Michelle Gough, Preschool Field Officer, South Gippsland and Bass Coast Shire Councils
I’ve been working in early childhood education for 35 years, but the rollout of three-year-old kindergarten in the South Gippsland shire is the most exhilarating time of my career. Finally, a Victorian government is not only acknowledging the critical importance of early education, but also backing that up with significant long-term financial investment.
I currently work as a Preschool Field Officer across South Gippsland and Bass Coast. When South Gippsland was announced as one of the first six councils to rollout subsidised three-year-old kindergarten, I was employed for a few extra hours a week as part of our shire’s amazing Children and Family Services team, to collaborate with our kindergarten community and DET regional staff on implementing the reform.
“There was an amazing amount of goodwill and passion amongst our early childhood education community.”
South Gippsland has 14 kindergartens, managed by variety of service providers. The 2018 Australian Early Development Census revealed that nearly a quarter of South Gippsland’s children are currently starting school with developmental vulnerabilities in at least one area. I believe our children deserve a better start and the evidence is clear – two years of kindergarten will make a big difference for their long term learning outcomes.
Within weeks of the announcement, our team facilitated a kindergarten expansion workshop bringing together kindergarten service providers and educators to learn about the reform, the research behind the initiative and workshop the many challenges that literally doubling our kindergarten programs might create. It was huge, but there was an amazing amount of goodwill and passion amongst our early childhood education community.
We’ve also offered individual information sessions to every kindergarten, presenting information about the rollout tailored to the unique situation of each service and parent group. These sessions provided service providers an opportunity to explain to families what kindergarten for three-year-olds will look like in their centre and to answer any questions.
In 2020, the majority of our kindergartens will be offering 15 hours for three-year-olds. Within two weeks of enrolments opening, we had received over 200 enrolments which is nearly two-thirds of the three-year-old population. Clearly South Gippsland families are just as excited as we are. I am so proud of our amazing early childhood community led by our dedicated, flexible, creative, passionate, inspiring educators and service providers.