When it comes to searching for childcare in the Sutherland Shire, we’re lucky to have plenty of wonderful options! Too much choice, however, can create confusion. For first-time parents especially, it can be difficult to know where to start. Deciding where to place your little one into care is a big decision and can often be an anxious time for parents.
We can’t stress enough that you should apply early, as childcare, especially for babies under two, can be difficult to secure in the Sutherland Shire.
Before you apply, however, you might be wondering:
• What childcare options are there?
• What’s the difference between Early Educations Centres, Family Day Care and preschools?
• How do the costs compare?
• What type of childcare service will best suit my family?
• What should I look for when I tour a service? What questions should I ask?
• How do I know if I’ve found a quality service?
Well, sit back with a cup of tea because we’ve worked with Sutherland Shire Council Children’s Services to provide you with the information you need to know to help you make the right decision for your family!
Choosing childcare is very much a personal decision, and parents can value different things. Successful childcare is about finding the right environment for your child.
There are three different types of childcare available in the Sutherland Shire:
Early Education Centres
- Sutherland Shire Council is the largest operator in the Shire, operating 11 centres. The Council has been a leader in quality childcare services for 45 years.
- Take a look at the Council’s centres if you prefer one with a smaller number of children in care. Their centres are typically 45 places, which is much lower than the bigger 80-100-120 place centres being built locally.
- Council’s centres were also built at a time when land was plentiful, and for that reason, their playgrounds are among the biggest you will find.
“One of the things parents value is the connections and relationships we establish with families. We work closely with parents to ensure their child is well settled, happy and thriving, and we collaborate with them on their child’s individual learning.
We’re often asked about the difference between Council and private services. Our centres are not for profit. Any surplus is reinvested back into the centres to ensure we continue to offer engaging learning facilities and positive experiences to help children have the best start in life.
We understand the importance of comprehensively addressing any concerns raised with our centre team and take great care to ensure that parents and caregivers can entrust the care of their children to us with complete confidence. Parents have peace of mind knowing there is an entire support team with decades of early childhood expertise behind every Council service.” Renae Giles, Manager Children’s Services at Sutherland Shire Council.
Family Day Care
- Family Day Care Educators are early childhood experts working out of their own homes, providing care and education to four children under school age each day.
- With only four children in care, it’s a very small, warm and nurturing environment.
- The Council monitors the quality, safety and compliance of its 19 Family Day Care Educators. Its Family Day Care service is very highly regarded within the childcare industry.
“Families value the fact that they get to know their Educator really well, the program is tailored to suit the needs and milestones of their particular child and they also receive lots of information about their child’s day in care – what they did, what they learnt and how their child is building their strengths.
The daily program is really flexible and the children have a big say in how they spend their day. So if they ask to make erupting volcanoes or go to the local park, the answer is usually yes.” Renae Giles, Manager Children’s Services at Sutherland Shire Council.
- Preschools offer care and education to preschool-age children (3-5 years).
- Preschools mirror school hours and close during the school holidays.
- Preschools are funded by State Governments, whereas Early Education Centres/Family Day Care parents receive the Child Care Subsidy.
What are the similarities between the childcare options?
All Early Education Centres, Family Day Care and Preschools offer play-based learning programs and follow the Early Years Learning Framework, the only Government-approved Framework for children under school age. So while the fees, hours and inclusions differ, the learning outcomes for children are matched among these three types of services.
Costs & Inclusions
- How do you compare the costs of different services? It can help to start with one point of reference. Sutherland Shire Council benchmarks its fees against other local providers, giving you peace of mind when it comes to knowing what’s expensive or not.
- Their Early Education Centre fee for birth to 2-year-olds is $123 per day, less any Child Care Subsidy. This is lower than the local average.
- When comparing costs, be sure to look at inclusions too. The Council’s Early Education Centre fees include a free modern cloth nappy service and all meals prepared fresh daily by their onsite cooks. Children attending Family Day Care and preschools take their own food to care.
- Consider the hours you need and check it marries with the services you’re applying for care with.
- Who in your family is doing drop-off and picks ups? Early Education Centres and Preschools close at fixed times. The Council’s 11 Early Education Centres open 7am-6:15pm. The hours can be more flexible in Family Day Care where Educators determine their own opening and closing times.
- Give thought to taking an alternative route to work – a different train station or main road might take you past other services you wouldn’t have considered?
“Some of our 19 Family Day Care Educators are happy to open earlier or start later to suit the needs of working families.” Renae Giles, Manager Children’s Services at Sutherland Shire Council.
Take a tour – ask questions!
Call your preferred local childcare services, arrange a tour and ask lots of questions:
Your Childcare Checklist:
- Do a visual check but don’t be obsessed with ‘new’. Many parents love the idea of a brand new service. New is not an indicator of quality care. Instead, is the environment clean? Do the children have ample space? Are they happy and engaged in play? Are there lots of interesting resources at their disposal?
- Take a close look at the Educators’ interactions with the children. Are they caring? Are they tuning into the children’s needs and feelings? The quality of these interactions is paramount.
- Look beyond the Educator-to-child ratios and ask about the number and ages of children in the room. Would your little one cope with 20 babies in one space?
- Is your child better suited to a large environment or a small group setting? Can additional needs such as speech or occupational therapy be supported by the centre?
- Ask about Educators’ qualifications. It’s one of the biggest indicators of quality care.
- Ask about their philosophy on behaviour management. You want to hear about positive behaviour guidance and observe that in practice.
- How is separation anxiety managed? Do they allow children to cry with support and acknowledge their feelings?
- Services must follow the government’s Early Years Learning Framework. Is this mentioned in the daily program and observations about the children?
- Does the service offer a robust transition to school program?
- Ask about their grievance system. Does it empower parents to raise concerns? This is your child and no concern is too small.
- Is a cook employed? Ask about the menu and nutritional requirements and inspect the kitchen.
- Are the children engaged in nature-based play? Don’t just look for brightly coloured toys. They are not an indicator of quality care.
- All childcare services are independently assessed against seven quality areas by the childcare industry’s governing body. Before visiting the service and asking about their rating, you can learn more at acecqa.gov.au
- The most important point is for parents to apply for childcare as early as possible, to give themselves the best chance of securing their preferred service and care days required. Within the Sutherland Shire, there is a strong demand for infant positions (birth-2 years) and they can be hard to come by. It’s easier to secure childcare as your baby gets older.
- Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket – apply for care with multiple services.
“The earlier you get your application in, the better. Here at Sutherland Shire Council we allocate positions according to date of application, and so we encourage parents to apply early. Even if you’re not sure when or even if you’re returning to work, it’s better to have your name on our database than not at all. And it’s just a quick phone call if you want to change any details in your original application at any time.” Renae Giles, Manager Children’s Services at Sutherland Shire Council.
Helping you decide
Still not entirely sure what the best childcare decision is for your child? Below are some other helpful links that will provide you with more information, as well as key links you need to begin the process.
- Apply for childcare: with Sutherland Shire Council’s Early Education Centres and/or Family Day Care services: sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/childcare
- Family Day Care – Sutherland Shire Council: sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/FamilyDayCare
- Early Education Centres – Sutherland Shire Council: sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/EarlyEducationCentres
- Childcare finder website (Federal Government site): https://www.childcarefinder.gov.au/
- Child Care Subsidy (CCS): Check how much CCS your family is entitled to and deduct this from the service’s quoted fee. Contact Centrelink to submit a claim to be assessed for Child Care Subsidy. This can be done well in advance of your child starting care. Ensure you have processed your CCS application prior to your child’s care start date as full fees will be payable until your claim is assessed by Centrelink. Centrelink ph 13 61 50 or https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/child-care-subsidy
- Immunisation: In line with the NSW Public Health Act, a childcare service cannot enrol a child unless the parent/guardian has provided the child’s up to date Medicare Immunisation History Statement. For information on accessing your child’s Statement: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/medicare/australian-immunisation-register
Choosing childcare is very much a personal decision, and parents value different things, so while you can seek advice from friends and family members, you ultimately need to make the call that’s best for your family.
Check out Sutherland Shire Council’s website, where you’ll find lots more great insights to help you on your childcare journey.