Choosing a service

Resources and information for choosing an early education service.

Types of services

The Early Childhood Education Directorate currently regulates seven different service types in NSW.

Long day care, preschools, outside school hours care and family day care are regulated under the National Law and the National Regulations, Occasional care, mobile services and home based care operate under the NSW State Law and NSW State Regulations.

Parents and caregivers enrolling a child in most services – with the exception of mobile and home based care – can be eligible for the Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate.

Long day care is usually provided in purpose built premises and mostly operates between 7am to 6pm. To suit working families and carers, children can attend all or part of the day.

Children at long day care are aged from six weeks to six years old and are often grouped into rooms according to their age; for example, nursery, toddler and preschool.

Some centres also provide care for limited numbers of primary school children before and after school and during school holidays.

Many offer lunch, and morning and afternoon tea with the menu available for parents to review.

Long day care centres are run by local councils, community organisations and individuals as well as for profit and not for profit organisations.

Preschools can operate in a range of settings for children are mostly aged between three and five years of age.

They generally open between 9am and 3.30pm.

Most preschools are community based, not for profit services. They employ qualified teachers and educators who run their programs and manage the preschool in collaboration with members of the management committee who are often parents and caregivers.

OSHC is provided for primary school aged children before and after school - around 7.30am to 9am and 3pm to 6pm - during school holidays or all day on pupil free days.

Services are usually located at primary schools, long day care centres or community facilities. Many serve afternoon tea.

Family day care services offer flexible, home based care through a network of FDC educators.

Up to seven children - with a maximum of four under preschool age - can be cared for in the residence of an approved educator.

Occasional care is mainly provided in centre based services.

For children up to school age, occasional care can be accessed on a flexible regular or irregular basis.

Community and not for profit organisations as well as local councils can run occasional care centres, either independently as a standalone service or collocated within a long day care service.

Mobile services travel between areas where centre based delivery is not readily available.

They can include preschool, toy libraries, play sessions and playgroups and generally work with children between 0-6 years old.

Home based care takes place in the home of an educator.

Home care differs from family day care in that the home based educator runs their own business.

Up to seven children under the age of 12 years, with no more than five who do not ordinarily attend school, can be enrolled in home based care.

Finding a service

Families and carers can seek assistance to find child care at or by calling the Child Care Access Hotline on 1800 670 305.

Long day care, preschools, outside school hours care and family day care services are assessed against the National Quality Standard (NQS) and the results published on the National Registers.

How services are rated

The NQS rates these services against seven criteria:

  • QA1 Educational program and practice
  • QA2 Children's health and safety
  • QA3 Physical environment
  • QA4 Staffing arrangements
  • QA5 Relationships with children
  • QA6 Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
  • QA7 Leadership and service management.

Each service is given an overall rating and an individual rating for each of the quality areas.

The ratings are:

  • Significant Improvement Required
  • Working towards NQS
  • Meeting NQS
  • Exceeding NQS
  • Excellent

Fees, rebates and deposits


The NSW Government funds public and community based preschools to deliver early childhood education programs, however preschool fees are set by individual preschools. Contact your local preschool for more information.

The directorate does not have any jurisdiction over fees and fee charging practices.


In NSW, Start Strong means all children, regardless of their background or where they enrol, now have affordable access to 600 hours of quality early childhood education in the year before school through funding provided directly to preschools to lower fees.

The Commonwealth Government provides assistance through the Child Care Subsidy payment. Parents who require help with the cost of using an early education and care service should visit the Department of Human Services Families for more information.


Parents considering paying a deposit to secure a place at an education and care service should read the paperwork carefully. It is recommended that parents request and read the terms and conditions as well as inspecting the facility before outlaying any deposit or signing an agreement. If you are concerned about a deposit contact NSW Fair Trading.

Diversity and inclusion

The National Quality Standard aims to ensure that all children have the same opportunity to participate fully in the activities and routines of an early childhood setting regardless of their age, gender, background or abilities.

Every child has the right to be included and to participate in their family life, in early childhood programs and in the community. All children need to feel accepted and to have a real sense of belonging.

The department is committed to making services accessible for all children.

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