Mobile preschool funding program

The Mobile Preschool Funding Program recognises the costs and unique challenges of delivering mobile preschool education in areas where access to centre-based preschools can be limited.

This funding program commences 1 July 2022.

Purpose

The Mobile Preschool Funding program provides funding for the provision of preschool education delivered for the 2 years before school to children enrolled in mobile preschools in regional and remote NSW, where access to centre-based preschools can be limited. Mobile Preschool Funding aims to increase the number of children participating for a minimum of 600 hours in a quality early childhood education program in the 2 years before school.

Provision of funding for mobile preschools aims to support sustainable and improved service delivery and recognise the additional costs and unique challenges associated with achieving universal access in regional and remote NSW.

Mobile Preschool Funding program funding is targeted to 3, 4 and 5-year old children in the two years before school, particularly children aged 3 and above from low income families, children from First Nations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) families, and children with disability and additional needs.

Eligibility criteria

The following eligibility criteria must be satisfied by a mobile preschool to obtain Mobile Preschool Funding:

  • Service eligibility criteria; and
  • Child eligibility criteria.

A mobile preschool must meet each of the following criteria to be considered for Mobile Preschool Funding:

  • be an approved early childhood education and care service under either the Children (Education and Care Services National Law Application) Act 2010 (NSW) or the Children (Education and Care Services) Supplementary Provisions Act 2011 (NSW) and the related regulations;
  • deliver an early childhood education program designed by a degree qualified early childhood teacher in accordance with The Early Years Learning Framework under the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education);
  • execute and comply with the Terms and Conditions of the Early Childhood Education Grants Program;
  • operate predominantly in Inner Regional, Outer Regional, Remote and Very Remote areas of NSW as measured using the 2011 Accessibility and Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA +) Remoteness Classifications;
  • operate from venue(s) that are not purpose built centre based preschools or operate as a ‘pack away' service at one or more venue(s);
  • operate in areas where centre based preschools and long day cares with preschool programs are not readily available.

Mobile preschools must employ best efforts to reach a minimum of five funded children enrolled at each venue. Refer to section ‘Child Eligibility Criteria’ for more information.

Mobile preschools which operate solely or predominantly in Major Cities of NSW are not eligible to be funded under this program. Mobile preschools in these areas can receive funding under the Start Strong for Community Preschools program, subject to Start Strong eligibility being met.

For a mobile preschool to be eligible for Mobile Preschool Funding for a child, the child will need to be:

  • At least 3 years old on or before 31 July in that preschool year and not in compulsory schooling; and
  • Attending an early childhood education program provided by the mobile preschool during that preschool year.

Citizenship and residency status are not taken into consideration for child eligibility for funding.

Mobile Preschool Funding will not be provided for enrolments that are receiving an approved child care service under the Child Care Subsidy provided by the Australian Government.

Spending rules

Mobile Preschool Funding is to be used for the purposes detailed below.

Operating expenses of the mobile preschool, for example:

  • Staffing costs, including salary and wages, and professional development
  • Educational resources
  • Vehicle costs, including usage and maintenance
  • Other operating costs including leasing arrangements.

The funds need to be expended in line with the individual mobile preschool’s reporting period (calendar or financial year).

Under the Grants Programs Funding Agreement (Terms and Conditions), service providers are required to return unspent funds as well as maintaining financial viability. The department is currently exploring options to provide further clarity on this matter. In the interim, service providers are encouraged to use funds based on the spending rules of the program and if applicable, refer to guidance provided by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission for the retention of appropriate level of reserve.

Services are required to, when operating at capacity in any preschool year, give equal priority of access to:

  • children who are at least 4 years old on or before the 31 July in that preschool year and not enrolled or registered at a school
  • children who are at least 3 years old on or before 31 July in that preschool year and are:
    • children from low income families
    • children from First Nations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) families
  • children with disability and/or additional needs
  • children with English language needs
  • children who are at risk of significant harm (from a child protection perspective).

There is no order of priority assigned to the list of points above. Priority must be given to the groups outlined above before any other groups, including non-equity 3 year olds.

The guidelines are intended to assist mobile preschools with making enrolment decisions, in a way that seeks to allocate places to those in the greatest need. However, the particular community needs of the preschool will also be relevant. Mobile preschools may consider the hours children are enrolled at other funded services when making enrolment decisions.

The department may compare data collected through the August 2021 Preschool Census to the mobile preschool’s reported enrolment in the August 2020 Preschool Census to review priority of access.

Funding

Mobile Preschool Funding promotes universal access and sustainable and improved service delivery by providing:

  • a funding floor component to provide a level of funding certainty;
  • loadings for services provided in Outer Regional, Remote and Very Remote areas of NSW;
  • loadings to assist with certain venue and travel costs;
  • funding to support the additional costs associated with growth in enrolments;
  • operational adjustments to ensure increased provision of services is met with greater levels of funding;
  • higher base funding rates based on Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) score of disadvantage; and
  • additional equity funding for children aged 3 years and above from low income families, children from First Nations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) families and children with disability and additional needs.

Mobile Preschool Funding is calculated based on the data entered in the Annual Preschool Census conducted by the department (Preschool Census). For this purpose, mobile preschools must ensure that the data entered via the Preschool Census is correct, true and not misleading in any respect, and that consent forms have been completed for each staff member and for each child enrolled. Mobile preschools that receive Mobile Preschool Funding may be audited to confirm consent has been received to enter personal information and the accuracy of data entered in the Preschool Census or any other data collection.

Mobile preschools need to complete 2 types of consent forms, one for each staff member and one for each child upon enrolment and prior to completing the Annual Preschool Census. Refer to section ‘Completing consent forms’ section for further information.

Mobile Preschool Funding for a mobile preschool is determined for each preschool year through calculation of three components:

  • Base funding
  • Operational adjustment
  • Equity adjustment.

Operational Adjustment and Equity Adjustment are applied to a mobile preschool’s Base Funding, which means that Base Funding may increase or decrease depending on operational settings and the characteristics of the children enrolled by that mobile preschool.

The Base Funding component of Mobile Preschool Funding is made up of three components:

  • funding floor;
  • cost loadings; and
  • enrolment funding.

Each eligible mobile preschool will receive a core funding floor. The funding floor intends to provide mobile preschools with funding certainty, and is not impacted by changes in enrolments.

The funding floor aims to address the minimum operational costs for mobile preschools for up to 10 average daily enrolments, and considers costs such as minimum staffing requirements (ie. salary and wages), vehicle costs, venue costs and other essential expenditure (such as resources and professional development).

The funding floor amount of $194,178 (ex. GST) is based on the median operations of a mobile preschool for 960 hours in a calendar year. A mobile preschool’s funding floor may increase or decrease depending on operational settings above or below 960 hours.

Cost loadings aim to ensure that the unique demands and needs of mobile preschools and the communities they service are met.

Table 1: Cost loadings

Loading Rate (ex. GST) Detail
Regional loading $11,539 Mobile preschools will receive an additional loading based on the most remote venue classified using the 2011 ARIA+ Remoteness Classifications.
Venue loading $3,957 Mobile preschools will receive a loading to support the higher cost of venues operating from non-school sites based on the proportion of venues that operate from a non-school site.
Vehicle loading $33 per kilometre Funding for additional costs of vehicle travel for mobile preschools with significant travel distances. Loading is calculated as the total kilometres between a mobile preschool’s base and its venues, multiplied by $33.

Enrolment funding acknowledges that some costs, particularly staffing, are influenced by the number of enrolments. This component aims to support mobile preschools where on average there are more than 10 enrolments per day at a venue. Enrolment funding is only payable for average daily enrolments above 10. For example, where a mobile preschool has an average of 12 daily enrolments, the service will receive enrolment funding for two enrolments.

The rate of enrolment funding for average daily enrolments above 10 will be determined based on the mobile preschool’s Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) band, and the proportion of equity enrolments at the mobile preschool. Refer to section ‘Equity Adjustment’ for more information.

Equity enrolments are eligible for the highest rate of funding. Children who are part of multiple equity groups will only be eligible for one amount of equity loading per child.

Table 2: Enrolment funding rate per SEIFA band

SEIFA Funding Band (2011) Funding rate (ex. GST)
SEIFA band 1 $7,076
SEIFA band 2 $7,076
SEIFA band 3 $7,076
SEIFA band 4 $7,076
SEIFA band 5 $7,076
SEIFA band 6 $7,076
SEIFA band 7 $7,076
SEIFA band 8 $7,076
SEIFA band 9 $6,876
SEIFA band 10 $6,394
SEIFA band 11 $6,318
SEIFA band 12 $6,108
SEIFA band 13 $5,710
SEIFA band 14 $5,375
SEIFA band 15 $5,104
SEIFA band 16 $4,810
SEIFA band 17 $4,557
SEIFA band 18 $4,557

Table 3: Equity enrolment funding

Identified targeted group Rate per child Detail
Children from First Nations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) families $7,076

Children from First Nations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) families receive the highest enrolment funding across all locations.

Mobile preschools must record Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status on the child’s enrolment form.

No other form of documentation is required. The information on the enrolment form may have been obtained verbally from the child’s parent or guardian.

Children from low income backgrounds $7,076

Children from a family holding a Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card (where the child is a named dependent on the card), or a Veteran Card, issued by the Australian government receive the highest base rate funding across all locations. Health Care Cards issued in the child's name only are not means tested. Therefore children with their own Health Care Card will not be eligible. This includes Foster Care Health Care Cards and Health Care Cards for children with disability.

Mobile preschools must keep a copy of the relevant card to show proof that it was valid at the time of the relevant Preschool Census, or for a prior period during that same preschool year, for example, at the time of enrolment.

Where the relevant card expires during the preschool year, the mobile preschool should engage with the family to obtain a copy of the new card, if available.

Children with disability and additional needs $7,076

One of the following must be kept on record by the mobile preschool as evidence of the child’s disability or additional needs:

  • the child’s NDIS reference number; or
  • a copy of the most recent and relevant report, assessment or letter that outlines the child’s disability or additional needs from a relevant professional. Documentation must be on letterhead and signed by the relevant professional.

The mobile preschool must keep a copy of this documentation on the child’s preschool file to show proof that they were valid at the time of the Preschool Census or for a prior period during that school year.

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; or
  • an audiologist, registered psychologist, paediatrician, psychiatrist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, a professional qualified to administer psychometric assessments, or other relevant medical specialist.

Operational adjustment

Base Funding is adjusted in line with a mobile preschool's operating hours to ensure that greater provision of service is met with greater levels of funding. Where a mobile preschool expands its operations between one year and the next, its funding will be adjusted in the subsequent year to reflect this. Operational Adjustment aims to support mobile preschools to deliver and maintain expanded operational hours, particularly 600 hours of service delivery for each child per year, and is designed to ensure that funding provision is tailored to the unique costs of each mobile preschool.

The Operational Adjustment to the Base Funding for a mobile preschool is based on how many hours the mobile preschool is operational in a calendar year, as compared to the median operational hours of mobile in contract preschools, which was 960 hours of operation for a calendar year. A mobile preschool's operational hours for a calendar year will be calculated by multiplying the number of hours it is open per week by the number of weeks it is open per year. A percentage adjustment will be made to the extent the mobile preschool's hours of operation for a calendar year are above or below the median operational hours.

For example, a mobile preschool which operates for 1,440 hours per year (1.5 x 960 = 1,440 hours), will have its Base Funding multiplied by 1.5 as the mobile preschool operates for 50% more than the median operational hours. Similarly, a mobile preschool which operates for 864 hours per year (0.9 x 960 = 864 hours), will have its Base Funding multiplied by 0.9, as the mobile preschool operates for 90% of the median operational hours.

The application of an Equity Adjustment aims to support services operating in lower SEIFA band areas to reduce barriers to participation for children, including fees. The Equity Adjustment is applied through an adjustment to a mobile preschool’s allocated funding floor and loadings, and through an adjustment to the funding rate applied for enrolment funding.

The Equity Adjustment to the Funding Floor and Loadings for a mobile preschool is based on the proportion of equity enrolments at the mobile preschool.

The rate of enrolment funding per child will be determined based on the mobile preschool’s Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) band, and the proportion of equity enrolments at the mobile preschool. Where a mobile preschool’s SEIFA band is 9 or above, the rate of enrolment funding for the service will be between the equity funding rate and the relevant SEIFA band funding rate.

Decisions regarding the application of indexation under Mobile Preschool Funding are made annually by the department. If indexation is applied, the department will be guided by a NSW Treasury-mandated percentage applicable to all Government agencies.

Funding under the Mobile Preschool Funding program is delivered on a financial year basis and is paid quarterly in advance in July, October, December and April.

Enquiries for funding through the Mobile Preschool Funding program are to be made in writing to the Department at the contact details on this page. Interested Service Providers will need to demonstrate their eligibility for funding, analysis of local need and demand, capability to deliver on the objectives and outcomes of Mobile Preschool Funding, and suitability of mobile service delivery as preferred operating model.

Resources

To speak to someone about Mobile Preschool Funding, please contact the department by:

Start Strong Free Preschool is designed to support families with cost of living pressures through the delivery of free preschool for 600 hours in the two years before school. The program has been confirmed for the 2022 calendar year.

Mobile preschools funded under Mobile Preschool Funding are eligible to opt in to the Start Strong Free Preschool program. Refer to the Start Strong Free Preschool program guidelines for further information on this program. Funding under this program will be paid in addition to Mobile Preschool Funding.

A Mobile Preschool Funding planning tool (XLSX 495 KB) for mobile preschools is available to assist services to understand how operational changes will impact on Mobile Preschool funding.

Services can use the information contained in their August Preschool Census Summary Report to estimate their funding.

The planning tool runs in Microsoft Excel 2010 and later. Users with earlier versions of Microsoft Excel may need to update Microsoft Office to avoid compatibility issues.

Please note: the amounts generated by the planning tool provide an estimate of funding based on the information entered and are not a guarantee of funding.

The Terms and Conditions of Funding must be accepted in ECCMS prior to receipt of funding. These Terms and Conditions set out annual accountability and compliance requirements. Mobile preschool providers are required to certify that funds have been spent in accordance with the Funding Agreement of the Early Childhood Education Grants Program. Performance and financial acquittals may be done either on a calendar or financial year basis.

The department is focused on supporting participation for key equity/priority of access groups. Accordingly, children from Aboriginal families, children with disability and additional needs and children from low income families must have access to lower daily fees than for non-equity children.

The fee for non-equity 3 year olds must not be lower than the fee for non-equity children in the year before school.

The Department periodically conducts reviews of preschool services and may request a funding compliance review in these or other circumstances.

Where the relevant card expired and has not been replaced, it is at the discretion of the mobile preschool to determine the fee structure for families. The daily equity fee (see current fee guidelines above) must be charged where a child is recorded as low income in the Preschool Census and therefore receives the highest base rate funding.

If an Approved Provider is transferring a mobile preschool to another approved provider, then the mobile preschool must do the following:

  • contact the department at the contact details below when the transfer has been initiated. The department will advise on the steps required to conclude the Approved Provider’s responsibilities under Mobile Preschool Funding.
  • complete and return to the department all acquittal documentation for the transferring mobile preschool for the period up to the date of transfer. This must be completed within 30 days of the transfer of the mobile preschool, unless otherwise agreed with the department.
  • give written notice to the new Approved Provider of the amount of funds (1) expended and (2) unspent. The Approved Provider must also request that the new Approved Provider liaise with the department about this funding program.
  • transfer all unspent funds to the new Approved Provider within 30 days of the date that the mobile preschool is transferred, provided the department has agreed to the transfer of funding.

If a mobile preschool is to close/cease trading as a mobile preschool, prior to the date of closure, the Approved Provider must:

  • contact the department at the contact details below as soon as possible and prior to the surrender of service approval. The department will advise on the steps required to conclude the Approved Provider’s responsibilities under Mobile Preschool Funding.
  • complete and return to the department all acquittal documentation for the closing mobile preschool for the period up to the date of closure. This must be completed within 30 days of the closure of the mobile preschool, unless otherwise agreed with the department.
  • return all unspent funds to the department by no later than 30 days of the date of the closure of the mobile preschool.

Community preschools including mobile preschools need to complete 2 types of consent forms, one for each staff member and one for each child upon enrolment. This means on first enrolling. It is good practice to seek a renewal of the consent form every year a child attends. A new form should be completed if any of the details in the original consent form require update or adjustment.

Each form consents to the use and disclosure of personal information by the department to receive funding and other support to deliver an early childhood education program, and for the exercise of the department’s governmental functions. This may include monitoring the funding programs and reporting purposes

Data collected in the Annual Preschool Census is submitted to the Australian Bureau of Statistics for inclusion in the publication Preschool Education, Australia. De-identified data may be used for research and evaluation purposes.

In accordance with the Terms and Conditions agreement, an Approved Provider must submit a statement of expenditure for each individual mobile preschool which has received funding, to provide assurance that public funds have been expended for their intended purpose.

Financial accountability is completed through the Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS). Visit our ECCMS page for more information.

The department periodically conducts reviews of preschool services and may request a funding compliance review in these or other circumstances.

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