In September, I had the privilege of attending the AEU’s Early Childhood Conference, which centred around funded three-year-old kindergarten and the practices of offering two years of early education to all children. I sat on a panel with several early childhood professionals and heard a diverse range of experiences. The conversations were inspiring, and a few common themes emerged.
As we move towards all of Victoria receiving funding for 15 hours a week of three-year-old kindergarten, there is a lot of nervousness about how this will work. Will children be able to attend longer sessions and thrive? How can we fit all these lessons into our timetables?
When completing, in 2020, my second year of teaching a funded three-year-old program at Fish Creek Kindergarten in South Gippsland, I worried about the same things. I soon saw how competent three-year-olds are, how they can do anything the four-year-olds can do, and how they embrace a six-hour day.
I have also experienced how much of a difference it makes for the community. In 2021, we combined three and four-year-olds, and saw the value this gave families, with flexibility of days and siblings in the same group. With these benefits, we plan on running mixed groups in the future.
Hearing people’s experiences with mixed groups, longer sessions and team teaching, as we head into the full rollout of three-year-old kinder, we have a multitude of experienced voices to listen to.