In September 2016, the NSW Government announced the Start Strong program – which promises to lower fees for community preschools and some long day care services, and ensure 600 hours of early childhood education for children in the year before school.

 

The announcement came after Community Child Care Co-operative (now Community Early Learning Australia) advocated for many years – leading a call for better funding for children’s services in NSW to address low investment in preschool education, in comparison to other states and territories.

 

The introduction of Start Strong takes NSW a step closer to addressing this gap.

The $115 million program comprises:

  • $85 million for community-based preschools to help reduce fees to families and encourage more 600-hour enrolments for children
  • $30 million to support more 600-hour enrolments for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in long day care services.

Benefits of 600 hours

 

The benefits of 600 hours of quality early childhood education endure well beyond primary school. Children are learning from the moment they are born – or even sooner. Research indicates higher levels of educational attainment, economic participation and family well-being are all linked to participation in early childhood education.

 

Find more information about the benefits of 600 hours of quality EC education here

Start Strong for Community Preschools

Community Preschools in the program must use the majority of funding to lower fees for families by passing on 75 per cent of funding to families as reduced fees. This is expected to create an average reduction of 30 per cent in fees for community preschools. The new funding will greatly reduce fee payments for Aboriginal children and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

Key dates for preschools

  • 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2017, community preschools received increased funding for all children enrolled for at least 600 hours based on the data provided in the August 2016 census.
  • April 2017, early adopting community preschools received a one-off top-up payment for increases to 600 hour enrolments as of February 2017. Services should not view the one-off Start Strong early adopter payment as indicative of future funding.
  • Start Strong will be fully implemented by 1 July 2017. Community preschools will receive the maximum rate of funding for children enrolled for at least 600 hours, and a pro rata amount will be paid for children enrolled less than 600 hours until 31 December 2017, using the August 2016 census data.
  • To estimate funding for July 2017 to December 2017, use the NSW Department of Education’s calculator B (50%) which can be found here
  • August Census 2017 will be used to determine funding for the 2018 calendar year. Community preschools can estimate their 2018 funding using projected enrolments as at August 2017 using calculator B.

 

More information on the Start Strong package is available here.

Start Strong Long Day Care funding

The Government allocated $30 million from 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2018 to help families access affordable quality early childhood education programs in some long day care services.

 

Funding is available for children who are:

  • at least 4 years old on or before 30 June and not in compulsory schooling
  • attending an early childhood education program

Eligible services for the funding are selected against a range of criteria using information extracted from the Australian Government’s Child Care Management System (CCMS). Extracts from CCMS will be taken for the following collection periods:

  • August 2016
  • 19 May 2017

 

Funding will be calculated based on your enrolment data from the August 2016 collection period. Funding for additional equity enrolments will be calculated based on the increase in enrolments from the August 2016 collection period to the 19 May 2017 collection period.

 

Please note, children will be classified as equity enrolments under Start Strong if they are from a low income or Aboriginal family. Low income status is determined by the SEIFA band of the Service.

If you receive notification that you are eligible for funding under this program:

  1. complete and return the signed funding agreement by Friday 28th April 2017; and
  2. advise the department of any changes to your bank account details and whether you are transferring and/or receiving a service prior to 19 May 2017.

Initial payments are expected to be made by 30 June 2017. Payments for each additional equity enrolment are expected to be made in September 2017. Notifications regarding payments will be sent via email before 30 June 2017.   

 

More information about Start Strong Long Day Care funding can be found here

The Start Strong Sector Support program assists Community Preschools across NSW by providing business support during the transition to the NSW Government’s Start Strong funding model. Support focuses on integrating educational objectives with effective business practice. It includes strategies to increase the number of 4 and 5 year old children enrolled in quality early childhood education programs for 600 hours per year, to maximise enrolments of children from Aboriginal and low income families aged three years and above, to maximise service funding under Start Strong with a commensurate reduction in parent fees, and to enable increased business viability over the longer term.

 

To learn more about the NSW Government’s commitment to early childhood education, visit the Start Strong website.

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