Ballarat is in the grip of a child care boom with three new child care centres scheduled to open over the next six weeks with enough places to care for about 300 children.
The new centres are in addition to two that opened late last year and at least two more under construction.
With families having more options than ever for care, new centres are being forced to innovate to attract new enrolments.
Parent lounges with barista style coffee and baked goodies, a cafe-style dining room, Mandarin lessons, bilingual staff, kids yoga sessions, technology, sports and music classes are among the extras offered at Ballarat’s three newest centres.
Operators say demand for child care around Ballarat in strong, with several existing centres holding waiting lists for new families, and the new centres opening will help meet projected demand near the city’s growth areas.
Demand is highest for care for children aged two to three.
Ballarat Council community development director Neville Ivey said Ballarat’s population was growing at a rate of 1.7 per cent per year.
“The impact of this growth means that council, in partnership with other tiers of government and the private sector, need to respond to ensure capacity meets current and, importantly, future demand.
“In recent years, the early years sector in Ballarat has experienced significant investment, particularly from the private sector. As a result, the immediate need for early years services is well catered for and capacity for future growth has also been met.”
The three centres expected to open before the end of April are awaiting licensing and accreditation inspections from the Australian Childrens’ Education and Care Quality Authority before setting an opening date.
Wendouree Early Learning Centre marketing manager Jenny Hovey said the 108-place Norman St centre would hopefully open soon after Easter.
Her new centre has bigger rooms than regulations mandate, the building and toys are made from eco-friendly materials, a price of $112 a day which is inclusive of all programs, meals and supplies.
Children at the centre will also be exposed to new technology including laptops, iPads and large interactive white boards.
“Whether we like it or not, we will embed technology in to the curriculum to enhance our curriculum frameworks. Children are around devices all the time now, there’s no avoiding the fact, and we will make sure we keep up with that and help prepare children.”
Rachel Condon, director of the 110-place Brady Bunch Early Learning Centre in Sebastopol, said music and sports programs were included for all age groups in addition to regular educational and care programs.
The centre, the company’s first in Victoria, is also seeking to build strong community links and has already sponsored a number of local junior netball, soccer and football teams.
Families from the burgeoning Bonshaw, Ross Creek and Buninyong areas are expected to make up a large portion of families, and in the future, the Baudinette St centre will look to provide before and after school and vacation care.
“Research shows yoga will help children relax, settle, be mindful and regulate behaviour which gives a better educational outcome.”Village Eureka operations director Emily Chatham
At Village Eureka, children will have the option of doing yoga and learning Mandarin, and will dine in a cafe-style dining room with their peers from all age groups.
“Research shows yoga will help children relax, settle, be mindful and regulate behaviour which gives a better educational outcome,” said operations director Emily Chatham.
“We’ve got a dining room. We believe in letting children eat together like they do at home or out at a cafe, or they can choose to eat outside” said operations director Emily Chatham.
The 96-place centre, which is hoped to open in late April, has all the touches of home.
“If children don’t have certain things at home, why would we have them at child care. We don’t have metal troughs at home to wash hands in, so why put it in a child care centre? Our centre is designed to be as home-like as possible.”
Children are also divided in to groups by developmental stage rather than age.
Federation University’s two Ballarat child care centres currently run waiting lists for the one to three year age groups, which are the most highly demanded.
“Each of our Ballarat centres have an 80 place capacity which includes 22 places of government funded kindergarten program,” Fed Uni’s campus life director Colin Marshall.
“There is a strong demand for our services given the locations and longstanding reputation for high quality education and care at FedUni. Where vacancies are available we often don’t have enough days available to meet the families’ requirements.”