Queensland mulls inserting free kindergarten for all in looming state budget

Free kindergarten would ease the pressures on families coping with inflation.

Free kindergarten would ease the pressures on families coping with inflation. Photo: AAP

Universal free kindergarten has been put on Queensland’s pre-budget agenda as a potential cost-of-living salve for families.

The Queensland government has flagged it is seriously considering making kindergarten free for all children, following in the footsteps of states such as NSW and Victoria.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wants to close the gap and get more children into “free kindy” to experience crucial play-based learning before entering primary school.

“What we are hearing from our prep teachers is that there is a big gap between those children who have had kinder and those who have not,” she told reporters at Brisbane’s New Farm Park on Sunday.

Kindergarten is already free for roughly 14,000 vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Queensland and subsidised for a further 26,000 under a $1 billion package over the next five years.

50,000 families

But about 8000 kindergarten-age children across the state are still not enrolled.

Making it free will bring more of those kids into the system and help families’ hip pockets, Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said.

“It’ll mean that over 50,000 families will have cost of living relief,” she added.

“It’ll be a remarkable saving and it is something that we are seriously considering in relation to the budget.”

Ms Grace stopped short of declaring the policy a sure thing and declined to provide a cost estimate, saying the government wanted to first consult with stakeholders and families.

Victoria and NSW are moving to provide all children in their state with a full year of free education before officially starting school.

Both programs are expected to be rolled out by the end of the decade.

The Palaszczuk government will look at the various proposed models as a blueprint but Ms Grace pointed out Queensland’s pre-school system differs to other states.

“We’re more closely aligned with NSW,” Ms Grace said.

“Our delivery mode is definitely one that we can definitely do it but we want to talk to service providers too about how we identify the kindy component in long day care so they get those 15 hours fully funded and free.”

The Queensland state budget will be handed down on June 13.


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