Long waits for sought-after care

AN INCREASE in the number of working families means school-aged child care facilities across the region have waiting lists.

Sherpa Kids runs outside-school-hours care at St Edward’s Primary School, Kootingal Public School and St Nicholas’ Catholic School.

St Nicholas’ Sherpa Kids program has only been running since the start of the current school term and is already at its capacity of 40 students, with a waiting list for more places.

“We weren’t expecting it quite so soon,” Sherpa Kids NSW area developer Ted Nguyen said.

“Sydney is huge, but Tamworth has just been amazing.” 

Mr Nguyen said the beauty of child care on the school grounds was the students were in a safe environment in which they felt comfortable, and they could play with their friends.

“It’s also an opportunity to reinforce the school’s values, such as ‘manners matter’,” he said.

“Because we operate independently, we take the responsibility of after-hours care from the school and comply with all the requirements.” 

St Nicholas’ Catholic School principal Stefan van Aanholt said it also removed the “administrative nightmare” from schools.

“The parents wanted this and it’s our response to providing our parents with a service,” he said.

“More and more mums are working and they really need somewhere that can provide care for their children. And within the school they can’t be any safer.” 

Students at St Nicholas’ get afternoon tea, then do their homework and take part in activities, often with themes including learning about Egypt or celebrating cultural events such as Chinese New Year or Easter.

Tamworth Year Round Care co-ordinator Katrina Grant said the demand at Tamworth and West Tamworth Public schools was also high.

Tamworth Public, called the east centre, is a 100-place program and is almost full, averaging 87 children a day.

There are 25 places for before-school care at Tamworth Public and it averages 23 students.

The south centre, based at West Tamworth Public, is a 45-place program and is getting an average of 30 children per day.

Vacation care is in hot demand at both centres, with more than 45 places, and bookings are taken from week eight.

Mrs Grant said the spaces were usually snapped up within three days and they then continued taking bookings until the end of term, resulting in a long waiting list.

Outside-school-hours care will soon be available, through Sherpa Kids, at St Francis Xavier’s in Narrabri, Gunnedah and Quirindi.

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