Kindy’s new hours ‘family-friendly’

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Kindergartens are changing their operating hours to fit in with the school day, in a bid to make their hours more “family-friendly” amid competition from private preschools.

CEO of the Nelson Tasman Kindergarten Association, Trish Casey, says the change is in response to a demand for longer hours, and to stop the migration to private centres. “Some people just can’t make kindergarten work with the current hours that we offer, especially in families where both parents are working,” she says.

The association already has several kindergartens offering the longer sessions, and the new model will mean that all 19 kindergartens across the region will follow the same structure from the beginning of term three.

A parent survey from last year showed that most parents were happy with the current hours, but another segment said they would happily take up full days. “What we figured was that what we’re changing to doesn’t affect the families who are happy with the shorter hours, because they can continue to have that, but we can now also address the needs of those who wanted something more, and attract new families,” says Trish.

The new hours will mean big changes for teaching staff, who have been involved in a consultation phase.

“We’ve taken on-board feedback and we’ve tried to make it work as well as it can for individual teachers,” says Trish.

Donna Bishop, head teacher of Victory Square Kindergarten, says that there are both positive and negative outcomes for her kindergarten.

“We will lose professional time and it will definitely be more challenging, however we are trying to be innovative and will do our best to ensure that families do not notice any change in our quality of output,” she says.

“But, in light of the challenging financial time our association is under, they are doing their best to increase participation across our kindergarten sector, and trying to provide the most economical way to move forward.”

The new hours are being well received at Victory, with most parents choosing to extend their children’s sessions.

Steve Mortimer, whose daughter attends the kindergarten, is supportive of the change.

“Personally, I think it’s a good idea. It’s extra time for me,” he says.

However, some parents will be sticking to the old hours, such as Andrea Goodwin, who says she thinks it’s important for her daughter to have some afternoons at home.

The association says it will still support teacher aides and administrators, and stand by their commitment to provide 100 per cent registered teachers.