthorn Kindergarten.
Hon James Merlino MP
Minister for Education
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