THE littlest learners – from birth to big school – will benefit from $4.5 million in grants announced last week.
On her last day of work before maternity leave, Early Childhood Services Minister Sarah Mitchell delivered the news in Tamworth.
The first $2 million is a new Start Strong Pathways program, open for applications at the end of the month.
It will give funding to NSW not-for-profit groups to help them engage children from birth to three years.
Mrs Mitchell said people might apply for money for extra resources, for staff, to book a regular venue, to run a literacy program or even just to get a not-for-profit group off the ground.
But she said the government had “kept the parameters pretty broad”.
“We’re really open to ideas from the community that are innovative,” she said.
The other $2.5 million is further funding under the Community Grants program.
She said the aim of both packages was to get children on the path from informal settings such as playgroups, through to early education such as preschool, then into formal education in kindergarten and primary school.
“[Research shows] if you can have a child have one year of early childhood education before school, they start about three to five months ahead of other children, and if they do two years it’s eight months ahead … If you get them into those programs even from say, three, they’re almost a year ahead of where they’d be if they didn’t have anything.
“And the younger that you start – in a way that’s play-based and not too rigorous – [it’s] just that engagement, the social skills, the development that they get.”
Playgroup NSW chief executive Nadene Lees said was “a fantastic opportunity for families across NSW”.
Community Connections Solutions Australia chief Meg Mendham said an important benefit was to help families tap into other services; “wraparound support: identifying any vulnerabilities with parents; any intervention that might be needed for the child”.
The Community Grants are for existing preschools and mobile preschools to get children from Aboriginal and disadvantaged communities involved in early childhood education.
Preschools could apply for funds for transport, breakfast programs or Aboriginal-identified staff positions, for example.
Applications will open to not-for-profit community groups in February.