I am genuinely confused about how differently it's run in each state, made apparent by threads such as this. Why on earth can't all the states be the same. How confusing.
DS1 is in his 2nd year of kindy and is a late July baby, so *technically* old enough to have started prep this year in Qld (where we now, as if this year, have a July 30 cut off). He would have been 4.5 starting prep, far too young IMO. In other states he wouldn't have been allowed to start anyway, this is why I think it's so confusing. Why is it ok to start in qld but not Victoria etc. A 4.5 year old Qld child is no more mature than a 4.5 yr old Victorian child.
My DS1 is in his 2nd year of kindy in an early learning centre, they have 2 kindy rooms with a proper kindergarten program run 9-3, but also a long day care facility, which is great for us working parents that can't be there at 3pm to pick them up. Rooms are strictly age based (2 kindy rooms and a junior kindy room) and the toddlers don't mix with the kindy kids. It's also attached to the (private) school and has an excellent transition program with the prep classes, the kindy kids do lots of activities with the prep children and teachers already. I don't think all daycare centres have such a good kindy program, we are very fortunate. But it doesn't really feel like a 'daycare centre' either, and that's partly why we chose it. It's very structured and children have PE (with the school PE teacher), Religious education, Library visits etc and set times for daily routines.
Anyway not sure on the difference between states but I do think there are great early learning centres out there that offer exceptional kindy programs that are not a step backward at all. In saying that, I agree with other's opinions that too much changing around is likely counterproductive- if you opt to repeat kindergarten it would be better to do it at the same centre if possible (or one attached to the school they will attend for prep).