Catering for the needs of pre-school age children in rural areas: A case study
In 1985 the then Minister for Community Services (Victoria), the Hon. Caroline Hogg, announced a change of policy in relation to preschool services in Victoria; all children were to have a year of "kindergarten type experiences" in the year before school, and existing playgroups for two year olds were to be phased out, while two years of kindergarten for some children was to become the exception. This policy came about for two reasons; firstly, as a way of implementing the Cain Labor Government's policy of social justice and equity, and secondly as an attempt to be more financially accountable. While both these objectives, in hindsight, may have a somewhat hollow ring today, they brought great changes to the preschool programs of Victoria which had been established nearly a century before by voluntary organisations in response to inner city poverty and need. It meant that an effort would be made to ensure that children in isolated and/or rural pockets of Victoria were to be included in the sessional kindergarten program and that the traditional "four sessions of two and a half hours per week at a place called a kindergarten" might not be seen to be appropriate in terms of travelling distance involved for parents or children, or affordable in terms of the best use of a rapidly declining budget.
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