Whether they are called pre-schools, kindergartens, child care centres or early learning centres, this post is about your options for childcare before school.

The Australian Government provides funding to all states and territories to ensure all children have access to early childhood education, particularly in the year before they start school. There might still be a fee, especially for kids under four, and your local pre-school can tell you about the fees it charges.

Different states and territories have different names for pre-school services, which I have outlined below. Pre-schools are generally for children who turn four in the year before starting school. Some states offer offer pre-school for three-year-olds. However, you can still pay for childcare earlier than this.

On this page you will find the below helpful information:

Finding a pre-school in Australia

Finding a pre-school in Australia can be tricky and it is important to contact preschools as soon as you decide on the suburb you are moving to. Competition is high and the wait lists are long, some are years long and there is a wait list fee, usually between $20 and $50.

For someone just moving to Australia, you’re going to want to start your search for a preschool now, before you arrive in Australia, as soon as you have confirmed where you are moving to. Search for preschools/kindergartens either close to where you’re going to live or close to where you are going to work.

Some preschools are located in the same building as a primary school. These preschools give priority to children that will be attending kindergarten the following year. They are part of a larger school system and can be private or public.

Public preschools that are located on the same grounds as the primary school, will give priority to children that live in that school’s catchment zone, or school zone as we say in New Zealand.

Private schools don’t follow the same catchment zone system but will be more difficult to get into. If you are interested in private schools then you need to consider faith based schools such as Catholic schools. Catholic schools don’t follow catchment zones but the parish will insist that you live within their post codes.

Looking for pre-schools/kindergartens in Australia

As you are moving to a new country it’s going to be hard to get referrals for a pre-school in your area, like you would in NZ, so you are going to have to reply on websites that investigate and review pre-schools/kindergartens operating in your area.

You will need to use both the below websites as they list different pre-schools. There are some that are listed on both sites, but others that are not.

Careforkids.com.auBig search engine for small people

Finding the right child care service is a big decision. Let Care for Kids help you narrow it down to the best available in your neighborhood. With 23,000+ services to compare you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Services on Careforkids.com.au:

They also have great child care articles & tips, e.g. returning to work, managing feelings of mother guilt and heaps more (https://www.careforkids.com.au/child-care-articles/library).

Care For Kids provides links to each preschool website, when available, and is colour coded showing which preschools currently have space available (https://www.careforkids.com.au/pre-school).

Child Care Finder – Australian Government Department of Education and Training

Early learning and child care provides the foundation for children to develop both educationally and socially in a safe environment, while supporting parents into work. The Australian Government provides a number of subsidies and programs to help you with the cost of your child care.

You can search by centre based day care, family day care, in home care and outside school hours care. You can also set alerts for vacancies in your area.

https://www.childcarefinder.gov.au/

Pre-school/kindergarten wait lists

Be aware they might not let you on the wait list until you are actually present in Australia. If you get that response then just move on to the next pre-school, especially if you don’t have time to wait. Remember, getting on a wait list is not free so don’t go too crazy (usually the fee is between $20 and $50).

Age of children going to pre-school in Australia

In Australia pre-school is the year before children attend kindergarten at a primary school. Remember, Australia’s kindergarten is New Zealand’s year 1. See my Australian schools post.

Some pre-schools only accept children that are eligible to start kindergarten the following year. These are usually the schools that are located on the same grounds as the primary school. There are a few pre-schools that accept three year olds but usually require that the children be toilet trained before they will accept them.

Your child is not required to go to pre-school. In fact, the legislation does not require your child to be in school until they have turned six on or before the cut off date of July 31st.

From 6 to 15 years of age the Australian legislation requires students to be enrolled in school and to attend school on each day that instruction is provided. It doesn’t matter if it’s a public, private, or religious.

Benefits to pre-school

The obvious reason for your child to attend pre-school is so you can attend work! Howeevr, there are also other benefits to having your child in pre-school for that year before primary school starts.

Pre-school will give you children a chance to make friends before going into primary school. The sooner they can make friends the easier their pre-school to school transition with be. They will also have an easier time going to school in general. Enrolling your child in a pre-school that is located on the same grounds as the primary school they will be going to makes that transition even easier.

Pre-school isn’t just a child care solution. Children start learning the very basics so that they will be more up to speed for kindergarten. For some children it will mean learning new things and for others it will be more putting to use what they already know. Pre-school helps to ensure that children are close to the same level going into kindergarten.

Preschools in Australia follow the Early Years Learning Framework where children learn through play. They learn through puzzles, play blocks, reading and listening to stories, and sometimes even computer games. The Early Years Learning Framework has a focus on successful transition to formal schooling. Find out more here: https://www.education.gov.au/early-years-learning-framework-0.

Pre-school hours of operation

Hours vary from preschool to preschool. Some have normal school hours, 9 – 3pm, others have long extended hours, 7 – 6pm. There are a few others that are morning or afternoon sessions instead of full days. In general, preschools that are only half day sessions prefer that children attend either five mornings or five afternoons per week.

The preschools that have normal and extended hours usually ask that children attend more than one consecutive day a week. You can of course schedule your child to attend more than two days a week, depending on space available and of course your schedule. Most full day preschools are two, three or five days per week.

Majority of preschools in Australia follow the same school dates as primary and secondary schools. They also have the same school and public holidays. You’ll need to plan ahead for those holidays and organise alternative childcare. CareForKids.com.au has the option for childcare and holiday care.

Staffing levels of pre-schools

The minimum staffing levels of preschools is set by the National Regulation:

  • One staff member for every 8 children ages 2 – 5 years.
  • One staff member for every 10 children ages 3 – 6 years.

Of course there are preschools that have a higher ratio of staff per child.

How much do pre-schools cost in Australia?

Pre-schools in Australia cost about the same as regular childcare, about $40-$110 a day depending hours of operation. You will be required to pay fully for pre-school.

The pre-school will ask you to sign a register at the beginning and end of each day or session as a way to keep track of who is attending and who is not. Please ensure you sign this register, which is generally found at the pre-school entrance.

New Zealanders in Australia on non-protected Special Category Visas (SCV) and at a lower family income bracket are entitled to family payments, including the Child Care Subsidy.

Enrolling in pre-school

To enrol in a public pre-school you will need the following documents:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Passport
  • Proof of address – a copy of your lease or electric bill
  • Your child’s immunisation history statement.

For private schools you will need pretty much the same documentation plus a few extras. For example, for a Catholic private preschool they will ask for a Baptism certificate. Does your child have to be Catholic to go to a Catholic preschool? No, but priority will be given to children who are baptised and live within the parish zone.

States and territories pre-school services

Different states and territories have different names for pre-school services, which are outlined below.

Australian Capital Territory Pre-schools:

  • known as preschools or early learning centres
  • are for children who turn four years old by 1 May in the year before starting school
  • are mostly government owned and run
  • operate close to, or on, school sites. In newer areas, preschools are often run next to child care centres
  • have no fees, but usually have a voluntary contribution levy
  • more information: ACT Government – Preschool matters.

New South Wales Pre-schools:

  • known as preschools
  • are for children who turn four years old before 1 August in the year before starting school
  • mostly operate as stand-alone services – for example, as community preschools or services delivered by non-state schools – or as preschool programs in long day care or early learning centres
  • might be offered as school-based programs attached to government-run primary schools
  • usually charge fees, which are set by providers
  • sometimes offer flexible hours for working parents
  • more information: NSW Department of Education – Preschool.

Northern Territory Pre-schools:

  • known as preschools
  • are normally for children who turn four years old in the year before starting school, although there are exceptions for children who live in very remote areas
  • are mostly attached to schools
  • are mostly government owned and run
  • have no fees
  • sometimes offer flexible hours for working parents
  • might offer bus services in some areas
  • more information: NT Government – About child care services.

Queensland Pre-schools:

  • known as kindergartens
  • are for children who turn four years old by 30 June in the year before starting school
  • operate as either stand-alone services, or in long day care centres run by community organisations or non-government schools
  • mostly operate close to, or on, school sites
  • have fees, which are set by providers
  • offer some remote and distance education services
  • more information: Queensland Government – About approved kindergarten programs.

South Australia Pre-schools:

  • known as preschools, kindergartens, early learning centres or centres for early childhood development and parenting
  • are for children who turn four before 1 May in the year before starting school
  • are mostly government owned and run but can be run by community or private organisations
  • can be stand-alone services or located in schools or alongside other early learning services
  • have no fees when they are government owned, but some ask for a voluntary contribution levy
  • offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children access to preschool from three years of age
  • more information: SA Government – Preschool and kindergarten services.

Tasmania Pre-schools:

  • known as kindergartens
  • are for children who turn four years old before or on 1 January in the year before starting school
  • are mostly government owned and run
  • have no fees
  • are located in schools and linked to the school system
  • more information: Tasmanian Department of Education – Kindergarten.

Victoria Pre-schools:

  • known as preschools, kindergartens or preschool programs in long day care centres
  • are for children who turn four years old before or on 30 April in the year before starting school
  • are mostly run as stand-alone centres
  • have fees
  • are often managed by parent committees
  • are offered as mobile services in remote areas
  • more information: Victorian Department of Education and Training – Kindergarten programs.

Western Australia Pre-schools:

  • known as kindergartens
  • are for children who turn four years old before or on 30 June in the year before starting school
  • are mostly government owned and run
  • operate within schools and in the community
  • offer bus services
  • have no fees
  • more information: Early Childhood Australia Western Australia.

Schools in Australia

Read my post about schools in Australia and find out about Australian schools, which year will your child move into from NZ, primary, secondary and finishing school and more: https://www.movingtoaustralia.co.nz/schools-in-australia/.

Still got questions?

If there is anything else you would like to know about, please ask me a question using the below comment system and I will do my best to find the information you need.

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