BENDIGO has enough kinder places to give all three year olds at least five hours of tuition a week within three years, but double the number of places will have to be created in the next decade.
Enrolments have fallen because unsubsidised three year old programs are becoming more expensive, according to the central enrolment agency Shine Bright Early Years Management.
Chief executive Suzi Sordan said 419 three year olds were enrolled in September, but that number also included early learning centres in the Swan Hill and Campaspe shires.
Another 111 children were enrolled in centres outside of the Shine Bright’s management in Bendigo.
The Victorian government is predicting it will have to create 800 new places by 2029 in order to fit all children into three year old places, an election promise it made last week.
Labor has promised to subsidise a 15 hour a week program for three year olds and this week Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards announced $1.6 million in funding for a kindergarten, day care and community centre in Westbury Estate, Maiden Gully.
“There will be a lot more kinder construction activity to come under a re-elected Andrews Labor government as we implement our revoluntionary plan to provide three year old kinder to all Victorian children,” Ms Edwards said.
The goal is to get children better prepared for school, socialised as well as started on literacy and numeracy skills.
But Liberals Bendigo East candidate Ian Ellis said the success of announcements relied on local government as overseers of the provision of early learning, being able to meet the commitment required of them.
“There are some councils around the state struggling to provide services now without further requirements on their limited budgets,” Mr Ellis said.
“And given the announcement is a 10 year plan, have the numbers been properly assessed?” he asked, adding that population increases were currently exceeding estimates.
Mr Ellis said Labor was tying three year old kinder election promises with the Maiden Gully centre, which had been in the planning stages for years.
Universal four year old access to 15 hours a week of preschool was financed in Australia from 2013, leading up to which councils and state governments spend money building new centres.
Local and state governments asked child care centres to hire kindergarten teachers and deliver in house programs to create more places.
Child care centres will be encouraged to create places for three year olds this time around.
This time around, the Victorian government will fund centres to employ teachers in their three year old rooms.
Centres that make cost savings due to the state investment will be required to pass any savings on to families.
In this week’s election promise, the state government is promising to create 800 more places in Bendigo, but not necessarily by building new centres.
Victoria-wide, the Labor government is promising to build 785 new kinders and expand 170 others.
Ms Sardon said a new centre in Strathfieldsaye and plans to expand the Huntly centre meant many of the residential growth hubs around Bendigo were covered.