Flexible Initiatives Trial to benefit early childhood education

Families in rural and regional NSW will benefit from $20 million in grants to fund new or adapted early childhood education and care operating models.

A woman and child. A woman and child.
Image: The Flexible Initiatives Trial aims to empower providers to better cater to the needs of local families.

More families in rural and regional NSW will have improved access to early childhood education and care (ECEC) when and where they need it most following the launch of a new trial grants program.

With a pool of $20 million over two years, services across NSW are encouraged to apply to participate in the Flexible Initiatives Trial, which will provide grants to fund new or adapted operating models.

The trial has been designed to empower providers to better cater to the needs of local families, recognising communities across the state face different challenges when it comes to accessing ECEC.

Through the trial, parents in major regional centres such as Wollongong, the Central Coast, and Newcastle commuting to Sydney for work could benefit from:

  • extended hours of care beyond traditional working hours
  • flexible pick-up and drop-off times
  • improved access to ad hoc care arrangements outside of scheduled hours

In outer regional, remote and very remote areas of NSW, the trial will support the establishment of new family day care services.

Smaller and more dispersed communities could also benefit from:

  • funding for staff recruitment
  • transport for eligible children to and from care
  • partnerships between two different service types to provide extended or wrap-around care arrangements

Acting Deputy Secretary of Early Childhood Outcomes, Mark Barraket, said the NSW Department of Education was committed to making sure all children in NSW received the best start in life.

“To achieve this goal, we must acknowledge and address the unique challenges faced by rural and regional communities across our state,” he said.

“The Flexible Initiatives Trial is a part of our commitment to addressing concerns about choice and availability of quality early childhood education and care experiences for every child.

"The trial is not a one size fits all model, it is designed around the needs of each community. How it will look in Wollongong or Newcastle is very different to the new or adapted operating models that will be trialled in our state’s west.”

Applications are open for the first round of the program and close on 1 December 2023.

Visit the NSW Department of Education website for more information, including the program guidelines and eligibility.

The trial is the first in a suite of grant programs and partnerships to be delivered in 2023-24 under the NSW Government’s 10-year Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund.

The fund will help deliver on new initiatives that supports those who need it most – children, families and the early childhood education workforce.

It will also be used to provide $500 per child of fee relief to three-year-old children attending eligible preschool programs in long day care centres, effective from early 2024.

“The Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund will create real and long-lasting change in NSW,” Mr Barraket said.

“Bold and exciting new initiatives are being developed to respond with long term solutions to the most pressing needs experienced by the early learning sector, by families and by children.”

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