Throughout Victoria 3 year old kindergarten is available with some limitations due to the need for more kindergarten spaces.
Benefits to children
A child who has attended two years of a quality kindergarten program will, on average:
have better cognitive and social skills when they start school (including better development in language, pre-reading, early number concepts, non-verbal reasoning, independence, concentration and social skills)
have higher exam scores at 16, including better grades in English and math's
have more developed social and emotional outcomes at age 16
be more likely to take more final year exams and to go on to higher academic study1
Evidence shows that investment in early childhood education has significant social and economic benefits.
For every $1 invested in early childhood education, Australia receives $2 back over a child's life - through higher productivity and earning capacity, and reduced government spending on health, welfare and crime.2
There have been many studies to see what the advantages of two years of pre-school are. Here are some of the findings –
A High Quality Pre- Kindergarten program prepares children to take maximum advantage of their 4 year old Kindergarten year which concentrates on developing “School Ready Skills”. Younger children develop many skills through close association with their older peers. This highlights the importance of multi age settings where children are able to learn both from educators and from their peers in a positive and collegial environment. Such environments also enable children to experience being the resident expert in their area of interest and are able to teach other children what they know.
The Early Years Learning Framework, with its emphasis on learning through play, ensures that planned activities are age appropriate, and based on the individual interests and skill levels of the children. These benefits are even greater at a multi age centre where children are grouped by interest and ability instead of arbitrary age brackets.
Preschool activities have an emphasis on the Social, Emotional Development of each child. Children learn best in a caring environment where these skills are encouraged. Children learn how to interact with others, to make friends, to take turns, to empathise, to resolve conflict constructively, and to identify and control their emotions. Children develop self- esteem, and belief in their own capabilities through practising self-help skills, and helping to care for the indoor and outdoor environment.
Pre-school teachers are trained to identify, and to work with children who have additional needs. The earlier these needs are identified and planned for, the less children will fall behind peers at school. In addition the more children are able to socialise with a full cross-section of society the more inclusive and connected children will be able to remain within their community as they grow.
Through interacting with Early Childhood teachers, and participating in group times and programmed activities, language and cognitive skills are promoted. Kindergartens are language rich environments. Children are involved in discussions, answering questions, early literacy activities and letter recognition, stories and singing. New words are introduced through hands on science (who doesn't love a vinegar and bicarb soda volcano?), maths (such as cooking), environmental awareness and creative activities.
Children’s creativity and innovative thinking is enriched by 3 year old kindergarten. Through the use of art, craft, constructing, dress-ups, pretend play. The routine is flexible, and teachers and educators value children’s spontaneous ideas for play and theme extension. Mathematics and logic skills are developed through a wide range of activities such as using building with blocks, railway tracks, cooking, farm sets, sorting, ordering, comparing and fitting together.
The Preschool environment is designed to develop motor skills and physical fitness. Children are encouraged to participate in activities which develop fine motor skills needed for writing. Children are encouraged to participate in similar activities both indoors and outdoors to ensure children that enjoy spending more time outside still have an opportunity to develop fine motor skills and reading, as well as children that enjoy the indoor environment having the opportunity to develop their gross motor skills effectively. In the outdoor environment children can run, hop, skip, slide and swing, ride bikes, develop ball skills, dig in the sand and dirt, and construct with large blocks, as well as paint, draw, read, relax (at some centres enjoy nap times) outside as well.
Preschool teachers stimulate children’s curiosity and desire to learn and find out how things work. They encourage children to be creative, and to investigate and solve problems. They observe children’s interests, and plan activities to help them answer their own questions. This focus on what children enjoy is vital to ensure that children interests are peaked and they are all able to generate a life long love of learning. By being able to focus on topics that are particularly interesting to them educators are able to teach children a wide variety of topics including math's, pre writing skills, about the environment, and the world around us.
Preschool is a safe, happy, friendly, nurturing environment, where children have fun. They have opportunities to make decisions and to try out their own ideas in a relaxed, supportive environment, where children are encouraged to try out their independence, but still have many supports at hand when needed.
All parents are encouraged to engage with Early Learning Centres to enable their children to have the best start at a positive education by ensuring their child participates in 3 year old kindergarten, or even 2 year old daycare centre. Many centres are offering either free or fee reduced 3 year old kindergarten from 2023 with the Victorian State Government providing substantial fee contributions to all centres to ensure 3 year old kindergarten remains accessible for all families.
1 -Reference: Sammons, P., Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Siraj, I., Taggart, B., Toth, K. & Smees, R. (2014). Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education Project, Department for Education, United Kingdom.
2 -Reference: A Smart Investment for a Smarter Australia, PricewaterhouseCoopers & The Front Project