Last week G8 education which is Australia’s largest ASX listed childcare operator attempted a hostile takeover of Affinity Education to buy 161 centres adding to it’s 500+ centres? Over the next 10 years we will increasingly see childcare groups growing larger but will the big group childcare settings or the big chains which make economies of scale work push parents towards smaller group settings and has the movement towards smaller childcare settings already begun?
Parents we have spoken to looking for childcare have told us that they see big group childcare like throwing your child to the wolves. They have been confronted by the noise, sickness, flexibility, high staff turnover and less of an individualised approach are just some of the areas parents have highlighted for why they are choosing options like family daycare, small childcare centres and nannies.
Brisbane Mum Fiona’s 2 year old has been sick for almost 3 months. “My doctor told me my daughter has what he calls, ‘kennel cough’ (what dogs get in boarding kennels). He said to imagine the siblings of the 150 kids in my centre and how quickly viruses can be passed on with that number of kids. If I wanted a healthy child, he said I should either take my daughter completely out of childcare or find somewhere with less kids. I’d love to be in a smaller care situation definitely to reduce the whole family being stuck in a constant sickness cycle but small childcare centres are rare in Brisbane or I could try Family Daycare.”
Mum of 5 Vanessa lives in Newcastle and has recently returned to Australia having lived overseas in Paris. “I prefer small centres to big supermarket childcare organisations and I don’t think enough variety of types of care are on offer.” “I am planning to open my own Suzuki music based childcare centre in Newcastle but it hasn’t been easy, the rules and regulations are almost designed to prevent smaller providers from opening and surviving in the market.” “There is actually NO SPACES available anywhere near the Newcastle CBD where I live and work. I’m commuting 30 minutes in and out twice a day to drop my baby at daycare 3 times a week on the edge of the city.
Another Brisbane mum Rachel has chosen a 40 children centre for two reasons. “I choose the centre I am in is because it’s community run. I think because it’s smaller it offers the benefits of a centre service but with a more personalised approach. The staff has been there forever, they all know my child and they seem more accountable. They can always find the socks and shoes.”
Childcare Owner Lydia Sedrak who is just about to launch a new 30 place childcare centre in Kent Street Sydney believes that parents are looking for something more tailored. “I really wanted to open a small centre and offer something to parents the opportunity to feel like they are really part of a small community. City-centres feel very isolating and often children bring people together.”
At the end of the day parents want to have an environment where their educators welcome them in the morning by name, who know what happened in their day. Who can build and engage the children in activities that capture their curiosity and grow their understanding of themselves, nature and the big wild world. Their educator understands that if they are a little bit sad that their favourite digger or colouring pencils can make an appearance. As parents we want to ultimately know that when we are at work and our children are in childcare that educators will fill our shoes and care, educate and love our little ones.