Victorian Minister for Early Childhood Ingrid Stitt said the initiative would make it easier for parents to find a good quality kindergarten program.
“Victorian families can simply look for the kinder tick to find a teacher-led kindergarten program that supports their child’s learning and development and suits their needs,” Ms Stitt said.
An estimated 2600 childcare centres will receive the tick, including sessional kindergartens and long day care centres that offer 25 hours of integrated kindergarten.
The tick is unrelated to the established national quality standard for childcare and early learning services, which is run by the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority.
Early Learning and Care Council of Australia chief executive Elizabeth Death said a tick system for Victoria would provide clarity on which childcare centres also offer kindergarten programs with a tertiary-qualified teacher.
“It cuts through some of the myths that currently exist, that you need to move your child from a quality early learning centre into a stand-alone kinder to gain access to a kinder program,” Ms Death said.
Ms Death said centres that fell short of the state government’s new standards risked losing enrolments if they didn’t improve the quality of their kindergarten service.
“They need to lift their game,” she said.
Merri Community Child Care Centre director Helen Evdokimou said the centre, which offers all-day childcare with an integrated kinder program, would display the tick to give its families added confidence.
“We do OK with enrolments, we have been a centre of choice for many families, so I think it will probably reinforce it for some,” Ms Evdokimou said.
“Ultimately, the tick is a great thing to promote kinder.”
But some centres will be not get the tick of approval, despite meeting or even exceeding national quality standards, because they do not qualify for the government’s free kinder program.
Brookville Kindergarten is a not-for-profit, community-run kindergarten in Toorak, which exceeds the national quality standard for childcare but also charges annual fees of more than $2122 per child, making it ineligible for the free kinder program.
“Our costs are higher because we run longer day programs, hire high-quality staff and have healthy child-to-teacher ratios,” Brookville president Shona Brady said.
The kindergarten is surveying its parents about whether they are prepared to make a donation to cover the gap between their fees and the government’s cap for accessing free kinder.
If all parents agree, Brookville will sign up to the free kinder program, saving parents about $2000 in fees and enabling it to use the tick.
The government has capped the kinder subsidy at $2122 per child, and stipulated that any centre that charges higher fees will not be able to charge parents a gap fee to cover the difference.
This leaves up to 9 per cent of sessional kindergartens ineligible to access free kindergarten, the Department of Education and Training has estimated.
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Adam Carey is Education Editor. He joined The Age in 2007 and has previously covered state politics, transport, general news, the arts and food.
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