The office is working to deliver on a commitment of up to $889 million over five years to ensure every 3½- to 4½-year-old Queensland child can access an approved kindergarten program delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher and deliver an extra 240 kindergarten services.
Currently, there are about 53 000 kindergarten-aged children in Queensland, but only 12 000 of them attend an early childhood education program led by a qualified teacher in a community kindergarten or childcare setting.
A total of 29 000 kindergarten-age children attend childcare centres in Queensland, but only 7 per cent of these have access to an education program delivered by a qualified teacher.
There are also an estimated 12 000 kindergarten-age children who do not attend any early childhood education or childcare service. This includes children cared for by their parents or grandparents, and those attending family day care services.
Queensland's kindergarten participation rate of 29 per cent is very low compared with other states, where participation rates range from 85 to 96 per cent.
In 2008-09, the office began planning key initiatives to deliver universal access to kindergarten by mid-2013, addressing infrastructure, funding strategies, workforce issues and access for children in remote or disadvantaged communities.
To achieve universal access, the Queensland Government has committed $321 million to rollout an extra 240 kindergarten services across Queensland by 2014.
Planning is underway for eight new kindergartens to open in 2010 at:
- Seaforth State School, near Mackay
- Beaconsfield State School, Mackay
- Oonoonba State School, Townsville
- St Andrews College, Redlynch, Cairns
- Mudgeeraba State School, Gold Coast
- Stretton State College, Brisbane
- Moorooka State School, Brisbane
- Prince of Peace Lutheran College, Everton Hills, Brisbane.
The additional 240 kindergarten services will cater for the 12 000 children of 3 ½ to 4 ½ years of age who are not currently accessing any early education or care services. Where possible, these will be co-located with schools.
Locations for future kindergartens will be based on assessment of local need, taking into account population and availability of existing childcare and kindergarten services.
In 2008-09, the office provided more than $39 million to support the operations of community kindergartens through the Department of Education Community Kindergarten Assistance Scheme (DECKAS). The purpose of this funding is to offset the cost of employing a teacher and assistant for each kindergarten unit.
To achieve universal access to kindergarten, the office is developing a new funding scheme for kindergarten to support delivery of quality kindergarten programs in community kindergartens and long day care services.
This funding scheme will be designed to offset kindergarten fees to parents and target government resources to areas of need.
Delivering a kindergarten program in a long day care setting will improve access and choice for working parents.
During 2008-09, the department continued its commitment to upskilling the early childhood education and care workforce through the Children's Services Skilling Plan 2006-09. 6000 individuals attained Certificate III, Diploma and Advanced Diploma qualifications through the plan. In 2008-09, the office began to develop workforce skilling strategies to increase the number of qualified early childhood teachers in Queensland. By 2013, it is expected that an additional 900 four-year qualified early childhood teachers will be needed to provide universal access to kindergarten.
To assist in meeting workforce needs for teachers, a range of initiatives, including annual scholarships over the five years commencing in 2010, will be offered to existing early childhood professionals to upgrade their qualifications.
To achieve universal access to kindergarten for all Queensland children, regardless of their circumstances, a range of service delivery approaches is needed.
Mobile and outreach kindergarten services, which cater for children living in regional and remote areas, are an important priority.
In 2008-09, the office worked with C&K and the Australian Government to pilot five mobile kindergarten programs across a range of early education and care settings, including community kindergarten, long day care and family day care. Pilot programs were delivered in the Gulf, Far North West, South West and South East Metropolitan communities.
Mobile and outreach services aim to address key barriers to kindergarten, such as geographic and social isolation, socioeconomic disadvantage, difficulty in attracting tertiary-qualified early childhood teachers, and lack of family support services in disadvantaged communities.