By Kyra Gillespie
An estimated 22 new kindergartens will be constructed in Cardinia Shire to pave way for subsidised three-year-old kinder, if an Andrews Labor Government is re-elected.
Visiting Andrews Community Kindergarten in Pakenham on Tuesday 9 October, the Premier announced a $1.68 billion spend over the next decade to build 785 new kinders and expanding 170 existing centres state-wide as part of the $5 billion package announced last week.
The kinder investment will see every Victorian child have access to no less than five hours of subsidised three-year-old kinder by 2022, progressively scaled up to 15 hours per week over the next ten years.
Three-year-old kinder currently costs families around $5000 a year for 15 hours, with around a third of children that age currently enrolled in three-year-old kinder.
At Andrews Community Kinder in Pakenham, three-year-old kinder is only privately offered for three hours a week, one day a week.
The new subsidy forecasts an additional 970 places for Cardinia’s three-year-olds.
“This will create more opportunities for Pakenham families because it’s quite expensive at the moment for three-year-old kinder,” Andrews Community Kinder Early Childhood Educator Kellie Toth said.
“A lot of it comes to the cost, and we’re in quite a low socio-economic area here in Pakenham, so a lot of children at the moment are missing out.
“Three-year-old kinder gives children the opportunities to refine their skills before they go to school. It’s seen as an important stepping stone for school.”
Under Labor’s plan, around a quarter of Victorian families will pay nothing at all, while families with a higher income will have around 65 per cent of the kindergarten costs covered.
It will lend to savings of at least $3500 for families.
Widowed Pakenham mum Candice Evans said she was only able to put her children through three-year-old kinder at Andrews Community Kinder because of the legacy left behind by her late husband.
“Without that legacy it would have been far too expensive and my children would have missed out,” Ms Evans said.
The State Government will work with councils and communities to achieve the kinder rollout.
“When this universal three-year-old kinder rollout takes place there will be something like 50,000 additional kids going to three-year-old kinder each year, which means we will have to invest in new kindergartens, and upgrading current kindergartens and classrooms to create new spaces to educate these kids,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“We can deliver all the additional space needed with the funding that we have announced, and will be working closely with local councils to get it done.
“Studies show that 90 per cent of a child’s brain development occurs before they even turn up to school. This will set them up for every chance in life.”
The Premier said the additional kinders will vary from standalone centres as well as centres co-located with new and existing schools.
It will work the same way as current subsidies for four-year-old kinder.
Attending the Pakenham kinder with the Premier, Early Childhood Education Minister Jenny Mikakos said the extra year of kinder before school will create massive demand.
“We’re going to be working from day one to kick-start this massive construction,” Ms Mikakos said.
“This is an investment in our littlest Victorians and Early Childhood sector.”