Early child­hood funds wel­come

Seymour Telegraph - - NEWS -

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment re­cently an­nounced fund­ing for Vic­to­rian chil­dren to re­ceive early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion through to 2019, with $440 mil­lion na­tion­ally for 15 hours kinder­garten each week for four-year olds.

Since 2013, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has funded five hours per week for Vic­to­rian pre-school­ers, while the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment con­trib­utes fund­ing to­wards the other 10 hours per week.

Mu­nic­i­pal As­so­ci­a­tion of Vic­to­ria (MAV) pres­i­dent Mary Lalios said that while the ex­act fund­ing de­tails for Vic­to­ria are still un­clear, this an­nounce­ment comes as a great re­lief for fam­i­lies, kinder­gartens and coun­cils who can now plan ahead for 2019 with more cer­tainty.

‘‘We are par­tic­u­larly pleased that Min­is­ter Birm­ing­ham has for the first time com­mit­ted the Com­mon­wealth to work with state gov­ern­ments on an en­dur­ing pol­icy be­yond 2019,’’ Ms Lalios said.

‘‘Short-term fund­ing ar­range­ments have made it dif­fi­cult for Vic­to­rian ser­vices and fam­i­lies to plan as they con­tinue to face un­cer­tainty about the cost and avail­abil­ity of preschool from year to year. We wel­come gov­ern­ments work­ing to­gether to de­velop a longer-term fund­ing so­lu­tion.

‘‘Ex­ten­sion of Com­mon­wealth fund­ing to con­tinue pro­vid­ing 15 hours of kinder­garten for Vic­to­ria’s chil­dren was strongly sup­ported in the ‘Lift­ing the Game’ re­port re­leased last week. High-qual­ity early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion is linked with higher lev­els of em­ploy­ment, in­come and fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity, im­proved health out­comes and re­duced crime — it helps build the skills chil­dren will need for their life­long learn­ing and se­cur­ing fu­ture em­ploy­ment.’’

Ms Lalios said Vic­to­rian com­mu­ni­ties al­ready con­trib­uted 35 per cent of the cost of preschool through fees, fundrais­ing and lo­cal gov­ern­ment sup­port, in­clud­ing more than $300 mil­lion of ratepayer funds in­vested by coun­cils in the past four years to de­liver 15 hours of kinder­garten from coun­cil fa­cil­i­ties.

‘‘Per­ma­nent fund­ing for four-year-old kinder­garten is essen­tial to spare par­ents po­ten­tially unaf­ford­able in­creases in kinder­garten fees or ad­di­tional child­care costs,’’ Ms Lalios said.

‘‘An ex­tra 1200 teach­ers and ed­u­ca­tors were trained and em­ployed to de­liver the 15 preschool hours. This fund­ing ex­ten­sion and an en­dur­ing pol­icy is good news for chil­dren and fam­i­lies, but also a re­lief to coun­cils. It will pre­vent job losses and coun­cils po­ten­tially with­draw­ing their sup­port and ex­ten­sive roles in kinder­garten plan­ning, fa­cil­ity and ser­vice pro­vi­sion.

‘‘Close work would con­tinue with the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment on the roll-out of a four-year project to en­hance and ex­pand coun­cils’ kinder­garten cen­tral en­rol­ment pro­cesses be­yond 2019. The MAV would also con­tinue to ad­vo­cate for coun­cils to be ad­e­quately funded for the dif­fer­ent ways they sup­port kinder­gartens — such as plan­ning, fa­cil­ity pro­vi­sion and cen­tral en­rol­ment.’’

There are cur­rently 458 chil­dren en­rolled in Mitchell Shire’s kinder­garten ser­vices (in­clud­ing 402 in fouryear-old kin­der and 56 in three-year-old kin­der), while coun­cil em­ploys 65 early child­hood kinder­garten staff.

Mitchell Shire Mayor Rhonda San­der­son said kinder­garten is the be­gin­ning of a child’s ed­u­ca­tion jour­ney and is a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for chil­dren to learn, play, so­cialise and grow.

‘‘We know early ed­u­ca­tion has many proven ben­e­fits for chil­dren and can be linked with higher lev­els of em­ploy­ment and health out­comes in later years,’’ Cr San­der­son said.

‘‘Fund­ing for kinder­gartens is ex­tremely im­por­tant to a lot of fam­i­lies, who may not al­ways be able to af­ford fees and costs. Our com­mu­nity is rapidly grow­ing and with many new fam­i­lies com­ing to the area now and into the fu­ture, it’s re­ally im­por­tant that chil­dren have the best start in life and are not re­stricted by early ed­u­ca­tion costs.

‘‘Coun­cil wel­comes the cer­tainty this fund­ing an­nounce­ment brings to fam­i­lies in our com­mu­nity re­gard­ing the costs and avail­abil­ity of four-year-old kin­der po­si­tions un­til 2019, and we hope to see this fund­ing con­tinue re­cur­rently. Thanks to the Fed­eral and State gov­ern­ments for in­vest­ing in our com­mu­nity.’’

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