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.

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. Equity base rate funding was increased to $6,732 from 1 January 2019 to reflect a 2.0 per cent adjustment made to current funding rates under Start Strong.

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 2968.67KB) for community preschools is available to assist services to estimate their Start Strong funding for 2019-20 financial year.

Services can use information contained in their August 2019 Preschool Census Summary Report to estimate their funding.

The funding calculator 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 calculator are an estimate only and not a guarantee of funding.

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 4 to 5.

Visit Start Strong Long Day Care program guidelines for more information.

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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