Start Strong

The NSW Government is committed to ensuring that all children in New South Wales can participate in 600 hours of quality preschool education in the year before school, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are.

The Start Strong funding reforms were announced in 2016 and introduced from 1 January 2017, to support access to early childhood education for more children across the state.

Value of Start Strong

600 hours of quality early childhood education

Research shows that children who participate in a quality early childhood education program for at least 600 hours in the year before school are more likely to arrive at school equipped with the social, cognitive and emotional skills they need to engage in learning.

The benefits endure well beyond primary school. Higher levels of educational attainment, economic participation and family well being have all been linked to moderate levels of participation in early childhood education.

Making early childhood education more affordable

To ensure that affordability is not a barrier for families with young children, in 2016 the NSW Government allocated an initial $115 million in funding for Start Strong.

In the 2017-18 NSW budget, the investment in Start Strong was extended through to 2021, with an additional $217 million committed over four years to strengthen the State’s ability to ensure universal access to an early childhood education program for 600 hours in the year before school.

This funding adds to the $150 million that was already allocated under the previous Preschool Funding Model, and is designed to significantly reduce preschool fees, making 600 hours of early childhood education more affordable for all families.

Fee reductions

Preschool providers are required to pass on 75% of the additional funding to families through fee reductions.

Parents and carers should check with their preschool provider regarding their child’s fees as each preschool sets its own fee levels.

A new funding model

Beginning on 1 January 2017, funding under Start Strong for preschools is based on 600 hour enrolments.

Funding for enrolments of less than 600 hours is capped at 50% of the increased base funding rates, with pro-rata funding decreases depending on hours enrolled.

Start Strong for preschools

Services are required to pass through at least 75% of the increased government funding to families through lower fees.

Most preschool providers only need to make minor adjustments to their service provision in order to be able to take full advantage of the funding model.

Base rate funding for Aboriginal children and children from disadvantaged backgrounds increased in 2017 to $6,600 per child per annum at community preschools, which is the full cost of service delivery.

The NSW Government's initial $115 million funding for Start Strong also included $30 million targeted to Aboriginal children and children from disadvantaged backgrounds at long day care centres, supporting parental choice and reducing fees for families who need it most.

Operating Hours are determined by the hours each day which meet the following criteria:

  • Service meets all of its obligations under the National Law and Regulations including compliance with staff child ratios for total enrolled preschool children during the operating hours.
  • Service fee covers the total hours children are eligible to attend.
  • All children enrolled in the service on that day are able to attend for the full duration of the operating hours.

Clarification of Terminology

Operating hours of services are not to be confused with the following terms:

  • Opening hours: staff may be employed outside operating hours for set up, pack up, training or staff meetings but children are not present. These hours should not be included as part of preschool operating hours.
  • Session hours or program hours: may include limited hours where a specific program is delivered during the day. This may be part of the preschool operating hours.
  • Before and after care hours: may include additional hours outside operating hours.  This should not be included as part of preschool operating hours as additional fees are usually charged.

A Start Strong funding calculator (XLSX 1184.01 KB) for community preschools is available to assist in planning. The calculator provides a guide to how a service's Start Strong funding is calculated.

The funding calculator runs in Microsoft Excel 2010 and later. Users with earlier versions of Microsoft Excel may need to download the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack to avoid compatibility issues.

Please note: the calculations provided in this tool are indicative. If your service receives funding from a parent service provider, the actual amount you receive may vary according to the policy of your organisation.

Start Strong for Long Day Care

Under the Start Strong Long Day Care (LDC) program, long day care services have received additional funding to support children aged four to five from low-income or Aboriginal families.

The funding is being rolled out in the 2017/2018 year to help increase access to early childhood education in the year before entering school.

Long day care services that are listed on the Australian Government's Child Care Management System (CCMS) and regulated under the National Quality Framework are eligible to receive Start Strong LDC funding.

If long day care services are receiving funding under the NSW State Government Early Childhood Education Long Day Care or Preschool Grants Program, they are not eligible for Start Strong LDC funding.

To be considered eligible under Start Strong LDC, children must be:

  • Listed on CCMS
  • At least four years old on, or before, 30 June 2018
  • Attending an early childhood education program
  • Not yet in compulsory schooling.

Funding is calculated based on the NSW enrolment data from the August 2017 collection period.

Funding for additional equity enrolments will be calculated based on the increase in enrolment numbers, by comparing the August 2017 collection period to the 2018 collection.

Payments are made to Approved Providers according to the enrolment table below:

Equity enrolments*
for 4 and 5 year olds
(amount per child)

Non-Equity enrolments for 4 and 5 year olds (amount per child)

Children enrolled for 600 hours or more



Children enrolled for less than 600 hours



Top-up amount paid for each additional child enrolled for 600 hours or more at May 2018, when compared to August 2017 data



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

Details of funding will be communicated to the Approved Provider. The entire amount for the Approved Provider will be paid as one upfront payment, even if there are multiple services.

Initial payments will be made by 30 June 2018 and payments for each additional equity enrolment will be made in September 2018.

The Approved Provider must spend the funds allocated to each service to:

  • purchase resources
  • develop a preschool program based on the Early Years Learning Framework, or
  • develop staff, including upgrading qualifications from a diploma to a four year degree.

The full quantum of funding should be expended for those purposes, and should primarily aim to benefit children in the year before school. Please note that late payments will not be made after December 2018.

The funds need to be expended during the 2018/19 financial year.

All eligible Approved Providers will receive communication from the department. The Approved Provider needs to:

  1. Ensure the service information in CCMS is correct.
  2. Obtain an AUSkey from the Australian Taxation Office to enable access to the funding agreement in ECCMS (the Early Childhood Contract Management System).
  3. Accept the Terms and Conditions in ECCMS.*

*The Approved Provider will not be paid unless the Terms and Conditions are accepted in ECCMS.

If the service information is not correct, please contact CCMS:

CCMS helpdesk telephone: 1300 667 276

CCMS helpdesk email:

The August 2017 enrolment data cannot be changed in CCMS.

  • Ensure that your ECCMS SP-Admin account holder has an AUSkey
  • Ensure that your ECCMS SP-Admin account holder can log into ECCMS successfully
  • Main Service Provider page - ensure that service details and contacts are up to date on the Main Details tab, Contacts and Address tabs
  • Each Funding Specification page – ensure that details and contacts are up to date on the Main, Contacts and Address tabs

More information on getting an AUSkey is available on the ATO website:

Step by step instructions for accessing ECCMS

  1. Access the ECCMS page on the department’s website:
  2. Click on the "Login to ECCMS here" link
  3. Select your user name in the list, type your password (which has been issued by the Australian Business Register when you applied for the AUSkey), and then click Continue
  4. If you are not sure who is the SP-Admin Account Holder for your service, please call the Information and Enquiries line on 1300 755 426 or email

Having trouble with your AUSkey?

All AUSkey enquiries need to be directed to the Australian Business Register (ABR) as they administer this process. You can check for solutions at the online AUSkey Help and Support page: or contact AUSkey by phone on 1300 AUSKEY (1300 287 539).

Information and resources are available from:

Early Childhood Education

Information and Enquiries

1300 755 426

Information and resources

Early Childhood Education
Information and Enquiries
1300 755 426


A package of business supports is also being developed to help services make the transition and is being delivered by peak organisations Community Early Learning Australia and Community Connections Solutions Australia.

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