Directors Diary

 

A year in review.

 

When evaluating 2023 there are many highs and lows both personally and professionally. 2023 was   to be a year of stability, a chance to regroup and move forward in a way we have not be able to since 2020.  While it was not quite all that, we certainly have regrouped, we have consistently steered the team in a positive direction looking to stretch our pedagogy and performance across the board.  And much has been achieved.

Child care and kindergarten as a whole have been under enormous pressure since 2020 and this has not really abated over 2023.  Government changes offering Free Kinder (that is not entirely free) and increasing the hours of Funded 3-year-old kinder has meant quite a scramble across the sector.  More families are wanting to take up the option of Free Kinder and the increase in funded hours for their children, which is the whole point of the government initiative, so that has been successful .  Our challenge has been in the increase in children and being able to appropriately staff the rooms with suitably qualified teachers.

We have been on a continuous recruitment drive throughout 2023.  We have not stopped advertising for educators. Our enrolment of children for 2024 is a significant increase from 2023, each day has increased by 10 to 18 children, which is 4 additional educators. The increase has come mostly from within.  Existing families looking to increase working days and hence an increase in care.  Perhaps a response to interest rate hikes and the general cost of living crisis, which has affected us all.

As is the cyclical nature of childcare, we had low numbers in our preschool this year, with some days only having 20 children or less.  Our three-year-old program, however was at capacity. 2024 sees the capacity group of three-year-old children moving to Preschool.  Our three-year-old room is also full for 2024 with children from both Prekinder and Juniors moving into this space.  The funding of the 3-year-old cohort has meant a closer adherence to the school admission date 30th April, as we need to ensure every child has a full year of both 3 and 4-year-old kindergarten prior to school commencement.

We have been very pleased to have employed a number of educators on working holiday Visas from Ireland. The Irish community is quite big in Port Phillip and word of mouth has helped us in recruiting new teachers.  We are happy to advise that some are looking for sponsorship to increase their stay in Australia.  We were successful in 2020 in sponsoring Amy who is currently team leader of the 3-year-old kinder and this year we have also successfully sponsored Sarah who is part of the toddler’s team.  We are currently completing the paperwork to sponsor Anna who is working with the nursery team.  All of our Irish teachers have been a big asset to the centre and now we are sponsoring, we know they are with us for a further 4 years, which is mutually beneficial.

If you ask anyone working in early childhood about the current challenges that they face, I can guarantee they will mention the rise in children who are struggling with emotional regulation.  What we have faced in 2022 and again in 2023 is indicative of a whole generation of children in early childhood settings.

We  have seen a significant rise in children who are struggling with their emotional regulation.  This type of challenge for children is on the rise across both the early childhood and school sectors.  This, in part,  is an effect of many families not being able to partake in many social situations which help children learn how to exist with people other than their family.  There was also an inability for families to access maternal child health and other allied health supports, face to face, through 2020-21. Generally, there has been a lack of exposure for young children to many of the experiences that teach us to about emotional regulation.  For 2 years there were no birthday parties to attend, no sports, no swimming lessons, no play dates, no street parties, no BBQ’s with friends.  All of these very normal interactions give opportunities for children to test their boundaries, learn to interact with others from multiple generations, learn how to navigate social relationships and experience and come to understand social norms.   As many of our children missed these usual social situations they are now struggling when learning to navigate relationships with their peers in group situations and with adults outside of their family such as teachers in education settings.

Teaching young children to firstly recognise and name their emotions and then regulate their emotions has been a major focus for our educators and our educational leaders right through 2023.  This focus is not just with our three and four-year-old children but includes younger groups, as we are supporting children in both the prekinder and juniors’ rooms as well. We have found ourselves supporting more families and children than we would usually, helping them by seeking allied health support and guidance from preschool field officers, and through inclusion support services.

The educator team have all recently completed their appraisals for 2023. One of the questions relates to their biggest challenge this year, and for nearly all, the challenge has been supporting children with emotional regulation. As a team we have been on a continual learning journey, taking onboard as much information as we can, from as many resources as possible, engaging in face to face support, online courses and lectures via conferences across Australia. Amy attended the recent Early Childhood Australia conference in Adelaide and one of the most heavily attended sessions was “Supporting Educators to respond to children’s behaviours.”  Amy came away a little disappointed that there was nothing discussed that was new to her, no little nugget to take back and use.  Upon reflection she realized that the fact there was nothing new, reinforced everything that we were currently doing and strengthened her resolve to continue to implement our current plans and strategies.  We were already applying the best techniques.

The team have been very well supported over the last couple of years by a generous monthly donation, from a centre family, which is to be used toward the educator’s wellbeing.  In 2023 we have used the funds to support each team planning and implementing a social event which is open to the whole centre team to attend.  The team have been involved in a bottomless brunch, a panic room experience, a food truck lunch, a pinot and Picasso session, a session at Holey Moley, and a seated massage onsite.  The ability to attend a regular social event every couple of months has been a great outlet for educators, strengthening their connections and letting off some steam.  The simple act of having fun with each other, enjoying a meal and having a laugh is a great boost to team morale over what has been a challenging year.

The management team event is planned for December and we have purchased a BBQ and will have a Friday sausage sizzle, group lunch event, for three weeks. This is a great opportunity to have lunch, in the sunshine, with people from other teams that they might not usually share lunch with.   The group experiences have been a fabulous success.

2024 sees a big change in the centre waiting list.  We have been bound (via our funding agreement with the City of Port Phillip) to use the councils waiting list service.  All council centres and all services in Council owned buildings are required to abide by Council guidelines and use one centralized list.  Council has over the course of 2023 been phasing out their current online system and are switching to a new provider.  This new system, not only holds the parent information, it also places the families at centres, based on the centre vacancies, applying an algorithm, matching service availability with parent requirements.  This is a huge change to the way the previous waiting list operated, and as such, all services where given the option to opt in or out with a changeover in December 2023.  We decided that we wanted to maintain the present system of speaking with families to ascertain their needs and making connections with families prior to their commencement at the centre, so we advised that Ada Mary would opt out.  This has meant we have had to source our own waiting list system and advise the community how to access our centre from 2024.  We have a new waiting list in operation, with a link from our website and we have signs up advising the community to contact us directly as well as using social media to advise.  We do expect that their will be some teething problems, mostly regarding the transfer of data from the current council waiting list system to our own system. Once we have completed the initial data transfer we believe being in control of our financial viability through managing our placements, meeting and speaking with families directly regarding their care requirements, will prove to be a great decision.  

Stability in the centre is one of the keys to our success.  We have a great knowledge base in the centre, with many long-term educators, who help underpin what we do and why.  We have 18 staff with more than 6 years tenure and 7 with over 15 years, and four of us with over 20 years.  The longevity of the educators has been a huge support over the last 3 years as many educators leave the industry for other fields or in non-child facing roles.  We have been able to maintain our commitment to quality and not compromise our standards, as we can support new educators to our team. Having long term educators in all the rooms provides new educators with great mentoring and support as they find their feet in a new environment.

We are now moving towards year end, with much preparation going into the year-end concert for K3 and video presentation for Preschool, finalising reports, portfolios and forward planning for 2024. As I write this the educators are completing their room preferences for 2024.  Allocating educators to rooms and teams is challenging. It is a difficult and complex task and many many versions are debated and dissected before we settle on what we feel is the best mix of experience, personality, qualification and work schedules to generate the best mix of educators.  (We try!)

I would like to say thanks to the management team. The management team all have various skills and abilities which complement each other.  Working in long day care is a stressful environment and working with a large team (over 52 educators) and supporting them to do their jobs takes a lot of commitment.   The team work hard to ensure that the needs of the children, families and staff are met at all times.  The team all offer their individual strengths to the group which then reinforces our unit as a whole.  I am ever grateful for their ongoing support and dedication.  The centre is successful because of this combined knowledge, hard work and insight as well as their love of and commitment to early childhood education.  

In closing I would like to extend my thanks also the committee of management for their ongoing unwavering support.  It is an unappreciated role, being a committee member and yet it is vitally important to the running and success of the centre.  The skills, enthusiasm and attributes that committee members bring to the meetings each month is a great source of wealth for the centre, their knowledge and insight offered is invaluable. 

 

 

Management contact details

Bernadette -Director Bernadette.d@adamary.com.au

Kirsty- Administration kirsty.o@adamary.com.au

 Lynette -Compliance manager lynette.b@adamary.com.au

 Karissa – Operations Manager karissa.l@adamary.com.au

Jess – Educational leader  jessica.co@adamary.com.au

 Rosanna -Educational leader rosanna.m@adamary.com.au

 

  

 

learn, play, grow

Ada Mary A'Beckett Children's Centre

2 Batman Road

Port Melbourne 3207