Mount Pleasant Kindergarten's educational leader Erin Mata has a vision every child in Ballarat could participate in 15 hours of funded kindergarten a week.
It is a dream that comes from a passionate education provider who believes strongly in the power of early education to set children up to achieve at school.
Mount Pleasant Kindergarten's Access to Early Learning Program is bringing that dream one step closer.
The program supports families and early childhood services to increase the participation of highly vulnerable children in three-year-old kindergarten.
They have the skills and are nurtured right from the beginning to know they can achieve.Erin Mata, Mount Pleasant Kindergarten
These are children who would otherwise be unlikely to experience the benefits of early childhood education.
Ms Mata said the program was structured to provide a high ratio of staff to children that allowed small group learning experiences.
"The program running 9am to 12pm five days a week introduces the children to opportunities developing their emotional wellbeing, physical development and motor skills in an enriching environment," she said.
Ballarat is one of seven Access to Early Learning sites. Mount Pleasant Kindergarten has participated in the program for the last eight years.
Research indicates early and sustained participation in high quality early education is especially beneficial for vulnerable children and can improve lifelong social, learning and developmental outcomes. However, many vulnerable children face significant barriers in accessing kindergarten.
Australian Early Development Census data released this week shows one in five children in Ballarat are facing significant challenges in their development in their first year of school.
Children supported by the Access to Early Learning program are from families affected by issues such as mental health, family violence and substance abuse.
Ms Mata said involvement in the program gave vulnerable children a greater sense of empowerment that they can achieve.
"You want to see what you're embedding is going to help the children of tomorrow - that when they go to school to have opportunities to grow they already have that great start behind them," she said.
The program also works to increase parents' capacity through in-home learning, linking families and children to appropriate additional local services and enhancing the skills of educators in working with vulnerable children and families.
Australian Early Development Census data shows the percentage of developmentally vulnerable five-year-olds in the domain of physical health and well-being in Mount Pleasant/ Golden Point has dropped from 12.8 per cent to 9.4 per cent since 2012.
The percentage of children developmentally vulnerable in the social competence domain dropped from 13.8 per cent to zero per cent since 2012.
Meanwhile, there was an increase in the percentage of children in the area developmentally vulnerable in language and cognitive skills, rising from 7.7 per cent in 2012 to 12.5 per cent in 2018.
Eureka Community Kindergarten Association chief executive Jo Geurts said the association was committed to working in Ballarat and surrounding districts to improve outcomes for children.