Church in childcare push

Room to move: St Nicholas staff Emma Pratten, left, Kendall Lyons, right, with children Jacob Eccleston in black and Oliver Bower, jumping. Centres are secular and open to non-Catholics. Picture: Jonathan CarrollTHE Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle isexpanding its role in the childcare market and hopes to have a portfolio of six not-for-profit centres open within the next year.

The diocese opened its St Nicholas Early Education Centre in Newcastle West on May 18, boosting the number of childcare centres in the inner city to three.

Childcare operations managerKerri Armstrong said the 52-place centre was already at between 50 to 55 per cent capacity and was likely to be full byOctober.

“We have families who have left other providers mid-year to come to usbecause we still have limited spaces for the under twos, so they can bring both their baby and their preschooler,” she said.

“We also have a number of families who have had to give notice to other services and are on their way –wehave eight new students starting with us next week.

“People are used to waiting lists with 100 people before them, but anyone looking for care for two, three and four year olds, they can obtain enrolment straight away.”

The centre operates from 7am to 6pm andhas 12 places forbirth to two, 10 places for ages two to three, 10 places for ages three to four and 20 placesfor ages four to five, who also do a school-readiness program.

The Newcastle Herald reported in October that Newcastle City Council had refused a development application for a20-place childcare centre elsewhere on Hunter Street because of a lack of off-street parking.

St Nicholasopened on the formerCatholicCare site nearSacred Heart Cathedral and has 13parking spaces.Vice chancellor administration Sean Scanlon said the diocese had not ruled out opening another centre in the CBD, if the right site became available.

“We know there is demand in the inner city and people are crying out for childcare where they work,” he said.

“We have a broad strategy to expand childcare across the diocese and we keep adding to the list.

“We want to build communities, not just schools.”

Mr Scanlon said the diocese made itsfirst foray into childcare mid last year, when it took over and renamed thepreviously parish-based St Patrick’s Early Childhood Centreat Singleton.

Mr Scanlon said the diocese has lodged a development application with Lake Macquarie City Council to open an 80 placecentre in Cardiff, in the former Coles site.

It will also lodge developmentapplications with Maitland City Council in the coming month to open centresonthe site of the formerMaitland Ex-Servicemen’s Citizens Bowling and Sporting Club;next toSt Patrick’s Primary at Lochinvar; and adjoiningSt Aloysius Primary at Chisholm.

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