Armidale childcare centre Tiny Town Childcare will be forced to close its doors this Wednesday 8 November. The centre, which currently cares for around 30 children, has been given notice by the NSW Department of Education after reportedly failing to meet Federal Government Accreditation Standards.
Centre owner and director, Carina de Klerk tells us that the impact this will have on the local community will be palpable.
“We have so many beautiful, happy children in our care,” she said.
“Their families are devastated. We’re looking at families where parents will now have to leave their jobs because there is no care available in Armidale.”
When asked which standard the centre has been failed on Ms de Klerk said it related to safety.
“We have been labelled unsafe. We have been told that we failed National Quality Standard 2 which is Children’s Health and Safety, but I don’t think this is the case.”
“The centre is a victim of an unfair system – they tell us that our centre is unsafe but the standards that they judge us on are inconsistent.”
“Each time someone comes to assess the centre, it’s a different person and they have different standards” Ms de Klerk says.
“I know of another specific centre in Armidale that has had far more issues with safety and children actually being injured and yet somehow they pass, and we don’t.”
Ms de Klerk also cites a lack of communication from inspectors as a key failing when it comes to issues of quality standards.
“We have had inspectors write things in their reports about really minor items, but they won’t talk to you about it while they’re at the centre, there’s no opportunity to discuss it with them or fix something straight away,” Ms de Klerk says.
“I understand the need for standards but with all the paperwork and the differing opinions, they’ve just made it too difficult and they’re driving educators out of the sector.”
The centre was only given two weeks’ notice regarding the final decision to close Tiny Town.
Ms de Klerk says she has requested a hearing at the tribunal and has also engaged the help of a consultant but that she has no idea how long it will take for this to happen.
The closure will also leave the Centre’s six staff members unemployed.
Ms de Klerk says that the response from the families has been moving, with some parents even offering to chip in to try and fix some of the issues raised on the report.
“One parent commented to me the other day that if the parents are happy and the children are happy surely that should be the measure,” says Ms de Klerk.
In the interim, local MP Adam Marshall has petitioned the Education Minister Prue Car to try and intervene on the Centre’s behalf.
“Given Tiny Town’s exemplary track record, the dire shortage of childcare places in Armidale and the fact that the breaches were technical and paperwork deficiencies, I have asked the Minister to grant a stay of execution and allow the centre more time to comply with the standards,” Mr Marshall said.
Echoing Ms de Klerk’s sentiments, he goes on to comment that the one size fits all approach that is currently used is not necessarily the right approach.
“Small regional childcare providers can often find it difficult to sieve through paperwork and layers of bureaucracy which can at times be a tick-and-flick exercise…A little bit of leniency should be considered and granted in this instance, especially with a decision that has far reaching consequences for our community,” said Mr Marshall.
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