Kindergarten Funding

12 February 2015

Mr PEARSON (Essendon) — I raise with the Premier the matter of the extension of the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education. I have the great privilege of having been a board member and the inaugural president of the Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA), which was formerly Kindergarten Parents Victoria.

ELAA championed the concept of providing quality access to a positive early learning environment for all children. That is why we were thrilled when the former federal government embarked on establishing 15 hours of kindergarten per week for four-year-old children. In practice the program delivered 600 hours a year of kindergarten run by a degree-qualified early childhood teacher. Under this agreement the state government of Victoria funds 10 hours of kindergarten, with the federal government funding the remaining 5 hours.

Last year the federal coalition government extended the agreement for just 12 months. If this agreement is not extended, each year 70 000 Victorian children will have the quality of their early years education experience compromised. With the agreement set to expire this year, I ask the Premier to continue to raise this matter with the federal government to ensure that Victoria’s kindergarten children are not left behind.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Essendon should keep going, but one of the criteria for the adjournment is that members cannot raise a matter just for the federal government; there must be a different action.

Mr PEARSON — With the agreement set to expire this year, I ask that the Premier write to the Prime Minister as a matter of urgency to ask him to ensure that Victoria’s kindergarten children are not left behind. Clearly if the agreement is not rolled over, then children, particularly those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds or from regional Victoria, will miss out. The reality is that more affluent families will ensure that their children have at least 15 hours of kindergarten a week. It is important that children from regional Victoria — and I am sure that The Nationals will support the government in this — as well as those from a linguistically different background can also access quality early childhood education.