THREE primary schools in the Corner Inlet area, Welshpool and District, Toora and Fish Creek and District, will be starting out of school hours care services from the beginning of Term Three on Monday July 12, 2021.
The Victorian Department of Education has allocated each school up to $75,000 per year for the next four years, amounting to some $300,000 per school or about $900,000 in total.
The money allows the schools to provide “desperately needed” before and after school care programs to their respective families, giving parents the chance to return to or enter employment and further education, extend their working hours, and meet family, business and other commitments more easily.
All three school principals, Welshpool and District Primary’s Gabbi Boyd, Toora Primary’s Luke Haustorfer, and Fish Creek and District Primary’s Dale Banks, were elated at the success of their funding applications.
“Before and after school care is something that has been desperately needed at Welshpool, and at Toora and Fish Creek,” Gabbi Boyd of Welshpool said.
“I’ve been canvassing the wider Welshpool community for a number of years to find out what local families want, and in fact introducing exactly this kind of service was one of my goals when I applied for the principal’s position at the school,” she said.
“I’m so excited that it’s actually come to fruition for the three schools, and the flow-on effects of these programs really will be so far-reaching in terms of social wellbeing, and the prospect of improved financial stability among other factors, while kids can stay in their own schools and their own communities.”
Toora principal Luke Haustorfer said the three schools had been “liaising with each other after we were made aware by the Department of Education that funding for new outside school hours care services was available.
“While we all applied to the Department individually, we’re working collaboratively to offer families throughout our region a consistency of service across the three settings,” he said.
“The outside school hours care programs will be run at each school by the same third party provider, TheirCare, which is a fully-accredited, Australian family-owned business.”
Luke said the three schools were “very grateful to the Department of Education for committing to four years of funding for the programs because what that does is guarantee that the services will run until mid-2025.
“That gives us plenty of time to establish the programs, and to tailor them so they suit the schools and the families they serve, and it also gives the families themselves opportunities to find and to consolidate their places in the community.”
Fish Creek’s Dale Banks said the principals had “worked it out together, one hundred percent, in the same way we’ve always approached the common issues, areas of interest, and educational resources and opportunities we share in South Gippsland.
“The out of school hours care programs will make a tremendous difference to a lot of the families at our three schools,” he said.
“Fish Creek’s students are drawn from several local communities, encompassing traditional and modern agriculture, thriving small businesses, visual and performing arts and environmentally-friendly lifestyles.”
Outside school hours care times
While the hours of operation will vary a little between the schools, all three will be offering care before school starts in the morning as well as after school finishes each afternoon during term time for the next four years.
Welshpool and District Primary School
Gabbi said Welshpool’s program will run from 7 am until 8.45 am when the school’s usual supervision begins, and again between 3.20 pm and 6 pm from Monday to Friday.
“We want to get the service properly established for our school students first and then we’ll be looking at providing care for our local kindergarten’s children, too,” she said.
“We have to make this service work for our school families who often have kinder-aged children, Welshpool’s school currently has an enrolment of 41 students from Prep to Grade Six. It is expected that the number of students will increase slightly over the next four years.
Toora Primary School
At Toora, the outside school hours care will be available from 7 am to 9 am, and between 3 pm and 6 pm from Monday to Friday.
Luke said the school was talking with Prom Coast Centres for Children (PCCC) about including the children enrolled at the Toora Kindergarten as well.
“We have to cater to whole families and to help them with the specific needs of their particular situations,” he said.
“There are families around Toora area who are unemployed or underemployed because they don’t have access to family support, and we also have lots of new people shifting into the area on the back of COVID-19 who don’t have a support network either.”
Toora Primary School has a current enrolment of 56 students across Grades Prep to Six.
Fish Creek and District Primary School
Fish Creek’s outside school hours care program will open at 7 am and run until 9 am, and again between 3.20 pm and 6 pm from Monday to Friday.
Dale said the new care service “presents a great opportunity for local families to re-enter the workforce, which is something that without this much-needed and practical support, would simply not be possible,” he said.
“This really is a wonderful break for the whole Fish Creek community and for South Gippsland.”
Dale said the school would also be entering into discussions on offering outside school hours care to children attending the Fish Creek Kindergarten from 2022.
At present Fish Creek and District Primary School has an enrolment of 119 students, though this number looks likely to continue growing in the future.
Fees do apply for children to attend TheirCare outside school hours care programs.
Gabbi, Luke and Dale said they would be liaising with their respective school communities about the fee structure during the next several weeks, before the programs begin at each school on Monday July 12, 2021.
“There are a lot of government subsidies available to help support families,” they said.
TheirCare is recruiting
More detailed information about TheirCare’s services, charges and government assistance may be found at www.theircare.com.au
Outside school hours care service provider TheirCare has been appointed to run the new programs at Welshpool, Toora and Fish Creek, and is now actively recruiting for staff to operate these programs.
A member of the Outside School Hours Council of Australia, TheirCare’s website states that “we are looking for Coordinators and Educators to join our TheirCare team, at before and after school care services we are opening at schools in Toora, Fish Creek and Welshpool.
“Services open in Term Three, in mid-July, however paid induction and training will occur prior to this at one of our services closer to Melbourne, which will include all accommodation and expenses for successful candidates.”
The website continues, “to work in outside school hours care, you must be working towards or have completed an Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) approved qualification” and there is a link to a comprehensive list of these.
For more information about TheirCare and job opportunities see www.theircare.com.au and click on the Careers button.
Vacation care only at Foster Primary
Vacation care programs are run by Prom Coast Centres for Children (PCCC) every school holidays at Foster Primary School, but before or after school care during term time is currently not available.
Foster’s acting principal Scott Moorhouse said the school did apply for the same Victorian Department of Education outside school hours care funding as Welshpool, Toora and Fish Creek schools, but was unsuccessful.
“Foster Primary didn’t qualify because the school already offers vacation care,” he said.
“We’re in the process of appealing the decision, and we’ll certainly have an entry in the next round in September of this year, with the aim of starting out of school hours care here in 2022.”
PCCC Foster Centre director Sue Millett said PCCC has operated before and after school care programs at the Centre in Pioneer Street in Foster in the past, however the service stopped last year.
“There is a real push from local families though to get out of school hours care re-established in Foster,” she said.
“It is very exciting for the Prom Coast area to have three new services of this kind starting next term for the benefit of families in Welshpool, Fish Creek and Toora.” too, and parents need a service that will let them re-engage with work and study.”