Councils and early childhood teachers continue to call on the federal government to commit to ongoing funding to ensure every child in the state can access 15 hours of kindergarten per week.
Current funding arrangements with the state government run until the end of 2019, but the Municipal Association of Victoria and member councils want the National Partnership on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education guaranteed for the longer term.
Macedon Ranges Shire Council is among them, with the council’s director community wellbeing Karen Stevens saying research shows kindergarten gives children the “best possible start in their education journey”.
The government funding ensures all children can access early education in the year before school.
Bendigo Pre-School nominated supervisor and teacher Lisa Claxton said fees were high enough without parents having to pay even more to cover teachers’ wages, to which most of the government funding went.
Mrs Claxton said ongoing funding provided “security to be able to plan ahead for the years to come”.
“I don’t think any preschool can function without the funding, to be honest,” she said.
“To have it guaranteed takes a lot of pressure off those who run preschools.”
Already there was a shortfall, Mrs Claxton said, with fundraisers having to be held throughout the year to cover different learning experiences, building works and other projects at kindergartens.
La Trobe University early childhood education lecturer Leanne Grogan said studies across a range of disciplines showed good foundations built in the early years of a child’s life provided a “secure base for a positive future”.
“Children’s development in the first five years of life is rapid and highly responsive to their environments therefore it is imperative that children are afforded the best possible opportunities to develop strong dispositions for learning and healthy optimistic approaches to problem solving and creative thinking during this stage, all of which are provided in kindergarten programs which provide play-based curriculum and where inquiry-based learning is nurtured and developed,” Ms Grogan said.
She said it was during early childhood that children began to develop a sense of their world and how it worked, as well as a foundation for literacy, numeracy and scientific inquiry.
It was also a time when children developed social, self-regulation, problem-solving and communication skills, she said, and a sense of their own identity.