Crush leaves kindy kids short-changed

HUNDREDS of children enrolled at north-west kindergartens are falling behind a new national benchmark of 15 hours of preschool each week.

Three months out from a June deadline, when Victorian kinders must provide 15-hour programs for all four-year-olds, figures show more than 300 children attending Melton Council’s kindies are not receiving the required hours.

Children’s services manager Vicky Matthews said there were 1600 children enrolled in 55 four-year-old kindy groups run by the council.

Only 43 groups were meeting the benchmark.

“About 12 kindergartens are operating at, or near, capacity,” she said.

This comes after new Bureau of Statistics data revealed Victoria had the lowest proportion of children enrolled for 15 hours or more — at 33.5 per cent — of every state and territory.

In NSW, 60 per cent of preschoolers were enrolled for 15 hours or more, with 91 per cent in Tasmania and 84 per cent in South Australia.

Caroline Springs’ Carly Marriner, whose three-year-old son Ashton attends Brookside Kindergarten, said he was getting only 11.5 hours a week.

“It’s not just about the number of hours, it’s about the quality of care my child receives.

“Ashton is also young for his age, so he may attend kinder again next year before going to school the year after, but if that wasn’t the case I’d be wanting him to get the full 15 hours.”

Ms Marriner said she was concerned her daughter, who starts three-year-old kinder next year, may be affected by the benchmark which is putting pressure on kindies with limited space.

Caroline Springs Mothers’ Network president, Deborah Watson, said while many kindies were meeting the benchmark, some such as Parkwood Green had been forced to spread sessions over four or five days a week, creating havoc with parents’ schedules.

Kindergarten Parents Victoria said strong three-year-old kindy programs and high attendance rates meant staff and infrastructure were under more strain than in other states.

— with Nick Toscano