What are the different types of early childhood education and care services?

When looking for early education and care services, families can choose from a variety of different service models. The key differences between the various service types are summarised below:

Hours Age Groups What’s Provided
Long Day Care
Generally between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm Children aged 0-6
  • Most offer morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, otherwise families need to provide their own food.
  • Nappies are often provided.
  • An educational program that is in line with the Early Years Learning Framework is in place for all children.
  • Long Day Cares can offer a preschool program where an early childhood teacher works with the children. Check with your provider to see if they offer a preschool program.
Typically between 9:00am and 3:00pm. Most preschools are closed during school holidays. Generally for children aged 3-6 with a focus on children in their year before school
  • Families generally provide own food.
  • An educational program that is in line with the Early Years Learning Framework is in place for all children.
  • An early childhood teacher works with the children who are in the year before school.
Family Day Care
Flexible hours by arrangement. Children aged 0-13
  • This type of care is for small numbers of children in an individual educator’s home.
  • Home based education and care for children provided by a Family Day Care educator who is registered with a Family Day Care Service.
  • The Service provides administrative and other support for the educator.
  • An educational program is in place for younger children in line with the Early Years Learning Framework.
  • Provision of meals and nappies depends on the service.
Outside School Hours Care (OSHC)
7:00 am -9:00 am and 3:00 pm -6:00 pm All day through school holidays and on pupil-free days. Children attending school
  • A program of activities is provided.
  • Most offer afternoon tea.
  • Families usually provide lunches and snacks during vacation care periods.
Occasional Care
Flexible hours by arrangement and on a casual basis. Children aged 0-13
  • Occasional care is for parents who need their child cared for on an irregular or unexpected basis.
  • Meals and nappies are sometimes provided.
  • The service provides a program of educational and recreational activities
Mobile Services
Days and hours may vary depending on service Children aged 0-13
  • These are ‘travelling’ services for children in isolated and remote areas.
  • Most meals are provided by families.
  • The service provides a program of activities with a focus on play.
Home-based Care
Flexible hours by arrangement Children aged 0-13
  • This is similar to family day care, except that the carer operates alone and is not part of a scheme.
  • Home based care is regulated under separate State law (the Children (Education and Care Services) Supplementary Provisions Act).
  • Meals and nappies are as by arrangement.
  • State-regulated services are not quality-rated.

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How do I find an early childhood service in my area?

There are a number of websites where you can search for an education and care service that meets your needs.

Services including long day care, family day care and out of school hours care can be found through the Australian Government’s MyChild website, which provides information on the quality rating of each NQF service as well as vacancies. Alternately, you can call the MyChild Hotline on either 13 36 84 or 1800 670 305. The MyChild website and Hotline also provide information on financial assistance available from the Australian Government to help with the cost of care.

If you are interested in identifying a suitable preschool, visit the Preschools NSW website where you can search for preschools in NSW. These include over 750 community-based preschools and around 100 preschools operated by the Department of Education. These can also be searched on the Schools NSW website.

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How can my Aboriginal child access a preschool program?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children may be eligible for additional funding to support their participation in early childhood education and care. Families can contact their local community early childhood education service for more information.

There are a number of search engines to help you find early education and care services near you.

You can search for Community based Preschools on the Preschools NSW website.  Community based preschools are not-for-profit entities designed to meet the needs of the children and families of the community in which they are situated.

You can also locate services (including non-preschool services like Long Day Care and Family Day Care) on the Commonwealth Government’s MyChild website.  This site also provides information on the quality rating of each service.

In addition, you can call the Childcare Access Hotline on 1800 670 305. The hotline can give you up-to-date information on child care services in your area, the types of care available and government help with the cost of care. The hotline operates from 8 am to 6 pm nationally Monday to Friday and is a free call unless calling from a mobile phone.

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How are services assessed and what do the ratings mean?

In NSW, family day care services and most centre based services, including long day care, preschool, and outside school hours care services are quality-rated against a national benchmark known as the National Quality Standard.

The National Quality Standard covers seven quality areas:

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
  7. Leadership and service management


Services receive a rating in each quality area, as well as an overall rating. Ratings are published to help parents make more informed choices about their child’s education and care.

In NSW, services are assessed and rated by staff from the Early Childhood Education Directorate of the Department of Education.  The process involves a visit to the service to observe its practices, supplemented by a desktop analysis of the service’s compliance history and Quality Improvement Plan.

Once assessed and rated, services must display their ratings on site. Ratings are also published on the national register of services and the MyChild website.

What do the ratings mean?

There are five rating levels under the National Quality Framework.

Excellent means that a service demonstrates excellence and is recognised as a sector leader. Services apply to the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) to be assessed against this level.

Exceeding National Quality Standard means that a service meets all standards across the seven quality areas and has received a rating of ‘Exceeds National Quality Standard’ in at least four quality areas.

Meeting National Quality Standard means that a service has received a rating of at least ‘Meets National Quality Standard’ in all seven quality areas.

Working Towards National Quality Standard means that a service has received a rating of ‘Working Towards National Quality Standard’ for one or more of the quality areas.

Significant Improvement Required means that the service is not meeting the National Quality Standard.

What do the ratings mean for families?

Quality education and care services are places where educators are committed to building strong relationships with you and your child as well as provide children with a variety of experiences that promote and extend their learning and development.

Each service is different and the ratings should not be the only consideration in choosing a service that will be right for you and your child. It’s important to look at a service’s rating across all the quality areas, not just the overall rating, and to talk with a service’s director or coordinator about what their ratings mean.

It’s also important to find a service that shares your values and will work with you to ensure your child is safe and happy in a positive learning environment.

Each service has a Quality Improvement Plan outlining how it will maintain its current quality practices and progress them to the next level. Families are encouraged to talk with the director or coordinator about their service’s current rating and plans for continuous improvement. Families can contribute to the process by making suggestions that will help the service to further improve its practices, policies and philosophy.

More information on assessment at rating is available on the ACECQA website.

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What regulations do early childhood education and care services need to follow?

The Department of Education, through its Early Childhood Education Directorate, regulates education and care services in NSW for children from birth to school age.

There are two regulatory frameworks for NSW services: a national system that covers most types of services (family day care, long day care, preschool and out of school-hours care) and a separate State system for certain types of education and care (‘home-based’ care; mobile services; certain types of services in remote communities; and occasional care).

Services covered by the national system are regulated under the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations. Other service types are regulated under the NSW Children (Education and Care Services) Supplementary Provisions Act and Regulations.

Both regulatory frameworks set comprehensive requirements and have features in common.  For example, both frameworks have detailed criteria for –

  • gaining approval as a provider (the person or entity that will operate a service) and for a service (the actual centre where education and care will be delivered)
  • safeguarding the health, safety and wellbeing of children
  • staffing arrangements, including educator-to-child ratios and educator qualifications; and
  • the management of services, such as record keeping and policies and procedures.

Regardless of which framework they are regulated under, every service is required to have documents describing its policies and procedures that will safeguard and nurture children.  This material must be made available to families on request.

How can I make a complaint about a service?

All services are required to have clear procedures for handling concerns, complaints or grievances. A copy of your service’s complaints handling procedures will be available at the service and is often included in the parent handbook.

The Department’s Early Childhood Education Directorate can follow up complaints about services. If a service has not adequately resolved your concerns, you can contact the Directorate’s Information and Enquiries Team on 1800 619 113 (toll free) or email ececd@det.nsw.edu.au.

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How can I find a School for my child?

There are different types of Public Schools and you can use the School Locator to find a NSW Public School in your area.

There are a number of helpful resources you can use to find a non-government school for your child, such as the Association of Independent Schools NSW’s School Finder and the Catholic Schools Directory of the Catholic Education Commission of NSW.

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What are the higher education options in NSW?

There are 11 public universities and 56 non-university higher education providers in NSW. Further details about each university can be obtained from their websites (links below).

Public Universities

Non-university Higher Education Providers

Information about each of the State’s 56 non-university higher education providers and the courses they offer can be found on the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) website.

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How do I enrol in a university?

Direct from school

School students in NSW wanting to enrol in a university must complete the Higher School Certificate (HSC) and receive an Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking (ATAR).

The ATAR is a number between 0.00 and 99.95 that ranks a student relative to all other students based on their HSC achievement.

It is used by universities to determine eligibility to enrol in a university course. The minimum ATAR required for enrolment varies depending on the course.

NSW university enrolments are managed by the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC). Its website contains all of the key information about applying to enrol in a university course. It also provides information about bonus ATAR point schemes, equity scholarships and other entry options.

Information about the HSC can be found on the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW website.

Mature-age entry and other pathways

Universities have a variety of other entry pathways, including:

  • Year 12 achievement records from other countries
  • Mature-age entry
  • Entry testing
  • University preparation courses and other pathway options from vocational education
  • Assessment of prior academic achievement.

See individual institutions’ websites for details.

International Students

Universities and non-university higher education providers in NSW offer many options for overseas students, with approximately 30% of international students in Australia choosing to study their higher education course in NSW.

To study in NSW you should first review the information provided by the Study NSW website.

Further useful information for international students is available from the Study in Australia website.

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How do I choose a university course?

Universities and higher education providers in NSW offer different qualifications and have different entry requirements and costs.  The university websites listed above, as well as the UAC website and annual handbook, provide more detail about courses.

An additional reference source is the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) website which allows direct comparisons of higher education institutions and study areas as rated by students.

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How much are university fees and what support is available?

Student Fees 

Undergraduate and some graduate course fees for domestic students are funded by a combination of a Commonwealth Government contribution and a student contribution.

Students are able to defer payment of their contribution until they graduate and earn an income above a set threshold. This system is known as HECS-HELP.

Eligible students can obtain loan assistance via FEE-HELP in paying part or all of their tuition fees for courses in some institutions where students have to pay the full cost of a course because there is no Commonwealth Government contribution.

The Commonwealth Government’s Study Assist website provides more information about assistance for financing tertiary study.

Student support

Youth Allowance

Financial help for people aged 16 to 24 years who are studying full time, undertaking a full time Australian Apprenticeship or training.


Financial help to full-time students and Australian Apprentices aged 25 years or more.


Financial help with costs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who are studying or undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship.

Scholarships & Accommodation

Information on scholarships, bursaries and accommodation support offered by universities and non-university higher education providers in NSW can be obtained from each institution’s website.

Student Travel

Half fare concession tickets on most public transport services are available to eligible tertiary students who hold a NSW Tertiary Student Concession Card,.

Further information can be obtained from the Transport for NSW website.

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Who is responsible for universities in NSW?

The eleven NSW public universities are largely autonomous institutions under their establishing legislation, with governing bodies responsible for regulating their own affairs.  Each governing body or council includes staff and student representatives.

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Who do I go to if I have an issue with a NSW university?

If you have an issue involving a university, the approach to solving it varies depending on the nature of the concern.

Universities themselves are responsible for most matters regarding administration academic standards, student entry and progression requirements.  They have well-structured internal systems for dealing with complaints, usually through a university ombudsman or equivalent. Relevant information and contact details are available on university web sites.

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Where can I find information about vocational education and training and adult and community education?

Along with higher education, the vocational education and training (VET) and adult and community education (ACE) sectors make up the broad tertiary education sector in New South Wales.

The VET and ACE sectors are administered under the NSW Industry portfolio.

The following websites provide information about VET and ACE provision in New South Wales:

The NSW Smart and Skilled program



Community Colleges Australia

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