LDC services must be recognised as partners to deliver funded three-year-old kindergarten: ACA
The Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) has released a case study that outlines the benefits of funded kindergarten programs within early childhood long day care (LDC) settings, as part of its Best Start in Life campaign which calls on all sides of politics to ensure that every child in Australia has access to high-quality affordable and sustainable early learning services.
The ACA national body has also released its policy position in the lead up to the Federal election, along with a set of academic research illustrating the benefits of providing children two years of high-quality play-based learning.
Key policy recommendations from the ACA include:
- An immediate revision of the Child Care Subsidy parameters so that all families qualify for 18 hours per week of subsidised access to early learning services, equivalent to meeting step one of the activity test;
- An immediate extension of the existing Universal Access funding for four-year-olds, with a caveat that it is delivered equitably across of service types including the LDC sector in all states and territories; and,
- A new funding arrangement to allow all three year olds to participate in a kindergarten or preschool program, with LDC recognised as a primary partner in the delivery of this program.
The ACA said that it is important to note that the last policy recommendation takes advantage of the age-appropriate developmentally appropriate and culturally inclusive environments and pedagogy that are already established in LDC services, therefore reducing the need for significant capital investment by government.
To illustrate the value of embedding universal access to preschool in a LDC setting, ACA interviewed a family about their experience highlighting the flexibility and security that it has provided for their family and little girl.
Case study: the benefits of kindergarten/preschool programs in an LDC environment
Jacinta and Luke Rossborough live in Cranbourne East, Melbourne. The married couple have three children; Zeph is seven years old, Indi is four years old, and their youngest, Beau, is five months old. Jacinta is currently on maternity leave but due to return to work in two weeks.
While Zeph is in grade 2 at school, Indi attends a kindergarten program at Mission Australia Early Learning Cranbourne East, which offers a three-year-old kindergarten program and a government-funded four-year-old kindergarten program.
Indi attended the three-year-old kindergarten program, which she enjoyed. “Three-year-old kinder is great for socialising and making friends in the community. I think it definitely helps the children with their transition to school,” Jacinta says.
“Indi recently moved up into the four-year-old kindergarten program and she absolutely loves it,” Jacinta said. “She loves going in the morning, she has lots of friends and she has good relationships with the educators. In terms of activities, she loves painting, playing outside, playing in the sandpit and joining in the group activities. We think it’s a great transition to school for her – she’s socialising with other children, learning how to behave in a group learning environment…she’s also learning about the alphabet and how to count.”
Jacinta works as a nurse at Casey Hospital, while Luke is a baker and works permanent night shifts. Jacinta’s working hours vary as she is rostered on for different shifts each week, so the ongoing tasks of school drop off and pick up, kindergarten attendance and looking after all three children are always a juggling act.
“Having a kindergarten program within our LDC centre has been a fantastic solution for our family, particularly with my ever-changing work hours. Indi attends a minimum of two days a week – one day a week permanent with an additional one or two causal depending on my work roster,” Jacinta explains. “The centre has been great allowing us to pick up some casual days, and allowing us that flexibility from week-to-week.”
“If the kindergarten program was funded like stand-alone kindergartens we would probably have her attend three permanent days.”
“We see the cost of kindergarten as an essential cost. It’s something we’re happy to pay to ensure that Indi has a positive transition to school. We can assess her school-readiness and if need be she can attend a second year of four-year-old kindergarten before starting school.”
“As my husband and I both work, Indi has attended the same early learning centre since she was a baby. We think she has really benefited from being able to attend a kindergarten program in the same centre she has known since she was little; Indi is already familiar with the environment and the team of educators,” Jacinta explains.
“I would definitely support the idea of government funding going to kindergarten programs in LDC centres. In terms of who I vote for, I would certainly take this into account, but of course factoring in the other party policies.”
For more information on the ACA’s policy recommendations, visit the Best Start in Life campaign website.