Going to kindergarten is an important milestone in the lives of both you and your child. It will help your child learn skills that they will build on throughout their life and provide a great opportunity to grow socially and emotionally, which helps them get ready to start school.
Choosing the right kindergarten to suit your child’s needs takes planning and research. You will need to consider which kindergarten best suits your child – this will partly be determined by the sort of disability support your child needs.
Meeting kindergarten eligibility requirements
To be eligible to enrol in a government-funded kindergarten program, your child must be at least four-years-old by 30 April of the year they are starting kindergarten. Some kindergartens run programs for three-year-old children, but you usually have to pay the full fees (unless you are eligible for Early Start Kindergarten
, a program that provides extra support to Aboriginal children and children who have had contact with child protection services).
Kindergarten program options
Kindergarten programs are available in a variety of places – children’s centres, long day care centres, community kindergartens, independent schools and a small number of government schools. The childcare centre your child attends may offer a kindergarten program.
The program could be run by the local government, a committee of parents, a community organisation, a private operator, an independent school or a government school.
All centres that offer a kindergarten program will encourage you to come along for a visit. You will get a good sense from the atmosphere and talking to the program leaders about whether you think the kindergarten will be a good fit for your child. Some of the things you might want to ask about include:
- what activities they run
- how much the fees are
- what is their behaviour management policy
- what qualifications the staff have.
Questions to ask the kindergarten
To help decide if a kindergarten program is right for you and your child, consider the following questions:
- What days and hours does the kindergarten offer and are there places available for the days and hours I need?
- Does the service offer a funded kindergarten program?
- What are the fees? Are there any other costs over and above the fees?
- Does the kindergarten have an anti-bullying policy?
- What extra supports can the kindergarten put in place to support my child’s needs?
- What is the process if my child is unwell, upset or unsettled?
- Does the kindergarten provide food and drink?
- What is the process for giving medication?
- Does the kindergarten offer extended hours if I need them?
The Victorian Government funds kindergartens so they can afford to keep the fees low for families.
Individual kindergartens set their own fees and what you pay will be based on how many hours your child attends, the size of the group and extra costs such as excursions.
Under certain circumstances, your child may be eligible for free or low-cost kindergarten in the year before starting school. These circumstances include if:
- they identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
- they are one of a set of triplets (or more children)
- you have a concession card.
Kindergartens can apply for additional funding from the government if they enrol children with disabilities or other high support needs (called the Kindergarten Inclusion Support Package). This allows them to make modifications to their kindergarten and put other supports in place such as additional staff (called an ‘additional assistant educator’).
Kindergarten Inclusion Support Plan
Your kindergarten will develop a ‘Kindergarten Inclusion Support Plan’ for your child with a disability. They will do this in consultation with you and other healthcare professionals who support your child (such as their physiotherapist or speech therapist) to make sure the program will accommodate their needs.
This plan will be reviewed at least once a term by the kindergarten Program Support Group (PSG), a committee that focuses on making sure any children with higher support needs who attend the kindergarten are well supported. The PSG is led by your child’s teacher and attended by you and other relevant people who support your child’s learning, development and wellbeing.
Where to get help
- Disability Intake and Response Service, call 1800 783 783
- Your local government
- Your local kindergarten/s
- Your childcare centre
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