05 AprFree sessional kinder in Victoria is just what the doctor ordered
This morning’s announcement by Victorian Minister for Education, James Merlino, of $45 million in extra funding to provide parents with free kindergarten during Term 2 represents a necessary and common-sense response from the Victorian Government.
“We had already seen many services experiencing enrolment cancellations or significant reductions in attendance prior to the Term 1 holidays as parents either starting losing their jobs or became fearful of the risk of coronavirus transmission in kindergartens,” said ELAA CEO, David Worland.
Since Victoria has gone into partial shutdown, ELAA has been flooded with enquiries from members asking how they can survive financially without the revenue from the out-of-pocket fees paid by parents. The out-of-pocket parent payment bridges the gap between the existing National Partnership funding for kindergartens and the total cost of delivering kindergarten services to each child.
“The announcement today of approximately $485 per child for Term 2 gives kindergarten providers a reliable funding stream during the crisis,” said Mr Worland.
The extra funding is critical to the Victorian kindergarten sector for two reasons: it enables services in the short term to continue to provide quality early childhood education and care to Victoria’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged parents, as well as parents employed in essential services. It also means sessional kindergarten services are not forced to permanently close their doors due to a drop in attendance during the period of coronavirus emergency.
“So, combined with the Federal Government’s JobKeeper scheme, Victorian kindergarten services will be able to retain staff and keep families engaged with their service during the pandemic which means they will still be up and running for when attendance levels return to normal once the health risk has passed,” added Mr Worland.
While ELAA welcomes today’s announcement by Minister Merlino, the fate of those providers who only deliver unfunded three-year-old kindergarten programs outside of the regional areas currently covered by the first phase of Victoria’s ‘Three-year-old Expansion Program’ still hangs in the balance. These providers remain largely ignored in recent Commonwealth and State relief packages.
“We experienced a huge drop in attendance just prior to the school holidays a couple of weeks ago and it’s really uncertain how many parents are going to come back in Term 2 because of their concerns about the virus,” says Meg Donnelly, President of Kinderlea Three-Year-Old Preschool in Victoria’s Wantirna South. “So far, services like ours seem to be left out of the early childhood education and care relief packages offered by governments and, because of the social distancing restrictions, we can’t run fundraising events like our annual Open Day which provided much needed funds for our service.”
ELAA urges both the Commonwealth and State governments to factor in unfunded Three-Year-Old programs to future relief packages as a matter of urgency.
“We would also like to see further Commonwealth and State Government funding that recognises the added risk posed to early childhood workers required to report for work during a time when the spread of coronavirus (COVID 19) has still not peaked in Australia,” said Mr Worland.
“Provision for things like resources to assist kindergartens to offer distance learning activities and resources for children that remain at home; and universal access for early childhood workers to Employee Assistance Programs or priority coronavirus (COVID 19) testing would be very welcome.”
For more information or to arrange an interview with ELAA CEO, David Worland, contact James Gardener 0413 483 182.
ELAA is the national peak body for not-for-profit providers of early childhood education and care. Our vision is Excellence in Early Learning for Every Child. www.elaa.org.au