“It really did make a difference; it was fantastic.”
Early Childhood Education Minister Ingrid Stitt announced an extra $510,000 in financial incentives on Tuesday as the state government rolls out subsidised three-year-old kindergarten as part of a wider push for teachers to take jobs in regional Victoria.
“Regional areas need high-quality teachers and education as we deliver three-year-old kindergarten – these incentives will ensure regional areas get and keep the teachers they need,” Ms Stitt said.
The funding will give grants of between $9000 and $50,000 to early childhood teachers who take jobs 100 kilometres or more from where they currently live, or who are making a switch from teaching in primary schools.
In 2021, three-year-old kindergarten will be made available in 15 regional areas, including East Gippsland, Loddon, Corangamite and the Otway Shire as part of a decade-long plan to make it accessible to every Victorian child.
For kindergarten teacher Lynne Jones, taking up the grant helped fulfil her goal of returning to live in her home town of Korumburra in South Gippsland Shire after spending years raising a family in Melbourne.
She now works at Prom Coast Centres for Children and says she has found her ideal position.
“To be back in my home area and help the country kids to do well is a real passion,” she said.
“I want to be part of the improvement for children down here.”
She said she thought the grants could also play a significant part in coronavirus recovery as more job hunters and families look to relocate to the regions after Melbourne’s lockdown.
“We have heard people are going to be moving down in droves,” she said.
“I tell people it’s so good working in the country. If there’s a role, be brave and take it.”
Ms Larsen said she was keen to see more investment in early education outside the metropolitan area.
“For regional children there’s a lot of adversity anyway, they don’t have access to the same services and cultural events, so, the more investment there is in this area the better their outcomes will be,” she said.
“The impacts we’ve already seen on learning and development, watching three-year-old kinder go from parent-funded five hours to government-funded 15 hours has been phenomenal.”
Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said significant numbers of early education teachers would be needed to staff the three-year-old program.
“We’ve been concerned for some time about shortages in early childhood area,” she said.
“We’re certainly supportive of any incentives.”
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Anna is an education reporter at The Age.