Start Strong Pathways
Community based and not for profit services are available to help support the early learning needs of young children by offering families a pathway into early childhood education. These services also help expand a child’s social horizons beyond family and home-based interactions.
This page describes the objectives, approach and expectations that underpin Start Strong Pathways.
The Start Strong Pathways program will help provide educational supports for young children prior to preschool enrolment, strengthen the engagement of children within these services, and help promote the importance of early childhood education to parents.
Start Strong Pathways has three core objectives:
- support educational engagement of children too young to receive a preschool education
- support pathways to preschool
- promote the importance of early childhood education to parents and communities
3. Eligibility Criteria
To be eligible to apply for Start Strong pathways, services must meet all of the following criteria:
- be a not-for-profit community based service
- engage a certificate III or diploma qualified early childhood educator, early childhood education teacher, or other person with a relevant tertiary qualification to run or design the service activities
- have established links with early childhood education providers
- comply with the Terms and Conditions of the Early Childhood Education Grants Program.
Start Strong Pathways funding has been provided through a competitive application process through the SmartyGrants online application system. Applications for this program are now closed. Application requirements included:
- information on the funding and planned expenditure of the service activities applying for funding, including evidence of financial sustainability
- information on the operational structure of the service, including hours of operation and staffing details
- information on the service activities applying for funding, including links to early childhood education services, numbers and characteristics of attendees, and justification of need in the local community.
In 2020 transition arrangements to Start Strong Pathways were provided for recipients of the Early Childhood Grants program and the Occasional Care Grants program.
5. Priority of Funding
Priority was given to:
- services transitioning to Start Strong Pathways from the Long Day Care, Occasional Care, Vacation Care or Early Childhood Projects funding programs as part of the Early Childhood Education Grants Program
- services engaging with vulnerable community groups with limited access to early childhood education in the area which they service. This could include any of the following demographic groups:
- children with disability
- Aboriginal children
- children from low income families
- children from a culturally and linguistically diverse background
- children who are at risk of significant harm (from a child protection perspective)
- socially isolated families.
6. Determination of Funding
Determination of funding under Start Strong Pathways is at the discretion of the department and is based on information received during the application process.
Criteria taken into consideration when determining funding includes:
- whether the service currently receives funding under the Long Day Care, Occasional Care, Vacation Care or Early Childhood Projects programs
- whether the service engages vulnerable communities
- community need for the service
- outcomes for children attending the service
- operational structure of the service, such as days/hours of operations, location, and staffing structure
- number of children attending the service
- the links between the service and early childhood education providers
- the cost of the service to the community
- other sources of income for the service
- availability of other funding sources
7. Spending rules
Services receiving Start Strong Pathways funding are required to use at least 70% of this funding on any combination of the following:
- purchasing educational resources
- employment of a certificate III or diploma qualified early childhood educator, early childhood education teacher, or other suitably qualified person
- venue costs (including mobile venue costs).
The remaining funds may be used for these purposes or for other administrative costs of the funded service activities.
Service providers are required to certify that funds have been spent in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of the Early Childhood Education Grants Program.
Services impacted by COVID-19 may adjust their service delivery model to continue providing services where possible. Where service delivery has been adjusted as a result of COVID-19, services should advise the Department via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding under Start Strong Pathways is paid quarterly on a calendar year basis contingent on compliance with annual accountability requirements.
An extension of the Start Strong Pathways program through to 30 June 2021 has been confirmed. Arrangements for the extension period are documented in the extension contact agreed to by the Department and the service.
9. Performance Reporting
Services funded under Start Strong Pathways are required to complete annual Performance and Financial accountability statements. These accountability reports will be used to ensure services are receiving the appropriate level of funding, and are compliant with program requirements. Services may be audited to confirm the accuracy of data provided in Performance and Financial accountability statements.
10. Program Review and Evaluation
This program will be reviewed in 2020, or as otherwise required, to ensure the program continues to align with departmental priorities.
11. Contact Details
For information about Start Strong Pathways, please contact the department’s Early Childhood Education Directorate by:
Phone: 1300 755 426
12. Further information
Slides from the information session held on 5 December 2017 (PDF 1017.26KB) are available for download.