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Preschool empire flawed by its carers [AU]

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Horin, Adele
Publication Date: 
12 Jun 2006

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The corporate child-care giant ABC Learning Centres is under fire again - from staff concerned about low budgets for food, onerous cleaning duties and excessive paperwork that diverts attention from the children.

A survey by the Australia Institute reveals ABC child-care workers rate their centres lower on a range of quality measures than do their counterparts in non-profit long-day-care centres.

For example, 18 per cent of ABC Learning staff surveyed would not send their own children to the centres they worked at, compared with 4 per cent of workers in non-profit centres. Only 15 per cent of ABC staff said their centres employed more child-care workers than the legal requirement, compared with 40 per cent of staff at non-profit centres.

The director of the research institute, Clive Hamilton, said the results should be used with "some caution" due to the relatively small sample of 77 respondents from ABC, compared with 229 from community-based centres.

However, "even if only indicative", the concerns expressed by ABC staff warranted further investigation, given the company's large and growing influence over child care, he said.

The survey revealed only 29 per cent of the workers from ABC said they always had enough time to develop individual relationships with the children in their care, compared with 54 per cent of staff in non-profit centres. And only 37 per cent of ABC staff said their centres had a good variety of equipment, compared with 66 per cent of their counterparts.

A spokesman for ABC Learning, Scott Emerson, said the survey results surprised him, given that staff turnover was less than 10 per cent, compared with an industry average of 40 per cent: "Staff like being at ABC. That's why they stay."

- reprinted from the Sydney Morning Herald