Choosing the right kindergarten or preschool for your child is a big decision. After all, you will be entrusting your child’s emotional, physical and educational well being to strangers, possibly for the first time in their lives.
Across Australia, the terms kindergarten or preschool or even pre-prep are used to describe the year before a child starts school. Children are generally around 4 years old.
Formal education for children of this age is not compulsory but encouraged by most state governments. Covered by The Early Years Learning Framework, which covers birth to age five, there is a strong emphasis on play-based learning, early literacy and numeracy and a focus on transition to formal schooling.
All kindergarten/preschool programs must be delivered by a qualified early childhood educator.
Depending on your state or territory, early learning programs can be offered in a number of different settings. There may be a kindergarten or preschool attached to a school, a standalone community or private service, or a program offered as part of a long day care program.
When looking at services, it’s important to consider the following:
- Who runs it? Is it a community run service, private service or government? For example, some C&K branches are run by the organisation and some are run by a volunteer management committee.
- What are the hours? 15 hours a week is the standard offering for this level of education, so you may expect a kindy day to be from 9.00am-2.30pm a couple of days a week. However some services, such as long day care offer the flexibility of extended hours.
- What days are available? Can you select days to suit your needs?
- What are the fees? Different services qualify for different funding and this will be reflected in fees as well as any childcare benefits you may be able to claim.
- Is it close to the school your child will be attending? Building social connections to carry through to school can be important for your child.
- Is the service an accredited service provider? The mychild.gov.au website has a service finder which also provides information about the services rate against the National Quality Framework.
It is also a good idea to visit various types of services and meet the educators, as well as consider recommendations from other families.
Recently, I was was faced with this very decision when my daughter was offered a coveted kindergarten place at a C&K for next year. The centre has a high reputation and many friends have sent their children there. However, my daughter is currently very happily enrolled in a day care centre, which offers a pre-prep program. After much deliberation I have decided to stick with our current service. My daughter has formed strong relationships with both children and educators, and the option of extended hours offers more flexibility for my family. I am also satisfied that service provides a quality program that will prepare her for school.
Essentially, deciding which type of early learning service is best for your child comes down to a combination of factors and the decision will ultimately hinge around what suits the needs of your family.
For more information relating to kindergarten or preschool in your specific state or territory, the following government links may be helpful:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia