Question: Universal Access to Kindergarten Programs (19.03.2013)
Written on the 26 March 2013
Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- My question is to the Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, the Honourable Wendy Lovell. Can the minister update the house on the implementation of universal access to 15-hour kindergarten programs in Victoria?
Hon. W. A. LOVELL (Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development) -- I thank the member for her question. I am absolutely delighted to update the house on our implementation of universal access to 15-hour programs in Victoria. In fact 92 per cent of Victorian services are currently delivering 15-hour programs in Victoria. Coincidentally this equates to 92 per cent of Victorian children being enrolled in a kindergarten program for 15-hours or more, which is a wonderful achievement in this state.
We all know that there is more to do, and we want to see more children being able to access 15-hour programs. We want to do that thoughtfully, without displacing three-year-old programs and without creating waiting lists for four-year-olds, as that means some children miss out.
We are confident that we will improve on the 92 per cent during this year as more and more of the new and renovated services that are being made available through the coalition's record investment in children's services -- the $86 million in grants that have been made available through the children's capital program -- come online. That number will improve, and we will see more children having access to 15-hour programs. It has been hard work to get up to this figure. I would particularly like to thank Early Learning Association Australia and the Municipal Association of Victoria, which cooperated with us to ensure that services were able to achieve these great results.
Accessible, affordable and high-quality kindergarten is essential for Victorian children. The coalition is committed to delivering these services. I was interested to read in an Age article last week that only about one-third of children in Victoria attended 15-hour services last year, prior to the requirement for 15-hour programs, which came in this year.
Had my office been contacted by that media outlet, we could have provided it with more updated figures, which would have assisted with the report. The article also quoted some people from New South Wales who said that the cost of kindergarten could be up to $60 a day and that this was making it unaffordable for families. But as we know, the recently published Report on Government Services indicated that in 2011 the median cost of kindergarten across Australia was $22 per day. In Victoria the median cost was $20, so we are below the national cost of kindergarten in Victoria. We also know that low-income families in Victoria receive fee subsidies which make kindergarten free for them in most settings.
The Napthine government is focused on delivering for Victorian families, and it is getting on with the job of delivering quality early childhood programs to ensure that every Victorian child has the best start in life.