Free Kinder and Kinder Funding: What’s the Difference?
19 October 2023
What exactly is Free Kinder? And what’s Kinder funding? In this post, we spilt the difference between these often confused early childhood initiatives 👇
Early childhood education is the first step in ensuring academic (and lifelong) success for your child. Therefore, Kindergarten should be at the front of mind if your child is three or four-years-old.
However, there’s some confusion in Victoria around the different kinds of Government subsidised Kinder programs. Particularly, between ‘Free Kinder’ and ‘Kinder funding’.
In this post, we’ll outline the differences between the often conflated Free Kinder and Kinder funding, which are actually quite different from one another!
What is Kinder?
Kindergarten is the two years of early learning before your child begins primary school. This is also known as three and four-year-old Kinder.
Kinder programs are play-based and run by qualified Kinder teachers who hold a graduate diploma, bachelors degree, or masters degree. While these programs incorporate play-based learning, they emphasise essentials such as literacy, numeracy, social skills and emotional development. In Victoria, these programs are guided by the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLF).
Kinder can be integrated into a long day care program at an early learning centre, or run as sessional programs at a church, community centre, or standalone Kinder service (this could include three-to-five hour blocks over a few days a week).
For a full breakdown of the difference between long day care and sessional Kinder, check out our blog post here.
What is Kinder Funding?
Firstly, Kinder funding is not the same as Free Kinder. Rather, Kinder funding takes the form of subsidies provided directly from the Government to the childcare service you’ve nominated.
Therefore, when you enrol your child into Kinder, you are required to ‘claim funding’ with only one Kinder service. The Government will then allocate funds directly to that service.
These funds are used to directly benefit and enhance the service’s Kinder program. This can be done in several ways, such as:
- Employing staff members to directly deliver the funded Kindergarten program
- Kindergarten staff professional development
- Resources and equipment used for the funded Kindergarten program
- Excursions and incursions related to the funded Kindergarten program
- Extra support for educationally disadvantaged children
- Parental engagement
- Transition in and out of Kindergarten
- Specialist programs (e.g. music, science, languages)
What is Free Kinder?
There’s a lot of confusion around what exactly is meant by ‘free’ Kinder.
In simple terms, ‘Free Kinder’ supports families to access a funded Kindergarten program by providing a discount of up to $2,500 per year to offset the out-of-pocket cost of your fees. So, if your child attends less than $2,500 worth of Kinder in a calendar year, it is technically free Kinder.
Free Kinder at Explorers
If your child attends a long day care centre, such as Explorers, Kinder is integrated into the long day care program (if your child is three or four-years-old). You will receive the Free Kinder discount in the form of Free Kinder Credits.
These Credits act as a discount on your childcare fees, alongside any Child Care Subsidy (CCS) entitlements. Ultimately, this will reduce your out-of-pocket Kinder expenses.
These Credits, as with all Free Kinder subsidies, rely on the hours your child spends in the Kinder program. In 2024, the State Government will be boosting the Kinder funding figures:
- Four-year-old Kinder children must be enrolled for at least two days per week and the funding covers 15 hours, totalling up to a maximum $2,050 for the year.
- Three-year-old Kinder children can access 7.5 hours (maximum $1,025) or 15 hours (maximum $2,050) depending on days of attendance and Kinder teacher placement.
In conclusion, Free Kinder and Kinder funding are two incredible Government subsidised programs which are designed to enhance the quality and accessibility of Kinder. Over the next decade, the scale of Free Kinder and Kinder funding is planned to vastly expand.
By 2032, the State Government has proposed for regional areas to be better represented, accessibility for all families to be increased, and the hourly caps and Free Kinder discounts to be raised. So be sure to keep an eye out for future Kinder updates, as this period sets the foundation for children’s academic, developmental, and lifelong success!