3 year old kinder is on the way in Victoria
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Three-Year-Old Kinder is available in Victoria, but what might it look like in LDC settings?

Three-Year-Old Kinder is available in Victoria, but what might it look like in LDC settings?

by Freya Lucas

July 01, 2023

The Victorian Government’s $14 billion Best Start, Best Life reforms are the most significant change to Victoria’s early childhood sector in a generation, benefiting all young children and their families. 


From 2023, Free Kinder is available for Victorian three- and four-year-old children at participating standalone (sessional) services and long day care settings – a saving of up to $2,500 per child, every year.


Over the next decade, Four-Year-Old Kindergarten will transition to ‘Pre-Prep’ – doubling to a universal 30-hour a week program of play-based learning for all four-year-old children in Victoria by 2032.


Funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten continues to roll-out across Victoria, with 5 to 15 hours per week available for children in this age group.


With many changes underway, providers are keen to understand more deeply how the changes will impact the long day care sector. 


To learn more about what is on the horizon as these changes progress, we spoke with Victorian Deputy Secretary of Early Childhood Education, Kim Little, and Director and Principal Consultant at Hydon Consulting, Catharine Hydon


The value of two years of quality early learning


“The starting point in any discussion about early childhood education,” Ms Little began, “has to be the evidence. And the evidence is very clear – the early years matter.”


“In many ways, the growing evidence about the importance of early childhood education simply reflects what educators have understood for many years – getting it right in the early years is critical in helping children to thrive when they are young and to gain the confidence, skills and knowledge they need to fulfil their full potential throughout life.”


“Two years of high-quality, play-based early childhood education before school supports stronger outcomes for children, especially those in vulnerable circumstances or who need additional support,” she added.


“This is a profound opportunity for all of us in Victoria to improve the life trajectory of children.  As well as being excited about what the reforms mean for Victorian children and families, it also highlights the enormous contribution and capability of our early childhood teachers and educators.”


Unique approaches for different situations and contexts 


As the reforms are rolled out, there are a range of implementation options open to services relating to how programs are delivered, and services are encouraged to consult with their families and staff on what will work best in their unique circumstances, Ms Little said. 


“The Department of Education’s Early Childhood Improvement Branches are available to work with services on the programming models that will best suit their situation,” she continued. 


“We have local branches located across the state with enthusiastic and highly-trained staff that can work with services and help them develop tailored solutions to suit their circumstances. I encourage services to reach out to their local Early Childhood Improvement Branch if they haven’t already done so.”


For an additional perspective, we spoke with Director and Principal Consultant at Hydon Consulting, Catharine Hydon. 


“The reforms are an exciting opportunity to stretch our pedagicial muscle.  Teachers and educators can take these opportunities to make deliberate decisions about the structure of the day that recognise the ebbs and flows of children’ learning and development,” she said. 


“For example, educators in long day care services may have extended time outside in the afternoon to complement the more focused time in small groups in the morning, or spaces created where children can rest and be by themselves, along with learning environments that require more complex social negotiations. Holistic approaches, therefore, become a key driver of funded kindergarten programs that ensure that the needs of the children are being met irrespective of hours children spend in the program.”


“Using collaborative teaching approaches, reflective of the ECA Code of Ethics and National Quality Standard, is another effective way for teachers and educators to learn from and support each other as they implement these reforms,” Ms Hydon added.  


“When teachers and educators commit to work and think together, they develop strategies that support children’s diverse needs and interests and deepen their professional practice.”  


Led by teachers, delivering high quality opportunities


“We know that the pathways in children’s brains are positively influenced by explorations that happen through play,” Ms Little said. 


“As Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer from Monash University said earlier this year at the Educational Leader’s Conferencegenuine and connected learning is where the magic happens’.”


“All funded kindergarten programs must use the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF) and comply with government guidelines and the National Quality Framework.”


Led by early childhood teachers, funded kindergarten programs are play-based and high quality, using evidence-informed ways to support children’s learning, development and wellbeing. 


“The high-quality play-based learning programs are impressive – children construct, imagine, create, investigate, interact, and problem-solve with intentional engagement and support by highly skilled teachers and educators,” Ms Little added. 


Long or short, it’s the content of the days which counts 


As the hours for the Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program increase, some services have questions about the structure of this within services. 


“These reforms will, at times, necessitate teachers and educators re-examining teaching and learning practices to ensure each child is supported to grow and learn,” Ms Hydon said.  


“Practice approaches that may have been part of a service context for many years may change significantly and challenge the way educators and the community understand the experience of early childhood education.”


“It’s important to remember the fundamentals of quality early childhood pedagogy as we navigate these changing times and the process and structural questions that arise. Drawing on our research and practice evidence and the expectations of the National Quality Standard and key concepts in the VEYLDF will guide our path and ensure outcomes for children.”


“The most important thing to remember in decisions about children’s attendance,” Ms Hydon continued, “is how to deliver consistency and continuity.”


“Children benefit from regular and predictable opportunities to build relationships and consolidate learning. If there are large gaps between children’s participation in an education and care settings they might find it difficult to settle into the learning environment and to build the secure attachments that facilitate learning and development.”


It is also important for services to have effective systems and clear understanding of the expectations of the regulations and the National Quality Standard, she continued.  


“Educators who work with a larger number of children need to develop a much stronger understanding of what is actually expected and what works,” she emphasised. 


“For example if the current practice is to send a daily ‘reflection’ piece home to families it might be prudent to re-consider this in favour of a robust summative assessment piece.”  


“Attention to the planning cycle and ways to collect and assess data about each child that use simple and accessible strategies will assist. Examples might include simple tables or tools that record key observations or specific information.”  


Many Victorian teachers and educators now have access to the Early Years Assessment and Learning Tool. This new online observation-based tool, currently being rolled out in selected services, supports assessment of children’s strengths, interests, and abilities. 


The Tool provides a more consistent and systematic approach to assessment for learning and understanding of children’s abilities.


To learn more about the Best Start, Best Life reforms in Victoria, please visit the website here


For additional advice or support, reach out to your educational leader and use critical reflection opportunities to develop practice alternatives.  

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