Start Strong Free Preschool

See existing information relating to COVID-19 Free Preschool funding.

What is Start Strong Free Preschool?

The 2021-22 Budget includes funding for the Start Strong Free Preschool Program for community and mobile preschools. $150 million has been allocated across 2022 for the new program. This program will replace the current COVID-19 Free Preschool Funding program from January 2022.

Community and mobile preschools opting in to the program will be provided with additional funding, paid on top of current annual Start Strong funding allocation.

In return they will be required to provide at least 600 hours of free preschool per year (which is approximately 15 hrs or 2 days per week in the majority of preschool settings) to three-to-five-year old children enrolled in the service.

There are approximately 45,000 children enrolled in community and mobile preschools.

Separate arrangements will also be made for Departmental Preschools.

Who is eligible for Start Strong Free Preschool?

Start Strong funded community preschools and mobile preschools on contracts are eligible to opt in to receive funding under this program.

The program will be provided on an opt-in basis, allowing services to determine whether or not to participate in the program given their individual circumstances.

Separate arrangements will be made for Departmental Preschools to sustain the delivery of free preschool in 2022.

How much money will individual preschools receive?

Service level funding calculations will be finalised in the coming months.

Each preschool’s funding will depend on the number of enrolled children. Key determinants of this figure include approved capacity, community demand and days enrolled.

Additional information will be provided to services ahead of the commencement of the new program.

How do services receive the funding?

Start Strong funded community preschools and mobile preschools on contract with the Department of Education have the opportunity to opt in to the initiative. Opt-in arrangements will be communicated to eligible services in the coming months. We anticipate the opt-in process will be similar to arrangements in place for the COVID-19 Free Preschool Funding Program.

The program guidelines will be made available on the Department of Education website following the finalisation of implementation arrangements.

Payments will commence to eligible community preschool and mobile preschool services from Term 1 2022. Four payment rounds will be made throughout the year in line with each school term.

How does Start Strong Free Preschool interact with Start Strong for community and mobile preschools?

For community and mobile preschools Start Strong Free Preschool funding will be paid on top of their annual Start Strong funding allocation. Start Strong Free Preschool does not replace Start Strong, and will be available on an opt-in basis.

How does this new model differ to the COVID-19 Free Preschool Funding program?

Start Strong Free Preschool has been developed as a means to sustain free preschool delivery in NSW by providing a simplified top-up payment. It is not designed as a replacement for fee income. Most services will be able to use this to offer free preschool for at least two days a week.

The COVID-19 Free Preschool Funding program was designed to provide additional temporary funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was announced in April 2020 and will cease at the end of 2021.

Start Strong Free Preschool will commence in January 2022 and be in place across the 2022 calendar year.

Can I opt in to Start Strong Free Preschool if I didn’t opt in to the COVID-19 Free Preschool Funding program?

Yes. The department will be in contact with further details about the program including how to opt in, and how to confirm payments for 2022.

I am a parent/guardian and would like more information about the Start Strong Free Preschool program

A list of services is available on the department’s website.

These services are primarily funded by the NSW Government to deliver preschool to children aged 3 and above. This is an opt-in funding program. That means that it is not compulsory, and providers who are eligible to receive funding will make a decision about whether they choose to receive this funding. Please contact preschools directly for information on their participation in the program and enrolment availability.

Community and mobile preschools receive funding from the government but are operated independently, and are responsible for making their own decisions in consultation with their communities. This includes setting fees, managing enrolment, staffing decisions and determining other operational arrangements such as the days and times the service operates.

Under this program, funding is provided as a top up payment in addition to other funding the service usually receives from the NSW Government to support the operation of the preschool.

Preschool places funded through the Start Strong Free Preschool program are not eligible for the Child Care Subsidy.

Children attending preschool programs in long day care services are eligible for funding from the Australian Government. The Australian Government provides a range of funding and supports to services, including Long Day Care through the Child Care Subsidy (CCS). These services are not eligible to receive funding through this program.

Why is this program only offered to community and mobile preschools?

The NSW Government is providing up to $150 million for the Start Strong Free Preschool program until the end of 2022.

The NSW Government is the primary funder of community and mobile preschools. Children attending preschool programs in long day care services are eligible for funding from the Australian Government that is not available to community and mobile preschools.

The Australian Government provides a range of funding and supports to services, including Long Day Care, through the Child Care Subsidy (CCS).

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