SIT Childcare Sees Community Shift In Enrolments

Published: Tue 9 Jul 2024 10:36 AM
SIT Early Childhood Centre has experienced a change in clientèle over the past year, showing a shift towards families in the wider community comprising the greater number of enrolments.
SIT Childcare Manager, Nikki Ross, has been with the centre for 26 years. When recently looking at numbers, she noted it was “quite surprising” for the first time, to see there were more families attending from the wider community than SIT students and staff. “We’ve seen a shift in the last year. In percentages, roughly 60% wider community and 40% currently associated with SIT,” she said, adding of the SIT component, “at present we tend to have more student families than staff”.
Initially established near Hansen Hall as the Community College crèche in 1981 to cater for children of staff, students and people involved in education, over subsequent years Miss Ross said the centre’s emphasis gradually grew to include a broad range of the community’s childcare needs, from babies through to preschoolers.
The centre was also located on Tay Street for some time before it moved to its current location at the corner of Ness and Eye Streets in 1996. Convenient for parents needing proximity to central Invercargill, Miss Ross said location is usually a determinant for families in choosing their childcare. “We do have families who have shifted to other parts of the city and still come to us,” she added. The central location also allowed for exploration of the local community - Mitre 10, Splash Palace, Otepuni Gardens and Rose Lodge are places for regular excursions. Older children are involved in Bush School based in Otatara, “where they can explore nature at their own pace”, she said.
There are other factors which may influence a family’s decision, such as centre opening hours, or whether cooked meals are included for the child, Miss Ross explained. “Parents do have more choice now, it is a more competitive sector and there are more options to choose from.”
Miss Ross stated SIT Childcare’s focus has always been around the quality of the education. “Most of our kaiako are fully qualified early childhood teachers, or in
training to complete their qualification.” The centre usually achieved or bettered the required Ministry of Education staff-to-child ratios, and remaining competitively priced was important as well, so they could maintain their original purpose of serving SIT’s student community needs.
Having seen the outcomes firsthand, Miss Ross believed in the benefits of long serving staff members – many have been here for 15 years plus – who have knowledge, experience and in some cases, existing relationships with families. “They develop trusting relationships with children and their families. It demonstrates a stable, consistent environment which is less disruptive for children.”
In recent years the centre has redeveloped their indoor and outdoor environments; the all-weather play spaces allow for fresh air and activities, regardless of the seasons. Each of the three age groups (0 - 2 years), (2 – 3.5 years) and (3.5 – 6 years), have their own area. “We are fortunate to have all-weather play spaces and outdoor areas with real grass and trees,” Miss Ross added.
Alongside the quality education, the centre’s other main theme is working in partnership with children, parents and whanau (family), to build strong relationships with the community. “It’s an integral part of our operations to include family, and share moments from their child’s day with them. We’ve got families who now have their grandchildren coming to the centre,” Miss Ross said, acknowledging it was fulfilling to foster ongoing multi-generational relationships with local families.
Meriana’s relationship with the centre has spanned over two generations; her son had attended, and now her grandson is at SIT childcare. “It’s a little hidden gem,” she says, explaining “I liked the idea of SIT, it’s a little different from the generic centres you find everywhere.” The people connections at SIT drew her back. “The rapport we had with the teachers was fantastic,” Meriana said, and she appreciated the maturity of the staff, many of whom were mums or grandmothers. “I had more trust with them. I just love how they are with the kids... it’s the time and effort they put into [them]. My son thrived there... my grandson is thriving there.”
Similarly, Bev has had a 16-year, multi-generational connection with SIT Childcare with three of her grandchildren and three great-grandchildren attending. “The staff are just amazing ... I do drop-offs and pick-ups,” as well as participating in Christmas parties and Grandparent days, “whatever they’ve got going on; I like being connected with them.” Bev said the centre staff are always so very welcoming, and have a good sense of humour. “We got good, honest relationships.” She’d noticed there were a good variety of activities every day and the teachers tell her what’s going on with the children. “The kids are always so happy ... once my last great-grandchild goes, I’m going to miss SIT.”
The centre currently has some spaces available in the under two's - 3.5 year-old age group.

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