3 July 2023

Childcare centre plan for 109 youngsters raises staffing question

| John Thistleton
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development application on post

A development application notice at 2 Record Street at Bradfordville, Goulburn, proposes a two-storey childcare centre for 109 children. Photo: John Thistleton.

A new childcare centre for 109 children at Bradfordville has been proposed in plans submitted to Goulburn Mulwaree Council.

The development application proposes demolishing a home and fibro shed at 2 Record Street on a 1214-square-metre block and building a two-storey childcare centre, with underground parking for 25 cars.

Under the plans, the centre would employ 12 educators and open from 7 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday, to address the growing need for more childcare places in Goulburn.

Employing 14 staff overall, the centre would offer 17 places for children aged 0-2 years, 15 places for two to three-year-olds and 77 places for three to five-year-olds.

The ground floor, which would accommodate 68 of the children, would have four playrooms, an outdoor play area, an office/reception room, a nappy room, a laundry, a kitchen, a toilet, a lift, access stairs, a disabled toilet and a laundry.

The first floor, for 41 children, would comprise a staff room, a kitchen, a service room, access stairs, a disabled bathroom, a lift and two playrooms.

READ ALSO Goulburn’s childcare squeeze hits numerous families

Cot rooms, toilets, craft basins, nappy change and bottle-preparation facilities would be positioned near or around the perimeter of the indoor classrooms for the convenience of children and educators.

Internal and outdoor play spaces would allow for the supervision of children at all times when activity rooms and play spaces are in use. Shade and weather protection would be offered outside.

Basement parking would provide spaces for staff, visitors and a disabled bay, and would have lift access.

A spokesman for the proponent said Goulburn was a childcare desert, with 18-month waiting lists. He said an operator for the proposed new centre was undecided at this stage.

Anglicare Early Child Education and Care operations manager Katie Beelen-Smith, who oversees three service providers in Canberra, one in Queanbeyan and four in Goulburn and Marulan, said waiting lists were enormous.

“We could have up to 200 families on waiting lists,” Ms Beelen-Smith said.

“We are in a workforce crisis, we do not have anywhere near the number of educators and early childhood teachers we need to adequately staff these services.”

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She said the shortage meant capping enrolment numbers in a sector that was heavily regulated.

“So we are bound by this tight regulation to maintain our ratios,” she said.

”You must be either studying towards a Certificate III or have that qualification to work in early childhood. In family daycare, you have to have finished a Certificate III.”

Qualifying to be an early educator was as onerous as studying to be a primary school teacher.

“A lot of people who do their early childhood certificate, because of the shortage of teachers, they are able to go and work in schools and that is the environment they are choosing over early childhood because of the difference in pay and conditions,” Ms Beelen-Smith said.

She believes child care is an essential service, much like health care.

“Australia goes to work off the back of our early childhood services. Without having access to these early childhood programs, people can’t go to work.”

A not-for-profit provider, Anglicare pays above-award wages and offers paid training and opportunities for leadership and growth.

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