Last week I was asked to take part in an article to appear in Saturday's The Cairns Post as a mother who has a child in child care. The requirement was to write a 200 word piece on our personal experiences with gaining placement in local Child Care centres. A photo was to be taken afterwards and I set to work busily putting my words onto paper.
There were two problems. One, I had no idea where to send the finished product and two, I couldn't for the life of me keep it down to 200 words. The end result was not bad but certainly not what I meant it to be and without an e-mail address to send it to, my part in proceedings was given to someone else. Not that I'm complaining. I'd always rather have a product I am happy with in print and what I wrote did not fit the bill.
Because I am a stickler for facts and find it hard to write personal details, I spent some time calling a few day care centres to find out their stories. The reason I bothered doing that was due to the fact that here on the south side, day care is not really hard to get into. I had an easy time placing my youngest daughter and she is thriving. Not much is required when you are basically saying, it's easy to get into, it's affordable and the care is excellent. The end.
Being me, that was obviously not the end. I asked several day care's in my area about their own availability. Turns out they are all easy to get into. Being a talker, I got a lot more than I bargained for and here is the result of those conversations.
Firstly, you need to understand that the reason day care is easy to utilise is not due to bad reputation or poor care standards. It is not because of the cost and it has little to do with the unemployment figures.
There are 14 child care centres between the White Rock lights and the end of Edmonton. That's right, 14! Essentially they have planned for the growth spurt that has not yet occurred and there's a glut. The new centre in Bentley Park is beautiful, shiny and the staff enthusiastic. However, it has the capacity to hold 300 children and with all other day care's struggling to fill up, they may find themselves with vacancies for quite some time.
Also, the National Maternity Scheme has resulted in fewer mums going immediately back to work. The most difficult room to access in any child care facility has always been the baby room. Now, as more parents choose to wait longer before going back to work, this room has vacancies available. Not all centres have got a baby room. Partly because of the ratio required between staff and babies and partly because of the additional space required to have cots in place. Still they aren't full.
As for the learning requirements and the activities the children are exposed to, one of the primary concerns stated by all mums who did participate in the article, what was printed in Saturday's edition is not completely accurate.
In 2012, Australian learning requirements will change completely. Primary schools will all go to a national based curriculum. A select few schools have already implemented the new program and the difference between this new learning experience and the previous one is stark. Particularly when focused on Prep-Year 2. Prep is no longer play based learning. There are text books required. It is necessary for these children to learn multi syllable words and use them in context. They are being exposed to mathematical concepts such as time, spatial maths, basic algebra and fractions. If you have a child about to enter Prep, start practising their letter recognition and basic words and maths RIGHT NOW!
This national program is in response to the fact that some States are under-performing in numeracy and literacy. Queensland is so far behind the other States that people are literally panicking and Naplan testing is becoming the focal point of learning.
What all Queenslander's need to take into consideration is that here in this State we have a large population of Aboriginal and Islander children. Many of whom are learning in their own communities, with English being a second language. Their extended family often have had little formal education so they begin the schooling process without the advantages of those living in regional and city areas. Wanting a better result for us all is not a bad thing but it needs to stay in perspective. Realistically, if middle class families in the city are going to find the new curriculum a bit complicated what chance have the disadvantaged among us got?
Sorry, I digress.
While the new curriculum will be brought into all schools shortly, there is obviously a need to better prepare children for Prep. To me it seems an oddity as Prep is short for Preparatory which in itself should prepare children for Year 1. Instead we seem to be using the Prep year as another school year. Regardless, what will happen in 2012 is that Child Care centres will also go to a national standard of learning. It will be very different from what currently occurs, although as with schools some centres have already begun the process. Testing will be more apparent, the basic ticks and crosses will no longer suffice when finding out if a child knows their colours and shapes. Instead it will require a more detailed response from the carers.
Play based curriculum will still be used but each child will now have specific, outcome based curriculum in their rooms, rather than play for fun only. One of the changes coming in was a little odd to me. Children will no longer be allowed to line up before going anywhere within the facility as this apparently stifles their individuality. Seriously? A confounding rule as children in Prep will be required to line up in pairs all day long. Sometimes I wonder if those who sat down to write this new curriculum actually talked to the schools before making decisions.
It is also interesting to note that in the same year that students in Primary school will start the move to High School for Year 7 (2014), all Child Care centres will have to include a dedicated Kindergarten Program with a fully qualified teacher. Conversations I had indicated that it was a difficult task as no teacher wants to work for 13 thousand a year less than they would in a school AND miss out on school holidays for lesson plans AND work outside school hours. It's a bit of an ask really and it was suggested that the Government needs to consider the issue and provide more incentive for this to actually work.
Anyway, there you have it. Certainly not the 200 word article I was attempting to write. That one was pretty wishy washy and not very interesting at all. At least next time, if there ever is a next time, I know the address to send it to. That's something I suppose.