2023 Universal pre-Kindergarten pilot guidelines

This page describes the pilot approach, service eligibility criteria, payment information, and other requirements for participation in the 2023 universal pre-Kindergarten pilots.

1. Program overview

The Department of Education is inviting eligible services (see Eligibility criteria) to apply to take part in universal pre-Kindergarten pilots being held in the following four regions:

  • Mount Druitt
  • Wagga Wagga
  • Kempsey – Nambucca
  • Bourke - Cobar - Coonamble.

The department has used available data to identify areas of greatest need and demand, and has selected the four locations as pilot regions to capture the diverse needs of children, families and communities across NSW.

Boundaries of the four locations can be seen at 'Location Boundaries'.

The vision for universal pre-Kindergarten is that every child in NSW will have access to high-quality affordable preschool for up to 5 days per week that supports children to be successful, competent and capable lifelong learners in the year before school.

Universal pre-Kindergarten will also support women’s economic opportunities by ensuring pre-Kindergarten is available to parents and carers in the hours and days they need.

Universal pre-Kindergarten will be progressively rolled out by 2030 based on learning from pilots with Early Childhood Education and Care providers, families and communities.

2. Pilot Approach

Pilots to trial key features of Universal Pre-Kindergarten will begin in the four regions in early 2023, with a possibility of some pilots extending into 2024.

Pilots will take place to ensure the diverse needs of children, families and different NSW communities directly inform the future design of Universal Pre-Kindergarten.

During the pilots, key universal pre-Kindergarten features will be collaboratively designed and trialled by the Department and early childhood education and care (ECEC) providers, educators and teachers.

This will be undertaken in parallel with community engagement and collaboration with families, peak organisations, and other community members and organisations.

The pilots will inform the department’s approach to implementation across a range of different settings including ECE services and schools.

Features that are identified as successful through the pilots will inform the broader program design of universal pre-Kindergarten for state-wide roll out by 2030.

This pilot will not include funding for infrastructure such as new build, renovations, or extension to existing early childhood education services.

This will be developed through a future workstream led by the department. See ‘Other requirements’ for guidelines around the use of this funding in conjunction with other funding, such as capital works grants.

The pilot will consist of three stages: Expression of Interest (EOI), Design, and Trial.

An assessment will be undertaken at each stage.

Table 1: Pilot Stages

Stage Timeline Focus

Expression of interest

14 November - 16 December 2022

Eligible services will submit an Expression of Interest online.

Design

Late February-July 2023

Successful services share their ideas, provide feedback and ask any questions through workshops, interviews and other interactive methods.

Trial

July to December 2023

ECE services will trial features of universal pre-Kindergarten. Services will opt-in to trial one or more of the following features:

  • Transition to school
  • Increased attendance beyond 600 hours per year or 15 hours per week
  • Extending the hours of operation beyond 7.5 hours
  • Making universal pre-Kindergarten work for every child
  • Implementing the Early Years Learning Framework in a pre-Kindergarten context.

2.2 Decision points

1. Expression of interest: 14 November - 16 December 2022

Open for 5 weeks.

During this stage, you’ll have the opportunity to express your interest to participate in pilots to design and trial pre-Kindergarten elements.

What is involved?

  • Review the published guidelines and eligibility criteria
  • Ask questions to determine whether to take part
  • Submit your EOI application on SmartyGrants.

Decision Point: assessment undertaken prior to progress to next stage​.


Maximum 4 hours/week/service commitment​.

During this stage, the department will work closely with you to develop the best ideas for pre-Kindergarten and the key element(s) you would like to trial in your service.

What is involved?
  • Participate in collaborative workshops, interviews and/or other activities
  • Share your knowledge and ideas
  • Learn more about what will be involved in trial stage.

Decision Point: assessment undertaken prior to progress to next stage​.


Time commitment to be determined by June 2023.

During this stage, the department will work closely with you to explore and trial key element(s) of pre-Kindergarten in your service, to learn more about what works for local communities, children, families and more.

Services will opt-in to trial one or more of the following features:
  • Transition to school
  • Increased attendance beyond 600 hours per year or 15 hours per week
  • Extending the hours of operation beyond 7.5 hours
  • Making universal pre-Kindergarten work for every child
  • Implementing the Early Years Learning Framework in a pre-Kindergarten context.

What is involved?

  • Implement activities tailored to the feature(s) that you are trialling
  • Access ongoing support from the department
  • Collate and share findings with the department for evaluative purposes.

2.3 Expression of Interest stage

The below outlines what to expect from the Expression of Interest stage.

Similar information will be provided for the Design and Trial stages for successful services.

  • Completing the application form on SmartyGrants – up to 60 minutes.
  • Expressions of Interest applications open 5 weeks, from 14th November to 16th December 2022.
  • Understand the eligibility criteria published in the guidelines to ensure your service can participate in the program.
  • Determine your service’s capacity to fully and actively participate in the program.
  • Complete the application form on SmartyGrants.
  • Indicate which design features(s) your service would be interested in trialling during the pilot stage (no lock-in commitment). Final decisions will be based on agreement between your service and the department. This decision will take place in discussion with successful services during the Design Stage of the pilot.

*non-exhaustive list

3. Eligibility criteria

The department will assess the pilot applications and determine funding based on eligibility, spending rules, program priorities and available funding.

To be able to participate, services must meet the below eligibility criteria.

1. Submit an Expression of Interest application by midnight on 16 December 2022.

Late applications will not be accepted unless there are exceptional circumstances.

2. Services must be in one of the selected pilot locations listed below:

  • Mount Druitt
  • Wagga Wagga
  • Kempsey – Nambucca
  • Bourke - Cobar - Coonamble.

To see if your service is located within one of the eligible sites, please check by using the link to the Australian Bureau of Statistics website. (see 'Location Boundaries' for further details).

3. In scope services and providers must be an approved early childhood education and care service under the Children (Education and Care Services) National Law (NSW) and Regulations or the Supplementary Provisions Act.

4. Services and providers that are eligible to participate in these pilots and that should follow the process outlined in these guidelines include: Long Day Care, Community Preschools, Mobile services, Aboriginal Child and Family Centres (ACFCs) and Multipurpose Aboriginal Children's Services (MACS).

Department of Education preschools in the four locations are eligible to participate, but will be contacted separately about participation and do not need to complete an application through this form.

Department preschools should contact the Early Learning earlylearning@det.nsw.edu.au or phone – 1300 083 698 with any questions.

5. Deliver a quality early childhood education preschool program by a qualified early childhood teacher in accordance with the requirements under the National Quality Framework, including using the Early Years Learning Framework.

6. Are rated by ACECQA as Meeting the National Quality Standard, or above.

7. Be willing and have the capacity to participate in a number of pilot activities including but not limited to workshops, interviews and trialling features in the service.

8. If selecting to trial the feature ‘increased attendance beyond 600 hours per year or 15 hours per week’ the service:

  • is committed to not displacing children during pilots (for example, proposes appropriate strategies to avoid displacement)
  • has adequate space, facilities and licensed places to support any increased enrolments in 2023.

9. Where a service is co-located on a non-government school site, the service will not be eligible for funding under the Pilot if that non-government school operates for profit within the meaning of section 83C of the Education Act 1990 (NSW) (‘the Act’) whilst in receipt of NSW government financial assistance.

This includes, but is not limited to, where the non-government school is currently declared a non-compliant school or declared for profit under the Act.

10. Services need to demonstrate that their Approved Provider, and other authorised representative as required, is supportive of their participation in the pilot and agrees to:

  • Accept and comply with the Terms and Conditions of the ‘Universal Pre-Kindergarten pilot’ once deemed a successful applicant.
  • Comply with regulatory requirements set out in the National Law and Regulations while participating in the pilots.
  • Ensure quality of practice and service delivery is not reduced while engaged with pilot activities.
  • Commit to engaging in evaluation activities, for example interviews, focus groups and data collection. This may include the collection and sharing of data used by the State Government and shared with the Commonwealth Government.
  • Complete and submit relevant forms for the department, including data sharing agreements, consent forms and privacy agreements prior to the commencement of the design phase.

4. Assessment

Design Stage

Services progress to the Design Stage based on the outcome of the department’s assessment of their EOI.

Services will be given priority for the Design Stage based on the extent to which they demonstrate one or more of these criteria:

  • The department will assess an approved provider or service’s suitability to participate based on any serious non-compliance issues.
  • Service’s enrolments include strong representation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
  • Service’s enrolments include strong representation from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) children.
  • Service’s enrolments include strong representation from children experiencing disability and/or additional needs.
  • Service can provide, are currently developing, or are willing to develop, a published Reconciliation Action Plan and Strategic Inclusion Plan.

Trial Stage

Services that participated in the Design Stage will progress to the Trial Stage based on the outcome of assessment against additional criteria.

The assessment for the Trial Stage will focus on a range of factors, including alignment with objectives of universal pre-Kindergarten, diverse representation of service types, participants and trial approaches and value for money.

Detailed assessment information for the Trial Stage will be released in early 2023.

5. Pilot Spending Rules

5.1 Design Stage Spending Rules

  • Services will be eligible for both of the below payments for participation in the Design Stage.
  • Services will be reimbursed for teachers/educators’ time off the floor to an estimated maximum of 4 hours per week per service.
  • If required, the cost of travel will also be reimbursed if travel time exceeds one hour.
  • Services can receive an estimated maximum of $2,800 each for the Design Stage.
  • The Funding amounts and spending rules for Department of Education preschools will be comparable, but will be communicated separately using existing communications channels.
$30.51 hourly rate per teacher/educator. This will be provided for up to 4 hours per week per service to cover non-contact time backfill.

Cost of casual cover to allow ECEC service staff to engage in design workshops, interviews or other interactive activities.

This funding is not to be used to carry out the core activities of the service, but for back fill activities of up to 4 hours associated with the design activities.


$100 per educator attending engagement activities.

A once off payment to the ECEC service (per educator/teacher) attending engagement activities with the department to inform design of features during the Design Stage.

The funds will cover up to two educators per activity, depending on the nature of the service and the design activities.

5.2 Trial Stage Spending Rules

  • The department will determine funding amounts for each service for the Trial Stage based on finalised eligibility criteria, spending rules, program priorities and available funding. This eligibility criteria, spending rules, program priorities and available funding will be finalised in early 2023 and communicated with services participating in the Design Stage.
  • Detailed funding rules will be communicated with successful services in early 2023.
  • Participation in the Trial Stage is contingent on participating in the Design Stage and the outcome of the assessment to proceed from Trial to Design Stage.
  • Successful applicants will enter into a contract with the department for the Trial Stage of the pilot.
  • Please note: Eligible applicants should not submit any application to amend service approval or notification to the NSW Regulatory Authority until they have been successful in their EOI and design discussions are finalised.
  • The Funding amounts and spending rules for Department of Education preschools will be comparable, but will be communicated separately using existing communications channels.

The department recognises that access to workforce solutions will be critical to the delivery of a strong and successful pre-Kindergarten program.

As part of the Trial Stage, the department will offer funding support for workforce enablers to deliver the pre-Kindergarten pilot.

In addition to funding from other features the department will provide up to $100,000 per FTE funding to enable the testing of Features 1-4 listed below (excluding feature 5.)

Successful applicants must use this funding in conjunction with the trialling of an additional design feature.

Examples of this include:

  • To recruit an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer (To support trialling of Feature 4: Best practice approaches for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children.)
  • To cover any additional staff required to support a successful increase of children or additional days (Feature 2)
  • To cover any additional staff required to support a successful increase to the daily hours of operation (Feature 3)
  • To deliver innovative staffing approaches that are in addition to regulatory requirements, for example Community Liaison Officers.

Services are eligible to apply to up to $100,000 per FTE for an Early Childhood Teacher working directly with children in the year before school, $30.51 hourly rate per educator for up to 4hrs per week non-contact time backfill, $30.51 hourly rate per educator for 7hrs professional development backfill.

The Funding amounts and spending rules for Department of Education preschools will be comparable, but will be communicated separately using existing communications channels.

Services need to:

  • satisfy the National Quality Framework (NQF) minimum qualification and educator or teacher to child ratio requirements for children’s education and care services
  • part time employees can be counted towards the number of FTE ECTs
  • FTE hours are based on a 38-hour work week
  • staff in direct contact roles must already hold or be working towards a relevant early childhood education and care qualification such as the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care or Diploma of Children’s Services or an approved early childhood teaching qualification to be eligible for funding.

6. Features for Trial Stage

The Department has identified five initial features for testing in the 2023 pilots:

  • Feature 1: Transition to school
  • Feature 2: Increased attendance beyond 600 hours per year or 15 hours per week
  • Feature 3: Extending the hours of operation beyond 7.5 hours
  • Feature 4: Making universal pre-Kindergarten work for every child
  • Feature 5: Implementing the Early Years Learning Framework in a pre-Kindergarten context.

(up to $1,500 per service):

This funding can be used to support services to trial and develop innovative approaches to increase connections between ECEC and schools and improve a child’s transition to school for a successful start to kindergarten.

This will build on recent transition to school activities, such as the Transition to School Partnerships program in Southwest Sydney and the roll out of the digital Transition to School Statement.

Transition to school funding can be spent on:

  • professional learning to build the capability of early childhood teachers and educators supporting children’s transition to school
  • collaboration and coordination activities between community partners, including peak bodies, schools, libraries and play groups
  • delivery of quality, evidence-based targeted transition programs for children and families.

(up to $1,200 - $3,200 per approved place)

This funding supports the participation beyond 600 hours per year or 15 hours per week of quality early childhood education and care for children in the year before school.

This funding amount is based on the average daily fees of a number of service types in NSW.

The final amount provided is subject to department determination.

Services need to:

  • have existing licensed spaces for children within their preschool classroom
  • have adequate space and facilities to support increased enrolments in 2023
  • ensure that children who are not eligible for funding are not excluded from accessing a preschool program with their peers
  • Services engaging in this feature may require approvals from the local council under the relevant Development Control Plan (DCP). This would then require submission of the change (notification) to the NSW Regulatory Authority
  • Eligible applicants should not submit any application to amend service approval or notification to the NSW Regulatory Authority until they have been successful in their EOI and design discussions are finalised.

(up to $250,000 per service)

This funding is to support participating services to move to a model that provides extended hours of operation within their service or to partner with existing approved services with the capacity to support extended hours for families who need it.

Services would be funded to develop and implement new extended hours of operation. This will not include any infrastructure components.

Services need to:

  • have adequate space, facilities and approved places under the National Quality Framework (NQF) to support the extension in the hours of operation in 2023
  • continue to operate under the expectation of National Quality Framework (NQF) and maintain service quality
  • develop a comprehensive risk assessment
  • submit a notification to change to new, extended hours of operation via the NQAITS public portal
  • submit an amended Development Application with their notification of change to operating hours to the NSW Regulatory Authority. Eligible applicants should not submit any application to amend service approval or notification to the NSW Regulatory Authority until they have been successful in their EOI application and design discussions are finalised
  • have adequate space, facilities and approved places under National Quality Framework (NQF) to support increased enrolments in 2023
  • ensure that children who are not eligible for funding are not excluded from accessing a preschool program with their peers
  • any application decision would be subject to the relevant approvals from the NSW Regulatory Authority or relevant local government or planning decision-making body
  • Eligible applicants should not submit any application to amend service approval or notification to the NSW Regulatory Authority until they have been successful in their EOI and design discussions are finalised.

(Between $10,000 - $100,000, per option below)

This funding can be used to explore and embed innovative and high-quality practices in the year before school to increase participation and access as well as improve learning and developmental outcomes for:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse children
  • Children with disability and/or additional needs
  • Gifted children

Eligible services can use their funding to explore and embed practices that are inclusive of children who may fit into more than one category, for example, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse children, and children with disability and/or additional needs.

Examples of ways in which this funding can be spent include:

  • educationcal programs or resources
  • staffing costs
  • community and stakeholder engagement
  • incursions and/or excursions.

This can include existing good practice that can be extended through this funding.

1. Best practices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children​ in the year before school

This funding will be for services to explore and embed innovative and high-quality practices to increase participation and access as well as improve learning and developmental outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

2. Best practices for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse children in the year before school

This funding will be for services to explore and embed innovative and high-quality practices to increase participation and access as well as improve learning and developmental outcomes for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse children

3. Best practices for children with disability and/or additional needs​ in the year before school

This funding will be for services to explore and embed innovative and high-quality practices to increase participation and access as well as improve learning and developmental outcomes for children with disability and/or additional needs.

To be eligible for this funding, the child needs to one of the below:

  • NDIS reference number
  • a copy of a recent and relevant report, assessment or letter that outlines the child’s disability or additional needs from a relevant professional. Relevant professionals are:
    • a General Practitioner (GP)
    • an early childhood teacher or primary teacher with an additional qualification in Special Education who is not employed by the preschool which the child attends.
    • an audiologist, registered psychologist, paediatrician, psychiatrist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, a professional qualified to administer psychometric assessments, or other relevant medical specialist.

And/ or:

  • has constant and ongoing support needs and require significant adjustments to enable them to engage with the educational program on the same basis as their peers, or a temporary illness or injury that requires short term adjustment to enable participation in the educational program on the same basis as their peers.
  • requires an individualised learning plan (ILP) that identifies individual goals and the specific teaching strategies and adjustments required to achieve these.
  • requires consistent support and guidance to engage at the same level as their peers.
  • may require access to specialised technology, seating and/or standing equipment.

4. Best practices for gifted children in the year before school

This funding will be for services to explore and embed innovative and high-quality practices to increase participation and access as well as improve learning and developmental outcomes for children identified as gifted learners.

(up to $10,000)

Activities and resources funded must align to the intended outcomes of pre-Kindergarten.

By trialling and implementing the Early Years Learning Framework in a pre-Kindergarten we are identifying and trialling the teaching strategies and practices that have the most significant impact on children's learning and development in this new context.

We want to understand what a quality ECEC educational program looks like for children in the year before school for pre-Kindergarten.

This funding can be used to cover:

  • educational resources or professional learning required to implement the Early Years Learning Framework for children attending the service for more than 15 hours per week.
  • this could mean identifying and sharing high-quality existing practice that is in place to support children to access a high-quality educational program for more hours per week with consideration of the impact the varying attendance patterns of children from 1 to 5 days per week may have on the quality and delivery of the program.
  • identifying, sharing about and/or trialling elements of a high quality educational program that can demonstrate a positive impact on children’s learning and developmental outcomes.

7. Exclusions

Funding cannot be used:

  • for items with high risk factors such as trampolines
  • to undertake capital works or renovations
  • for purposes not aligned with the outcomes of Pre-Kindergarten
  • to carry out core activities of the service
  • in contravention of the Terms and Conditions, that will be signed by successful services.

8. Application process

  • Applications for the universal Pre-Kindergarten pilot are open until the 16 December 2022.
  • Applications for the pilot should be submitted through the SmartyGrants online application system. A guide is available to help services use SmartyGrants.
  • Please see the Contacts section below for additional support.

9. Assessment criteria

The department will assess the pilot applications and determine funding based on eligibility, spending rules, program priorities and available funding.

10. Other requirements

Where activities are not fully funded, services may consider using other grant funding provided to support other community initiatives delivered by the NSW Government and other agencies, subject to any conditions of that funding.

However, services are strongly encouraged to apply for resources and activities that can be fully funded through the Program.

Non-government schools must not use existing NSW Government primary/high school education funding, school fees or additional income to deliver a pre-Kindergarten pilot.

Approved funding must be spent by the end of December 2023, with a possibility of extension based on the contract negotiated during the Design Stage.

Services may be asked to return any unspent funding after this date.

The department must be notified of exceptional circumstances whereby approved funding cannot be expended by December 2023.

Notification should include an explanation for why funding has not been expended and a timeline for spending the outstanding funds.

Decisions regarding unspent funds will be made by the department on a case-by-case basis. Decisions will be confirmed by the department in writing.

11. Payments

The department will assess applications and funds will be paid to successful services as notified by the Department.

For participation in the Design Stage, payments for successful services will be made upon the completion of design activities.

This will take place by issuing an invoice to the department.

The department will provide support on how to do this during the Design Stage.

Payments for the Trial Stage will be made from July 2023, and will be determined through a contract established between the service and the Department.

Grants payments will only be progressed for services that have accepted the Terms and Conditions of the Early Childhood Education Grants Program based on service eligibility, spending rules, program priorities and available funding.

The Terms and Conditions and these program guidelines will form part of the funding agreement for services receiving grant payments through this program.

12. Reporting requirements for the Trial Stage

A formal acquittal process will be required to be undertaken throughout the Trial Stage of the program.

Services funded under the universal Pre-Kindergarten pilot are required to complete annual Performance and Financial accountability statements.

These accountability reports will be used to ensure services are receiving the appropriate level of funding and are compliant with program requirements. Services may be audited to confirm the accuracy of data provided in Performance and Financial accountability statements.

Any services identified as not meeting the terms under the funding agreement may be referred to Early Childhood Sector Support program, for additional support.

13. Conditions of participation

The department may vary, or impose other terms and conditions of participation in this pilot, which will be set out in a contract to be entered into with each service.

14. Location Boundaries

Pre-Kindergarten pilot areas are based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in areas classed as ‘2021 Statistical Area Level 3 (SA3).

Maps of pilot regions have been provided below.

Services must be located within these regions, to be eligible for participation in the universal pre-Kindergarten pilots.

For more information, including whether your service falls in to one of the pilot locations identified below, please follow these instructions:

  • Visit the ABS Maps webage
  • In the red text box, select “2021 Statistical Area Level 3 (SA3)
  • In the smaller grey text box “Find address or place”, type your services’ street address then click enter. The address will appear as a black dot on the page.
  • Using the ‘–‘(zoom out) button determine if your service address falls within the bold red boundary line of one of four regions listed above. This can be done by clicking on the map next to your service location.
Image: Mount Druitt 2021 Statistical Area Level 3
Image: Wagga Wagga 2021 Statistical Area Level 3
Image: Kempsey – Nambucca 2021 Statistical Area Level 3
Image: Bourke - Cobar - Coonamble 2021 Statistical Area Level 3

Contacts

For more information about the Universal Pre-Kindergarten pilot, please contact:

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