2023 Start Strong for Community Preschools program guidelines

This page describes the objectives, funding information, and provider requirements of the Start Strong for Community Preschools program.

1. Purpose


The Start Strong for Community Preschools program provides funding to deliver affordable quality preschool education for 3 to 5 year old children enrolled in eligible community and mobile preschools in NSW.

From 2023, fee relief for families announced as “Affordable Preschool” in the context of the NSW Government's Early Years Commitment will be integrated into Start Strong and provide community and mobile preschools with sustainable long-term funding to deliver at least 600 hours of low, or no cost preschool to eligible children.

Start Strong for Community Preschools funding is provided for children in the two years before school and supports enrolment of at least 600 hours per year or 15 hours per week. Evidence shows that this level of participation in a quality early childhood education program in the two years before school is associated with better outcomes for children.

Start Strong, including the now integrated Affordable Preschool initiative, promotes universal access and priority of access by providing:

  • higher program funding rates for preschools which operate within the lower range of Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) score of relative socio-economic disadvantage
  • additional funding for children aged 3 years and above from low income families, children with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, and children with disability or additional needs
  • loadings for preschools that operate in outer regional, remote and very remote areas
  • further loadings and subsidies as outlined in Section 3.2
  • up to $4,220 per year in fee relief for 3 to 5 year old children in community and mobile preschools.

2. Eligibility criteria

2.1 Service eligibility criteria

To be eligible for funding under this program as a community or mobile preschool, Approved Providers must meet all of the following criteria:

  • be a not-for-profit, community-based preschool or mobile preschool service
  • be an approved early childhood education and care service under the National Law and Regulations
  • deliver a quality early childhood education program by a qualified early childhood teacher in accordance with the requirements under the National Quality Framework, including using The Early Years Learning Framework
  • comply with the Early Childhood Education Grants Program Funding Agreement – Terms and Conditions (1 January 2023 – 31 December 2023) (Terms and Conditions).

Services must take reasonable steps to deliver 600 hours of quality preschool to all children enrolled at the service.

Approved Providers will not be funded for places in a service that are Child Care Subsidy approved.

2.2 Mobile preschool services

Mobile preschools can receive funding under the Start Strong for Community Preschools program, subject to Start Strong eligibility being met. Mobile preschools funded through the Mobile Preschool Funding program are not eligible for Start Strong funding.

Mobile preschools funded under the Mobile Preschool Funding program are eligible for fee relief payments. Please refer to the Mobile Preschool Funding program guidelines. The updated program guidelines will be available shortly.

2.3 Child eligibility criteria

To be eligible for funding under Start Strong, a 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 eligible early childhood education program.

Although all children aged 3 years and above are eligible for funding, services need to consider priority of access guidelines when making enrolment decisions. See Section 4.2 Priority of access for further information.

Children who are 6 years old will be eligible for funding. Where required, a Certificate of Exemption (PDF 1.22MB) from compulsory schooling must be in place.

Citizenship and residency status are not taken into consideration for eligibility of children for funding under Start Strong for Community Preschools.

3. Funding

3.1 Calculation of funding

Start Strong will provide program funding (Program Payment) and fee relief funding (Fee Relief Payment).

The Program Payment and Fee Relief Payment are both calculated based on the data entered in the Annual Preschool Census, including the number and hours of enrolment, and the number and characteristics of children enrolled.

The funding allocations are calculated on a per-child basis per service.

Total funding, including fee relief funding, will be adjusted based on enrolment information provided in the Annual Preschool Census.

All funding rates in Section 3.2 are subject to change and are at the discretion of the department.

3.2 Program Payment

Funding to services per child is calculated based on the following tables:

Table 1: Program Payment - calculation for hours of enrolment

Children enrolled for 600 hours or more will receive the maximum rate, with children enrolled for fewer hours attracting a pro-rata amount according to Table 1.

Per child hours of enrolment offered per year Indicative average hours per week, based on a 40-week year Percentage of per child base rate received

600 hours or more

15 hours or more

100%

480 to less than 600 hours

12 to less than 15 hours

50%

400 to less than 480 hours

10 to less than 12 hours

35%

320 to less than 400 hours

8 to less than 10 hours

20%

Greater than 240 to less than 320 hours

greater than 6 to less than 8 hours

5%

240 hours or fewer

6 hours or fewer

Nil

Table 2: Program Payment - calculation per SEIFA band

The rate per child reflects the average income of families with children aged 0 to 5 years in the service’s Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA).

SEIFA Funding Band 600 hours or more 480 to less than 600 hours 400 to less than 480 hours 320 to less than 400 hours Greater than 240 to less than 320 hours 240 hours or fewer

100%

50%

35%

20%

5%

0%

SEIFA bands 1 to 8

$7,466

$3,733

$2,614

$1,494

$374

$0

SEIFA band 9

$7,255

$3,628

$2,540

$1,451

$363

$0

SEIFA band 10

$6,746

$3,373

$2,362

$1,350

$338

$0

SEIFA band 11

$6,666

$3,333

$2,334

$1,334

$334

$0

SEIFA band 12

$6,444

$3,222

$2,256

$1,289

$323

$0

SEIFA band 13

$6,025

$3,013

$2,109

$1,205

$302

$0

SEIFA band 14

$5,671

$2,836

$1,985

$1,135

$284

$0

SEIFA band 15

$5,385

$2,693

$1,885

$1,077

$270

$0

SEIFA band 16

$5,075

$2,538

$1,777

$1,015

$254

$0

SEIFA band 17

$4,808

$2,404

$1,683

$962

$241

$0

SEIFA band 18

$4,808

$2,404

$1,683

$962

$241

$0

Table 3: Funding calculation per SEIFA band for 3-year-old children who are not eligible for equity loadings

Subsidies for 3-year-old children who are not eligible for equity loadings are set at 50% of the equivalent year before school base rate. Funding to these children is calculated based on the following proportions of base rates:

SEIFA Funding Band 600 hours or more 480 to less than 600 hours 400 to less than 480 hours 320 to less than 400 hours Greeater than 240 to less than 320 hours 240 hours or fewer

100% 50% 35% 20% 5% 0%
SEIFA bands 1 to 8 $3,733 $1,867 $1,307 $747 $187 $0
SEIFA band 9 $3,628 $1,814 $1,270 $726 $182 $0
SEIFA band 10 $3,373 $1,687 $1,181 $675 $169 $0
SEIFA band 11 $3,333 $1,667 $1,167 $667 $167 $0
SEIFA band 12 $3,222 $1,611 $1,128 $645 $162 $0
SEIFA band 13 $3,013 $1,507 $1,055 $603 $151 $0
SEIFA band 14 $2,836 $1,418 $993 $568 $142 $0
SEIFA band 15 $2,693 $1,347 $943 $539 $135 $0
SEIFA band 16 $2,538 $1,269 $889 $508 $127 $0
SEIFA band 17 $2,404 $1,202 $842 $481 $121 $0
SEIFA band 18 $2,404 $1,202 $842 $481 $121 $0

3.2.1 Equity loading

Start Strong for Community Preschools provides additional funding to achieve equitable outcomes for children in priority cohorts, including:

  • children with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background;
  • children from low income families; and
  • children with disability or additional needs.

Children who meet more than one criterion of equity loading will only be eligible for one amount of equity loading per child.

Table 4: Equity loading for priority cohorts

Table 4 outlines the Program Payment per eligible child aged 3 and above in the listed priority cohorts, inclusive of the equity loading. Start Strong for Community Preschools equity loading is applied for children as per Table 4. Only children who meet the criteria of the target cohorts in Table 4 will be considered eligible for equity loading for the purposes of funding calculations. Funding for children in the priority cohorts is proportionate to hours of enrolment, as outlined in Table 1.

In recognition that 600 hours per year is not always possible for children with disability or additional needs, the maximum rate for the Program Payment and Fee Relief Payment will be made available to children with disability or additional needs who are enrolled for a minimum of 300 hours per year.

For this exception to be granted, the preschool must indicate that they will ensure the child’s Individual Learning Plan (ILP) includes a progressive plan to increase towards 600 hours per year prior to school commencement.

Priority cohorts eligible for equity loading Rate per child Detail

Children with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds

$7,466

Children from Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds receive the highest base rate funding across all locations.

Services must record that the child identifies as being from an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background 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

$7,466

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. The Federal Government has confirmed that 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.

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

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

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

Children with disability or additional needs

$7,466

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

  • the child’s NDIS reference number
  • 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.

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

3.2.2 Program Payment Additional Loadings

Regional loading

Services will receive an additional loading per funded child based on the ARIA+ (2011) Remoteness Classifications. The loading is not dependent on 600-hour enrolments or equity loading eligibility. On top of the base rate funding:

  • Preschools in ARIA+ remote and very remote areas will receive an additional loading of $1,452 per eligible child per annum.
  • Preschools in ARIA+ outer regional areas will receive an additional loading of $987 per eligible child per annum.
English language loading

Children with English language needs will receive an additional language loading of $467 across all locations. The loading will apply when the service selects ‘English Language Assistance Required’ in the Annual Preschool Census, and is not dependent on 600-hour enrolments or eligibility for equity loading.

This loading is provided where a child requires assistance with English language needs. This includes where a child requires assistance with Braille or with sign language (e.g. Auslan).

The loading is not provided to children with a Language Background Other than English where this assistance is not required.

If a child requires assistance with English language needs, such as an interpreter or any other language resource, this information must be recorded and available on file for compliance purposes.

Higher Order Multiple base rates

The Higher Order Multiple base rate is $7,466 for each child from the third child in the multiple onwards (i.e. not for the first 2 children) and is not dependent on 600-hour enrolments or equity loading eligibility.

Higher Order Multiple funding will be applied under the following circumstances:

  • only for families with triplets or multiple children above triplets, i.e. quads, septuplets etc.
  • only for 3, 4 and 5-year-old children.

Evidence of applicability will be based on Annual Preschool Census data that shows for the siblings:

  1. same date of birth (copy of Birth Certificate to be kept by the preschool Approved Provider enrolling the children)
  2. same address
  3. enrolled at the same preschool.

3.3 Fee Relief Payment

Table 5: Fee Relief Payment - calculation for hours of enrolment

Children enrolled for 600 hours or more will receive the full rate of fee relief, with children enrolled for fewer hours attracting a proportionate amount according to Table 5.

Per child hours of enrolment per year Indicative average hours per week, based on a 40-week year Percentage of per child base rate received Per child funding rate

600 hours or more

15 hours or more

100%

$4,220

480 to less than 600 hours

12 to less than 15 hours

80%

$3,376

400 to less than 480 hours

10 to less than 12 hours

70%

$2,954

320 to less than 400 hours

8 to less than 10 hours

60%

$2,532

Greater than 240 to less than 320 hours

greater than 6 to less than 8 hours

50%

$2,110

240 hours or fewer

6 hours or fewer

40%

$1,688

3.4 Service Safety Net

The Service Safety Net will provide a Program Payment allocation of $149,320 per annum to services that meet all of the following eligibility criteria. Eligibility is assessed annually through data captured via the Annual Preschool Census:

  1. has a licensed capacity of 20 or fewer children under the Children (Education and Care Services National Law Application) Act 2010
  2. has a minimum of 5 eligible funded children (aged 4 and above in the year before school; and 3-year-old children eligible for equity loading) each enrolled for 600 hours or more per annum*
  3. has a maximum of 20 children aged 4 and above in the year before school and 3-year-old children eligible for equity loading each enrolled for 600 hours or more per annum (enrolments of non-eligible children and 3-year-old children not eligible for equity loading are not counted for Service Safety Net purposes)
  4. has an ARIA+ classification of Inner Regional, Outer Regional, Remote or Very Remote
  5. has daily fees less than $55 per day (prior to pass through of the Fee Relief Payment) for any eligible funded child attending the service (aged 4 and above in the year before school; and 3-year-old children eligible for equity loading)
  6. total Program Payment allocation (including funding amount for 3-year-olds not eligible for equity loading) without Service Safety Net is less than $149,320

* If a service does not meet these criteria in a given program year, the service will be eligible to continue to receive Service Safety Net if the minimum enrolment criteria has been met over the immediately preceding 3 program years.

3.5 Indexation

The department will make decisions on the application of indexation to funding rates on an annual basis. If indexation is applied, the department will be guided by NSW Treasury-determined rates. Any changes to the funding rates arising from indexation will be communicated via the funding notification letter emailed to Approved Providers.

3.6 Funding payments

Funding is based on information provided by services in the Annual Preschool Census. For this purpose, the data entered by preschools via the preschool census is required to be correct, true and not misleading in any respect, and consent forms must be completed for each staff member and for each child enrolled. Refer to Section 4.5 Completing consent forms.

The address submitted in the preschool census by services is used to determine SEIFA bands. Service addresses can be edited in the Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS). Approved Providers are responsible for updating provider and service details in ECCMS.

The Terms and Conditions must be accepted in ECCMS prior to receipt of funding. These Terms and Conditions set out annual accountability and compliance requirements. Approved Providers are required to certify that funds have been spent in accordance with the Terms and Conditions.

Typically funding under Start Strong is paid quarterly in advance according to the schedule below:

  1. July (Quarter 1) for period July - September
  2. October (Quarter 2) for period October - December
  3. December (Quarter 3) for period January - March; and
  4. April (Quarter 4) for period April - June

Fee relief Payments will follow Program Payments. Fee relief funding should be distributed as fee relief to families on a per term basis.

Refer to Section 6.1 Transition Arrangements for payment cycles from 2024.

4. Program requirements

4.1. Spending rules

4.1.1 Program Payment

Start Strong Program Payment is to be used for the purposes detailed below.

  • Operating expenses of the service, for example:
    • salary and wages
    • educational resources
    • other operating costs.

Under the Terms and Conditions, Approved 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, Approved 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.

4.1.2 Fee Relief Payment

The Fee Relief Payment aims to reduce the cost of early childhood education and care to families in the form of fee pass-through. The funding is provided for the purposes detailed below:

  • reduce the daily fees as much as possible for 600 hours per year of enrolment for eligible children accessing fee relief at the service.

Where there are surplus funds following the reduction of daily fees as much as possible for 600 hours per year of preschool to eligible children, Approved Providers must:

  • reduce the cost of additional charges to families accessing fee relief at the service. Additional charges may include, but are not limited to, charges for enrolment/administration, resources, excursions/incursions, building/garden maintenance.

If any funds remain after all fees and/or charges are eliminated, Approved Providers may then choose to allocate any surplus funding to:

  • reduce the cost of enrolment above 600 hours per year (for instance 'third day' fees); or
  • reducing the daily fee for 600 hours per year of enrolment for eligible children not accessing fee relief at the service, for example children of families with greatest need; or
  • the operating expense of the service per the Program Payment spending rules.

The Fee Relief Payments should be apportioned to families across the preschool year in line with funding payments (i.e. quarterly).

The service must demonstrate and communicate the fee reduction to families through regular invoices or statements. Where no invoice or statement is issued, services should provide fee reduction information through newsletters, website, or letters to families.

The fee pass through must also be demonstrated as part of the annual reporting process.

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

4.1.3 Fee guidelines

Start Strong provides additional funding to achieve equitable outcomes for priority cohorts of children. Accordingly, children eligible for equity loading must have access to lower daily fees than children who do not meet the target cohort criteria. The fee for 3-year-old children not eligible for equity loading must not be lower than the fee for children eligible for equity loading in the year before school.

Child cohort Fee guideline

Children in the year before school not eligible for equity loading

  • Fee must not be higher than fee for 3-year-old child not eligible for equity loading
  • Fee must not be lower than fee for children eligible for equity loading

Children eligible for equity loading

  • Fee must be lower than children not eligible for equity loading, irrespective of age

3-year-old children not eligible for equity loading

  • Fee must not be lower than fee for children in year before school
  • Fee must be higher than fee for children eligible for equity loading


In line with the affordability objectives of the program:

  • Approved Providers are not permitted to increase their service's fees to offset the benefit of the Fee Relief Payment, and
  • before fee relief is applied, the fee for children in the same cohort (for example 4-year-old children) must be the same irrespective of eligibility for fee relief at the service

If an Approved Provider does either of the things listed in the two dot points above, this may be considered to be an Event of Default under the Terms and Conditions.

Subsidies for 3-year-old children who are not eligible for equity loading are set at a proportion of the equivalent year before school base rate. Services will receive 50% of Start Strong base rates for these children. From 2019 – 2022 services were required to pass through this funding in the form of lowered fees for these children. It is expected that this funding will be used to maintain lowered fee levels year on year.

Services are encouraged to consider the full cost of early childhood education delivery when setting fees for 2023 and beyond. Fees are expected to be maintained at fee levels of the previous years where fees were charged to families, adjusted for CPI across this time period. In circumstances where it is necessary to adjust fees above CPI, such as due to reasonable increases in operating costs, services must retain evidence to support the fee increase.

The department will be monitoring daily fees and additional charges, through the Annual Preschool Census, annual reporting, and compliance processes.

4.2 Priority of access

Services are required to 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 with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background
    • children with disability or additional needs.
  • children who are at least 3 years old on or before 31 July in that preschool year 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 3-year-olds not eligible for equity loading.

The guidelines are intended to assist services 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. Services are encouraged to maximise the number of children with 600 hour enrolments. Services should consider the hours children are enrolled at other funded services when making enrolment decisions.

Services should consider any adjustments to policies and procedures required to comply with regulatory requirements when obtaining and sharing personal information, including privacy laws.

The department will compare data collected through the August 2023 Preschool Census to the service’s reported enrolment in the August 2022 Preschool Census to review priority of access. The department periodically conducts reviews of preschool services and may request a funding compliance review in these or other circumstances.

4.3 Declaration form and children enrolled at multiple services

A child cannot access a Fee Relief Payment from more than one community preschool or long day care service.

All parents/legal guardians must complete a declaration form at each service a child is enrolled in. To assist services to communicate the declaration form to families, a template letter that services can download and place on their letterhead is available. This letter explains the process to access fee relief and how and why the declaration form must be filled out.

The department will conduct compliance checks as part of its auditing process. Approved Providers are required to retain declaration forms for this purpose as per Section 4.6 Financial Accountability.

The Approved Provider of the nominated service must pass on the fee relief in the form of a regular reduction to fees in accordance with Section 4.1 Fee Relief Payment spending rules.

If an Approved Provider receives the Fee Relief Payment for a child whose family declares they will not claim the fee relief from their service, the Approved Provider must retain the Fee Relief Payment and return it to the department. This will be managed via an adjustment period in late 2023.

4.4 Transition to School Statement

Completion of the Transition to School Statement is a mandatory requirement of the Start Strong program from 2023 for children in the year before they commence Kindergarten.

The Transition to School Statement provides a snapshot of a child’s strengths, interests, needs and approaches to learning to support their effective transition to Kindergarten. A positive transition from early childhood education and care to Kindergarten helps improve children’s educational and social outcomes.

The child’s early childhood teacher or educator must complete the Transition to School Statement and provide it to the child’s parents/carers and new school before the commencement of the 2024 school year. This is to facilitate learning continuity and to help link the Early Years Learning Framework to the Early Stage 1 Syllabus.

Teachers or educators can complete the Transition to School Digital Statement via the department’s digital platform as the preferred method. Where access is not possible, the PDF version can be completed. Copies of Transition to School Statements must be retained for auditing purposes.

More information on the importance of the Transition to School Statement and supporting resources are available on the Transition to School webpage.

4.5 Completing consent forms

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 allow funding and other support to be provided to deliver an early childhood education program, and for the exercise of the department’s governmental functions. Those functions 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.

4.6 Financial accountabilities and funding compliance

In accordance with the Early Childhood Education Grants Programs Terms and Conditions, an Approved Provider must submit a financial accountability for each individual service which has received funding, to provide assurance that public funds have been expended for their intended purpose.

Financial accountability is completed through ECCMS. Further information is available in the Financial Accountability Return Guide and on the Financial Accountability - Information for Services page.

Performance and financial accountabilities may be done either on a calendar or financial year basis.

4.6.1 Record keeping

The department periodically conducts reviews of preschool services and may request that supporting documentation be provided by the services to the department and its representatives.

Financial accountabilities and collections will capture fee information provided by services. Relevant records must be retained by Approved Providers for the purpose of the department undertaking funding compliance reviews. Examples of relevant records may include:

  • proof of expenditure in line with spending rules;
  • statements to families or other relevant documents demonstrating fee reduction and attributing fee relief to the NSW Government;
  • evidence to support any fee increases or new/increased additional charges for children eligible for fee relief;
  • parent/legal guardian declaration forms;
  • consent forms for data reporting;
  • individual Learning Plans (ILP) for children with disability or additional needs working towards 600 hours per year;
  • Transition to School Statements; and
  • Certificates of Exemption for any 6-year-old children enrolled in the service.

5. Service changes

5.1 Maintaining up to date details

It is the responsibility of Approved Providers to update provider and service details in ECCMS. An Approved Provider must ensure that the following information is always up to date:

  • all tabs on the Main Service Provider page, including Main Details, Contacts, Address, and Bank Account tabs
  • all tabs on each Funding Specification page, including Main, Contacts and Address tabs.

5.2 Transferring service approval

5.2.1 Transferring Approved Provider

If an Approved Provider is transferring a community preschool service to another Approved Provider, then the transferring Approved Provider must do the following:

  • contact the department at the contact details below prior to the transfer being initiated. This notice must be provided at least 42 days before the transfer is to occur. The department will advise on the steps required in addition to those listed below to conclude the Approved Provider’s responsibilities under Start Strong for Community Preschools
  • complete all outstanding financial accountabilities in ECCMS. The department will advise of any additional financial accountabilities that require completion by the transferring service for the period up to the transfer effective date. The financial accountability must be completed within 14 days of the date of the transfer of the service, unless otherwise agreed with the department
  • give written notice to the receiving Approved Provider of the amount of funds (1) expended and (2) unspent within 14 days of the date of the transfer of the service. The Approved Provider must also request that the receiving Approved Provider liaise with the department about this funding program
  • if directed by the department, transfer any unspent funds to the receiving Approved Provider within 21 days of the date the transfer of the service occurs. This may only occur if at the time of the transfer of funds either the receiving Approved Provider has entered into the Terms and Conditions or has otherwise provided an undertaking to the department, in the form required by it, regarding the expenditure of the unspent funds. Otherwise, the transferring Approved Provider must return any unspent funds to the department within the timeframe advised by the department.
  • cease expending funding from the transfer effective date unless otherwise agreed with the department.
  • comply with any direction by the department under the Terms and Conditions.

5.2.2 Receiving Approved Provider

If an Approved Provider is receiving a service from another Approved Provider, then the receiving Approved Provider must do the following to be considered eligible to receive funding:

  • liaise with the department about this funding program.
  • enter into the Terms and Conditions with the department with the amount of funding to be determined by the department in its absolute discretion. There is no guarantee the receiving Approved Provider will receive further funding.
  • if there are Unexpended Funds, in order to receive a transfer of those Unexpended Funds the receiving Approved Provider must confirm in writing to the Department that the Unexpended Funds will be used in accordance with the Terms and Conditions.

5.2.3 Payment of department funds during transfer

The department may take actions, if an Approved Provider transfers a service to another Approved Provider, including:

  • withholding funding for the transferring service from the receiving Approved Provider of the service, until the transfer is effective
  • withholding funding for the transferred service from the transferring Approved Provider of the service, after the transfer is effective or when the department is notified of the transfer.

Note: Approved Providers must follow steps to comply with regulatory requirements under the National Law and Regulations, including submitting an application for service transfer to the NSW Regulatory Authority. See the Approvals process webpage.

5.3 Service ceasing to operate

If a service is to close/cease trading as a community 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 Start Strong for Community Preschools
  • log on to ECCMS and complete all outstanding financial accountabilities. The department will advise of any additional current year financial accountabilities that require completion by the closing service for the period up to the date of closure. The financial accountability must be completed within 30 days of the closure of the service, unless otherwise agreed with the department
  • cease expending all funds from the date of closure
  • return all unspent funds to the department by no later than 30 days of the date of the closure of the service
  • comply with any direction by the department under the Funding Agreement.

The department may take actions if a service has notified the department that it proposes to close/cease trading, including:

  • withholding funding for the service that is proposed to be closed/ceased trading from the Approved Provider, where that funding relates to a period after the proposed date of closure.

No funding will be provided by the department for a service that has closed/ceased trading, in relation to the period after the date of closure.

For temporary closures for 5 weeks or more, the department may seek information from funded services to confirm ongoing availability of funding.

6. Additional information

6.1 Transition arrangements

  • Services who have signed the Terms and Conditions will automatically receive Fee Relief funding under the Affordable Preschool initiative. Services that do not wish to receive Fee Relief funding through the Affordable Preschool initiative will be able to withdraw from the Start Strong for Community Preschools program.
  • A transition period will operate between January – June 2023. During this period, services can continue to receive Start Strong for Community Preschools funding without receiving Fee Relief funding through the Affordable Preschool initiative. This allows services additional time to assess their financial circumstances and their ongoing participation in the Start Strong for Community Preschools program.
  • The Start Strong for Community Preschools program will transition from a financial year funding model to a calendar year funding model from 2024. Funding will continue to be paid on a quarterly basis, with allocations based on the Annual Preschool Census held in August.
  • Funding is expected to follow the schedule below from 2024:
    • December (Quarter 1) for period January – March 2024
    • April (Quarter 2) for period April – June 2024
    • July (Quarter 3) for period July – September 2024
    • October (Quarter 4) for period October – December 2024.
  • To continue to receive Start Strong for Community Preschools funding an Approved Provider will need to agree to terminate its 2022 – 23 Terms and Conditions and enter into a Funding Agreement for Start Strong for 2023, including the Affordable Preschool initiative.

6.2 Program evaluation and improvement

These Guidelines may be updated or amended over the course of the annual program. This will be in response to continuous program improvement or where further clarity is required. Changes to the Guidelines will be made in consultation with the sector, but remain at the discretion of the department.

An evaluation will be undertaken to understand the effectiveness of the Start Strong program. Services will be required to participate in an evaluation of the program through the provision of data and participation in other evaluation activities as required.

Contact details

To speak to someone about Start Strong for Community Preschools, please contact the department by:

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