Young children in Victoria and NSW will get an extra year of early education as part of major generational reform in both states.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and his NSW counterpart Dominic Perrottet announced the groundbreaking move on Thursday to help kids “be the very best they can be”.
“In the next 10 years, every child in Victoria and NSW will experience the benefits of a full year of play-based learning before their first year of school,” the premiers said in a joint statement.
“A year dedicated to growing and learning, new friends and new experiences. A year devoted to helping our kids be the very best they can be. Giving them the skills they need for school but, just as importantly, the skills they need for life.
“At the same time, it will benefit hundreds of thousands of working families.”
Victoria is targeting a 2025 start date, with the new year of schooling to be known as “pre-prep” and run for 30 hours a week.
It is part of a new $9bn investment into education from the state government over the next decade that will also include free kinder a week from 2023 (meaning savings of up to $2500 per child) and establish 50 new childcare centres in areas lacking in those services.
NSW is planning to roll out “pre-kindergarten” from 2030 as part of a more than $5.8bn commitment over the next 10 years.
It will run for five days a week and is set to be the biggest headline item in next week’s state budget.
Pilot and trial programs will begin in NSW from 2023.
The extra year of “play-based learning” is free but not compulsory in both states for all four-year-olds.
Both premiers hoped the changes would help parents return to work “on terms that work for them”.
They also said it would build a system that “works for women, not against them”.
Mr Perrottet called it the “greatest transformation of early education in a generation”.
Mr Andrews said it was about giving kids “the very best start in life”.
“Some things are bigger than state boundaries,” he said.
“We’re joining with NSW to start the biggest ever reform to early education.”