Inspecting a corporate child care centre

With all the talk about childcare, I just thought I’d share my sole experience with an ABC Learning centre. I was looking for a new childcare centre when we moved house. Our first centre was an on-campus community centre, and it was lovely – low ratios, caring staff, good continuity.

I dropped in on a local ABC childcare centre without calling first, to get a peek at what it was like. Reading this back, it sounds made up, but I swear this is exactly how it was. I was looking for the Candid Camera the whole time.

As I walked in, noting the good security (not surprising after they lost a kid elsewhere), I was hit by the stench of very old nappies and cheap toilet perfume. Not exactly inviting.

The younger children were sitting on a mat in the corner, being led by a carer in a slow, desultory chorus of – I shit thee not – “McDonald’s, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut. McDonald’s, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut. The Pizza Hut, The Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut”. There were hand actions with the song, mimicking corporate logos.

The centre manager showed me the main activity area, and a computer on a desk that was available for the use of the older children. All the while, the Fast Food Song was echoing in the background in the voices of toddlers.

I was taken through to the outside area, where I saw that at least they had a mildly pleasant grassed area, and an interesting old concrete-pipe-and-hillock area that would be fun to play in and around. I wondered why the children were inside, when it was a lovely afternoon outside and the playground was empty. The manager interrupted my reverie, taking pains to explain that they were just about to Renovate! , taking out all the old grass (she wrinkled her nose in disgust) and put in nice new astroturf. She also hastened to explain that they would be removing the concrete pipe and hill area as soon as possible, because it was “too hard to supervise”.

At that point I escaped, never to return. We found another community centre.

Categories: education, work and family

11 replies

  1. The fast food song really does sound like satire!

  2. I learned that fast food song in primary school– Year 2, I think, which would be twenty years ago. So at least there’s not some sort of insidious product placement deal, even though it’s certainly not the best choice of song.

  3. I know it’s an old song. It was still an utterly surreal experience for me, intensely contrasting with the campus centre. I’m hard-pressed to think of a “children’s” song more inappropriate to a formal education programme in a toddler-childcare environment. I wonder which Key Learning Area it addresses?

  4. I learned that fast food song in primary school– Year 2, I think, which would be twenty years ago.
    My head asplode.

  5. My head asplode.
    Just for some context– I went to school in a rural area, an hour away, at least, from the nearest town that had McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and KFC. For many of the kids in my class, going into that town was something they did maybe two or three times a year– so fast food outlets were somewhat exotic, and definitely not part of everyday experience.
    While it certainly wasn’t an appropriate song to be teaching to kids, I think it seems less horrific when it’s in a context where the kids are far removed from the actual fast food outlets– very different to teaching it to toddlers (!!!) in a suburban setting.
    (Though maybe I’m just feeling the need to defend my teacher, because I really liked her; she encouraged me a lot with reading, and later her husband was one of my English teachers in high school, so I’d still see her occasionally.)
    To get back on topic– it seems like a lot of the problems stemmed from the desire to protect kids from just about everything. I know that at my old school, kids are now no longer allowed to play handball on the concrete, in case they fall over. I know a lot of this stems from an overly litigious environment, but I wonder how much of it is a subconscious attempt to stifle children and put them into constructed little boxes– it’s like the idea that we need to protect children from everything to maintain their “innocence” (a term that is pretty much meaningless in that context), which in turn turns them into good corporate little citizens when they grow up. I’m not saying that ABC centres are consciously doing that, but that it’s implicitly reflective of the whole sort of corporate attitude that pervades so many things these days.
    I have no idea if any of that last paragraph makes sense. 😛

  6. I think that’s exactly right Beppie – and also the short-staffing that means they can’t effectively supervise a playground that isn’t a single small flat box.
    This is something I love about the lad’s school – he comes home with his legs scratched and bruised like mad, and a fair few other minor injuries, so I’m sure they’re doing something right in terms of allowing the kids to push their limits.

  7. Hmmm…. my elder daughter learned that song at her university-based child care centre.
    It was a semi-rural university, with a veterinary school, and an agricultural degree, so aside from dubious songs about fast food joints, they also went on walks around campus, and visited the farm paddocks, and saw a milking shed in action.
    Swings and roundabouts. But, the place had exceedingly good carer: child ratios, highly educated staff, and good facilities. So I could cope with the dodgy song.
    Deborahs last blog post..Speaking up for abortion

  8. I’ve done a bit of relief agency work and got called into an ABC centre. Thought I’d go and give them the benefit of the doubt. Just yuck. There was actually a directive for staff to stay in certain positions, so they could supervise children. ie. supervision is more important than interacting with the children. The children had lunch at 11.00 and sleep at 11.30, half the children weren’t at all tired, so needless to say, it was really unpleasant. I had never complained about a centre before, but I called my agency at lunch time and made a complaint. Everything was just awful. I went to another one (because I’m a sucker for punishment.) It turned out to be the one where the child was left in the lift. They have to use the lift to get to the outside space on the roof. I had a sign a disclaimer form upon arrival. And the children didn’t get any time outside because the staff didn’t like to use the lift. So many issues, such low staff morale.

  9. My SO still maintains the beginning of the end of one of his past relationships was when his girlfriend, training to be an early childhood educator, discussed this NEAT little song they taught the kids. Nothing gets him rarked up faster than that damn song.

  10. no thanks for the earworm!
    And my fave ABC story is the friend who saw that rather than read the kids a story, they listened to a story on CD and turned the pages. Nil interactivity.


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