ECEC responds to Vic commitment to free Kinder and further support for OSHC in 2021
The Victorian Government will deliver free kinder for 2021 and support for more outside school hours care (OSHC) – saving parents thousands of dollars and helping more women back into work, Premier Daniel Andrews announced yesterday.
Up to $169.6 million has been allocated in the Victorian Budget 2020/21 to make kinder free next year, saving families around $2,000 for every child enrolled in a participating funded kindergarten program, something which Premier Andrews said will not only support children, but will also facilitate female workforce participation.
Peak bodies respond
The Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) has welcomed the announcement, with CEO Elizabeth Death saying increased public investment in early learning is “precisely the right policy for the times”.
While good news for Victoria, the investment highlights the variation in early learning funding and access across Australia, Ms Death said.
“The NSW Government took a big step in the right direction last weekend, when it announced free sessional preschool for 2021. We encourage NSW to follow the Victorian Government’s lead by extending additional funding to preschool programs delivered by qualified teachers in long day settings.”
Sarah Tullberg, president of the Australian Childcare Alliance Victoria (ACAV) echoed Ms Death’s perspective, saying that while ACAV “applaud the vision of the Victorian Government for its recognition of the many benefits of kindergarten in all early learning settings, we are waiting on further details about how this funding will be rolled out and the extent of its positive impact on individual families.”
“We hope that the $2000 funding per child accessing a funded three or four-year-old kindergarten program in long day care will significantly support parents, particularly women, as they recover from the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and return to the workforce,” Ms Tullberg said, adding that ACAV looks forward to working with the Victorian Government to support the delivery of this new funding and the many benefits it will bring for Victorian families.”
Helen Gibbons, United Workers Union Early Childhood Education and Care Director, described the announcement as a welcome one which would ensure all children had access to high quality early learning, regardless of setting.
“This is an investment in families and children, but also an investment in quality jobs for educators, in recognition of their hard work throughout the year in Victoria,” Ms Gibbons said.
Union delegate and early childhood teacher, Quynh Nguyen, said Victorian educators welcomed the measure, which she hopes will improve job security in the sector.
Early Childhood Australia (ECA) particularly welcomed the support for kinder programs in long day care settings, saying the inclusion will ensure that families living in Victoria will now be able to access quality early childhood education in their chosen setting, regardless of income.
“The voices calling for greater investment in early education are getting louder,” ECA CEO Sam Page said.
In the OSHC domain, the Victorian Government has committed $81.6 million to increase the availability of before and after school care, with grants of up to $75,000 to be made available to start new outside school hours care programs at up to 400 government schools – so that any school that currently doesn’t have a program can apply to receive a grant.
This investment, the Premier said, will mean more families can rely on before and after school care, with the grants also being able to cover equipment, setup and administration, facility upgrades and transport.
“Women have been hardest hit by this pandemic. Real recovery means making sure they’re supported back into work – and the security and stability that affords,” Premier Andrews said.
“This investment is dedicated to making the daily juggle of work, school and kinder just that little bit easier.”
Further information about the practical implications of the announcement is likely to be made available on the Department’s website in coming days.