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An OSHC coordinator shares what she wishes parents knew about the educators and programs their children attend.

Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) programs can often be overlooked by the community as a babysitting service, but it’s more advanced than that. Educators of an OSHC program are required to do a number of things based on the National Quality Standards and National Regulations set out by the Department of Education

During my eight years as a coordinator and running a large service of 60+ kids, here’s a few things that I wish the parents knew and feel they would have benefitted from. 

Child portfolios

Every service dedicates a portfolio to each child. In these portfolios, they will have the child’s development using My Time, Our Place. Alternative to school-based education, educators will observe the children in a social setting, paying attention to their ability to learn adequate life skills. These skills can be in making friends, solving tense situations, being environmentally conscious, considering their community, interacting with others in a respectful way, being resilient, and many more. 

Portfolios often have photos and examples of what they’ve done within the service, accompanied by a written learning story/observation.

These are used for the educators to document the child’s development and ensure that they’re developing specific to their needs. The educators focus on one key area of development, determined by the parent or the educator’s observations, and then work on developing that skill.

Parents can gain access to this by asking the educators, but this should also leave with the child at the end of their journey at the OSHC program.

Daily reflection journal and program

Most OSHC services will have a reflection journal near the sign out desk. The intention of the journal is for the educators, children and parents to critically reflect on the program for the week. This is also used to document experiences within the program such as evacuation drills, community participation, and any major changes. 

OSHC can get loud and busy so it’s important for parents to read the reflection journal or planner so they are aware of what’s happening within the service. Parents can also use the journal to make comments about the program, whether that’s positive or simply a suggestion of improvement.

Parents are always encouraged to provide their feedback and get involved.

Complaints

More commonly, services are run by large companies (Camp Australia, OSHClub, Team Kids, Big Childcare, and more). It can be easier for a parent to address any complaints directly to the company and avoid confrontation, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to communicate with the service educators.

Most educators take pride in their work and working with children can often lead to miscommunications or misinterpretations. Each child and family are different, and unfortunately, educators aren’t perfect.

With an industry that is incredibly personal and high intensity, I wish parents would communicate directly to the educators with any concerns.

Communicate clearly and build that relationship. If it doesn’t improve, then take it further. 

Documentation

There are expectations set by the Department of Education and National Regulations about specific documentation that is required from the parents for their child to attend. It is stressful for the coordinator because if it’s not perfect, this can leave the service non-compliant and unsafe under the Regulations. 

This type of documentation commonly includes enrolment forms (filled out correctly and fully) and medical management plans with their corresponding risk minimisation and authorisation to give medication (medication provided should be in the prescription packaging including full name of child and dosage labelled).

The government sets high standards for the safety of the children and if the service doesn’t comply, they can risk being shut down. If parents don’t provide this, they have to then confront the parent and have a difficult conversation about excluding their child until compliant. It’s unfortunately not as simple as “letting them come” anymore. There are laws and regulations to follow, so I hope that parents have this in mind when working with their educators.

Assessment and Rating

Every service goes through a process with the Department of Education called Assessment and Rating where they will attend and assess the service based off of the seven National Quality Areas. These areas include: 

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
  7. Leadership and service management

These assessments should be completed frequently, but usually occur every couple of years. These rating outcomes can be accessed on the ACECQA website and is a good indication of where the service is at for quality of care. 

I highly recommend that parents get involved in this process and ask where they can assist in improving the quality of care as having the community and families involved is a huge part of this. A service that has a rating of Meeting, Exceeding Themes or Excellent is doing well. If a service has received Working Towards, it usually means that they weren’t compliant when the department visited (back to that documentation!).

Food provided

Each service has a licence to serve specific food through the local council and must abide by the level of that licence. This means that some services can’t provide food that requires refrigeration. 

Educators understand that children might want butter on their toast and real milk with their cereal, but unfortunately the licence doesn’t allow this. And no, families can’t provide these items to be consumed by their child. If any of these foods are found by the council, the service could receive a fine and be closed for breaking their licence agreements. 

Please, be understanding with this. Most educators at the service can’t control this or change it. The same goes for nut products. Most schools do ban nuts, but being in a space that has a large variety of children attending, it isn’t worth a child’s life so another can eat a Nutella sandwich.

Educators buying supplies using their own money

Most companies have a clause in the employee’s agreement that they’re not to buy anything for the children using their own money, but most educators don’t comply. Throughout my eight years in the industry, I bought many things like craft supplies, storage solutions, candy canes, Halloween and Christmas decorations, books, costumes, Easter eggs, speakers, movies, games, sporting equipment and many more. 

There’s a budget for each service and it’s usually never enough to decorate the room and provide enough supplies to entertain the children. It means the world when parents recognise the hard work educators put into not only the presentation of the service, but also the activities provided. There is a lot that goes on outside of those couple of minutes parents’ step into the service, so recognition is always appreciated.

With all of this in mind, I just ask that parents take the time to appreciate their educators more.

I understand that this isn’t applicable for all educators (I know more than anyone that there can be a few awful educators out there), but for the majority, they work really hard. They go above and beyond for the children in their service to ensure that they feel at home while their parents are working late. 

Parents can get busy, but taking the time to stop every once in a while, and having a conversation with the educators, read what they write in the journal, asking to see their child’s portfolio or even complimenting how the room looks can completely change an educator’s day. 

Building those trusting and respectful relationships can be incredibly important not just to the children, but also the adults involved. 

Optimum nutrition is crucial for physiological and cognitive development, however evidence shows that diet quality in children has declined. Processed foods, skipping meals and following fad diets may cause children to fail in meeting nutritional requirements necessary for growth and development.

Essential vitamins and minerals cannot be synthesised by the body, so a child must obtain them in adequate amounts from food. Poor intake of nutrients and energy could have detrimental effects on health, and contribute to the onset of low self-esteem, dental issues and decreased academic performance.

Epidemiological data estimates that one in five children are expected to develop some kind of mental health issue before adulthood, with half of adult mental health problems developing in childhood and teenage years. This highlights the importance of early prevention.

An Australian study examining 7114 adolescents aged 10-14 years, demonstrated that teenagers on a healthy diet were less likely to report symptoms of depression. The association exists above the influence of family, socioeconomic and other factors.

1. Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is key for skeletal development, bone health and teeth, providing hard tissue with its strength. Due to its importance for growth, requirements are higher in childhood, adolescence, pregnancy and lactation.

Calcium is also necessary for learning, mental capacity, the immune system, nerve impulse transmissions and contracting muscles.

Ensuring intake of adequate calcium helps minimise risk of fractures, osteopenia and osteoporosis. Research connected calcium intake with prevention of colon cancer, insulin resistance, kidney stones, hypertension and obesity.

Absorption of calcium from food is only 20-40 per cent, and bioavailability is hindered in foods with phytic and oxalic acids, such as rhubarb, spinach, chard and some cereals.

Factors that increase Calcium bioavailability:

  • Vitamin D
  • Fat
  • Proteins
  • Vitamin C

Factors increasing demand for Calcium:

  • Bone fractures
  • Diarrhoea
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • High sugar diets
  • Lack of exercise
  • Magnesium deficiency

Calcium is involved in the following functions:

  • Activates insulin
  • Blood clotting
  • Bone and tooth formation
  • Muscle contraction
  • Nerve transmission
  • Cellular functions
  • Heart rhythm regulation

Food Sources:

  • Almonds
  • Broccoli
  • Buckwheat
  • Dairy products
  • Egg yolk
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Sardines
  • Molasses
  • Soybeans
  • Turnips

2. Magnesium

Cells die without sufficient Magnesium, and it is required for over 300 biochemical processes in the body. Approximately 99% of total body magnesium is found in the bone, muscles and soft tissue, fifty to sixty percent residing in the bone. Magnesium is necessary for strong bones, healthy immune function, muscular and neurological function, blood glucose regulation and energy.

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency in Children:

  • Requirements are higher due to growth and development.
  • Inadequate intake.
  • Cooking methods can result in magnesium loss.
  • Diets high in salt, sugar and soft drinks.
  • Reduced magnesium absorption due to low protein diet, vitamin D deficiency or medications.
  • Active children may have a higher requirement due to loss through sweat.
  • A child who is experiencing prolonged diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Prolonged stress, worry or anxiety.

Signs your child may need more Magnesium:

  • Twitching muscles
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty maintaining attention
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Teeth grinding
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lethargy

Food Sources:

  • Almonds
  • Barley
  • Cashews
  • Cocoa
  • Cod
  • Eggs
  • Figs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Kelp
  • Wholegrains
  • Legumes
  • Molasses
  • Parsnips

Inadequate magnesium can contribute to poor mood and influence anxiety. Both calcium and magnesium are important for mood modulation, cognition and brain function.

Write a list of your favourite calcium and magnesium foods, and each week ask your child to choose a new food to incorporate into your meals.

“If I can’t find my perfect job, then I need to create it.”

This was the catalyst that encouraged 33-year-old Perth mother of two, Chevon Semmens, to launch Little Land, an interactive role-play centre for young children to play and learn.

 

From a young age, Chevon had a passion for play, she aspired to work with children and own a childcare centre. Despite these dreams, Chevon opted for a career in marketing and advertising.

 However, her interest in play and learning persisted. Chevon volunteered for over 10 years with Radio Lollipop, providing entertainment to children during their stay at Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital. Chevon recalls always finding a way to integrate play and learning, even if they were “just playing Uno.”

While on maternity leave with her first child, Chevon stumbled across a photo of a little girl with a child size shopping trolley at a role play centre in the UK. Chevon was excited by the idea of a role-play centre, “I knew this concept would come to Perth eventually and was looking forward to being able to take my own children.”

 

Prompted by a desire to transition into a different career, Chevon used the opportunity of maternity leave to consider her options and compile a list of priorities, “I wanted it to be a business that involved working with children and it had to be something creative”.

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

“I knew my ideal job probably didn’t exist, so I had to invent it.”

Inspired by the image of the little girl with the shopping trolley, Chevon announced to her husband Kayne, “I am going to open up a role play centre. He thought I was mad.”

With unyielding determination, Chevon took on the challenge of convincing her husband she could make this dream a reality.

Chevon’s family and friends became sounding boards for her new venture. “Many thought it was a good idea but probably never assumed I would go through with it, while others felt the idea was too gimmicky.” Undeterred, Chevon used their constructive feedback as encouragement to eradicate potential flaws.

“I knew the concept could work and I knew I would enjoy taking my kids there, but would others?” Chevon put together an advisory group, consisting of Paediatric Occupational Therapists, Paediatric Speech Pathologists, Early Childhood Educators, Primary Teachers and professionals who worked with children with autism. Chevon used their expert knowledge in conjunction with her marketing expertise to educate parents about the benefits the role play centre would bring.

Despite Chevon’s confidence and robust business plan, the process from conceptualisation to delivery was anything but quick. Two years of extensive planning included a painstaking search for the right premises.

“I did not want to settle for a half option. The location needed to be central, close to families, with plenty of parking and onsite facilities.”

In the midst of the search, falling pregnant with her second child threw another “amazing spanner into the works.” Financially, Chevon also needed enough money to launch the business. Rather serendipitously, she was offered voluntary redundancy from her existing day job. “It happened to be the exact amount of money needed to get the idea of the ground.”

The dream was about to become a reality.

Chevon opened the doors of Little Land in May 2019. “We were fully booked for the first three months” and the success has continued, with some ebbs and flows in the mix, as they approach their one-year anniversary.*

What can someone expect from a trip to Little Land?

Little Land offers a welcome break from the usual loud colours and noises you expect of a childcare centre. “Many parents comment on how surprised they are at how calm the environment feels.” The welcome area is filled with calming pastel colours, while the sound system plays modern songs in the form of lullabies.

Beyond the welcome area, you will find Little Land’s ‘little town’, complete with a shopping centre, school; home; doctor’s surgery; café; hairdressing salon; construction zone and veterinary practice.

Role-play is at the forefront of play between the ages of 18 months and 8 years and so each area is uniquely designed to meet the needs of children within this age range. The numbers are kept to a maximum of 30 children per session with a total of four sessions per day to avoid overwhelm for the children.

Children are given the opportunity to explore formal settings in an informal way, enabling them to take control of the experience. Many children were recently role-playing evacuations and ‘safety first’ procedures following recent bush fires. Parents who visit the centre express how valuable it is for children to be able to visit these locations on a small scale and at their own pace.

What does the future hold for Little Land?

Chevon is proud to announce Little Land have worked with the Autism Association in Western Australia to launch weekly ‘Sensory Sessions’. “We reduce the number of people who attend, change the format and provide a story book for children to read beforehand of what to expect, we also use a timer instead of a bell to mark the end of the sessions.”

Chevon’s dream is for play and learning to be accessible to all Australians. “We currently have people travelling over an hour to see us, so I would like to possibly open a second location to make it more accessible. We have also launched several pop ups, including four stalls at local events and shopping centres to help spread awareness of the benefits of our centre.”

How to balance motherhood and business

As a mum to three a half year old Zack and 16 month old Archer, Chevon admits life can get busy.

“Someone said to me recently, maybe it’s not so much as trying to find a balance between being a mother and business owner, perhaps it’s finding a blend of the two.”

“I am fortunate that I have a great husband who helps pick up the slack, whether that’s with our children or the business. We try to eat well and get as much sleep as you can with a 16 month old.”

Chevon and her husband make time for themselves separately to re-energise, “I try to get up earlier a couple of days a week to go for an hour long walk, this gives me the energy I need for the next couple of days.”

Chevon also has a day that is non-negotiable, “I always have Mondays with my boys, to play and just spend time with them, it revitalises me and reminds me how we never stop learning.”

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

Despite the huge success of the business, Chevon has realised it’s the small wins she celebrates, “I found in the initial stages of Little Land, we were so busy ‘doing’ that we didn’t stop to appreciate what we had achieved, so now we make an effort to regularly pause and express gratitude for what we have accomplished.”

Keep up to date with the latest Little Land news, @littleland_perth

Thank you to Photographer, Lanie Sims for all images supplied in this article.

 *Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Little Land has closed for the unforeseeable future. During this time, we’re determined to continue inspiring play and learning for the community and we hope it isn’t too long before we see the return of big smiles on little faces as they run through our big and little doors to wander and explore the magic.

 

What’s wrong with a father concerned about his daughter’s virginity? 

Rapper T.I has been in the news recently for comments involving his 18-year-old daughter, Deyjah Harris.

T.I, aged 39 and born Clifford Joseph Harris, has been a rapper and actor for decades, cementing his position as a R&B superstar in the early 2000’s.

The scandal gained traction in early November after T.I was a guest on the podcast  Ladies Like Us with Nazanin and Nadia for their episode titled ‘Life Hacks’.

In the episode, T.I discusses his daughter and how every birthday he takes her to the gynaecologist to check if her hymen is intact. Throughout the podcast hosts Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham laugh as T.I describes his obsession with Deyjah’s virginity.

The hymen is a thin membrane that covers the opening of the vagina, with the tearing of the hymen typically associated with the loss of virginity. In reality there are many ways a hymen can break that has nothing to do with sex (such as horse riding and tampon use).

“Look, doc, she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bike, she don’t play no sports, man. Just check the hymen please and give me back my results, expeditiously” said T.I. in the now infamous interview.

Since the worldwide discussion of her virginity, Deyjah Harris has deleted all her social media, including her Instagram @princess_of_da_south that boasts a following of 1.5 million.

T.I’s daughter rose to fame through his family’s long time running reality television program T.I & Tiny: Family Hustle that followed the rapper and his family’s life after T.I’s prison sentence ended.

T.I’s comments sparked worldwide discussion over the construct of virginity, which is the idea that virginity is a construct created by society and the patriarchy, with patriarchal ideals as the foundation. The construct placing a large focus on commoditising women’s bodies and women losing their purity after sex.

T.I’s comments are problematic for multiple reasons, one of the most unsettling being how the rapper seems to believe he owns his daughter’s virginity.

This is still a common practice, with the concept of virginity stemmed in the idea that women’s bodies are not their own, they belong to their fathers and then are passed to their husbands.

The loss of virginity has also always been associated with heterosexual sex, with the loss of virginity for members of the LGBTI community having always been blurry.

As a society, sex, sexuality and virginity need to be discussed openly and regularly with young people. It is a pivotal part of a child’s growth and teaching children how to respect sexual partners and how to understand consent from an early age is crucial.

In Australia our sex education is heterosexual orientated and starts when children are aged 11 or 12 (depending on the state). The Victorian Government’s health advice and services focused website, Better Channel health offers advice for parents of young children for discussing sex and sexuality.

Parents should aim to be approachable to their children so they don’t seek sex education from other sources, such as their peers or the internet, states Better Channel Health.

In the Netherlands children as young as four are taught about sexuality, a sexual education program that is recognised worldwide.

The Netherlands has some of the best results of sex education, low teen pregnancy rates, high rates of contraception use and high rates of young people losing their virginity in a safe, fun and wanted way.

The T.I scandal raises many issues that in society we seem scared to raise and discuss, is it that over- protective fathers are a symptom of the patriarchy, or some would argue is this just feminism gone too far.

“Those that teach Reading for Sure are rewarded everyday with smiles from students as these students learn that reading and writing well is possible for them.”

Literacy is a fundamental skill that everyone needs in order to access education, work and the community. With modern digital devices being able to read and write is now even more vital, not less as was once thought when computers first arrived.

Literacy is not an intuitive action, unlike walking and talking; it is a human construct that requires the building of new connections in the brain.

There are a variety of reasons why someone does not develop good literacy skills. The most commonly recognised cause of delayed or poor literacy skills is Dyslexia. Other learning difficulties also impact, and these include dysgraphia, dyspraxia, hearing issues, ADHD, Autism, Global Learning delay, short, and long term, memory problems etc.

A lack of good early play and language experiences impact on a child’s ability to cope with literacy, concentrate, sit at a desk and to write.

How a person is taught to read is slowly being recognised as significantly impacting on a person’s literacy development or lack thereof. Like all learning one size does not fit all.

Scientific studies tell us that the best literacy programs will develop a student’s ability to sound out and sound blend a word, ensure the student understands the meaning of all the individual words and derive meaning and information from the sentences formed from these words.

Learning to spell, read and understand words allows us all to communicate with others and to enjoy the wonderful stories and information available in books and other forms of text.

Learning to read and write English does not come easily for everybody as it involves many complex interactions in the brain. When foundation skills are missed it can cause significant difficulties later.

Students struggling with reading become anxious and can turn away from literacy and education as a result.  A student who struggles with literacy often begins to feel that they are dumb because they can’t read. Nothing is further from the truth. Many people with exceptional IQs have struggled with literacy. Unfortunately, without correct instruction to help their brain develop the pathways needed to work with the written word these individuals may not develop their true potential.

With an understanding of how the brain develops and learns to decipher the written word the Reading For Sure program was developed to quickly help the learner build the foundation skills and brain pathways needed for literacy. The Reading for Sure program uses unique teaching tools to continue to develop these skills so that the learner can achieve in all areas of English Literacy.

Our recent study of 180 students, with a broad range of difficulties impacting their literacy acquisition, showed excellent improvement for every hour of tuition. The 180 students included students that were not learning via standard teaching methods, dyslexia, English as a second language etc. and started tuition at ages ranging from 5 to 20 years old. The students were taught by one of four Reading For Sure teachers.

The data showed that not only did every child improve their literacy, but that on average for every hour spent with one of our teachers, the students improved 1.6 months in their reading age. The data for the spelling was not complete for all the 180 students but, using the data available, the average gain in spelling was 0.4 of a month improvement for each hour of tuition.

Within just a few lessons parents and students see the difference. The student’s confidence blossoms, and they begin to enjoy the reading and learning process once more. This reading gain also quickly equates to better outcomes in their education environment. Literacy is the core skill needed for all subjects and students enjoy school so much more when they are not struggling with their literacy.

“Finding the Reading for sure method was a relief. To discover a method that works and makes sense to my dyslexic daughter, has not only greatly improved her reading, it has given her confidence and a sense achievement” says Mrs. Clements.

With the correct program and teaching methods no person young or old needs to struggle with literacy.

Those that teach Reading for Sure are rewarded everyday with smiles from students as these students learn that reading and writing well is possible for them.

Visit the Reading for Sure website and see our new blog series about how parents can help their young children develop the pre literacy skills they need to be able to learn all the literacy skills when they go to school. This free blog series will give parents hints and ideas about the activities that help the brain and body develop ready for literacy and learning and what to look out for if things may not be developing as they should.

Reading For Sure is an Australian program with its office in Perth. www.readingforsure.com.au

KU teachers are specially trained to see what your child sees in the moment to take their learning further. 

There are many factors parents need to consider when choosing a preschool or childcare centre for their child, as not all early childhood services provide the same level of quality of education and care.

Current research suggests about 90% of brain development happens in the first five years of a child’s life. The early childhood service parents choose will have a significant impact on their child’s overall learning and development.

Christine Legg, CEO of KU Children’s Services, a leading provider of preschools, childcare and other early education services in Australia, says there are a number of factors that determine the quality of a service, with a key factor being the quality of educators.

“Early childhood educators led by a university qualified early childhood teacher are essential. Each teacher and educator plays a crucial role in supporting the ongoing learning and development of each child,” says Legg.

An important aspect of early childhood educators’ work is recognising ‘teachable moments’ throughout the day. Teachable moments are unplanned opportunities that teachers and educators can use as opportunities to extend children’s learning. For example, standing in the sun may provide an opportunity to talk about the importance of sun safety or shadows.

“90% of brain development happens in the first five years of a child’s life”

Vandana Vasudevan’s daughter attends KU Chatswood Community Preschool and has been seeking out familiar shapes in everyday items ever since her teachers introduced the idea through teachable moments.

“My daughter saw a pineapple at the supermarket and said ‘Mum, we have to take a picture! My teacher said we can see a pentagon shape’. Now she goes around taking photos of all the different shapes she finds in our house,” says Vasudevan.

“The teachers at KU Chatswood are amazing. I see their commitment and can tell they have inspired my daughter. She loves her teachers.”

Young children learn best by ‘doing’ rather than by ‘being told’. All KU centres have play-based learning programs which provide a wide range of active and meaningful experiences for children.

“Active participation through play is vital for each child’s learning and development and helps build and strengthen brain pathways,” says Legg. “Play has a wide range of intellectual and cognitive benefits, including those relating to memory, language development and regulating behaviour.”

When choosing a preschool or childcare centre, also consider the environment where the children will play and learn. The centre’s environment should be open, inviting and nurturing to support each child’s learning.

Belinda Rahim’s daughter Zakiah attends KU Corrimal East Preschool and the safe, warm and supportive environment at the preschool has allowed her daughter to feel more comfortable and become more confident as she learns.

“KU Corrimal East is the type of centre I had been looking for because it matched with our gentle and respectful attachment style of parenting,” says Rahim.

“KU feels like part of our family. Our daughter loves to tell her teachers exciting things that have been happening in her life, and her stories and experiences are always celebrated, listened to and remembered.”

Ultimately, while the quality of teachers and educators, the educational program and the environment are all central factors to consider when choosing a preschool or childcare centre, sometimes the difference between centres is more instinctive. Visiting a range of centres is recommended before choosing a place where you can see, feel and hear the difference.

www.ku.com.au

Thousands of Australian families struggle to make ends meet as the costs of childcare continue to rise. In the aftermath of the Australian Federal election, we investigate what the two major political parties intend for the future of Australian childcare.

 

What was the Liberal budget for childcare in 2015-2018?

Over the past year, the Coalition government has increased payments to low and middle- income families through the new ‘childcare subsidy’ which combines several payments into one. In order to receive a subsidy, the government has instated an ‘activity test’ whereby the number of subsidised childcare hours that families have access to per fortnight is calculated.

Currently, a family who receives up to $67,000 of income is entitled to 85% of childcare fees paid. This reduces to 20% for those who earn an income of $341,250 while families who earn $251,250 and above do not receive subsidies.

According to the Liberal Party, a “typical” family saved approximately $1,300 per annum under the 2015-2018 budget, which helped about 1 million families. As part of these changes, the Coalition put an extra $2.5 billion into the childcare system.

The Coalition has not suggested further changes to their existing childcare system, however, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said a review will take place.

What is Labor’s campaign promising?

Labor made the robust promise to dedicate an extra $4 billion over four years towards reducing childcare fees. This money would allow for families earning below $69,530 to receive free childcare (provided the fees are under $11.77 per hour).

Labor says that approximately 887,000 families would be in a financially stronger position as the average annual savings would be around $1,200 per child, depending on a family’s income level.

Labor has publicly committed to permanently funding the preschool program. Labor says this will cost about $1.8 billion for the first four years and about $8.6 billion over the next decade.

However, the Grattan Institute, a public policy think tank, has warned that Labor’s policies could have childcare centres tempted to increase their fees.

Furthermore, Chiang Lim, the NSW CEO of the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) says, “voters are looking for governments that can make sensible decisions to solve their everyday problems. Young parents and childcare service providers just want common-sense solutions especially when market-forces fail”.

We’ve seen the implementation of Liberal’s childcare policies, but what impact would Labor’s proposed policies have?

The substantial amount of money promised to childcare facilities comes with significant risk. Education Minister Dan Tehan says, “It is up to the market to make sure that wages increase because any other method will cause a distortion”.

Furthermore, Professor Robert Breunig, the director of Tax and Transfer Policy Institute at ANU believes that “it’s going to be very difficult to track what companies do with the money… in this case, I think the money would just be a handout going into the pocket of the firms”.

By cutting through campaign slogans and advertising, we are able to decipher what the two major political parties are proposing for a more stable and affordable future for Australian childcare.

Thousands of Australian families struggle to make ends meet as the costs of childcare continue to rise. Following a surge in demand for early childhood centres in the past five years, Australia now faces an oversupply of childcare centres, which is much worse than it sounds.

Australia now faces an oversupply of childcare centres, which is much worse than it sounds

What is the problem?

In the past five years, Australia experienced a significant increase in demand for early childhood education. Consequently, more childcare centres have begun surfacing across the country to get their slice of the pre-school pie.

According to a report by the Department of Education, vacancies in Australian childcare centres in 2018 has jumped by almost 48,000 places in three years.

There is now an oversupply of childcare facilities for the current demand resulting in high numbers of vacancies which contributes to financial losses to the childcare company and ultimately, to parents. In 2018, it costs an average of $140 a day to send a child to childcare, with prices rising to $180 a day in capital cities.

The national vice-president of ACA Nesha Hutchinson says, “There’s no denying the fact that prices have increased over the last 10 years, and over the last five years significantly”.

So, why is Australian childcare so expensive?

There are two primary reasons why the price of childcare in Australia is so high. One reason is the new regulations under the National Quality Framework (NQF)

To meet the NQF requirement, a childcare centre must employ a sufficient number of staff to comply with staff-to-child ratios, which for two and three-year-olds requires one staff member to five children.

The second reason for the unexpected upward pressure on childcare prices is lease costs. A childcare facility’s lease is tied to the number of spaces available at licensed centres, rather than the number of children attending. This means that vacancies increase the cost of childcare to a parent as the centre needs to pay off their lease based on classes with full enrollment.

According to the Victorian president of the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) Paul Mondo, lease costs are averaged between $2,500 and $4,000 per childcare place. For example, if a childcare centre has 50 spaces available across the age groups, the centre could face a minimum of $125,000 a year in lease costs, excluding wages, utility bills and food costs.

Family researcher and author Dr Stacey Fox says, “Australian families spend about 35% of their private income on pre-school programs in Australia”.

Where is the money going?

The exorbitant lease costs childcare centres are charged soaks up a large amount of the total income available to childcare centre, while staff wages are put on the backburner.

Ben Phillips, a principal researcher at the ANU’s Centre for Social Research and Methods says, “typical (childcare) wages would be between $40,000 and $50,000 (per annum)”.

Childcare prices have skyrocketed while staff wages remain below the national average, presenting little opportunity for career progression. Something has to change to allow for the affordability of childcare to all families.

Read next week’s segment of The Childcare Chronicles to see what the major political parties have proposed for the future of Australian childcare and how it will affect Australia’s parents.

 

How would YOU feel about sending your three year old to pre-school?

The prospect of seeing your little one grow up and seeing them off for their first day of school can often be bittersweet. That familiar feeling that time really does fly is especially present in these moments, so many parents would be understandably hesitant about their child starting pre-school at the age of three.

But this is exactly the plan that Bill Shorten announced at the beginning of October: a $1.75 billion subsidy for parents to allow 15 hours of pre-school for three year olds. So far, the proposal has proven a contentious topic among parents.

In unveiling this plan that is set to be implemented if Labor win the next election, the opposition leader believes it will transform childcare into “early education”.

Labor also framed the proposed subsidy as an important jump start into school, and are working by the angle that children who receive high quality education in the two years leading up to the start of their formal schooling experience long lasting positive outcomes.

That is, starting our kids in pre-school at the age of three has a supposedly high impact on their educational development for many years after.

Overall, if the plan was put into place, it would mean that it would be free for us to send our three year olds to state government run pre-school, and sending them to pre-school education at private childcare centres would be subsidised.

Shorten made it clear that the main objective of his plan was to get 90% of the three year
olds in Australia in pre-school by 2023.

That can be hard to fathom considering those children haven’t even been conceived yet!

The opposition also highlighted Australian children in comparison to foreign children of the same age, stating that Australia was behind in its pre-school education because several other countries already had high attendance rates in pre-school for three year olds.

So far, the proposal has been met with mixed reactions.

The Project’s Facebook post regarding the topic has received several hundred comments in a couple of weeks. It seems there are only few fence sitters, if any…

Phrases along the lines of “let kids be kids” and “what’s the point of having children?” are frequent, with many expressing the importance of letting children learn and develop at home. There are a number of people who also believe that the money could be better spent in other areas of education of their children, such as tertiary education in the future. One comment in particular even goes so far as to say that “danger of abuse” is evident.

It seems the conversation has also expanded to consider the logistics involved, with one woman pointing out that the proposal should not go ahead simply on the basis that staff in this area are already “underpaid and undervalued”.

On the other hand, others think it’s a good idea and will help take the pressure off working families and ease the cost of living. Many parents are also focusing on the educational format and content itself, and are advocates for the benefits of education at such an early age. Several comments support the Labor government’s way of thinking, with one mum stating that “early childhood education benefits all children”.

A number of people believe that pre-school education for three year olds can be positive in terms of social, mental and cognitive outcomes, and provides an invaluable preparation for the schooling lives of children.

This leaves us to ponder; is this proposal in the best interests of three year olds? Would we be comfortable sending our children to pre-school at an earlier age? Does the education system of other countries matter?

Where do YOU sit on this topic?

Madonna’s ex-nanny, Perth-based Angela Jacobsen, chats to Offspring about the challenges and benefits of working for high profile families.

When Angela Jacobson decided to swap her dream of flying planes for a living for a career in childcare, she couldn’t have foreseen she’d end up dancing with her boss, Madonna, for the royal family in India, as a kind of cobbled-together entertainment. The down to earth thirty-three-year old laughingly describes the experience as her, “most bizarre nanny moment,” yet.

“When I was in India with Madonna on her family vacation, we were staying with a king and queen in a palace and all the women were forced to dance for the king, and the princes around them actually, because of the sexist world that they live in,” she explains.

“Madonna made me dance, and she made me wear a sari. That was my weirdest boss moment…I just had to. All the women had to get up and dance for the men. We were in the palace…so I, very begrudgingly, danced around in a sari.”

It was one of many strange celebrity encounters Angela experienced in her 18 months working for the Material Girl who, during her tenure, acrimoniously divorced film director Guy Ritchie. As the sole carer of Madonna’s adopted son, David Banda, Angela joined the singer’s entourage and toured with her, as well as jetting to far-flung locations from her New York base.

Madonna, famed for her discipline and work ethic, is also notorious for demanding her staff work equally punishing hours. According to media reports, the gruelling lifestyle eventually took its toll on Angela and, when she handed in her notice after a year and a half, the furious pop star told her to leave immediately.

“All Madonna’s employees work incredibly long hours, so it’s no surprise that Angela had had enough,” a source told a newspaper, at the time.

“If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a weekend.”

Angela later refuted rumours of a rift with her famous employer, saying, “She was a great boss and I mean it was obviously quite a full-on experience. She was fantastic to work for and a big motivation for me…She’s very much a loving mother.”

Melbourne-born Angela’s experience as Madonna’s nanny was a far cry from her childhood goal of being a pilot. It was a dream she was forced to jettison after her parents divorced when she was seventeen, and she was left in charge of her brother and the family home.

“I didn’t foresee this path,” she says. “I wanted to be a pilot and I was in the Air Force Cadets…It wasn’t as though I set out to do this, it chose me. And as much as I’ve tried to move away at different times, it’s brought me back. It seems that’s what I am now. I’m a carer, and that’s what I do.”

“If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a weekend.”

Nannies inhabit a rarefied space in families. They’re privy to the day-to-day interactions between spouses and parents and children, while being required to maintain a discreet distance from the inner workings of a family. It can be an uneasy mix, this intimacy with strangers.

“You learn a lot,” says Angela, diplomatically, of the trusted position most nannies hold.

“You learn how to treat your husband, how not to treat your husband, what to do with your kids, what not to do with your kids. It’s trial and error for everybody but you learn so much just by being in someone else’s family…I’ve got kids, now, all over the world so to speak…A lot of them are teenagers now and I’ve got them on Facebook…There’s so many positive rewards to come out of it.”

Indeed, Angela, who studied childcare, and has worked as a nanny for average families as well as elite sports people, royalty and celebrities, believes that working overseas as a nanny is one of the best options for young, travel-loving Australians, who might otherwise earn their keep toiling in a cafe or a pub.

“If you’re a nanny you get to live in a beautiful house, you eat lovely food, you go on lovely holidays…it’s hard work but everything in life is hard work. I think that for a young girl, it’s the best way to see the world and also save money. It can set you up for later in life.”

While Angela has used her earnings to invest wisely for her future, she reveals that working for a celebrity boss doesn’t necessarily mean getting paid a celebrity salary. Payment for working for a ‘civilian’ family is on a par with, for example, working for royalty in an Asian country.

“You generally get paid a weekly rate as a nanny,” she explains. “The saving side of it is just incredible. I’ve got two properties. One overseas, and one here in Australia in the city. They were from two different jobs…I basically just set a budget for both jobs.

You don’t pay for anything. You don’t pay for accommodation, or travel. I had a driver in Asia and I had a driver in America too. Or you have a taxi account. All the food is cooked by chefs and all the housekeepers are buying your food, and what have you, and they give you a phone and the internet, all that sort of stuff, so it’s a great way to save some cash. It definitely beats working in a pub!”

Not everyone is cut out for looking after other people’s children, however Angela cites flexibility and patience as the key qualities for being an effective nanny.

“She was a great boss and I mean it was obviously quite a full-on experience. She was fantastic to work for and a big motivation for me…She’s very much a loving mother.”

“You need to be very hard working, as all women do, and all mothers need to be. You need to be flexible, patient, obviously loving and caring. The upside is that it’s a job, so you can leave at the end of the day, or have the weekend free to yourself, and still have your own life, whereas mothers don’t get that break.”

The downside to the job that can offer worldwide travel, a luxurious lifestyle, numerous perks and a window into the cocooned world of the super wealthy, is leaving the children you have become so attached to.

“They’re not your actual children and leaving them would be the hardest part of being a nanny,” Angela says.

“I now put a two year maximum, because I stayed with a family in England for about three years and it just is so hard on me and the children. The baby had grown up just with me. She didn’t know anything else so it was really difficult for me to leave.

 

There becomes a lot of emotional blackmail with the parents as well, at that point, because you are going to upset their children and you are going to upset their life if you move on but, also, you’re a young person that needs their own life. So there’s a fine line.

So, now I like to go in and go ‘okay, I’m doing this for eighteen months or I’m doing this for two years’. It can’t be too short either because that’s not fair on the children to go in and only work for a few months and move on. So to have an outline of how long you’re going to stay for makes it easier…you can see a finish, because sometimes things aren’t that great. So… you…set a goal and say, ‘okay I’m going to work this long and I’m going to earn this amount’. ”

“The upside is that it’s a job, so you can leave at the end of the day, or have the weekend free to yourself, and still have your own life, whereas mothers don’t get that break.”

That focus and determination have seen Angela use her years of professional experience to develop a burgeoning, nanny-related, media career, as well as a number of side businesses. She has written two books, Baby Love and Baby Food, and is just about to start filming a new television show Family 360 (working title) in Singapore.

The show, which Angela describes as having a different focus to the phenomenally successful Super Nanny program, will see her work with local Singaporean families on any problems they may have.

“We go in at the top level, being the parents, and work out the issues that are going on there, because they obviously stem through to the kids,” she states.

“So whether it be nutrition or fitness, or what have you, we tackle it as a whole family and not just go in and put a band aid on and leave. We’ll do eight episodes with one family…and really make it more educational than drama.”

Family 360 is a concept she has discussed with Australian media personality, Steve Vizard, and Profile Talent Management, in the hope the show will be developed in Australia. It’s early days but, so far, the feedback on her idea has been encouraging. Along with her TV show, a project with Google and an interactive Nanny/Babysitting site, utilising Facebook, are also in the works.

Despite her budding media and business careers, Angela is keeping her hand in with the work she knows best and, this time, she’s staying close to home. She recently turned down a job working for the royal family in the Middle East, for a stint as a nanny for an ordinary family in suburban Noranda, Perth.

“I’ve been there and done that with the celebrities and that kind of lifestyle,” she explains, cheerfully.

“I’d much prefer to work in the suburbs of Perth…Everything’s just normal. The kids muck in and help you with the dishwasher unstacking. There’s no maids running around, and all that sort of stuff that I’d got used to.

She pauses for a moment, then laughs. “It’s kind of refreshing to be working back in Australia.”