Kindergartens across Ararat Rural City Council have welcomed new and returning children for 2021, with the municipality benefitting this year from the state government's new subsidies.
The Victorian government had previously only subsidised five hours a week of three-year-old kindergarten and 15 hours a week of four-year-old kindergarten.
By 2029 it plans to subsidise 15 hours of kindergarten a week for every three-year-old child in Victoria, in addition to the 15 hours already subsidised for four-year-old kindergarten.
Six local government areas, including Northern Grampians Shire, received these subsidies last year; Ararat Rural City is one of a further 15 local government areas to receive the subsidies in 2021.
Ararat North Kindergarten's four-year-old kindergarten children have returned to preschool, with the three-year-old children to begin soon.
Last year, the kindergarten's three-year-old program ran for just one day a week, this year it will run for three.
Teacher Julie Adams said the four-year-old kindergarten students had nonetheless significantly benefited from attending the previous year.
"They're all settling in really well," she said.
"The three-year-olds we had last year have come along in leaps and bounds. The benefits to those children having attended only one day is just huge. They're so in front. Their communication and language is really enhanced by being in that environment from an earlier age."
Ms Adams said the 15 hours of subsidised three-year-old kindergarten was an important step forward.
The three-year-olds we had last year have come along in leaps and bounds. The benefits to those children having attended only one day is just huge.Julie Adams
"I really feel the benefits to the children are going to be huge," she said.
"Because it contributes to their wellbeing and their development. It means they are already established with how the kinder functions and the routines."
Y-Ballarat executive manager of children's services Vicki Dobson said she was pleased the importance of early education was being recognised.
"The funding definitely makes a difference for parents," she said.
"Three-year-old kindergarten means the kids are getting a much better education from an earlier age. It's a time in their lives where they really need to be engaged, so we welcome the attention."
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