Early Childhood A new vision for kindergarten
This year, two years of funded kinder is offered across the entire state, and the final group of LGAs have been able to introduce funded three-year-old kindergarten programs. Our thoughts now turn to what our service and programs will look like in the coming years as we increase our funded hours to offer two years of access to 15 hours a week for all children.
We’ve become the masters of change. When we critically reflect on our pedagogical approaches and consider an evolution into more dynamic and community-responsive programs, we can contemplate a broad range of ideas – including the introduction of a multi-age approach, a rotational model, long days, off-site programs, and team teaching.
As we plan for the implementation of two years of access to 15 hours of funded kindergarten, my kindergarten service has engaged in a long process of reflection, discussion, planning, workshopping, and ongoing consultation, making sure that we capture the needs of our community while staying true to our values, philosophy, and pedagogical practice.
We have gathered feedback through conversations at kinder open events, community surveys, and engagement with our local council. We have shared ideas, provided constructive feedback on proposed plans, and workshopped alternative perspectives. Our current programs were critically evaluated; we identified our strengths, and adapted the timetable to best meet the demands of our community, without compromising our sense of identity.
While we may be good at managing change, the reality is that it can be confronting and uncomfortable. However, experience has shown us that, as a sector, we are resilient and adaptable
Evolving our approach to offer a multi-age model allows families to nominate the program model they would like their child to engage in, rather than limiting them to the allocated three-year-old or four-year-old group. This perspective shift might not be straightforward at first, but our team is empowered to speak confidently to the benefits of multi-age learning, and community engagement is planned to support our families to understand the ongoing benefits of this approach.
At the end of our consultative process, we had reimagined our kindergarten program to offer a multi-age approach that maintains our six kinder groups in our double-unit service. We’ve embedded team teaching to support continued collaboration across the programs, revised our off-site programs to reflect the interests of our community, maintained our nature and community engagement pedagogies, and come up with a range of program approaches to meet the 15 hours of funded kindergarten.
While we may be good at managing change, the reality is that it can be confronting and uncomfortable. However, experience has shown us that, as a sector, we are resilient and adaptable, and we manage change well. There will be challenges as we continue to navigate the coming years, adapting our programs as the needs of our community evolve. We need to challenge our fear of change and think outside the box as we adapt to a new vision of two years of kinder for our children, families, and communities, thanks to the landmark investment by the Victorian state government.