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Blog #10: Kindergarten Programs in Long Day Care Services

The Australian early childhood education sector is diverse and affords families choice in terms of the type of service available for the education and care of children outside the home. For example, kindergarten programs are offered in centre-based settings that include both long day care services and stand-alone sessional kindergartens.

To operate a government-approved kindergarten program, both long day care services and stand-alone kindergartens must ensure the program is delivered by a bachelor-qualified Early Childhood Teacher, or a teacher with an equivalent qualification as assessed by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). Both service types must provide a kindergarten program that meets outcomes for children’s learning and development outlined in the approved national learning framework for children aged birth-5 years, along with the relevant state-based kindergarten guideline. The kindergarten program must also be provided for at least 15 hours per week for 40 weeks – the equivalent of a school year. All kindergarten programs are assessed equally under the National Quality Standard assessment and rating process.

Myths around differences in quality between a kindergarten program offered within a long day care service and stand-alone kindergarten are circulated at times based on historical approaches to early education and care that featured stand-alone models. As the needs of families and communities change over time, diverse service types afford greater choice in relation to access, hours, and affordability.

The table below outlines similarities and differences between kindergarten programs within long day care services and stand-alone sessional kindergartens.


Affordances Long Day Care Service Stand-Alone Sessional Kindergarten
A bachelor-qualified Early Childhood Teacher leads the kindergarten program

The kindergarten provides a play-based education and care program including a curriculum-based kindergarten program

The kindergarten program is assessed and rated under the National Quality Standard

Eligible families can claim the Child Care Subsidy and access 15 hours of free kindergarten in a government-approved kindergarten program

The service operates year-round Usually operates 48-52 weeks per year. Usually operates during school terms only.
Hours available to families Usually operates 10-12 hours per day. Usually operates in line with school hours.
Starting age Usually caters for children aged Birth-5 years, with enrolment available at any time.


Caters for children aged 4-5 years in the year prior to commencement of school.


Note: Victoria offers 2 years of kindergarten for children aged 3-5 years in both long day care services and stand-alone kindergartens.



Benefits of kindergarten in long day care services

In a long day care service, there is the option for children to attend for longer hours and to receive care outside the regular kindergarten program. Under one daily fee, families can access an approved kindergarten program for longer hours, complete with access to the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) for eligible families.

Children within the kindergarten program may have spent several years together at a long day care service, with friendships already established as they transition into the kindergarten year. A key benefit of long day care services is the sense of belonging and community generated across the year as children spend extended time with trusting teachers. Within a high-quality kindergarten program, the teacher’s knowledge of individual children informs the development of curriculum that integrates each child’s strengths, ideas, and interests.

Extended hours in long day care services also support families who require out of home care from early morning to late afternoon or early evening. Most long day care services are open for 10-12 hours per day, supporting parents and caregivers’ work arrangements and hours. In most stand-alone kindergartens, children finish the program at 2.45pm in line with school operating hours.

As outlined above, there are multiple benefits to attending a government-approved kindergarten program integrated in a long day care service, with families afforded greater flexibility with out of home care arrangements. Children also benefit from extended hours to establish and enjoy friendships, develop trusting relationships with their teachers, and demonstrate leadership and peer-mentoring across the service.

The kindergarten year is a time to celebrate children’s strengths and capabilities as they continue to develop social and emotional skills, positive dispositions toward learning, and communication skills necessary for transition to school and a more formal learning environment. To learn more about the kindergarten program and approach to school readiness at First Five Early Learning, visit: https://www.firstfive.com.au/kindergarten/

Dr Melinda Miller
Director of Early Learning