As some larger providers merge to become more sustainable one small centre in the Illawarra is operating at 92 per cent and hoping to be at full capacity in June.
There are challenges in the sector which have been accentuated by parents keeping children away during COVID-19 restrictions.
But a day after Goodstart Early Learning and Big Fat Smile announced plans to merge Illawarra Academy of Early Learning revealed it has been welcoming new families during the pandemic.
Big Fat Smile chair David Campbell said the move was not in response to COVID-19 but families have been keeping children away from centres since March.
Big Fat Smile and Goodstart Early Learning have been looking at their long term sustainability for the last year. Even bore merger talks began late in 2019.
Christine Giles is director of all three Illawarra Academy of Early Learning centres in Warilla, Mt Warrigal and Lake Illawarra said the business liked being the size it is because she and the owner know the names of all the parents. And have regular dialogue with them all.
"Even with the government bringing in free child care we have just taken that on board and even taken some enrolments during this time," she said.
"Even though we don't get any money for it we've taken the enrolments because parents need it. We have had a couple of people who have been nurses and have actually gone back to work".
Ms Giles said Illawarra Academy of Early Learning team enjoy the work they do so much no one ever seems to leave.
In fact the only staff changes are when they are putting on additional childcare workers.
She said they were some of the reasons by Illawarra Academy of Learning won the Illawarra and South Coast Local Business Award from a big field in the early learning category in 2019.
"We are doing okay. We always have a couple of vacancies here and there," she said.
"The coronavirus has affected us. But I am still getting phone calls for enrolments. At our Warilla centre we are still sitting on 92 per cent occupancy".
Illawarra Academy of Early Learning took over a near empty centre at Lake Illawarra at the end of 2019 and between January and March it managed to reach 50 per cent occupancy.
"We filled 70 places in two months," Ms Giles said.
"And our Warilla centre is now virtually back to where we were in February. Which is great because the more kids here the more fun we have. At our Mt Warrigal centre we are still waiting for about nine families to come back".
Ms Giles said from early June she expects all three centres will be at near full capacity.
They will continue to encourage parents not to come into the centres for the rest of the year when they drop their children off.
"They meet us at the front, we take the child's temperature and it it is green they come into the centre," she said.
"I think that makes family's feel safe. We are continuing that because we want parents to have confidence our centres are a safe place to bring their children.
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