Wednesday, 31 August 2011

G8 boss looks past Singapore saga

Tuesday, 30 August 2011
By Lucy Ardern
Gold Coast Business
BETWEEN G8 Education and S8, Chris Scott has been involved in 50 acquisitions — but he says the takeover of Singapore childcare group Cherie Hearts has been the worst.G8 Education, which is based in Bundall, and Cherie Hearts head to court in Singapore on September 5 in an effort to resolve a dispute about a $19.2 million deal.The agreement was for the purchase of 70 Cherie Hearts childcare centres, but there has been a dispute between the parties over 13 of them.

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Mr Scott, who is accustomed to the rough and tumble of corporate takeovers after building a global tourism

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empire through his former listed vehicle S8 Ltd, is counting down the days to the end of the battle.

“Hopefully it will all be resolved by September 16,” he said.

The Singapore-based director plans to then spend the majority of his time back on the Gold Coast focusing on future acquisitions for the company.

The company yesterday reported a strong half-year result.

G8 Education’s profit after tax and after significant items was $3.746 million, which was up 446 per cent.

Earnings per share for G8 Education were 2.03c, up 133 per cent.


Queensland bottom of class for kindergarten attendance

Tuesday, 30 August 2011
By Tanya Chilcott
Courier Mail

COST is a major barrier stopping parents from sending children to kindergarten in Queensland, experts warn.

It comes as the state tries to push its poor kindy attendance rate up to 65 per cent this year and make it universally available by 2014.

Queensland’s low attendance rate has been linked to the state’s lagging performance on student national tests and for children not being properly prepared for Prep.

While all other states have more than 80 per cent of children attend a pre-Prep program, in Queensland the rate in 2008 was only 29 per cent.

A successful State Government campaign pushed that attendance rate up to 40 per last year, with the Government committing to rolling out 240 extra kindergarten services statewide by 2014.

But C&K CEO Barrie Elvish and Childcare Queensland CEO Gwynn Bridge said cost was the biggest barrier.

QUT School of Early Childhood senior lecturer Dr Sue Irvine said affordability had been identified as

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“one of the top barriers”, along with geography.

“We do need to be looking at this more closely to make sure all children can benefit,” Dr Irvine said.

Mr Elvish said C&K was looking at charging $26 a day for kindergarten next year, which for some parents was unaffordable.

“It is time now for kindy parents to also be eligible for the childcare benefit, or at least a modified version of it.”

Ms Bridge said there had been an erosion in the Child Care Benefit subsidy, while payment guidelines for the Child Care Rebate disadvantaged families with no or only one parent in the workforce.

She said more children attended pre-Prep programs interstate because of lower cost.

Education Minister Cameron Dick said the Government had “championed the issue of early childhood education and care affordability at a national level”.

He said the Government directed higher levels of funding to services operating in disadvantaged or remote areas and provided a fee-relief subsidy for families who held a Health Care Card.

“We also are investigating options to further support Queensland families,” he said.

Morningside mum Kirsty Rosso, who works part-time while studying, said the cost of sending her daughter to kindy added up but it was important.

“There are some subsidies but as a single mum it doesn’t help much . . . some extra help from the Government would be a blessing,” she said.


Strapped for cash, parents push for two years’ prep

Sunday, 28 August 2011
By Deborah Gough
The Age

Alana Chapman has gone from being anxious to being eager to get to school under a two-year prep program offered by Mill Park Heights Primary School. Photo: Wayne Taylor
VICTORIAN parents are increasingly demanding their children begin primary school before they are ready, forcing many to repeat prep and prompting the state’s largest primary school to offer a two-year prep program to deal with the influx of immature children.

Financially burdened parents say the cost of childcare and kindergarten, and the prospect of another year out of the workforce are factors in requesting their children start school early.

However, the Education Department is pressuring Mill Park Heights Primary School to abandon its two-year prep program, saying it breaches department policy. Principal Deborah Patterson said she had ”been copping a lot of flak over it”.

”It is like you are interfering with the ecosystem when you try to bring in something new,” Ms Patterson said.

She said the rigid approach of the department to innovations such as the program was restricting principals and driving some parents into the private system.

In Victoria, children can start school from four years and nine months and must attend school by their sixth birthday.

A department spokeswoman said students who were not ready for their next school year could repeat. ”However, this is done on a case-by-case basis, in full consultation with parents,” she said, ”and is not an arrangement which applies to an entire class.

”The department is working with the [Mill Park Heights] school to move to the case-by-case approach.”

The Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett said that some parents were shopping around for schools that would allow their child to repeat prep.

”It does happen, particularly with working families, where a kid may have been in childcare and it’s a lot cheaper to send them to school,” Ms Bluett said.

Families were telling schools their child must go to school, even though their kindergarten teacher said the child needed another year to develop socially and emotionally, principals told The Sunday Age.

Mill Park Heights introduced its two-year prep program earlier this year to give socially and emotionally immature children an extra year to get ready for a regular classroom.

Ms Patterson said in 2009 she thought she had convinced 22 parents to delay their child’s enrolment at school until 2010, but 16 of them enrolled in other schools in 2009 anyway.

”We took the high moral ground on the issue and supported the kinder teachers’ assessment, but we weren’t considering the financial factors and other issues for parents who couldn’t keep their children at kinder or school for another year – we had to respond to our community to do something for those children,” Ms Patterson said.

”I can see the dilemma that parents are in and often they cannot even get a second year of kindergarten. In our area of Whittlesea, only one kindergarten has any vacancies for next year,” she said.

It is believed to be the only two-year prep program running in the state system. State schools have effectively been banned by Education Department policy from operating ”pre-prep” classes for a decade, yet Catholic and independent schools regularly offer them.

Mill Park Heights’s trial program has 30 students enrolled in its first year and 140 enrolled in straight-prep grades. Through play, the first-year students learn only the literacy and numeracy elements of the prep curriculum. The rest of the time is devoted to developing social and emotional skills.

”We have seen a child go from rocking into a foetal position in the classroom and in a short time she is just blossoming under the program. I know we are doing the right thing,” Ms Patterson said.

She expected some of the first-year children would jump straight into year 1 and miss the straight-prep year.

Michelle Chapman described her daughter Alana, 5, as a child who worries with extreme separation anxiety. She would cry and scream in the mornings and refuse to get ready for kinder. Despite her behaviour, Alana was not eligible for a second year of funded kindergarten, but her kinder teacher was worried about how she would cope at school.

Mrs Chapman enrolled Alana in the two-year prep program and is amazed at the change. Alana is eager to go to school. ”I see a different girl now.”

School has also freed up $300 a week in childcare and kindergarten fees and given her more freedom to increase her work hours when she needs to.


Child carers seeking fair deal

Sunday, 28 August 2011
By Deborah Gough
The Age

THE childcare union United Voice, launching its campaign for improved wages yesterday, says the high attrition rate among childcare workers – almost a third leave the industry each year – is distressing children and parents.

A federal government national workforce study found that 32 per cent of childcare workers left the industry each year, the equivalent of 15,000 workers.

National secretary Louise Tarrant said childcare directors reported being unable to fill job vacancies because of low wages and the need for more qualifications.

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About 130 childcare workers attended yesterday’s Victorian Childcare Workforce Crisis Summit to call for ”professional” wages, at least $26 an hour.

The starting wage in the sector is $18 an hour, just $3.51 an hour more than the minimum wage; a diploma-qualified worker receives just $21.27 an hour.

A Pascoe Vale childcare centre director, Natalie Harris, says her boyfriend packs shelves at Safeway for the same hourly rate as she receives for the responsibility of caring for 110 children and 19 staff.

Ms Tarrant said families could not afford a fee rise to pay for the increase and the federal government needed to make up the shortfall of about $1.4 billion a year. She said the cost was

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high but necessary to stop the industry losing workers to teaching and retail.

Without it, she said, the government would be unable to encourage more women into the workforce. She quoted a Goldman Sachs productivity report in yesterday’s Age that estimated a 13 per cent rise in national economic growth could be achieved if women’s workforce participation matched men’s.


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