The Queensland Government has recently announced significant developments within the Queensland early childhood education sector – with the Government committing an additional $645 million to its investment into kindergarten services to make kindergarten free for all Queensland families as of 1 January 2024. This is expected to save Queensland families around $4,600 per annum, and will allow over 50,000 more children to access kindergarten services for free. The newly-announced scheme details that the Queensland Government will cover the costs of a kindergarten-aged child enrolled in a government-approved educational program for up to 15 hours a week (or 600 hours a year). Accordingly, this means that funding will likely be accessible to all kindergartens to assist them in covering the costs of providing kindergarten education – provided that the kindergarten offers a “government-approved program”.[1]

Whilst we still await the full detail, the “government-approved program” limitation on accessibility to the scheme highlights that Schools offering kindergarten services and seeking to take advantage of the scheme will likely need to ensure that they are approved kindergarten program providers who offer approved kindergarten programs, and that they elect to opt into the scheme: [2]

  1. The School should be an approved kindergarten program provider in that:[3]

a. The School operates a service that has a current service approval under the Education and Care Services National Law or the Education and Care Services Act 2013 (Qld);

b. The School is registered as an “approved kindergarten program provider” and has not had such status suspended or revoked;

c. The School has a rating of working towards the National Quality Standard (or higher);

d. The School provides a learning program that:

i. Is available for children who are in the year before Prep (i.e. the children must be at least 4 years of age before 30 June in the year they commence kindergarten);

ii. Is run for 15 hours per week for 40 weeks (or 600 hours per year); and

iii. Is delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher (i.e. a person qualified as an early childhood teacher under the Education and Care Services National Law (and Regulations) or the Education and Care Services Act 2013 (Qld)); and

e. For particular types of providers:

i. It is a member or affiliate of a central governing body (sessional kindergartens only); or

ii. It has the correct eligibility status to receive Child Care Subsidy payments on behalf of eligible families (long day care service providers only).

2. The School must provide an approved kindergarten learning program that is based on either:[4]

a. the Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guideline; or

b. an alternative kindergarten learning guideline accredited by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (this accreditation requires, amongst other things, that the guideline meets the educational and social criteria under sections 5 and 6 of the Education (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority) Regulation 2014 (Qld)).[5]

3. The School will be required to opt into the free kindergarten scheme. It remains to be seen what further implications may accompany an opt in decision.

Whilst Schools offering kindergarten services should continue to comply with the current eligibility and subsidy requirements in the Queensland Government’s Queensland Kindergarten Funding Essentials, it is expected that updated requirements will be introduced to take effect from 1 January 2024 to reflect the announced reforms.[6]

The full joint ministerial statement from the Queensland Premier, Treasurer and Education Minister announcing the scheme can be found here:

This Update is general information only, and is not Legal Advice.

This Update was written by Alistair Macpherson & Jackson Litzow.