Choosing a service
Parents and carers can choose an early childhood education service which meets the child’s needs and aligns with practical considerations such as proximity to home, work schedules and the needs of other family members.
Types of services
There are a wide range of early childhood education and care options available to suit family needs. The different service types in NSW are listed below, which are monitored, assessed and regulated by the department in accordance with National and State Laws and the National Quality Framework.
Your child's attendance
The type of early childhood education you choose and the number of days you enrol your child is up to you, with the majority of children enrolled for two or three days per week. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds gain the greatest benefits from participation in quality early childhood education. The number of days or hours your child participates will depend on their individual circumstances and your family requirements, as well as other factors like the child's response to the new environment.
Evidence suggests that just 15 hours per week, or 600 hours per year, of participation in a quality preschool program in the year before full-time school can benefit your child.
Long day care
Long day care is usually provided in purpose built premises and mostly operates between 7am to 6pm. To suit working families and carers, children can attend all or part of the day. Some long day cares offer preschool programs. A preschool program is a 'structured, play-based learning program delivered by a degree qualified teacher aimed primarily at children in the year or two before they commence full time schooling.'
Children attending long day care can be aged from six weeks to six years old and are often grouped into rooms according to their age; for example, nursery, toddler and preschool.
Some centres also provide additional education and care services for limited numbers of primary school children before and after school and during school holidays.
Many offer lunch, and morning and afternoon tea with the menu available for parents to review.
Long day care centres are run by local councils, community organisations and individuals as well as for profit and not-for-profit organisations.
Preschools can operate in a range of settings for children who are mostly aged between three and five years of age.
The services generally open between 9am and 3.30pm, though individual services are responsible for setting their own hours. Usually services also operate in accordance with the NSW schools calendar and holiday schedules
Most preschools are community based, not-for-profit services. They employ qualified teachers and educators who run their programs and manage the preschool in collaboration with members of the management committee who are often parents and caregivers.
Family day care
Family day care (FDC) services offer flexible, home based care through a network of authorised FDC educators.
Up to seven children - with a maximum of four under preschool age - can be cared for in the residence of an approved educator.
Occasional care is mainly provided in centre based services.
For children up to school age, occasional care can be accessed on a flexible regular or irregular basis.
Services are run by community and not-for-profit organisations as well as local councils or private organisations, and may be run either independently as a standalone service or co-located within another service such as a long day care service.
Mobile services are designed to travel to areas where centre based delivery is not readily available.
They can include preschools, toy libraries, play sessions and playgroups and generally work with children between 0-6 years old.
Finding a service
Families looking for other options including long day care, family day care and outside school hours care can visit the Commonwealth Government's Child Care Finder or contact the Child Care Access Hotline on 1800 670 305. The Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority's also provides a comprehensive find child care tool.