2023 Start Strong for Community Preschools FAQs
Find answers to the questions most frequently asked about the 2023 Start Strong for Community Preschool program.
The 2023 Start Strong Program, including fee relief funding, commenced in January 2023.
Community and mobile preschools funded under the Start Strong for Community Preschool program or the Mobile Preschool Funding Program do not need to apply for funding. Funding will be automatically applied for services that are eligible for Start Strong for Community Preschools or the Mobile Preschool Funding Program and have signed the Funding Agreement.
Approved providers of community preschool services who are not currently funded through Start Strong can contact the NSW Department of Education to find out how they can be included in Start Strong funding by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Start Strong funding, including fee relief, is based on enrolment data - not attendance.
Start Strong funding, including fee relief funding, is paid to services who then pass it on to families in the form of reduced fees.
Families can only access fee relief at one community preschool or long day care service at any given time. At each service their child is enrolled, parents/legal guardians must complete a declaration form to nominate which service they will access the fee relief from.
To ensure that all eligible children are getting access to 600 hours of low or no cost preschool, regardless of the setting in which they receive it, fee relief can only be accessed at one community preschool or long day care service at any given time. This means families cannot access two rounds of fee relief.
At each service their child is enrolled, parents/legal guardians must complete a declaration form to nominate which service they will access the fee relief from. For mixed service centres/multipurpose centres, families will need to nominate which preschool program they will access fee relief for.
Families must complete the declaration form prior to fee relief being applied.
Community and mobile preschool services will need to complete consent forms in addition to the declaration form. See the guidelines for further information.
For long day care services, the form will seek consent for data collection purposes, as outlined in the 2023 Start Strong Long Day Care program guidelines.
Services must provide parents/legal guardians with declaration forms and retain completed forms for auditing purposes.
Long day care services must ensure they can meet the fee relief data reporting requirements where consent from families has been provided. More information about these requirements is included in section 4.1.2 Documenting fee relief 2023 Start Strong Long Day Care program guidelines.
Services are not responsible for repaying any fee relief funding provided to families who have incorrectly asked for it at their service. The NSW Department of Education will monitor access to fee relief through fee relief data submissions in 2023.
Families cannot access fee relief unless they complete a fee relief declaration form. Services are encouraged to work with families to understand any concerns or barriers to completing the declaration forms to support all eligible children to receive the fee relief.
Services should record why a family has not been able to complete a declaration form.
Declaration forms should be completed prior to children attending your service in 2023. This will ensure fee relief is provided to families from their first week of attendance.
Families cannot access fee relief unless they complete a fee relief declaration form.
Whilst families can access fee relief at only one service for their child, there will be no impact on program funding amounts for both services which the child attends. Each service will be provided the full allocation of program payment in line with the program funding calculations for each eligible enrolment.
Yes, the digital statement is a free, collaborative tool to support the transition to school for NSW children. Where access to the digital statement is not possible, the Transition to School Statement (PDF 434 KB) can be completed.
The NSW Department of Education acknowledges that there are lots of different ways to support the transition to school for NSW children and recommends that ECEC services and schools create partnerships to build strong and supportive transition pathways. The digital statement can be used in conjunction with other methods that are convenient for your service, families, and your local primary teachers.
Whilst the platform currently only allows for statements to be sent directly to public schools, services can save a statement created on the Transition to School Digital Statement as a PDF and email it to an independent or catholic school.
Yes. The preschool funding team is here to help and can be provide support, advice, or answer any questions relating to the Start Strong Program.
All services can access support by contacting the funding team on 1800 619 113 or email@example.com.
Services the previously accessed implementation support through Community Early Learning Australian (CELA) or Community Connection Solutions Australia (CCSA) should now contract the department directly if further assistance is needed.
CCSA and CELA members can still access support by contracting their relevant member organisation:
All children aged 3 years and above are eligible for the program payment and fee relief payment. As per Section 2.3 of the Start Strong for Community Preschool program guidelines, 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.
Children who are 6 years old will be eligible for funding where they have been granted a formal exemption from the NSW Department of Education and have a Certificate of Exemption.
The Start Strong for Community Preschools Planning Tool (XLSX 135KB) (formerly known as the funding calculator) is available to assist community preschool services to estimate their Start Strong funding for the 2022-23 financial year at the funding rates that apply for this period.
Services can use the information contained in their August 2022 Preschool Census Summary Report to estimate their funding. The planning tool will show the fee relief funding allocation based on the enrolment information entered.
Typically funding under Start Strong is paid quarterly in advance. Please visit section 3.6 Funding Payments of the Start Strong for Community Preschools program guidelines.
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.
For more information on the transition arrangements, please visit section 6.1 Transition arrangements of the Start Strong for Community Preschools program guidelines.
Yes, fee relief funding will be paid in addition to Service Safety Net. All Start Strong funded services are eligible for fee relief funding.
Yes, services will continue to receive the program payment for eligible children based on enrolment information entered into the 2022 Annual Preschool Census.
A family will need to complete the declaration form in order to access fee relief at any service the child is enrolled in.
Where a child leaves the service during the year, remaining fee relief funding must be applied to the next eligible child that takes up that enrolment.
Where an enrolment is immediately replaced by a new eligible child, the remaining fee relief is passed on to the new child when that families declaration is completed.
When there is a break between eligible enrolments the service can use the unallocated funding from that break as per Section 4.1 Spending rules in the program guidelines.
The Start Strong funding, including fee relief, is based on enrolment data and not attendance.
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.
We understand that enrolments change across the year. Total funding, including fee relief funding, will be adjusted based on enrolment information provided in the Annual Preschool Census each August.
If enrolled families at your service nominate to access fee relief elsewhere, you will retain this funding and return the amount to the NSW Department of Education. Further information on this process will be provided in due course.
Approved providers are not permitted to increase their service’s fees to offset the benefit of the fee relief payment. However, it is at the discretion of providers to determine their specific arrangements for fees and additional charges according to their individual and community need.
Fees can be adjusted for CPI in each year. If services need to adjust fees above CPI, such as due to reasonable increases in operating costs, evidence must be retained to support the fee increase.
For more information, please refer to the Section 4.1.3 Fee guidelines in the Start Strong for Community Preschools program guidelines.
Where a child attends more than one preschool in 2023, each preschool is able to apply for Disability and Inclusion Program funding. Please refer to the Disability and Inclusion program page and HLSN funding guidelines for further information.
The fee relief payment is the only funding stream where families will need to nominate a service via the declaration form process.
Community preschool services are able to make decisions regarding enrolments based on their community need. The Priority of Access guidelines provide guidance to services on prioritising enrolments, including if children are enrolled in another community preschool (see Section 4.2 Priority of Access in the Start Strong for Community Preschools guidelines).
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 can choose how often they communicate fee relief reductions to families based on their own business practices. For example, if your service invoices or provides statements to families on a per term basis, you would communicate fee relief on this same basis.
A 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.