Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Childcare centres off to a Goodstart

Tuesday, 29 March 2011
By Belinda Willis
The Advertiser
SOUTH Australia”s 44 ABC centres have seen a 6 per cent rise in enrolments after being bought by Goodstart.The childcare giant now employs about 600 staff across the state, and in further good news on a national front, the company is generating a surplus.

It is a welcome result for the group after last year”s highly publicised takeover

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of 661 childcare centres formerly owned and profit-driven by failed entrepreneur Eddy Groves.

Four not-for-profit organisations announced in December 2009 that they had created the company Goodstart on the back of ABC Learning”s spectacular corporate collapse.

Chief executive Julia Davison said Goodstart”s immediate focus on maximising childcare centre enrolments and introducing sound business principles

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was reaping results for what is now the country”s largest long-day care provider in Australia.

“Finances are in a strong position and the aim is to get some stability in the sector,” Ms Davison said.

“The focus that Goodstart has had in the past months has demonstrated that it can be run as a successful business. We expect to be able to increase that surplus and reinvest to improve the quality of the service,” she said. Ms Davison, who was appointed to her new role last month, has a strong South Australian link.

She was chief executive of Flinders Medical Centre for five years and chief executive of WorkCover SA for six years.

After moving to Goodstart”s Brisbane-based head office four weeks ago, Ms Davison was now in the midst of work improving access for vulnerable and at-risk children to ABC Learning centres.

Another focus was to continue work on improving the group”s quality of care and early childhood education, including attracting a high-quality workforce.

Ms Davison said Goodstart supported new Federal legislation to improve staff and child ratios along with boosting staff-qualification requirements.

The group has also committed to help move Australia from its second-last ranking out of 20 OECD countries surveyed in 2004 about public expenditure on early childhood education and care services to the top quartile.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference to Australia”s children, it”s a very large organisation that has scope to do some really good things in terms of improving quality of care and education,” Ms Davison said.

There are plans to also look at the ABC Learning brand in

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coming months, kept in place during the transition to Goodstart ownership.

“ABC has a very high brand awareness but until we do more research about what people think or know about ABC or Goodstart we”re not in a position to know what the most sensible way forward is for us in relation to the brand,” she said.

Goodstart, now providing childcare to more than 75,000 children nationally, was established by The Benevolent Society, Mission Australia, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Social Ventures Australia.

Childhood obesity starting to improve

Monday, 28 March 2011
By Julie Robotham
Sydney Morning Herald


childhood obesity epidemic has finally gone into reverse, according to a study that highlights a small but steady fall in the proportion of preschoolers deemed overweight during the past decade.

Children from poorer families have benefited most from the turnaround, the study of Victorians shows. Although those from wealthier families were more likely to be within the healthy weight range for their age, the figures show the gap halved between 1999 and 2007. Among the most disadvantaged two-year-olds, the prevalence of overweight and obesity fell from 14.2 per cent in 1999 to 13.6 per cent in 2007, while among the least disadvantaged children there was a slight increase, from 11.5 to 12 per cent.

For 3½-year-olds there was a drop from 22.8 to 18.1 per cent for the relatively disadvantaged children, and a more modest fall from 15.8 to 14.3 per cent for the children from wealthiest families.

The study leader, Boyd Swinburn, the director of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University, said the fall began after childhood obesity started to receive attention in the early 2000s.

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, used more than 200,000 children”s weight and height records. It could not assess the reason for the change, but it was possible government healthy eating and exercise programs – including improving the food at childcare centres – might be responsible.

But Professor Swinburn cautioned that the 3½-year-olds were more likely than the younger children to have gained excessive weight, 15 per cent versus 12 per cent, and strategies to prevent excessive weight gain were needed. “”The biggest risk with good news like this is people will think it”s OK to take the foot off the pedal of promoting healthier lifestyles,”” he said.

The director of weight management services at the Children”s Hospital at Vid senare insattning pa sitt konto far man aven ofta insattningsbonus eller till och med gratissnurr pa spelautomater . Westmead, Louise Baur, said it was easier for parents to control children”s weight in preschool, but children were subject to more outside influences when they reached school age.

Childcare centres favour disclosure

Thursday, 24 March 2011
By Michelle Griffin
WA Today

UNACCREDITED childcare services want every detail of their assessments included on the national childcare database, MyChild, so that parents can judge for themselves.

While the federal government plans to turn its MyChild website into a “”report card”” on every Australian childcare service from January 1, some in the childcare sector fear the website”s “”name and shame”” approach will penalise centres trying to improve their services.

“”MyChild is a bit like My School – it”s a very blunt instrument,”” says Peter Ruzyla, the chief executive of EACH Social and Community Health, which operates the Community Child and Family Centre in Ringwood. “”It doesn”t tell the whole story.””

Last September, the centre pleaded guilty to a breach of state safety regulations after an autistic preschooler scaled the fence while a worker was attending to another child. Mr Ruzyla says the centre has replaced its two-metre regulation childcare fence with steel Colorbond – “”we”re hoping it”s harder to wrap your toes around it”” – and introduced stricter supervision guidelines, but he is annoyed that details of the follow-up weren”t included when the Victorian government published the prosecution on its Education Department website.

While enforcement notices against Victorian centres will not be listed on the MyChild website – they”ll continue to be published separately by the state government – Mr Ruzyla is concerned that the new national database will record quality ratings without providing reasons. “”It”s just a dashboard, it doesn”t tell the whole story.””

His 90-place centre lost its accreditation after failing the last child development assessment, but the centre”s new early learning programs are not listed on government websites. The owner of another unaccredited centre, Thomastown Learning Centre, says she lost her accreditation because she could not find a diploma-qualified worker to comply with child-staff ratios. “”I want to see more information on that website so the department can”t hide behind their wording,”” says Carolyn, who refused to give her last time. “”Bring it on. Will they write that there was a broken vinyl tile under a chair or that we were endangering children? Some of these things are really nitpicking.””

The quality ratings introduced next year are a reliable guide to a centre”s standards, says Barbara Romeril, executive director of Victoria”s Community Childcare Association. But Ms Romeril “”doesn”t believe websites are the best measure of a childcare service””.

She says parents should still “”be talking to the providers about the services and spending time at the centre observing”” before deciding where to enrol their child. Parents will also need to be educated about what the quality standards mean, Ms Romeril says.

In a statement sent to The Age, Minister for Childcare Kate Ellis said: “We want to give parents and carers the information they need

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to make the very best decisions for their family.””

Childcare on wheels picks up speed

Friday, 25 March 2011
By Tash Impey

Childcare on wheels doesn”t sound like the safe and stable environment one envisages to look after their children while earning their keep. But for regional towns in the South East there is no alternative option. Luckily it”s not as bumpy as it may sound.

Demand for childcare in fast-growing rural and regional areas in South East South Australia has skyrocketed in the past decade and the cries for a budget reform have so far failed to deliver necessary funds.

Small beachside towns Robe and Beachport along with Kangaroo Inn have so far survived on a mobile childcare service adopted from interstate in 1998.

CCOWS (ChildCare On Wheels Service) has operated out of the Robe District Council Chambers since it was established thirteen years ago as the only viable childcare option in the region which has been funded primarily by the Federal Government.

Director of Children”s Services and Manager of CCOWS Robyn Paterson said the funding received has not matched the expenditure and fears that over the next few years they will have difficulty sustaining their level of service.

“We would have to decrease the number of days or the number of staff.

“If we decrease the number of days we operate then that is diminishing peoples choice to return to work and be productive in this community.”

Changes in social structure in the last decade accompanied with financial hardships and drought have seen women return to work in regional areas at a rapid pace with childcare waiting lists through the roof.

Paterson said the increasing demand for childcare has put their services under stress.

“We find it difficult to access qualified staff in a rural and regional place. Our funds need to grow at the same rate that our expenditure is growing.”

An unusual initiative, CCOWS moves equipment and staff to available premises to make childcare accessible to parents.

Without enough families to initially warrant a building large enough solely for childcare, Paterson said she now holds concerns that the lack of childcare options could prevent the growth and development of regional towns, particularly Robe.

“The productivity of a small region like this is really affected when there is a lack of places in childcare.

“If parents are working they want to make sure their children are well-cared for so they will nominate to go somewhere there is childcare.

“By having limited spaces available in Robe I think we are definitely looking at a less productive employment situation and a less productive community.”

Despite the financial struggles, Paterson said the operative model has been embraced by the community and working mothers.

“That is the reason we have such a long waiting list because there is no alternative.

“Parents choose to book into our system the moment they get pregnant so they will be best placed to take a place when one becomes available” said Paterson.

Historical Independent Consultant Articles

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