This $20 million, 2-year (2023 to 2025), test and trial program aims to support early childhood education and care providers to provide new or adapted, flexible operating models to offer increased availability of education and care.
- Status: Opening soon
- Grant amount: Variable from a total pool of $20 million
- Application opens: 30 April 2024
- Application closes: 2 July 2024, 7:00 pm
The opening and closing dates for Round 2 may change due to potential updates to the program guidelines.
The Flexible Initiatives Trial is the first program available under the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund.
The Flexible Initiatives Trial aims to make early childhood education and care (ECEC) services more accessible and flexible for families in NSW, particularly for those who need it the most. The trial also focuses on supporting ECEC educators and gathering evidence for future improvements.
The objectives are to:
- enhance accessibility for families
- increase workforce participation
- improve understanding by services of local needs and their capacity to meet those needs
- provide support for educators
- develop an evidence base to inform future program development.
This program is administered by Department of Education.
This program is funded by Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund.
Who can apply
To be eligible for the ECEC Flexible Initiatives Trial, an applicants must meet all of the following criteria:
- Be an approved early childhood education and care service provider under the Children (Education and Care Services) National Law (NSW) and Children (Education and Care Services) Supplementary Provisions Regulation 2012, excluding Department of Education preschools, operating in NSW. That is, 1 of the following eligible service types:
- community preschool (centre-based)
- mobile preschool
- long day care
- family day care
- occasional care
- before and after school care.
- primarily provide care for 0–6-year-old children or
- indicate that proposed activities supported by the ECEC Flexible Initiatives Trial be to provide care to children within the range of 0-6 years-old.
- Be registered, or be willing to register, with the Department of Education’s Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS).
- Agree to comply with the funding agreement terms and conditions of the ECEC Flexible Initiatives Trial.
- Describe, and intend to provide, a discrete and defined activity beyond the service’s normal, core, existing or ongoing activities, to be delivered under the ECEC Flexible Initiatives Trial
- Hold a quality rating and compliance history for the relevant ECEC service of Meeting, Exceeding or Excellent against the National Standard. In limited circumstances, applications from services who are rated Working Towards or are awaiting assessment and rating will be considered. Approved providers seeking to establish a new family day care service in outer regional, remote and very remote areas must already be operating at least one service in NSW which has been assessed and rated.
Types of projects funded under this grant
Funding is offered in 2 streams:
Stream 1 focuses on smaller-scale operational changes within a single provider and service type. The establishment of new family day care service locations by existing approved providers may also be funded in outer regional, remote, and very remote areas based on ARIA+ classification.
Stream 2 focuses on collaboration between 2 established approved services of differing service types working together to implement or extend flexible practices or models. An example may be an existing local family day care service providing wraparound hours care for children enrolled in a community preschool.
Applicants have the flexibility to seek funding for program activities in one or both streams, with successful applicants delivering activities based on local needs and the specifications within their individual funding agreements.
As the Flexible Initiatives Trial is a test and trial program, funding will be provided for a 12-month period.
For further information, see the program guidelines.
What can’t you apply for
ECEC Flexible Initiatives Trial funding cannot be used for:
- staff costs and operating expenses (for example, insurance, maintenance) that are not directly related to the program initiative (that is, costs relating to core service delivery)
- services located outside NSW
- activities that do not align with the program objectives
- activities that do not meet the requirements outlined in the program guidelines
- activities that do not meet the assessment criteria
- initiatives that have, at the time of assessment of the application, been completed (that is, retrospective funding)
- activities already funded through another source (that is, where another grant is funding the same elements)
- any activities in contravention of the funding agreement (which will be signed by successful services).
Note: providers may apply for funds to deliver program activities in one or both streams. Contracted providers will deliver activities according to their local need and as specified in their individual funding agreement.
Stream 1 – eligible activities
Eligible activities include smaller-scale adjustments to an existing service’s operating model such as:
- extending service operating hours or days beyond current standard operating hours
- providing flexible sessions of care aligned with Child Care Subsidy provisions (for example, casual enrolment, sessional care)
- allowing flexibility in enrolment (for example, flexible bookings)
- the establishment of new family day care service locations in outer regional, remote or very remote areas, facilitated by a qualified educator under an existing approved provider.
Examples of what may be funded under stream 1 include:
- staffing and recruitment costs for activities directly related to the program (educator and/or administrative and program-related; new or existing staff)
- operating expenses directly related to the program initiative (for example, additional rent for opening longer hours as required in some commercial contracts)
- some fees payable to the regulatory authority
- resources, equipment or operating costs directly related to the initiative (for example, costs associated purchasing or updating of digital software to manage enrolments or rostering)
- staff learning and development costs directly related to the initiative (for example, to train staff in the use of digital software to manage enrolments or rostering).
Stream 1 family day care establishment – eligible activities
Stream 1 also provides for the establishment of new family day care service locations in outer regional, remote or very remote areas, facilitated by a qualified educator under an existing approved provider. For these applicants, funding may be provided for:
- staffing and recruitment costs for activities directly related to the program (1 educator for the establishment of the trial program and/or administrative and program-related)
- transportation costs (driver, additional educator for supervision)
- minor capital works associated with the establishment of new family day care service
- some fees payable to the regulatory authority or local council.
Stream 2 – eligible activities
Eligible activities under stream 2 are larger-scale innovative operating models created by a partnership between two established approved services of differing service types working together to implement or extend flexible practices or models. An example may be an existing local family day care service providing wraparound hours care for children enrolled in a community preschool.
Examples of what may be funded under stream 2 include:
- Staffing and recruitment costs for activities directly related to the program (educator and/or administrative and program-related; new or existing staff).
- Some fees payable to the regulatory authority.
- Transportation (for children attending multiple care types under a blended model of ECEC).
What your application needs to include
You are strongly encouraged to download the application form from SmartyGrants to help you prepare.
You can also view the complete program guidelines on the Department of Education website.
Use the application checklist
Use this checklist to help make sure you have covered all the critical information required:
- Evidence that you meet the eligibility criteria.
- A description of how your proposed activity aligns with one or more of the ECEC Flexible Initiatives Trial program objectives.
- A description and qualitative and/or quantitative evidence of the local need for more flexible ECEC in your area which has been identified, and how the activities will meet this need.
- A project description, including evidence that the activities go beyond the services’ normal, core, existing or ongoing activities.
- An itemised project budget, including any additional sources of funding (if any), and relevant quotes and/or invoices to support the application for funding.
- A description and evidence that the needs of the child, how quality care will be maintained, and staff wellbeing have been considered in delivery of proposed activities.
- A description and evidence to which the application demonstrates the proposed activities will be accessible to all children and families of the service’s local community.
- If approvals are to be sought from the regulatory authority and/or local council, evidence of the application fees for any such applications, and a declaration that those approvals have not previously been sought by the applicant if payment of the fees is included in the application.
- A description of how the service intends to sustain or exit the program offering beyond the funded period, with consideration to participating children and families.
- Baseline data relevant to the proposed activity (may include enrolment numbers, session times, operating hours, fees charged).
Address the assessment criteria
Eligible applications will be evaluated by the assessment panel against the following weighted criteria:
- Provision of quantitative and/or qualitative evidence of a local need for more flexible ECEC, and a clear explanation of how the proposed activities will meet this need.
- Demonstration that the needs of the child, maintenance of quality care and staff wellbeing have been considered in delivery of proposed activities.
- The extent to which the application demonstrates that the proposed activities will be accessible to all children and families of the service’s local community.
- Clear explanation of how services will evaluate or determine the success of their trial program.
- Clear explanation as to how services intend to sustain or cease their program activities beyond the funded period, with consideration to participating children and families.
- Alignment with one or more objectives of the ECEC Flexible Initiatives Trial.
Applicants with services in the following categories will receive additional weighting towards their application in the assessment process:
- Services located in a geographic area (Statistical Area Level 1-2) with SEIFA Decile of 1 and 2 (ranking within NSW) on the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage 2021.
- Services operating in outer regional, remote, and very remote areas according to ARIA+ classification.
- Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Services, Aboriginal Controlled Children’s Services, and Aboriginal Child and Family Centres operating a service listed in eligibility criteria.
Information will also be collected from services regarding intended fees for service/s. The assessment process will consider whether the intended service provision represents value for money. Allowances will be made for the greater costs incurred by services located in rural and remote areas.
The assessment panel, on behalf of the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund Board, reserves the right to adjust how these criteria are weighted in between funding rounds.
Start the application
Applications for this grant must be submitted through SmartyGrants.
To be considered for funding, you must complete all sections and submit the online application form.
You can save your application as a draft and save changes at any time until you submit.
If you intend to submit more than 5 applications, you must contact the department on email@example.com before submitting the applications.
After the application is submitted
Successful applications will be decided by: the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund Board. The board may delegate any of its functions in relation to the administration of the program to the staff of the NSW Department of Education.
Applications will be reviewed to ensure they meet eligibility criteria and comply with the program guidelines.
During the assessment process, additional information may be requested from applicants. Consideration may also be given to information gathered through regular operations, including publicly available regulatory performance and compliance history. Once the applications are assessed both successful and unsuccessful applicants will be notified.
It is important to note that submitting an application does not guarantee funding.
Support and contact
For questions about:
- how to apply for the ECEC Flexible Initiatives Trial
- any of the eligibility criteria and what can / can’t be funded
- funding intersections and whether your service is eligible
- service ratings, regulatory enquiries and/or compliance
Visit:Flexible Initiatives Trial on the NSW Education website
Early Childhood Education Information and Enquiries team
NSW Department of Education
1800 619 113
For help with the online application system, contact:
Smarty Grants Support Desk
03 3920 6888 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday
Contracted providers are required to participate in the evaluation of the ECEC Flexible Initiatives Trial by collecting and providing requested data and participating in evaluation activities. Findings from the evaluation may be used to inform future programs under the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund.
Providers may be required to obtain consent from participating families to share relevant data with the Board, department and/or program evaluation team. If necessary, services will be provided with appropriate consent forms and disclosure information. Contracted providers must ensure consent forms are completed prior to collecting and recording personal information.