CONSTITUENCY QUESTION — Mr Kennedy to ask the Minister for Education
My constituency question is for the Minister for Education and concerns the upgrading of facilities at one of the many excellent preschools in my electorate of Hawthorn. West Hawthorn Pre-school is a wonderful facility, and on 10 March I was thrilled to be there to announce that the government would be contributing $500 000 towards an extra classroom to increase capacity for three-year-old kindergarten, a meeting room for parents, refurbished toilets and a storeroom. This project was developed to meet the future demands from families in the West Hawthorn precinct and to meet the increased hours and funding of three-year-old kindergarten. My question is: when will the minister or the Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education visit West Hawthorn Pre-school to see the new facilities when works are complete?
The Andrews Labor Government is investing almost $5 billion over this decade to deliver funded universal Three-Year-Old Kindergarten. The Government’s historic commitment includes $1.68 billion for building the Education State, through co-investments in early childhood infrastructure. This will be the largest investment ever in Victoria’s early childhood infrastructure.
As part of the 2019/20 State Budget, the Victorian Government is already investing $473.2 million over five years in early childhood infrastructure.
In planning for how we can best work together to meet demand for kindergarten places, we have been listening closely to our sector, local government partners, and peak bodies, through the Kindergarten Capacity Assessment Program survey, with 95 per cent of early childhood education and care services in Victoria taking part in this survey.
To respond to what we heard, the Government launched the Three-Year-Old Kindergarten Infrastructure Strategy, which sets out the approach for investing the Victorian Government’s record infrastructure funding in the most effective ways possible, including providing greater flexibility, certainty and investment to the sector.
The Government has also committed to ensuring that there is a kindergarten onsite or next door to every new government primary school that opens from 2021. The Department of Education and Training will continue to work with local government authorities through existing processes to ensure this commitment is supported by effective planning.
As part of the Three-Year-Old Kindergarten infrastructure investment, the Victorian Government will deliver new kindergartens on a number of existing school sites. Through consultation and planning with local government authorities, schools and existing early childhood providers, new facilities will be delivered in ways that best meet the needs of local communities.
Co-locating new kindergartens with primary schools helps reduce the burden on parents and carers by helping them avoid the dreaded ‘double-drop-off’, makes the transition to school smoother for children, and will also help Victoria meet future demand for kindergarten places.
We are also improving the way we work with our partners to make investment decisions, providing clarity across the sector about which projects need to be prioritised so that the greatest possible number of families and children can enjoy the benefits of funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten. In consultation with the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Victorian Government is pleased to offer local government authorities a one-off planning grant to support their co-operative work with the Department of Education and Training, as part of a $4.4 million package.
As part of the Three-Year-Old Kindergarten Infrastructure Strategy, we also recently launched the new $156.6 million Building Blocks grants program which will streamline all pre-existing kindergarten grants into one process.
Building Blocks includes significant increases to the maximum state funding contributions for projects and offers new delivery options such as purpose-built modular kinder facilities.
Applications for funding are now open for local councils and not-for-profit organisations delivering kindergarten facilities, who can apply for up to $1.5 million for a New Early Learning Facility, including the new modular kindergarten facility option, up to $600,000 for an expansion, or up to $2 million for a new Integrated Children’s Centre.
I am pleased to hear about your visit to West Hawthorn pre-school to announce the $500,000 from the Children’s Facilities Capital Program towards an extra classroom. This extra classroom will increase capacity for Three-Year-Old Kindergarten.
I am advised that West Hawthorn pre-school is in the plann ing phase of this project. Construction is due to be completed in January 2021. Pending on our schedules and subject to COVID-19, myself, or the Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education, would be delighted to visit West Hawthorn pre-school once the works are completed.
I look forward to hearing about the progress of this project and seeing the benefits it is providing to the families of West Hawthorn.
I trust this information is of assistance and thank you for your advocacy of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten in Hawthorn.
The Hon James Merlino MP
Minister for Education