Early Start Kindergarten gives eligible children 15 hours of free or low-cost kindergarten a week for two years before starting school.
To be eligible, your child must be three by 30 April in the year they start kindergarten, and:
- is from a refugee or asylum seeker background, or
- identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or
- your family has had contact with child protection.
Children can also access free or low cost Four-Year-Old Kindergarten through the Early Start Kindergarten Extension Grant.
Early Start Kindergarten and Three-Year-Old Kindergarten
The Victorian government is rolling out funded kindergarten for all three-year-olds. During the roll-out, there will be no change to Early Start Kindergarten.
Early Start Kindergarten will continue to provide 15 hours of free or low cost kindergarten per week to all eligible children in all areas across Victoria.
How to apply
Early Start Kindergarten is available in all kindergarten programs delivered by a qualified teacher. You can enrol your child by contacting a kindergarten near you and asking to access an Early Start Kindergarten grant. You can also contact us or your local council for assistance.
When to apply
You can enrol your child by notifying the kindergarten you wish to attend or your local council of your child's eligibility for Early Start Kindergarten.
If your child’s birthday falls between 1 January and 30 April, you will need to determine the year your child will start school to work out which year they will access Early Start Kindergarten. You have the choice of whether your child attends school in the year they turn five or six. Subsequently, they can access Early Start Kindergarten in the year they turn three or four.
For assistance in determining when your child is eligible for Early Start Kindergarten, you can contact us, your local council, your maternal and child health nurse, or a kindergarten in your area for further support.
Why Early Start Kindergarten is important
Early Start Kindergarten provides your child access to a 15 hour per week kindergarten program for two years.
Accessing high quality early childhood education for two years has a substantial and positive impact on a child’s cognitive, emotional, and social skills (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2018). Through play-based learning at kindergarten, your child will gain new or improved skills in a number of different areas, including:
- learning how to become an effective learner
- developing and extending their communication and language skills
- building self-confidence and social skills
- building understanding of identity and culture
- learning to be creative through arts, dance and music
- developing skills in literacy and numeracy.
Research shows that two years of kindergarten also has a bigger impact on children’s long term development and health compared with one year of kindergarten, which can lead to stronger academic outcomes at school (Fox and Geddes, 2016).
Quality is Important
When considering enrolling your child in a kindergarten service, it is important to ask about how the service maintains quality learning programs. Research has found that high-quality kindergarten programs have a significantly strong impact on children’s literacy, academic outcomes, and social skills (Sylva et al, 2010).
A kindergarten service's quality rating can also be viewed at
Koorie Kids Shine
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families can learn about the benefits of kindergarten, including how services create culturally safe places for Koorie children and families, and how to enrol in free or low-cost kindergarten for three-and four-year-old
children through Koorie Kids Shine.