2022 High Learning Support Needs Funding Guidelines

Key HLSN Updates

  • New applications are required for all children. This includes all children who were funded in 2021 – See Section 4.
  • Eligible HLSN applications supported by a written diagnosis and/or developmental assessment, received on or after 1 July, will receive up to 300 hours of funding support. Where exceptional circumstances mean that the child’s participation could be supported by greater than 300 hours in the final six months of the year, funding may be adjusted on a case-by-case basis – See Section 5.1
  • Priority payments will be considered for applications that indicate safety concerns and are submitted within the first four weeks of the Quarter 2, 3 or 4 application periods – See Section 5.2

1. Aim

Funding for children with high learning support needs is provided to develop and deliver the child’s individual learning plan (ILP). The aim of the ILP is to support the child’s specific learning requirements to enable them to participate in the educational program on the same basis as their peers. See Section 9.1 for further information on ILPs.

Enrolment decisions, including decisions about enrolment hours, are not determined by the department or this program, and are the responsibility of the preschool in consultation with families.

2. Child Eligibility Criteria

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

  1. Be at least 3 years old on or before 31 July in that preschool year and not in compulsory schooling (or turn at least 3 years old in the preschool year and can demonstrate exceptional circumstances) and,
  2. Have high learning support needs as defined in these program guidelines.

Children with high learning support needs:

  • Have 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.
  • Require systemic adjustments to the educational program.
  • Require an individualised learning plan (ILP) that incorporates specific teaching strategies, and specifies how interventions and supports can be embedded into preschool activities.
  • Require consistent adult support and guidance to engage at the same level as their peers (this may be provided by existing staff at the preschool and/or by employing additional staff to support the child).
  • May require access to specialised technology, seating and/or standing equipment.

3. Funding

Community preschools can apply for funding for a child with high learning support needs up to a total of $13,800 (ex GST) per child per year. This funding is provided at a rate of $23 (ex GST) per hour for the equivalent of up to 600 hours of support. Enrolment decisions, including decisions about enrolment hours, are not determined by the department or this program, and are the responsibility of the preschool in consultation with families.

4. How to apply

All applications and variations (including application reviews) are made on a per child basis in the Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS).

Applications should be made when the preschool has a good understanding of the child’s educational needs and the systemic adjustments required to support the child to participate in the preschool program on the same basis as their peers. Applications that do not provide this information will be ineligible for HLSN funding.

In addition to submitting applications for new children, preschools are required to make new applications for children previously funded in 2021. Applications should be reviewed and updated to reflect progress made and any changes to the level of systemic adjustments required.

Where a child attends more than one preschool, each preschool is able to apply for funding.

4.1 Consent

Under the Early Childhood Education Grants Programs Terms and Conditions, preschools are required to complete two types of consent forms, one for each staff member and one for each child upon enrolment. It is good practice to seek a renewal of the consent form every year the child attends and a new form should be completed if any of the details in the original consent form require an update or adjustment.

This form consents to the use and disclosure of personal information that is used by the department for reporting and funding purposes.

As long as this form has been completed for each child, additional forms of parent/carer consent are not required for the Disability and Inclusion Program. Preschools are strongly encouraged to maintain ongoing dialogue with families regarding the implementation of systemic adjustments and applications for HLSN funding.

4.2 Application Requirements

HLSN applications require:

  • A description of how the child generally functions in the preschool across developmental domains.
  • A description of the level of educator guidance and support required for the child to engage at the same level as their peers.
  • A description of other systemic adjustments required to enable the child's access to, and participation in, the educational program on the same basis as their peers.
  • A written diagnosis and/or developmental assessment OR preschool observations that indicate the frequency, intensity and duration of developmental concerns.
  • Notification of the number of weeks the child is enrolled at the preschool, excluding the weeks the preschool is closed for school holidays.

Please note: Where available, the child’s NDIS reference number and/or NDIS plan can be provided as part of the HLSN application. However, this information is a reference only and is not a program eligibility requirement or a guarantee of funding.

4.3 Application Types

There are two application types; applications supported by documentation confirming a diagnosis, and applications supported by preschool observations.

Applications supported by documentation

Where applications for children with high learning support needs are supported by documentation, it must be a written diagnosis and/or developmental assessment from a relevant specialist. Relevant specialists are an audiologist, registered psychologist, paediatrician, psychiatrist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, a professional qualified to administer psychometric assessments, or other relevant medical specialist.

Documentation requirements

  • Documentation must be on letterhead and signed by the relevant specialist.
  • Documentation should be from the relevant specialist rather than an alternative specialist referring to the original specialist’s diagnosis.
  • Where a document refers to a speech and language delay/disorder only, a moderate to severe diagnosis must be demonstrated and made by a speech pathologist for funding to be considered.
  • The assessment date on documentation related to speech and language delay or disorder, or behavioural and social emotional disability, must be less than 15 months prior to the application submission date in that program year.

Where applications include documentation that strongly indicates the presence of high learning support needs, but are not supported by a written diagnosis, a quarterly payment schedule may be considered. In these instances, written diagnosis applications will be converted to an observation application and an eligible progress update will be required to receive further quarterly payments.

Payments on a quarterly schedule are provided to facilitate support while preschools support families to obtain a formal diagnosis. To be considered for further payments, preschools will need to submit a progress update or documentation via the application review process.

Applications supported by preschool observations

The department understands that there may be circumstances where the confirmation of a diagnosis is not available for the child. In situations where available reports indicate ongoing investigation, an application for HLSN should be supported by preschool observations.

Preschools can submit their collected information on the child by providing observations documenting the developmental areas where the child displays difficulties. Dated observations of the child, recorded by educators at the preschool, must be uploaded to support the application.

These may include:

  • running records
  • time samples
  • frequency tally
  • scatter plots
  • anecdotal observations
  • Antecedents, Behaviour, Consequences (ABC) recordings
  • language samples.

Sufficient information must be provided to demonstrate the frequency, intensity and duration of the concerns across the preschool routine over the course of a week.

The dated observations must be a description of what is observed, and not contain analysis or evaluation.

See Section 9.2 for more information on how to write preschool observations and/or preschools can contact their Sector Capacity Building provider for support.

Please note: Funding for applications supported by preschool observations is NOT ongoing. See Section 4.5 for more information.

If an application supported by preschool observations is assessed as eligible, up to 150 hours of funding for supports will be provided for one quarter. This application is then subject to an application review on a quarterly basis until a written diagnosis is provided. Evidence to support an application review must include:

  • documentation confirming diagnosis or,
  • a progress update demonstrating progress towards obtaining a written diagnosis and/or developmental assessment for the child.

Where an application review confirms a diagnosis, funding payments will convert to an annual schedule. Where progress towards a diagnosis is provided each quarter, one additional quarterly payment will be made per eligible variation application.

Applications for temporary illness or injury that require short term adjustments to enable participation will be funded in the same manner as applications supported by preschool observations.

4.4 Variations

Variation applications document changes in the child’s circumstances as the year progresses.

Variations to eligible applications can be made on a per child basis in the Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS). To complete a variation application, preschools should select the pencil icon next to the child’s name in the list of child applications in ECCMS, select the reason for the variation and follow the prompts.

Preschools should select the variation type that best suits the child’s change in circumstances. Where a child’s circumstances have changed in a number of ways, several individual variations may need to be submitted.

Variations should be made as soon as possible where:

  • The child’s learning support needs change, and the preschool need to request an increase in HLSN hours.
  • The child’s learning support needs change, and the preschool need to request a decrease in HLSN hours (including reducing HLSN hours to zero to inform the department that the child no longer requires HLSN funding).
  • The child leaves the preschool.
  • The child has returned from an absence of more than five weeks.
  • Documentation is obtained or a progress update is required to support an application review (see Section 4.5 for more information).
  • School exemption documentation is obtained or a progress update is required – see Section 4.6

Variation applications may result in a change in a preschool’s funding allocation throughout the year. In such cases a funding adjustment will be applied to the preschool’s next payment.

4.5 Application Review Process

HLSN funding for a child with an application supported by preschool observations is not ongoing, and is subject to an application review.

To be considered for funding in the next quarter, the preschool must submit an application review for the child before the next application cut-off date.

Types of application review

1. Written diagnosis and/or developmental assessment

When a written diagnosis and/or developmental assessment is obtained, preschools should submit a variation application, select ‘Application review’ and then select ‘Upload a written diagnosis and/or developmental assessment’. The application will then be re-assessed to ascertain eligibility for annual funding in accordance with the program’s backdating rules.

2. Progress update

Where a written diagnosis and/or developmental assessment is not available, preschools should submit a variation application, select ‘Application review’ and then select ‘Provide a progress update’.

This is not an update on the child’s developmental progress, but an update demonstrating progress towards obtaining a written diagnosis and/or developmental assessment for the child.

Where the application review is supported by a progress update, and is assessed as eligible, up to 150 hours of funding for supports will be provided for one quarter. To receive subsequent quarters of funding, further application reviews will need to be submitted by the preschool.

Where a progress update does not demonstrate progress towards obtaining a written diagnosis and/or developmental assessment, funding will not be allocated for the applicable quarter.

4.6 School Exemptions

The Education Act 1990 mandates that all children must be in compulsory schooling by six years of age. Where an eligible child is turning six before 1 October and is still attending preschool, a Certificate of Exemption must be included with the child’s application to receive annual funding.

Preschools that are still in the process of obtaining a Certificate can notify the department by submitting a variation application. Preschools can submit the variation application – provide school exemption documentation – to report progress towards obtaining a Certificate, and/or to submit a Certificate once obtained. Variation applications that demonstrate progress towards obtaining a Certificate will receive one quarter of funding per eligible variation application per quarter until a Certificate is obtained.

For further information on the school exemption process, please contact the child's local school or the local educational services team. Your local educational services team can be contacted on 131 536.

4.7 Corrections

Corrections to submitted applications can only be made when an application has been returned to draft by the department. Preschools wishing to make corrections or add information to their applications should contact the department.

Applications that have previously been assessed as ineligible cannot be edited and resubmitted in ECCMS. A new application should be submitted when new information becomes available.

5 Application open and payment dates

Table 1: Application and payment dates for HLSN funding. Preschools will also be advised via email when 2022 applications open in November.

2022 application cut-off dates for HLSN funding Payment

Extended cut-off date: Submitted by 5pm Friday 10 December 2021

Original cut-off date: Submitted by 5pm Monday 29 November

Quarter 1 – February 2022

(Funding is for January to March 2022)

Submitted by 5pm

Friday 4 March 2022

Quarter 2 - April 2022

(Funding is for April to June 2022)

Submitted by 5pm

Friday 27 May 2022

Quarter 3 – July 2022

(Funding is for July to September 2022)

Submitted by 5pm

Friday 19 August 2022

Quarter 4 – October 2022

(Funding is for October to December 2022)

Submitted by 5pm

Friday 14 October 2022

Final adjustments* - December 2022

*Only certain types of variations (increase in hours, decrease in hours and child has left) and applications for newly enrolled children will be considered for payment.

Application cut-off dates are subject to change. The department will notify preschools via email of any changes to these dates.

5.1 Backdating

The deadline for backdating is Thursday 30 June.

Funding for eligible applications supported by documentation submitted up to and including 30 June 2022 will be backdated to the child’s enrolment start date for 2022.

Funding for eligible applications supported by documentation submitted on or after 1 July 2022 will be backdated to 1 July 2022, or the child’s enrolment start date for 2022, whichever is the most recent date.

Preschools that submit applications supported by documentation on or after 1 July will be eligible to receive up to 300 hours of funding support. Preschools that submit applications prior to 1 July, where the enrolment start date is after 1 July, will also be subject to the same conditions.

Where a preschool believes that the child requires systemic adjustments supported by greater than 300 hours of funding for supports in the final six months of the year, exceptional circumstances can be indicated in the application. All exceptional circumstances funding requests will be considered by the department on a case-by-case basis. Exceptional circumstances requests will not be considered to reverse the impact of the backdating rule on funding allocations.

Funding adjustments for approved variations to increase or decrease hours submitted by 30 June 2022, will be backdated to the variation start date.

Funding adjustments for approved variations to increase hours submitted on or after 1 July 2022, will be backdated to 1 July 2022, or the variation start date, whichever is the most recent date.

Funding adjustments for approved variations where the child has left the preschool and to decrease hours will be calculated on a pro-rata basis, according to the variation start date (i.e. the date the child left the preschool or decreased hours).

5.2 Priority Payments

A HLSN application can be considered for a priority payment where assessment determines that there is an urgent need to support and supervise the child due to:

  • Significant safety concerns for the child and/or other children, and/or staff at the preschool,
  • AND the application is submitted within the first four weeks of the Quarter 2, 3 or 4 application periods.

Examples of a safety concerns may include, but are not limited to:

  • Injuries to self and/or other children/staff.
  • Absconding from environments and/or the preschool premises.
  • Aggressive actions such as hitting, kicking, biting, spitting, climbing on or throwing furniture.
  • Staff require additional resources to manage aspects of the child’s condition to support full enrolment.

A priority payment is made outside of the regular quarterly payment schedule. Subsequent payments for these applications will return to the normal quarterly payment schedule.

Where exceptional circumstances exist, the department may also consider a priority payment for other eligible applications on a case-by-case basis.

6. Assessment and feedback

The department will individually assess all applications. Where required, the department may seek further information from preschools about their application.

Preschools will be notified of the assessment outcome for each application, and their funding allocation via email.

Feedback on the outcome of a funding application can be sought from the assessment team by emailing ecec.funding@det.nsw.edu.au and providing the following information:

  • Child’s application ID.
  • Preschool name.
  • Contact person at the preschool and contact phone number.
  • The question/s you have about the child’s application.

Once you have provided this information, a member of the assessment team will contact you within 7-10 business days to discuss your application.

Note: Please do not provide sensitive information (including diagnostic reports and developmental assessments) via email.

6.1 High numbers of eligible HLSN applications

Where a preschool has a large number of children with disability and/or additional needs enrolled, HLSN applications must only be made for the hours of support that the preschool can spend in accordance with the program spending rules.

Where a preschool is seeking funding to employ an additional worker to provide support to several enrolled children, the support hours requested should be directly related to the number of support hours an individual child will receive. In other words, where a preschool submits applications for multiple children, the preschool should consider individual child funding requests in the context of the funding request for all other children.

Where a preschool has a large number of eligible HLSN funding applications, the department may contact the preschool to gather further information and clarify the program spending rules. The department may also cap funding in consultation with the preschool to ensure the funding allocations provided can be spent on the individual children.

Where a child is enrolled over several days, HLSN funding can be used to support systemic adjustments across their enrolment. Additional supports to assist with the inclusion of children with a disability are also available through the Sector Capacity Building program.

7. Spending rules

HLSN funding must be used to support the individual child.

Funding can be used to employ additional staff to:

  • Increase the adult to child ratio during identified periods of the child’s attendance, enabling the child to participate in the education program and achieve the outcomes documented in their ILP.

The staff support hours required for an individual child should be reflected in the table of enrolment and support hours requested.

And /Or

  • Complete other activities directly related to the development, delivery and review of the child’s ILP, including:
    • collaboration with specialist providers working with the child.
    • engaging with educators through the Sector Capacity Building program on matters related to the child.
    • professional development (including course costs related to the inclusion of the child), but only where this type of training cannot be provided free of charge by the preschool’s Sector Capacity Building provider.

The staff support hours outside of increasing the adult to child ratio should be reflected in other support hours.

Funding cannot be used for:

  • payment of fees
  • employment of therapists for children
  • assessments
  • specialist medical consultations (for example, paediatricians)
  • · medical equipment
  • · early intervention supports that are most appropriately provided through the NDIS
  • any other functional supports that are provided through the NDIS or other programs
  • to offset existing staff costs
  • paying for professional development (including course costs related to the inclusion of the child) where this type of training can be provided free of charge by the preschool’s Sector Capacity Building provider.

HLSN funding provided by the department is a contribution to the possible expenses associated with implementing systemic adjustments to enable children with disability and additional needs to be included on the same basis as their peers.

The department encourages preschools to meet any additional expenses required to support systemic adjustments, above and beyond that provided under the HLSN program, rather than requiring families to pay enrolment fees above the regular fee structure. The department also encourages preschools to seek support from their Sector Capacity Building provider to explore how barriers to inclusion may be removed or adjusted without additional funding.

Approved HLSN funding cannot be transferred between preschools when a child withdraws and enrols in a new preschool. The new preschool will need to submit a new application.

HLSN funding allocations must be expended in the calendar year in which it was allocated to an individual child.

8. Reporting requirements

A formal acquittal process for any funding allocation will be undertaken in the calendar year after the funding allocation is made. Preschools will be invoiced for any outstanding funds in the same year.

The acquittal process includes completing a statement of expenditure and performance. The statement of expenditure requires preschools to report to the department what proportion of the funding allocation has been spent in accordance with the payments received. The performance accountability statement requires preschools to report to the department how the funding has been spent.

Preschools may be audited to confirm the accuracy of data provided in their performance and financial accountability statements, which includes ensuring that the funding provided has been used to support the achievement of educational outcomes for children with disability in accordance with these guidelines.

Records of consent to share information with the department must be kept on file by the preschool, along with documentary evidence of the child’s disability and/or additional needs.

9. Additional Information

9.1 Individual Learning Plan

An individual learning plan (ILP) must be developed for each child approved for High Learning Support Needs (HLSN) funding. It should have the following characteristics:

  • A written document that details what the preschool will do for the child.
  • A working document to help the preschool record each child's developmental progress.
  • Developed in consultation and agreement with the child's parents/carers.
  • Does not need to be lengthy or complex.
  • Updated regularly and reviewed at least every six months.
  • Forms part of the planning/documentation of the child's educational program and progress as part of the National Quality Framework.
  • Must address the following:
    • Assessment information reports.
    • Information about the child's disability.
    • Roles and responsibilities of team members and other services that may work with the child at the preschool (e.g. early childhood early intervention providers under the NDIS).
    • Summary of the child's strengths, interests and needs.
    • Long term goals and outcomes.
    • Specific short term objectives.
    • Teaching strategies.
    • Ongoing evaluation.
    • Documentation of the transition process (either transition within the preschool or from preschool to school).
    • A preschool can use it to:
    • Document consultation with the child's parents/carers and the reasonable systemic adjustments being made to support the child.
    • Complement the goals and aspirations expressed in the child's NDIS support plans, and the potential for integrated assessment and planning should be taken into account.

9.2 Preschool Observations

Where available reports do not confirm a diagnosis but do indicate ongoing investigation, a preschool observation application for HLSN should be supported by dated preschool observations.

The collected data must indicate the frequency, intensity, and duration of observed behaviours and supports required for the child.

Table 2: What do observations look like?

Observations ARE Observations are NOT

Anecdotal records or jottings

Letters of support for funding from professionals

Running records

Professional reports indicating concerns and further investigation

Time samples

Screeners such as Ages and Stages

Learning stories or narratives of key events

Developmental summaries or Developmental milestone checklists

Frequency Tally

NDIS plans

Antecedents, Behaviour, Consequences (ABC) recordings

Individual Behaviour plans and Individual Learning plans

10. Further information

For further information please contract Early Childhood Education Programs

Information and Enquiries team: 1800 619 113

Email: ecec.funding@det.nsw.edu.au

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