Funded sessions for 3-year-olds start
FISH Creek’s new-look kindergarten in Ryan Street has re-opened at the start of the 2020 education year after the South Gippsland Shire Council invested $367,155 to extend, update and improve the building.
Fish Creek kinder is now greeting children five days a week instead of four to cater for the growing call for places with the introduction of State Government-funded kinder sessions for all three-year-old children as well as four-year-olds.
The new Three-Year-old Kindergarten program, to give it its official title, is also available at Welshpool and Toora kinders, and at Foster too, as one of the many services offered by the Prom Coast Centres for Children (PCCC).
Kindergartens throughout the South Gippsland Shire, including the four in the Corner Inlet district run by the community-managed PCCC, are among the first in Victoria to offer every three-year-old up to 15 hours of subsidised kinder each week.
South Gippsland is one of six municipalities, alongside Buloke, Hindmarsh, Northern Grampians, Strathbogie and Yarriambiack, to be chosen for the initial roll-out of the expanded kinder program that will progressively include all of Victoria by 2029.
PCCC early years manager Wilhelmina Pruyn welcomed the news of funded, teacher-led three-year-old sessions and said that “international research consistently shows that two years of kindergarten are better than one.
“Leaning starts at birth, and the skills young children learn set the foundation for the rest of their lives,” she said.
“At kinder, children enjoy play-based learning, and their teachers support them to develop their natural curiosity as well as their concentration and their creativity.
“Through guided play and all sorts of fun activities they discover language skills, basic maths concepts, and how to regulate their behaviour, get along with others and to form friendships,” Wilhelmina said.
“PCCC’s national standard kinder services are delivered locally and are tailored to meet the needs of individual children, their families and their communities.
“A good example of this tailoring is starting the sessions at our three stand-alone kinders at Fish Creek, Toora and Welshpool at 9 am and finishing at 3 pm to align with school hours so parents have one trip in and one trip out,” she said.
“Funded three-year-old kinder really helps to keep children, especially those in rural areas, in their home towns and in their local communities and makes their transition to school after two years of kinder so much smoother and easier.”
Fish Creek Kindergarten
So many children enrolled for funded three-year-old kinder at Fish Creek this year that the kindergarten is running some sessions purely for them, with four-year-old kinder sessions held on separate days.
Early childhood teachers Kim Smith and Meg Ellard, along with educators Amanda Carnes and Mikayla Lewis share the care of 21 three-year-olds and 14 four-year-olds, all of whom come along to 30 hours of kinder each fortnight.
The three-year-olds attend kinder on Thursdays and Fridays one week, and on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays the next.
The four-year-olds are there on Mondays and Tuesdays during their week one, and on the same days plus Wednesday the second week.
Changes to the kinder include an access ramp leading from the front gate to the newly-designed entrance, improved bathroom facilities for both children and adults including those with a disability, and a calming sensory alcove where children may retreat.
There’s a bigger office area for administration duties, a meeting space, more storage room for the children’s belongings and for kinder equipment and some new bigger windows letting in plenty of natural light.
There is also a semi-open-plan kitchen at one end of the kinder, with a dividing bench edged with a wide step on the learning room’s side where the children can stand and be actively involved in the cooking activities that often take place.
Introducing the Three-Year-old Kindergarten program has meant that Welshpool now has its own stand-alone kindergarten for the first time for 20-odd years.
Up until 2020, Welshpool and Toora kinders have operated together, sharing funding, resources and the children themselves, who would attend both kinder facilities alternatively, week about.
Early childhood teacher Margaret Leithhead and her colleagues Taryn O’Hara and Denise Sheedy said their group of six three-year-olds and 11 four-year-olds had “settled in beautifully.
“The older children help the younger ones, as they were three-year-olds themselves last year and so are old hands at kinder,” Margaret said.
“In turn the three-year-olds see what the four-year-olds can do and that challenges them!”
The children are at kinder for 30 hours a fortnight, coming in on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays one week and on Thursdays and Fridays the next, coinciding with Welshpool and District Primary School’s hours.
The Toora Kindergarten, on the corner of Gray and Dutton Streets, has 12 three-year-olds and four four-year-old children enrolled so far this year.
It, too, is operating on its own this year, in similar fashion to Welshpool, because of the new funding and also the number of children needing a place at kinder.
Under the watchful eyes of early childhood teacher Louise Harfield and educator Taryn O’Hara, the children take part in five-hour sessions on each kinder day with both age groups playing and learning together.
Kinder is held at Toora on Mondays and Tuesdays one week, and on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays the next, with all children receiving 30 hours of quality kindergarten education each fortnight.
The sand-coloured brick kinder building with its red-tiled roof is a well-loved Toora landmark, and it has served generations of local families.
The PCCC facility in Pioneer Street in Foster is primarily a long day care centre that also offers integrated kindergarten sessions along with many other early childhood services, like after school care and vacation activities.
Many children are in long day care as their parents are working or studying, and those of kinder age take part in the usual kinder curriculum even though they may arrive at PCCC earlier and stay on for a while longer after kinder hours are over.
Other children come in just for their 15 hours’ worth of kinder each week.
Teacher Amy Rogers is in charge of the Monday and Tuesday group of four-year-olds and some three-year-olds, while Lynne Jones leads the Thursday and Friday group in the Foster centre’s Koala Room.
They are helped by an enthusiastic team of early childhood educators including Carole Bohn, Jae Beavis and Sandra Jenkins.
Teacher Jo Stringer oversees three- and two-year-olds in the Rosella Room from Monday to Friday alongside her fellow educators including Jacinta Ward, Amy Thornell and Trish Morrissey-Brown.