Sessional kindergarten in Victoria will remain free for families in term 4 under a $26.7 million support package for early childhood education.
- There will be payments of around $500 per child for free kinder
- Teachers will visit kinders to ease children into the transition to primary school
- Highly vulnerable children will get an extra five hours of catch-up kinder per week
The package will help parents with the cost of fees, with payments of around $500 per child, at a cost of $13 million.
It also aims to protect the financial viability of kindergartens, some of which have been providing remote learning during the stage 4 restrictions.
The money will go to local government, community-based groups and kinder provided in schools.
The funding was announced as the state reported 28 new coronavirus infections in the previous 24 hours, the lowest increase in cases in about three months.
There were an additional eight deaths, six of which were linked to aged care.
Regional Victoria has moved to step three of the coronavirus roadmap.
Transition to primary school to be ‘flipped’
Kinders are scheduled to re-open on October 5.
Education Minister James Merlino also outlined a $4 million plan to help kids make the transition from kinder to primary school next year.
Normally, kinder kids would take day trips to visit their local primary schools to prepare for the next step into prep.
Mr Merlino said this year the program would be flipped, and teachers would visit the kindergartens.
“Teachers will … engage with their children and engage with the families and make sure the kids are ready for a successful transition,” he said.
There will be a focus on engaging children with disabilities, as well as those from Aboriginal or non-English speaking backgrounds.
About 5,300 highly vulnerable children will be able to access an extra five hours of kindergarten per week, Mr Merlino said, to help them catch up on missed or disrupted learning.
“We’re talking about 5–7 per cent of children who go to 4-year-old kinder. We’ll target those services that have a high proportion of disadvantaged children,” he said.
‘Not a normal year’
The package also extends the grants for cleaning and hygiene at pre-schools, which have been available throughout the lockdown.
“This is not a normal year,” the Minister said. “We’re going to make sure that this is a successful transition year for those kids and their families.”
The Victorian Government is moving to fully fund three-year-old kinder as well.
The schools that already have that funding will also get free kinder for term four.
There is an additional $3 million in fee relief for three-year-old programs that have not already been funded.
In regional Victoria, the start of school will be moved forward due to the change in restrictions and October 5 will be the first day of term four.
Mr Merlino said schools would make a local decision about when prep students start.
The Minister acknowledged concerns about grade six students not being able to return to school.
“We’re not making any changes,” he said.
“The priority cohorts are the little kids, because they’re the hardest in terms of a home learning environment, and senior secondary and special needs [students].”
Mr Merlino said his own daughter was in year seven and, while he understood it was a milestone year, the decisions were being made on the best of advice from health experts.