Friday, 4 November 2011

Bubble wrap off: kids go back to nature

Thursday, 20 October 2011

By Elissa Doherty

Herald Sun

Nature is being brought back to children”s lives as childcare centres revolt against sanitised play areas and bubble-wrap parents.

A generation of over-protective parents are so worried about their

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children getting dirty, tripping on pebbles or fallout out of trees, they have developed “bio-phobia”, a fear of nature”s risks, experts say.

Trees, grass, vegetable gardens and wooden play equipment are sprouting, and AstroTurf and “boring” plastic playgrounds are being ripped up at a growing number of centres.

Mission Australia is redesigning seven childcare centres around Australia to fight bio-phobia.

The centres were “depressing” and sterile when taken over from failed ABC Learning in 2009, devoid of grass, plants and trees, Mission Australia said.

Early learning services national manager Marie Howard said the newly completed Springvale South site incorporated vegetable gardens, a digging patch, two sandpits, wooden mobile play equipment, a stage, trees and bushes.

“There”s a lot of irrational fear about what could happen to children,” she said.

“And a lot of these children are living in flats or apartments, or McMansions with very small backyards, and their parents don”t let them play outside.

“Children aged up to five are at their most important stage of development. Their learning environment, both indoors and outdoors, is critical in shaping their future health, learning and social ability.”

She said nature-based play let children engage in spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration and discovery.

So sanitised have some centres become, the Government”s new national quality framework for childcare centres even stipulates they must offer a connection with the natural environment.

Mission Australia”s redevelopments in low-income areas are being financed by a $640,000 Abbott Foundation grant.

Swinburne University early childhood education lecturer Tracy Young said research showed “nature deficit disorder” caused children to get fatter as they led more sedentary lives.

“We have the bubble-wrap generation, where there seems to be an unrealistic fear of the harms in the natural world. Parents won”t let their children get dirty or take their shoes off,” she said.

An exodus creates a crisis in childcare centres

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

By Louise Merrillees

ABC News

Taking out the rubbish, cleaning floors, painting walls – it”s all in a day”s work for a childcare worker.

Soon, they will also all be required to have qualifications. It”s probably not surprising that good childcare workers are leaving the industry in droves as low pay, low status and long hours take their toll. The director of a Mt Lawley childcare centre, Kay Ralph, says the exodus of workers is being ignored.


“The childcare

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debate is always about how expensive it is for parents but the (Federal) Government is subsidising parents, it is not subsidising early childhood educators,” she said.

“The industry will not be able to retain high quality workers for much longer.”

Ms Ralph says there are more and more demands on workers but pay and conditions have never caught up.

She says childcare workers get paid between $17 and $22 an hour before tax.

“As a director of a centre with 20 staff and responsibility for 52 kids every day, I get paid $27 an hour before tax,” she said.

“I take out the garbage, paint rooms, clean up; it is really good to be an executive in this industry!

Leaving in droves

The United Voice union says the industry is in crisis.

According to research it commissioned, about 15,000 workers leave each year due to low pay.

The union”s WA assistant secretary Kelly Shay says the turnover rate is excessive. “There is a lack of professional recognition, low pay and no defined career path; it is hard to attract quality staff if you get paid more at Coles or McDonalds,” she said.

Ms Shay says part of the reason the childcare industry is not recognised for the work it does is because it is a workforce largely comprised of women.

“I think it is a highly feminised industry and a caring industry so it doesn”t get the attention and recognition it deserves, she said.

Ms Ralph says staffing is a constant problem.

“A director of a Perth ABC centre spoke recently at a childcare forum and said at one stage they had seven relief teachers and likened it to children being in a broken home,” she said.

“The dilemma with commercial centres is the same dilemma as not-for-profits; if they can”t pay their staff correctly, they can”t retain them. “But when you are paying $17 an hour, who are you going to get?”


In 1996, a federal wage subsidy for community childcare centres was abolished, around the same time as private childcare boomed.

Currently, the Federal Government subsidises parents for childcare costs, depending on their income, and the parents” fees go to childcare centres for running costs and wages. But, the union says it isn”t enough.

It is calling for the Federal Government to commit $1.4 billion in direct funding for wages which Kelly Shay says equates roughly to a pay increase of $10 per hour.

“We are asking the Federal Government to fund early childhood educators in the same way as teachers and nurses are,” she said.

“The Federal Government has said that from 2013/14 every four year-old will have access to 15 hours per week with a pre-primary teacher.”

“That will mean childcare centres will need to try and attract and retain early childhood teachers, that is the challenge, and unless something changes, the wages will have to come from increased parent fees.”


A spokesman for the Department of Workplace Relations says they are aware of the concerns of the sector and the Government is spending $190 million to train childcare workers.


He says the government has set a 10 year phase-in time for centres to meet the qualification requirements of the new standards.


It is also providing extra university places, removing TAFE fees and introducing formal Recognition of Prior Learning to assist workers obtain or upgrade qualifications.


Centre director Kay Ralph says while these are positive steps, there is little point to them without also increasing workers” pay.

“The government is trying to fix childcare by raising the qualifications requirement which is great but if you don”t have the skilled, well-paid workforce, you are wasting your money,” she said.

Ms Ralph says in more affluent areas, childcare centres are raising their fees and some parents are prepared to pay more.

“The only solution is to charge parents more but then it is only the more advantaged who can afford it; the doctors and the lawyers, the highly paid professionals,” she said.

“And if they raise the [minimum] award, who has to pay? Parents.

“The government has to step up: in all their documents they are calling us professional educators, but where is the recognition?”

“Fifteen/twenty years ago teaching wasn”t looked upon as a profession, we”re saying now it”s our turn.”

Better childcare comes into play

Tuesday, 18 October 2011
PS News

State and Territory Governments have signed up to Australia”s first truly national regulatory system for early childhood education and care services.

The move has been hailed as a significant milestone in boosting quality and transparency in Australian child care centres.

Minister for Child Care, Kate Ellis said the evidence was clear that the quality of experiences children had in their first five years of life had a profound influence on their future wellbeing.

“With more children than ever before being enrolled in early childhood education and care, those early experiences are being increasingly shaped by their child care experiences,” Ms Ellis said.

“The regulations that all States and Territories have signed up to will mean that parents can now have confidence that no matter where they live and no matter what child care centre their child is attending – they will be receiving an appropriate standard of care.

”She said the Australian Government had committed an additional $2 million to print and distribute a comprehensive set of supporting materials for child care centres to assist with the harmonisation of regulations.

These materials would be available soon through the new national body, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority.

Ms Ellis said the National Quality Framework was being implemented by all Australian Governments and would start to take effect from 1 January next year.

The Minister said it would improve educator-to-child ratios so that each child received the individual time and attention he or she needed.

MGM”s SMS text service now used by 20 SA child care centres

Tuesday, 18 October 2011
By Meredith Booth
Adelaide Now

School communications technology company MGM Wireless has moved into the child care sector, signing 20 South Australian centres to its Outreach SMS text messaging service.

After six-months of test marketing with 300 centres in the State, the company will now target 9600 childcare centres Australia-wide with its service allowing centres to inform parents of centre events, late-breaking news and other information.

Executive chairman Mark Fortunatow forecast about 600 centres to adopt Outreach this year, generating about $450,000 for the company in annual revenue, a lift of 19 per cent on current sales.

Centres pay a base level Outreach licence each year of between $500 and $1000 and are charged for added services.

“As far as we can tell at the moment there are no competitors. It”s a greenfields market,” Mr Fortunatow

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He said the Adelaide company was well-placed to build on its school truancy and SMS messaging systems.

“Centres see Outreach as a good fit with their culture – it helps them meet the demands of busy, working parents who want to stay informed about their children”s welfare and for whom mobile texts are a fast, discreet and well accepted from of communication,” he said.

MGM Wireless already had established alliances with childcare

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centre software management systems such as Spike, QikKids and kindcare to ensure its Outreach system can intergrate.

Shares in MGM Wireless were unchanged at 0.06c today.

Poor-quality childcare centres to close under new rating plan

Monday, 17 October 2011
By Natasha Bita
The Australian

Substandard childcare centres will be shut down or stripped of taxpayer support under a new rating and inspection regime to start next year.

From July, all daycare centres will be given a “quality rating” for the first time, so parents can see how centres comply with new regulations announced last Friday by the federal, state and territory education ministers. Plans for a simple start rating – such as that used in hotels – have been scrapped in favour of wordier descriptions of a centre”s performance.

Now, the best centres will be given a rating of “excellent”, and the worst will be labelled “significant improvement required”.

Average centres will be rated as “meeting national quality standard”.

Child care Minister Kate Ellis revealed centres would be shut down if they failed to improve after being given the lowest rating.

“That”s an option,” she told The Australian. “But our preference will always be to work with centres to try to lift their quality.”

Ms Ellis said substandard centres might also lose their eligibility for taxpayer subsidies — meaning parents would no longer pocket federal government

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rebates for their childcare fees.

Such centres would become unviable, she said, as most parents would leave the centre.

Ms Ellis said parents should take notice of the rating results and “vote with their feet”.

Australian Childcare Alliance president Gwynn Bridge said centres could be given a low rating just for failing to fill in the right paperwork — but could appeal.

“It”s harsh,” she said yesterday. “But at least now we do have an opportunity to fix things up and call for another review.”

Daycare naughty corner OK again

Saturday, 15 October 2011
By Natasha Bita
The Australian

Education ministers have ditched plans to ban “time out” for toddlers” tantrums, under the first national rules for childcare.

Childcare operators yesterday demanded more time to implement the reforms, detailed in a 341-page document endorsed by the national”s education ministers yesterday.

Individual childcare workers face $2,000 fines if they are affected by alcohol or drugs – including prescription medicines – that would impair their ability to supervise children.

But they will no longer risk $2,000 fines for “separating children”, a penalty outlined in an earlier draft, which The Australian revealed in April could have banned the use of “time out” or the “naughty corner” for toddlers hurting other children.

The new regulations also remove reference to activities deemed “inappropriate” to a family”s cultural values, which might have led to fines for centres that asked Islamic children to decorate a Christmas tree.

A draft provision banning the use of corporal punishment or “unreasonable discipline” has also been scrapped.

The final regulations require childcare centres to take “reasonable steps” to “maintain at all times the dignity and rights of each child”, and to “have regard to the family and cultural values”.

Federal Childcare Minister Kate Ellis said yesterday the changes were about “common sense”.

“These regulations are obviously open to interpretation in a reasonable way,” she said.

“It”s about taking a national, commonsense approach to improving childcare quality and at the same time supporting services by reducing red tape so that they only have to deal with a single set of rules.”

From January 1, centres will have to start hiring more staff, with better qualifications.

Australian Childcare Alliance president Gwynn Bridge said yesterday centres had been given barely two months to prepare for the changes and train staff. Fees would have to increase next year to pay for the extra staff, she said.

But Ms Ellis said the regulations contained “no surprises” and insisted any fee increases should be small.

“If a childcare centre claims that a massive increase in fees is necessary to meet the quality standards, it is fair to ask at what quality they have been operating at,” she said.

“There could be a moderate price increase over a number of years but there is no excuse for centres to be hiking their fees significantly above that.”

Historical Independent Consultant Articles

Article Title Article Provider Date

Australian Industry Newsletter – 10 February 2012
Australian Industry Newsletter – 16 January 2012
Australian Industry Newsletter – 4 November 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 31 August 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 24 August 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 04 August 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 29 June 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – Tuesday, 15 June 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 08 June 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 01 June 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 30 March 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 23 March 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 16 March 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 23 February 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 16 February 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 09 February 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 26 January 2011
Australian Industry Newsletter – 10 November 2010
Australian Industry Newsletter – 03 November 2010
Australian Industry Newsletter – 27 October 2010

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