Top 3 reasons why childcare centres struggle for enrolments

With many families seeking out formal childcare for their children, it may come as a surprise that there are still many centres that struggle with enrolments. If this is you, you are not alone. This article points out the top three reasons why centres struggle to help give you an insight into how you can make some changes.

Competition

This is probably the single biggest factor that impacts your centre’s enrolment numbers! Competition comes in many forms and varies between areas. Some of the main sources of competition are:

Other centres – this is probably obvious, but the more centres in your area the more competition you have. This isn’t to say there is anything wrong with your centre, there are many reasons why parents choose one over another. These reasons include;

  • Values and vibe: Each centre has their own set of values and even though they are all often of decent quality, offering exceptional service, some parents simply get a better ‘vibe’ with a particular centre.
  • Cost: whilst this probably doesn’t vary greatly, cost plays a factor in which centre parents choose to send their child to.
  • Opening hours: some parents require their child to be in childcare for long hours due to work commitments, and for various reason, not all centres can offer these hours.
  • Home daycare: some parents may like the idea of smaller child numbers and a more ‘homely’ childcare facility.
  • A new centre: inevitably, parents will want to try the ‘new and shiny’ centre.
  • Location: parents may move their child to a centre more conveniently located if they move house or the area where they work changes.
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Grandparents – using grandparents or other family members is becoming a more common childcare option. They are certainly more cost-effective, and both the child and the grandparents benefit from spending time together. According to the Childcare in New Zealand Survey, 24% of children are cared for by grandparents, most commonly among single parent-working families and families where both parents are employed full-time.

 

Parents – many parents are now able to alter their work to suit childcare. Whether it’s part-time work, working from home agreements, flexible hours, or self-employment that allows a parent to spend more time with their children. In many cases, both parents take on the role of carer, sharing the workload of paid employment and childcare between them. Whilst statistically, more parents are choosing formal childcare arrangements due to work commitments, the flexibility and part-time working factor may contribute to part of the decline at your centre.

A little bit of competition is a good thing. It prompts you to evaluate your service and continue to offer the best service possible that suits the needs of your community.

Lack of Marketing Strategies

It is common for centres across the country to have fluctuating numbers, but there is a way to prevent these numbers from dropping too low. If you fail to regularly market and advertise your centre, you are likely to find yourself in the predicament of falling numbers at one point or another. Sure, these will quite often correct themselves over time, but you may also find yourself doing some pretty good hustling (or extra stressing)!

Make a note to advertise your centre regularly – at the very worst you will end up with a healthy-looking waiting list

Lack of Funding

If you look at any educational sector, there is always the issue of funding. The reduction of the qualified teacher target to 80% and related funding cuts, has had a significant effect on many ECE centres. There is less money to cover all costs and optimisation is key – staffing, resources and maintenance, so many centres are relying on a helping hand from parents.

Ratios are often increased, which may lead some parents to turn towards other options, such as home-based childcare. It is hard to attract future families, and keep them when so many factors are below par.

Do your best to ensure teaching standards and staff morale are high – this is the most significant factor in both keeping and gaining new clients. Keep your facilities in the best condition possible and first impressions from future families will be positive.

Whilst an ongoing struggle for enrolments isn’t a massive problem across the board, it is a harsh reality for some centres. Your struggles are likely due to one, or maybe more, of these causes. Evaluate your centre and make some simple changes to get back on track and future-proof your centre.