Early Childhood Education and Care services
Education and care services aim to meet the education, care and development needs of children. There are a range of different models of early education and care services in New South Wales. Most of these services are approved to operate by the Department of Education and Communities. Education and care services can be:
- centre-based services such as preschools, long day care and occasional care;
- home-based services such as family day care or in-home care;
- mobile children’s services; and
- specific services for children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
Some families using preschools are eligible for fee support through funding the preschool receives from the State Government. Additionally, some preschools are classified as Registered Care and families are able to claim a small rebate, via the Commonwealth Government’s Family Assistance Office. Families using services other than preschools are eligible for fee assistance from the Commonwealth Government through the Child Care Benefit system and the Child Care Tax Rebate. Preschools are open an average of 40 weeks per year and don’t charge for school holidays, which makes fees more affordable.
Preschools (also known as kindergartens) provide an educational program in a dedicated preschool setting catering for children aged between three and five years of age. Educational programs are provided, based on the developmental needs, interests and experience of each child. These services are primarily for children in the two years before they commence full-time schooling. Children generally may attend a number of days per week. Most services operate between 9am–3pm during school terms only. Some preschools offer extended hours, which consists of the preschool program plus additional care before and after the program; for example, from 8am–9am or 3pm–4pm. Some preschools are run from specific dedicated centres, while others operate out of church buildings or community halls. Some preschools are mobile preschools which come to specific towns or suburbs on set days and provide preschool in often isolated communities.
Long Day Care Centres
Long day care centres (also known as childcare centres) are primarily children from birth–to–5 year olds, and are provided in a centre-based environment, usually by a mix of qualified and other staff. Long day care centres generally open for at least eight hours per day and run for 48 weeks a year.
Long day care centres also provide educational programs. Some long day care centres use the word kindergarten or preschool in their names so sometimes it is confusing to identify what sort of service a centre is, particularly as long day care centres are a mix of not-for-profit and for profit operators. The easiest way to tell if a centre is a preschool or a long day care centre is by the number of hours they operate and the number of weeks open per year. Generally, preschool hours are shorter.
If you are interested in finding a long day care centre in your area, go to www.mychild.gov.au
Family Day Care
Family day care is a network of caregivers who provide care and developmental activities in their own homes for other people’s children. Family day carers must register with a licensed co-ordination scheme who organise and support a network of carers.
Occasional Care Services
Occasional care services are provided at a centre on an hourly or sessional basis for short periods or at irregular intervals for parents who need time to attend appointments, take care of personal matters, undertake casual and part-time employment, study or have temporary respite from full-time parenting. These services provide developmental activities for children aged from birth–to–5 years.