Early Childhood

Important Higher Education reform information: See the Higher Education reform package page to find out how these reforms affect the HECS‑HELP Benefit.

What is this initiative?

The HECS‑HELP Benefit for early childhood education teachers reduces the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debt of early childhood education teachers who work in areas of high need, including regional and remote areas, Indigenous communities and areas of high disadvantage, based on postcode location.

The HECS‑HELP Benefit for early childhood education will be discontinued from 1 July 2015. Eligible graduates will have until 30 June 2017 to claim the HECS‑HELP Benefit for work undertaken in the 2014-15 income year.

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How does it work?

Eligible early childhood education teachers are able to apply to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for a HECS‑HELP Benefit to reduce their HELP debt for the previous income year. Eligible early childhood education teachers have two years in which to apply for the Benefit for a particular financial year.

The best time to lodge your application is generally at the same time as lodging your income tax return.

A list of eligible postcodes is available below.

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Expansion of the Benefit

On 1 December 2011 the Australian Government announced the expansion of the HECS‑HELP Benefit for early childhood education.

The changes include:

  • An expansion of the number of eligible postcodes to include all rural and remote areas, including regional cities. Areas with a high Indigenous population as well as areas of socio-economic disadvantage will continue to be targeted.
  • Removing the current requirement that a teacher spends 50 per cent of the week ‘teaching’. This will allow eligible qualified early childhood teachers who are providing pedagogical support to other staff, but not carrying this level of teaching workload, obtain the benefit.

Early childhood education teachers can apply for the expanded Benefit for the 2011‑12 income years and later years.

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Am I eligible?

You are eligible for the Benefit if you:

  • have completed an early childhood education teaching degree;
  • have a current HECS-HELP debt;
  • worked in an eligible facility as an early childhood teacher or in a teaching related occupation for at least one week in the previous year; and
  • worked in an eligible postcode.

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What is an eligible employment facility?

Your employment must be at a facility providing education and/or childcare services to children prior to them commencing formal schooling. The names assigned to the first year of formal schooling vary by state and territory. Table 1 below provides examples of eligible and ineligible facilities for each state and territory.

Table 1: Eligible and ineligible facilities

Table 1: Eligible and ineligible facilities
State or territory Examples of eligible facilities Examples of ineligible facilities
NSW Children's service – including child care centre, preschool, long day care, centre-based and mobile services Kindergarten
QLD Child care centre, kindergarten/preschool Preparatory
VIC Child care centre, kindergarten/preschool
(Kindergarten is the most common term, but preschool is also used)
WA Child care centre, kindergarten Pre-primary
SA Child care centre, kindergarten/preschool Reception, Junior primary
TAS Child care centre, kindergarten Preparatory
NT Child care centre, preschool Transition
ACT Child care centre, preschool Kindergarten
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What are the eligible postcodes?

This Benefit aims to encourage early childhood education teachers to work in specified locations in rural and regional areas, Indigenous Australian communities and areas of socio‑economic disadvantage as identified by postcode.

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How much Benefit will I receive?

The Benefit will provide eligible early childhood education teachers with a reduction in their HELP debt of up to a maximum amount each year. The amount you will receive is calculated on a pro‑rata basis according to the number of weeks worked in the income year period.

The maximum HECS‑HELP Benefit as an early childhood education teacher is:

  • $1,693.99 for the 2010–11 income year;
  • $1,744.81 for the 2011–12 income year;
  • $1,795.41 for the 2012–13 income year;
  • $1,831.32 for the 2013–14 income year;
  • $1,878.93 for the 2014–15 income year; and
  • $1,918.39 for the 2015–16 income year.

The maximum amount will be indexed in later years.

Example 1
Max completed an early childhood education teaching course of study in 2013. He was employed as a preschool teacher in an eligible remote area for the entire 2014‑15 income year. Max lodges his 2014‑15 income tax return in July 2015 and applies for the HECS‑HELP Benefit at the same time. His repayment income is $38,000 and his accumulated HELP debt is $10,000.

As Max’s repayment income is below the minimum repayment threshold no compulsory HELP repayment is required.

Max is eligible for the maximum HECS‑HELP Benefit as an early childhood education teacher, which is $1,878.93. The ATO reduces Max’s accumulated HELP debt by $1,878.93 to $8,121.07.

Example 2
Anna completed early childhood teaching degree in November 2014 and worked as a preschool teacher in an eligible remote area from January 2015 to June 2015 for a period of 26 employed weeks in the 2014‑15 income year. Anna incurred a HELP debt of $12,000 upon completion of her degree. Anna lodges her 2014‑15 income tax return in August 2012 and applies for the HECS‑HELP Benefit at the same time. Her repayment income is $50,000 and her compulsory repayment is $2,000.

Anna’s HECS‑HELP Benefit amount is calculated as follows:

Maximum Benefit* ÷ 52 x weeks employed = Benefit received
$1,878.93 ÷ 52 x 26 = $939.47

Anna’s accumulated HELP debt, through her compulsory repayment, is reduced by $939.47. Anna is required to make a HELP debt repayment of $1,060.53 ($2,000 - $939.47).

*Maximum HECS‑HELP Benefit amount for the income year for a early childhood education graduate.

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Am I also eligible to receive HECS-HELP Benefit for education graduates?

Eligible education graduates who have graduated from second semester 2009 onwards and who take up employment in teaching will be able to apply for a HECS-HELP Benefit which will reduce their HELP repayments. The maximum Benefit for the 2015-16 income year for eduation graduates will be $1798.48. This amount will be indexed in 2016- 17.

Note that the HECS-HELP Benefit for education graduates will also be discontinued from 1 July 2015.

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I want more information, including how to apply for the Benefit

Detailed information about both benefits and how to apply is available on the ATO website (opens in a new window).

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