Last week Federal Minister Simon Birmingham announced the Government would guarantee federal funding for 15 hours of four-year-old kindergarten in 2018. This announcement provides much-needed certainty for families with three-year-old children currently in ECMS kindergartens. You can now make choices for 2018 knowing you can access at least 15 hours per week of affordable, quality kindergarten. This is a timely reminder that 2018 enrolments are open and filling quickly; visit our website for more details.
In recent meetings with the Minister I reinforced the value of ensuring all children can access 15 hours of kindergarten per week in the year before school. With one in five children starting school developmentally vulnerable we must continue to build on the universal access program. This announcement is welcome news, but we are looking for funding certainty beyond 2018 and the opportunity to extend the program to three-year-old children. I will continue to advocate strongly to Government until we achieve this.
Also last week, the Victorian Government's launched its Education State Early Childhood Reform Plan alongside the 2017-18 State budget. The plan outlines how the Government will invest more than $200 million to create a higher quality, more equitable and inclusive early childhood system.
ECMS has long advocated for a strong needs-based approach to early childhood funding that supports us in providing additional services for families in need. That’s why it’s affirming to see a reform agenda with a focus on quality and lifting outcomes for all children and families, but particularly for our most vulnerable families.
The reform plan includes more than $80 million for programs that strengthen vital Maternal and Child Health Services. Our educators work closely with Maternal and Child Health services, and this investment will help us work more collaboratively to ensure children are healthy and well prepared for school.
More than $100 million will be allocated to new and existing programs that support kindergartens to deliver high-quality and inclusive programs that maximise children’s early learning opportunities. This includes ongoing funding for the Early Start Kindergarten program and pre-purchased kindergarten places (PPKP), which support eligible families to access free three-year-old kindergarten. Thanks to an outreach family support pilot program ECMS participated in last year we were able to support 98 children to access early learning services this year. These are children who more than likely would have otherwise missed out due to structural and financial barriers. We look forward to supporting more children and families via these programs in the future.
Koorie children will be supported with programs designed to help ensure they receive a strong foundation for their learning and development. These programs align with the work ECMS has been doing over the past two years to support indigenous families more effectively. Our work has included building close partnerships with indigenous organisations, including SNAICC and Reconciliation Australia, and developing Reconciliation Action Plans at an organisational and service level.
We will continue to work with Government on the rollout of these reforms and will update you as we receive more information about how these changes may impact your family.