Kindergarten ballot system debate postponed

A debate on the introduction of a ballot system for parents wanting to enrol their children in Hume City Council’s kindergartens was deferred by councillors at its meeting on 18 December – so they could have more time to think about it.

Council officers recommended that the 2021 kindergarten enrolment policy be revoked, and that council adopt the 2023 kindergarten central registration policy, issued in January 2023 by the State Government under its Central Registration and Enrolment Support (CRES) best practice guide.

The current policy requires parents to pay a non-refundable kindergarten application fee of $17.50, which delivers around $50,000 (2,867 applications) in annual revenue for the council. The cash is used to offset the costs of processing paper-based registration forms.

However, with the introduction of the Enrol Now system in October 2022, this has removed the need for the manual system, say council officers.

Last year (2023) State Government started fully subsidising kindergarten with parents no longer needing to make a co-contribution.

Cllr Carly Moore.

The recommendation (published in the 18 December council agenda) states that the adoption of the new [CRES] policy “will allow for equitable access to kindergartens for all families, including those who are vulnerable, and those from culturally and linguistically diverse families”.

Prior to the meeting, Cllr Carly Moore petitioned councillors via email highlighting her concerns about the proposal.

At the meeting she asked that they discuss it “at a future council meeting…So all councillors can get the opportunity to fully consider the unintended consequences of moving to a ballot system”. Moore’s proposal was supported (seconded) by Sunbury’s Cllr Jarrod Bell.

Moore said she is concerned the introduction of a ballot system would mean everybody has an equal chance of securing the same spot at council-run kindergartens.

Kindergarten debate deferred by Hume councillors

“It [ballot system] means it is really difficult to be able to secure an allocation that you require,” she said.

“I want councillors to have a chance to think about how actually can we work through the proposed policy and guidelines that have been put forward.

Sunbury councillor Jarrod Bell.
Cllr Jarrod Bell.

“Many of our families are very busy working families and they need to be able to access the service closest to their home, or in different locations, on days that suit them.”

Cllr Bell supported the motion to defer the debate saying that although he doesn’t have children, Cllr Moore’s emails had “opened his eyes to things he did not conceive or think about”.

“I would like us to have a more fulsome discussion with the benefit of expert officers around the table,” he said.

Councillors voted to debate the proposed ballot system at a later time. The council’s next meeting is 12 February.