Victorian Minister’s scare campaign on kinder access needs to stop
- Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth
The Victorian Government should immediately stop its irresponsible scare campaign over kindergarten access, Early Childhood Minister Peter Garrett said today.
Mr Garrett said recent comments from Victorian Children and Early Childhood Development Minister Wendy Lovell would lead parents to wrongly believe their child could be denied a kindergarten place under the National Universal Access Commitment.
“It’s time for the Victorian Government and their Coalition counterparts in the Federal Parliament to stop playing politics with this issue and stick to the facts,” he said.
“The fact is that under the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education, all states and territories have agreed to aim for 15 hours a week of early childhood education for every child in Australia.
“But the key point is that the commitment allows flexibility in how it is implemented. It is not mandatory and it just plain wrong for Ms Lovell to continue to claim that her state is being ‘forced’ to offer 15 hours per child, and that this will lead to the closure of regional kindergartens.
“The Gillard Government is providing Victoria with $210 million to help implement these changes. So far, Victoria has received more than $71 million and as result, has enrolled about 5700 more children, delivering nearly 30 per cent more hours of kindergarten a year.
“This is a terrific result and the Victorian Government should be praising their state’s early childhood sector for their great work, instead of running around irresponsibly claiming that centres will close and kids will miss out.”
Mr Garrett said Victoria had one of the highest kinder enrolment rates in the nation, with 99.9 percent of children enrolled in kindergarten programs. Local kindergarten services and teachers are now delivering on average 12.8 hours per week in the community sector, or 16.1 hours per week when all services (long day care and independent schools) are included.
“Compared the rest of Australia, Victoria has a small amount of work ahead to reach our universal access goal. We’ve given them millions of dollars and five years to reach this goal, and there is absolutely no reason it can’t be done,” he said.
“Ms Lovell told the Bendigo Advertiser this week ‘I am not here to meet the Federal Government deadlines’. But she needs to remember her job is to meet her Government’s obligations to ensure Victorian children get the best start in life, not to play cynical politics with needs of families.”
The Gillard Government will invest $20 billion in early childhood education and child care over the next four years, Mr Garrett said.
The Government is also taking action to ensure a qualified workforce is available, including:
- Students enrolling in the Diploma or Advanced Diploma of Children's Services at TAFE or government providers have not incurred course fees as a result of the National Partnership in place with all jurisdictions to 2014;
- Early childhood education teachers graduating from 2009 are able to apply to have their HECS-HELP debt reduced by $1560 per annum if they take up occupation as a teacher;
- Early Childhood education teachers working in regional and remote areas, Indigenous and other communities of high disadvantage are able to apply for a reduction in the HECS-HELP debt of up to $1600 per annum, for up to 260 weeks, through the 2008–09 initiative; and
- Funding of $9.7 million over four years announced in the 2011-12 Budget to build the capacity and qualifications of early childhood workers.