Free kinder: information for services and providers

Subsidies will be offered to early childhood services providing funding programs, meaning kinder will be free for children attending a funded sessional kindergarten program. It will also mean reduced fees for children enrolled in funded kindergarten programs in a long day care.

Benefits of free kinder for service providers

This initiative will help funded sessional and long day care kindergarten services to keep families enrolled in and attending their services and to attract new families, which will help keep services financially viable.

Around 4,700 early childhood teachers and 6,300 early childhood educators work in funded kindergarten programs in Victoria. This initiative will give these workers more job security. It will also support those who own and manage these services – including local government, community and parent groups, and businesses.

Eligibility

All families with a child enrolled in a funded kindergarten program are eligible for Free Kinder, in either sessional or long day care services that take up this offer. This includes all children attending funded kindergarten programs in the year before school (Four-Year-Old Kindergarten).

Services offering funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten will also be eligible for Free Kinder. In 2021, 21 local government areas will offer funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten. For a list of these areas, visit Three-Year-Old Kindergarten.

It's not compulsory for services, including long day care services, to accept this offer. However, as kindergarten fees are normally around $1,700 to $2,000 per year (in sessional settings) it's expected that there will be high take-up of this initiative.

Kindergarten providers that receive Commonwealth JobKeeper payments before they are phased out in March 2021 are eligible for Free Kinder payments in full for the whole year.

Funding available per child

Sessional kindergarten services will be supported to provide a free, 15-hour kindergarten program through an additional per child payment of $2,122.

Long day care services with a funded kindergarten program will receive an additional child payment of $2,000 to directly offset parent fees. The child must be in a funded kindergarten place in that service.

Sessional kindergarten services with an unfunded three-year-old program will be able to access a per child payment of $1,600 for each enrolment in a program of five or more hours per week. Where programs are less than five hours, this amount will be on a pro-rata basis.

If a child attends both sessional kindergarten and a long day care service, the Free Kinder funding is available at the service where a child receives their funded kindergarten program. Families cannot receive the benefit twice.

This Free Kinder funding is on top of all normal kindergarten funding streams.

Sessional services that accept the Free Kinder funding can charge parents for any kindergarten program hours over and above the 15 funded hours per week (600 hours per year) and / or ‘wrap around’ care.

Where a program operates for more than 15 hours per week, services should determine the hourly program rate based on the scheduled 2021 fee (including the costs of regular incursions and excursions) and can charge parents that rate for the hours above the 15 funded hours.

If your service conducts occasional special events (for example, once a term excursions) that are outside the 15 hour a week program, you can charge for the costs of these in full.

Optional wrap around sessions outside the 15 hours can be charged at the service’s discretion.

Payment information for services and providers

Payments will be made to participating services and providers delivering a funded kindergarten, not directly to families.

This will enable participating sessional kindergarten services to offer a free 15-hour kindergarten program and long day care services to provide a reduction in fees of around $2,000.

Passing this saving on to Victorian families will be a contractual requirement of all participating early childhood education and care services.

Sessional kindergarten services which opt-in to Free Kinder by 16 December will receive the equivalent of the first term of their Free Kinder payment for their funded program as a lump sum in January. After this, it will be paid monthly through the Kindergarten Information Management (KIM) system as per normal kindergarten payments.

Long day care providers will receive Free Kinder funding as monthly pro-rated payments through the KIM system from February.

Children who start midway through the year will attract a pro-rata amount for the time spent in the kindergarten program. The Free Kinder funding will not form part of a service’s baseline funding, so payments will cease for children who leave during the year.

If parent fees are less than the per child funding

If a sessional kindergarten service normally charges less than this amount in parent fees, the surplus can be used to support the broader service. For example, improving the quality of the kindergarten program, increased engagement of children and families and preparing for Three-Year-Old Kindergarten (for 2022 roll-out areas).

Any surplus funds should be used at that kindergarten service it is accrued for and not for other services operated by the service provider.

Charging a separate, non-refundable deposit to cover costs involved with processing enrolment

If a service is participating in the Free Kinder initiative in 2021, any fee payments including an enrolment deposit or placement fee cannot be retained for children who are enrolled at the service.

All services may receive voluntary parent payments that a parent has explicitly agreed to, in writing.

Services can conduct other fundraising activities, as well as receiving Free Kinder payments, if all terms and conditions are met.

If fees have already been paid, the full amount should be refunded in a timely way.

Asking families for a donation per term to make up the shortfall

All services may receive voluntary parent payments or conduct other fundraising activities, as well as receiving Free Kinder payments, if all terms and conditions are met.

Services can invite parents and carers who have already paid fees to voluntarily and explicitly agree that some or all of their fees are retained as a donation to the service.

Support for kindergarten teachers

The Victorian Government is providing a range of generous scholarships and incentives for people wanting to become a kindergarten teacher and for kindergarten teachers that are considering teaching in regional areas.

The Victorian Budget 2020/21 includes:

  • $4.8 million to offer 76 educators to fast-track their studies to become a qualified early childhood teacher
  • $92.4 million to support early childhood teachers and educators through more professional development, mentoring and scholarships.

Resources to help you speak to families about free kinder

We have developed resources to help your service speak with families about Free Kinder:

Information for families available in languages other than English

More information

For more information you can contact kindergarten.funding@edumail.vic.gov.au