Kindergartens

This service description provides additional information regarding kindergarten programs for three and four year old children.

Introduction

Victoria has strong participation levels in kindergarten by four year old children (above 90 percent) however vulnerable children are known to be among those missing out. Be mindful of the value of kindergarten attendance for all eligible children, and actively facilitate their inclusion in a kindergarten program.

Benefits for the child

Kindergarten is important as it provides programs that enrich a child's development. Kindergarten programs engage children in quality learning experiences in a variety of settings within the child and family's community. Two years of quality early childhood education is particularly beneficial for children experiencing educational and social disadvantage. Research indicates that quality early childhood education can positively influence longer-term educational and social outcomes.

The kindergarten curriculum caters for the child's learning and development, focusing on areas such as social and emotional development and the development of gross and fine motor skills. Children in kindergarten programs develop and extend their communication skills, start learning how to use technology, develop skills that assist with reading, writing and mathematics, develop confidence, learn to be creative and, most importantly, start to enjoy learning and to be effective learners.

A kindergarten program will also support ongoing development of social skills including:

  • showing respect and caring for others
  • being comfortable with people who are different and learning to see beyond differences to similarities
  • showing self control, identifying and expressing feelings appropriately
  • developing independence, and giving and seeking help from others
  • balancing one's own needs, rights and responsibilities with those of others
  • resolving conflicts in peaceful and constructive ways
  • working with others and learning to appreciate that collaboration is a great way to get things done
  • learning to apply these skills effectively.

Kindergarten participation also helps to identify children who need extra support, and offers appropriate links to other early childhood services to ensure children receive this assistance as early as possible.

Benefits for parents and carers

A kindergarten program gives parents and families the chance to be part of a community focused on children's wellbeing, to get to know other families, and to share perspectives and information with early childhood professionals. Parents benefit when they have experienced, knowledgeable and sensitive professionals to talk to, share concerns with, and get encouragement and support from. Professionals benefit from the wisdom of families. Children benefit when parents and professionals work in partnership on their behalf.

The kindergarten environment provides an opportunity for families to develop links within their communities and become more aware of support services.

The balance between risk and protective factors

Children's development is shaped by the balance between factors known to place development at risk and those known to have protective properties. Children exposed to multiple risk factors become vulnerable to developmental problems of health, learning and wellbeing, whereas those exposed to protective factors are more likely to be resilient in the face of environmental adversities. These determinants of child development have an impact at all levels: family, neighbourhood, community and economy. For more children to develop well, the factors that place them at risk need to be reduced, and those that are protective need to be promoted.

High quality, developmentally informed early childhood education is a resource for all families. Kindergarten programs provide an opportunity for early identification of and intervention regarding any presenting deficits in a child's abilities. For vulnerable children, kindergartens can also function as a preventative intervention by addressing aspects of social disadvantage and deprivation.

Kindergarten programs

Kindergarten programs are offered in a range of settings, including purpose-built kindergartens, community based and private child care centres (including early learning centres), community centres and schools.

Programs are usually offered in different groups based on the age of the child:

  • programs for children aged at least three years on 30 April in the year they attend (three year old kinder)
  • programs for children aged at least four years on 30 April in the year they attend (four year old kinder).

Some kindergarten services offer multi-age programs with three and four year old children in the same group.

All children aged three years by 30 April in the year they will be attending who are known to child protection (either current or former clients) or referred by Child FIRST, or who are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, are eligible for Early Start Kindergarten.

Early Start Kindergarten provides free or low cost programs delivered by a qualified teacher to help children with language, development, and self-confidence. A kindergarten only requires verbal advice that a child is known to child protection, and this advice can be provided by a child protection practitioner or a parent.

Enrolment

Kindergarten enrolment practices vary between programs and locations. Contact the local council for information specific to the area, and if necessary to check which programs are delivered by qualified teachers.

In some growth areas the demand for kindergarten places is very high, so it is advisable for children to be enrolled at the earliest opportunity.

Paperwork

Forms and documents required for kindergarten enrolment include:

  • Court orders relating to the child
    • Kindergarten staff need to sight original paperwork and a copy needs to be attached to the enrolment form. This is necessary if the order relates to the powers, duties, responsibilities or authorities of any person in relation to the child or access to the child (Children's Services Regulations 2009 s. 31(e))
  • the child's medical information, including the name and contact details of the child's doctor
  • contact details of people who may be notified if the child has an accident, injury, trauma or illness
  • details of people who can collect the child (only these people will be permitted to collect the child)
  • immunisation records. If the child has been immunised the service will require-
    • a copy of the immunisation record from the Child Health Record Book or
    • a copy of the immunisation record printout from local government or
    • the child history statement from the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register.

Children who will turn six during kindergarten

A child may turn six years of age (compulsory school age) during kindergarten, where they started late for their age group or where a second year of funded kindergarten has been approved. In these circumstances an exemption from attending school needs to be sought by the parent or guardian from the Department of Education and Training, before the child starts kindergarten or as soon as practicable. This can be facilitated by the kindergarten program.

How to assist a parent or guardian to enrol a child in kindergarten

  1. Identify an eligible child (ideally when the child is two years of age)
  2. Have a conversation with the parent about the value of kindergarten for their child. For brochures, information sheets and posters to support this conversation, see the communications material (including translated information) at www.education.vic.gov.au/kindergarten/brochures
  3. Assist with finding an appropriate service – contact the local council or go to  www.education.vic.gov.au/findaservice
  4. Encourage and support the parent to contact the kindergarten about enrolment
  5. Suggest that the parent arrange to meet with the teacher and see the program in action.

Other early childhood care and education

Other formal care settings provide children with experiences that contribute to their learning and development, like child care and playgroup. Further, such structured settings provide links for parents or carers in the local community, and assist in the overall transition of children from early childhood settings to school.

Children in out-of-home care

In 2016, the Department of Education and Training is piloting the pre-purchase of kindergarten places to reserve them for children experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage. This includes three and four year old children in out-of-home care. To find out if pre-purchased places are available in your area, contact your regional Department of Education and Training office or the relevant local government area.

Additionally the Early Childhood Agreement for Children in Out-of-Home Care 2014 (the Agreement) supports the engagement of children under the age of five years in out-of-home care, with early childhood services, including kindergarten. Under the Agreement, the child protection practitioners or contracted case manager is to advise the relevant local government area contact person (the Maternal and Child Health Nurse Coordinator, or the Manager, Children and Families) when a child under five years is placed in out-of-home care; and the local government area will then provide assistance where needed to facilitate access to services such as kindergarten, long day care, family day care, occasional care, and play groups.

Further information regarding kindergarten can be found at:

http://www.education.vic.gov.au/

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