Choosing Early Childhood Education and Care
Deciding to enrol your child in an early childhood education and care service is an important decision. Start to plan as early as possible, as demand for places is high and many services have waiting lists.
It is suggested that you contact services you are interested in and arrange a visit to the centre. You can find out which education and care services operate in your area by searching the Australian Government's My Child website.
Factors to consider are quality, cost, opening hours, type of service (centre-based or family day care) and what additional services are provided, such as meals and nappies.
When making your choice you might also look for:
- Are indoor and outdoor spaces inviting?
- Do educators communicate frequently with children, including with babies?
- Are routines relaxed and unhurried?
- Is there a process for regular communication with families?
A great resource for parents is the website Starting Blocks. It provides information about early childhood education and care, and is a starting point for parents to:
- learn about children's developmental milestones
- understand what to expect from an early childhood education and care service
- find services and learn about their quality ratings
- get tips starting child care or preschool, and what can be done at home to encourage your child’s learning and development.
What Should I See At A Service?
Early childhood education and care services are required to have certain information available to families and prospective families.
- Provider approval and service approval – this will tell you who operates the service, the maximum number of children the service may care for at any one time, and whether there are any conditions or waivers in place
- Name and position of the responsible person in charge of the service at any given time
- The Quality Improvement Plan which includes the philosophy of the service;
- Copies of current policies and procedures – these detail operations in areas including health and safety, emergency management, staffing, interactions with children, management of the service, fees and complaints management
- Information about the contents and operation of the educational program – each service will differ in how they present this information. If you have any questions you can ask to discuss them with the service's educational leader
- Any waivers (exemptions) that currently apply to that service.
Waiting Lists and Allocating Places
Each early childhood education and care service will have its own procedures for taking enrolments and allocating places when a vacancy becomes available.
Waiting lists are commonly used to register the details of families seeking places.
When placing your name on a waiting list, find out what you need to do to maintain your place on the list. For example, some services may charge a fee or require you to complete an application form.
When a vacancy arises, there are many factors the service needs to consider when offer a place, including the child's age and family's preference for days. The service is also required to comply with the Australian Government's Priority of Access Guidelines.
Family Assistance to Help With Costs
Many families can access financial assistance to help with the cost of early childhood education and care.
Child Care Subsidy (CCS) commenced on 2 July 2018, replacing the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate with a single, means-tested subsidy. The CCS reduces the cost of your total fees at the time of payment. The amount by which your fees are reduced is income tested.
Further information on the CCS is available via the Department of Human Services.