Question: Royal Children's Hospital Kindergarten Program

Written on the 6 February 2013

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- My question is to the Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, Ms Lovell, and I ask: can the minister advise the house how the Baillieu government is ensuring that children in the Royal Children's Hospital can stay connected with an early childhood education program.

Hon. W. A. LOVELL (Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development) -- I thank the member for her question and her ongoing interest in the early childhood education of Victorian children. Last week I was delighted to join the Premier, the chair of the Royal Children's Hospital, Rob Knowles, the Royal Children's Hospital CEO, Christine Kilpatrick, and also the executive director of the Royal Children's Hospital Education Institute, Glenda Strong, in announcing that this government will fund a kindergarten program within the Royal Children's Hospital. This is an important addition to the Royal Children's Hospital prep to year 12 education program. The program ensures that while children are in hospital they do not miss out on an early education learning opportunity.

The average stay for preschoolers in the Royal Children's Hospital is nine days. However, last year almost 100 children spent more than 20 days in hospital. As I have said, running an early childhood program within the hospital will ensure that those preschoolers do not miss out on that vital early childhood education opportunity.

As we know, early childhood programs can be run with flexible arrangements, so that some of the programs within the Royal Children's Hospital will be run in activity rooms, but some of them for some of the sicker children can be run at their bedside. The program will be flexible in its delivery, and the educators at the Royal Children's Hospital will stay in close contact with the children's early childhood services so that they can ensure that the program suits the needs of the child.

We know that 95 per cent of children's brain development happens in the first five years of life. This program is vitally important to keep those children who are in hospital in contact with their learning opportunities, and it will be a great addition to the hospital. We have provided funding for 23 kindergarten places within the hospital, which is approximately $90 000 to the hospital each year. That funding will be ongoing and will continue to be reviewed according to the hospital's needs and the demand. It was wonderful to see the enthusiastic teachers within the education unit at the Royal Children's Hospital. They were fantastic with the children who were in the hospital when we visited last week.

It is also fantastic to see the state government supporting the Royal Children's Hospital. While the federal government is cutting $107 million from Victoria's hospitals, the state government is supporting Victoria's hospitals. The result of the federal government's cuts to health will mean that the Royal Children's Hospital has its budget reduced by $3.5 million. That is a disgraceful act by the federal government to cut vital health funding to Victoria's most vulnerable children.
December 13, 2012

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