There are many choices to make for your little ones in the first years of their life. Some of them are as simple as what to give them for breakfast, but some are not so simple. Choosing between preschool and long daycare is one of those more complicated choices, so NSM Lisa Norrie has outlined what she believes to be the key differences.
For some families, choosing the most suitable childcare option may come down to parent’s long working hours, meaning extended care hours is the only option.
For other families, the choice between preschool and long day care (LDC) can be an agonising decision. After all, you’re taking the first step on your child’s educational journey. Or maybe it’s the first time you are letting your little one out in to the big wide world. In the end, your decision will come down to what is best for you, your family, and of course your child.
Long Day Care vs PreSchool
- LDC facilities typically cater for children aged from 6 weeks to 5 years old. Hours usually run from 7am until 7pm and the centres are open for 48 weeks of the year.
- Preschools specifically cater for 3-5yr olds and operate in line with school terms, typically 42 weeks of the year, with hours 8:30am – 3:30pm (with some variations between centres).
The cost for child care, whether preschool or long day care, can be complex and confusing to decipher thanks to the letters CCB (Child Care Benefit) and (Child Care Rebate). Essentially, day rates for LDC work out around $100 per day with a number of rebates and benefits applicable qualifying families. For preschool, the daily rates works out around $50 with access to fewer benefits and rebates, but there are discounts available (see breakdown at the end of this article).
Philosophies and Learning Outcomes
Traditionally, LDC had a reputation for ‘caring’ for children, while preschool was associated with a focus on ‘early education’. Over the years this has changed, with the development of the Early Years Learning Framework (practices that support and enhance learning from birth to five years of age). This is expected to be implemented into all facilities.
Many preschools run a ‘Preschool Program’ from 9am to 3pm every day with the purpose of preparing children for their future schooling. Long Day Care educators also schedule in the ‘Preschool Program’ at particular times and days of the week to cater for children attending various hours and days (due to the extended hours of LDC). Outside of this scheduled time there is an aspect of ‘child care’ at LDC.
Staffing continuity can vary substantially from centre to centre. Something to consider is that because of the extended hours at LDC centres, staff members may work a rotating roster and children may have different educators throughout the day, week, or fortnightly roster and educators may also rotate across the various age rooms, although this is not always the case. As a positive, being exposed to a range of teaching approaches and personalities may suit some children and provide variety.
At preschools, educators may be more consistent due to shorter hours and working permanent days (no rosters and shifts) and because preschools run concurrently with the school terms. In this case, the consistency of teaching and familiarity of faces may benefit some children.
Many LDC centres provide all food, including a hot lunch. Many are sectioned into smaller, age-appropriate areas for most of the day and merged together at other times, providing a mix of social experiences.
Preschool routines generally imitate the school environment, including bringing morning tea and lunch from home, and set drop off and pick up times that coincide with the school day, which is helpful when you have older children attending school. Preschool facility resources and equipment are specifically dedicated to developmental needs of 3-5 year olds.
Personally, as a disclaimer, my child attends a wonderful Community Preschool at Asquith and I couldn’t be happier with the choice I made. But whatever decision you choose for your child I implore you to check out different facilities and find what feels right for your child. Whether they attend Preschool or Long Day Care all we hope is that our children come home trailing glitter, stained in paint and talking about the great things they have done that day.
Summarised Cost of Preschool vs Long Day Care
THIS IS A GUIDE ONLY: PLEASE DO YOUR OWN SUMS
Please note: traditional preschools may be ‘registered’ childcare facilities but are not generally categorised as ‘approved’ childcare facilities when researching your CCB and CCR entitlements.Aå
* Child Care Benefit (CCB) is a payment from the Australian Government that helps you with the cost of child care. CCB is income tested. The rate changes dependant on family income, the amount of care you use, reason for care and the number of children in care. You can be eligible for up to 24 hours per week without participating in any work, training or study. If you are working you may be eligible for up to 50 hours per week.
To be eligible, you need to:
- use approved or registered child care
- be responsible for paying the child care fees for your child
- meet the child immunisation requirements, and
- meet the residence requirements
** Child Care Rebate (CCR) is an additional payment that is available to families who qualify for CCB. The Rebate helps families cover the out-of-pocket costs of child care and it is not income tested. It covers up to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket costs, up to $7,500 per child, per year.
You may be eligible if:
- you use a Child Care Benefit approved child care service
- you are eligible for Child Care Benefit (see above criteria), even if you earn too much to receive payment, and
- you and your partner meet the Work, Training, Study test for Child Care Rebate or are exempt from it
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