|Free Kinder commences in 2023, making three-and four-year-old kinder programs free for all Victorian children. This reform means that from 2023, all Victorian children can access: between 5-15 hours a week of free kinder in a three-year old program. The number of hours available will vary depending on the capacity of the local ECEC service, except for children eligible for Early Start Kindergarten (ESK) where access to 15-hour kindergarten programs remains. By 2029, all ECEC services will be offering the full 15-hour kinder program. 15 hours a week of free kinder in a four-year old program. This reform makes the kinder program free for all families. Where a child is accessing kinder in a long day care setting, parents and carers may incur additional costs for the hours spent at the service outside of the kinder program. The Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) will still need to be considered for children attending kinder in a long day care setting.|
Early Start Kindergarten (ESK)
There is no change to ESK with the roll-out of three-year-old or Free Kinder in 2023. Early Start Kindergarten (ESK) continues to provide all eligible children access to 15 hours a week of free kinder in their first year.
Children are eligible for ESK if they are three by 30 April in the year they will start kinder and: are from a refugee or asylum seeker background, or identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, or they or their family are known to Child Protection. ESK can be accessed in a stand alone kinder or long day care. Find more information about ESK in a long day care here.
Why is it important to continue notifying the ECEC service of a child’s ESK eligibility if kinder is free from 2023? Early Start Kindergarten (ESK) ensures eligible children are: guaranteed access to 15 hours a week of kinder, where the three-year-old kinder program may only be available for shorter periods prioritised for a kinder place under the Priority of Access guidelines able to access a kinder program led by a qualified Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) registered teacher. ESK funds may also be used to support the family by covering: enrolment fees, including any gap fees not covered by CCS additional out-of-pocket costs for families such as excursions/incursions resources to create a culturally safe environment and support the family’s inclusion. ESK also enables the ECEC service to access increased School Readiness Funding which allows them to purchase tailored supports for their service, such as: additional educators to assist in reducing child to staff ratios a bicultural educator professional development, including training related to trauma and culturally safe practices. ESK Extension Grants provides eligible children similar support in their four-year-old kinder year, so it is important to advise the ECEC service of a child’s eligibility at any stage in their kinder journey.
How does a family access the ESK grant? To access the ESK grant, a family can self-identify or any professional working with the family can notify a service (verbally or in writing) that the child meets one of the ESK criteria. The kinder will then apply for the grant directly and the family do not need to complete any additional paperwork outside of the typical enrolment process.
DET’s interactive map can be used to search for a Victorian Government funded kinder nearest to a family. Contact details for the service are included on the map so they can be contacted directly to ask about their enrolment process.
Unsure about a child’s kinder eligibility, or need support accessing a kinder service?
Contact your local Early Childhood Improvement Branch (ECIB)
Want more information in this newsletter on the Best Start, Best Life kindergarten reforms?
Contact Harriet Wilson, the Senior Early Years Project Officer at the Centre at [email protected]