Funding and policies supporting Three-Year-Old Kindergarten

Per capita funding

Funding for three-year-old kindergarten will match the rates of Four-Year-Old Kindergarten, with funding provided on a per capita basis.

Both sessional kindergarten services and long‑day‑care centres can be funded to deliver kindergarten programs for three-year-olds.

Services will receive child-level funding for every hour they deliver, in accordance with the roll-out schedule. For example, if a three-year-old child is enrolled in a kindergarten program for 7.5 hours per week, they will attract half of the child-level funding that a child enrolled for 15 hours would attract.

Funding rates such as per capita, the kindergarten fee subsidy and ratio supplement will match the rates for four-year-old kindergarten. Learn more about kindergarten funding rates.

The kindergarten fee subsidy will continue to be a part of all funded kindergarten programs for three and four-year-olds. The eligibility criteria will be the same as the current funded kindergarten programs as provided in the kindergarten funding guide.

Early Start Kindergarten

Early Start Kindergarten will continue to provide 15 hours a week of funded kindergarten for all eligible children up until 2029, when three-year-old children across the state will have access to 15 hours.

It is important to continue enrolling any eligible child in Early Start Kindergarten, even if a funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program is available at the service. Early Start Kindergarten is available for children who are at least three years old by 30 April in the year they are enrolled to attend the program, and who meet one of the following criteria: 

  • be from a regional or asylum seeker background
  • identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  • your family has had contact with Child Protection.

This guarantees that children experiencing vulnerability will continue to be enrolled in the full 15 hours of kindergarten in all service settings, including long day care.

It also ensures that service providers can continue to receive all funding entitlements.

Service providers are expected to continue to provide the full 15 hours funded through Early Start Kindergarten, even in instances where three-year-old groups are be­­ing offered fewer than 15 hours. Applications can be submitted through the Kindergarten Information Management (KIM) system.

Learn more about Early Start Kindergarten

Support for children with disabilities or additional needs

Services will receive additional funding in line with the roll-out schedule to ensure that three-year-old children with disabilities, developmental delays or additional needs can access and meaningfully participate in kindergarten programs, including through Kindergarten Inclusion Support and additional Pre-School Field Officers.

Pre-purchased places

Pre-purchased places are kindergarten places funded by the Department for vulnerable or disadvantaged children.

Eligible services providing Three-Year-Old Kindergarten are able to apply for pre‑purchased places.

School readiness funding

The Australian-first School Readiness Funding initiative has been extended to support both three and four-year-old children enrolled in all funded kindergarten programs, with funding allocated based on levels of educational disadvantage. State funded Three Year Old Kindergarten programs with eligible children can also access Kindergarten Inclusion Support and Pre-School Field Officer programs, in the same way as it occurs in Four-Year-Old-Kindergarten. 

Learn more about School readiness funding

Base rural funding

All rural services will receive base funding if their total three and four-year-old enrolments are below 18 equivalent enrolments for 15 hours per week.

Services will receive child-level funding for every hour they deliver. For example, if three-year-old children are enrolled in a kindergarten program for 7.5 hours per week, two children will make up one equivalent enrolment.

If three-year-old children are enrolled for five hours of kindergarten per week, three children would make up one equivalent enrolment. Each enrolment over 18 equivalent enrolments will receive per capita funding at the rural rate.

For more information, read the Kindergarten funding guide

Priority of access guidelines

The Department's Priority of access guidelines ensure kindergarten programs are available to those children who stand to benefit the most from attending.

Services must first apply the Priority of Access criteria. Then locally developed criteria can be applied.

In mixed-age groups, the Priority of Access guidelines equally prioritise three and four-year-old children considered vulnerable under the policy. Where programs for three and four-year-olds are provided separately, the Priority of Access criteria are applied separately for each age cohort.

In addition, eligible children residing within the early roll-out local government areas will be prioritised for access to Three-Year-Old Kindergarten in those areas. This means that these children must be allocated a kindergarten place before applications from families living outside the local government area are considered. Children who are eligible for Early Start Kindergarten funding continue to have Priority of Access to a place in a 15-hour week kindergarten program, regardless of where they live.

Children's starting ages

In line with the school starting age in Victoria, children born between January and April can start school at four years of age. This will mean that some children will be two years old when their Three-Year-Old Kindergarten year starts. 

Every child's development is unique, and services should work with families to consider the best time for a child to start kindergarten. Families are encouraged to talk to their service's kindergarten teachers and other early childhood professionals, such as Maternal Child Health nurses to inform their decision.

Under the National Quality Framework, the minimum educator to child ratio for children under three years of age is 1:4, while for children three years of age and older the ratio is 1:11.

Children under three will not be able to attend a funded kindergarten program until they turn three, unless the service has enough staff to cover the required ratios.

Where children do not attend from the beginning of the kindergarten year because they turn three between January and April, services must waive parent fees for this period. If a deposit is charged, it must be offset against fees once the child starts kindergarten.

Service providers are strongly encouraged to waive any deposits for families experiencing vulnerability. Services will receive a full year of child-level kindergarten program subsidy for enrolled children who do not attend until they turn three.

Funding an additional year of kindergarten

All children in Three-Year-Old Kindergarten will be expected to transition to Four-Year-Old Kindergarten in the following year. 

Currently, children in Four-Year-Old Kindergarten program who have developmental delays in two or more key areas of development and would benefit from a second year of kindergarten, are eligible to access a second year of funded kindergarten following an assessment by an early childhood teacher. 

A funded second year of kindergarten will only be available for children in the Four-Year-Old program who meet the above criteria.