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Giraffe Early Learning

By Jack Hayes

For Jacqui Scheinberg, her journey to owner and operator of Giraffe Early Learning Centre at The District Docklands wasn’t a traditional one.

A teacher of 22 years, Mrs Scheinberg, opened her first childcare centre in Sydney in 2009. Six years later she and her husband saw the opportunity of a blank canvas and ability build a new centre of their own design and grabbed it with both hands.

Initially run by an external agency whose ambitious educator-to-child ratios left staff exhausted and stretched, Mrs Scheinberg shortly assumed control to ensure the best for children and staff alike.

Fast forward a further five years and Mrs Scheinberg’s attitude towards providing out- standing early childhood learning and welfare is resolute.

“My training was not in early learning, but I am a mum with four of my own kids. I know what I wanted and my mantra has always been: ‘I want the centre to be somewhere I would be proud to send my children to.’ We are the advocates of the children,” she said.

“My staff work four days a week, with extend- ed hours on those days to ensure the children are with the same educators from the time they are dropped off in the morning, to when they are picked up in the afternoon.”

“When my staff come to me and ask what we should do, I always say, ‘what is best for the children’?”

According to Mrs Scheinberg, Giraffe Early Learning Centre boasts a footprint of roughly 2000sqm, working out to be a ratio of 10sqm per child.

“A feature of Giraffe Early Learning Centre is a three-week transition for children. Before they start, they come to our centre for two or three days a week to spend time in our rooms with family members so that they are already familiar with the centre and feel safe,” Mrs Scheinberg said.

“It also allows our educators to consult with parents to find out their children’s needs or requirements.”

“We base all of our teaching on the national Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) cur- riculum. It is child-led, child-centred learning. It has helped us develop a calm and quiet learning environment where children feel safe and supported.”

After firmly entrenching the Giraffe Early Learning name in Docklands over the preceding years, Mrs Scheinberg saw a near-full centre with a 90 per cent occupancy rate in late 2019.

That occupancy took the most dramatic of falls following the emergence of a global pandemic and subsequent government lockdowns.

Although Mrs Scheinberg said her occupancy rate, which is now running at 35 per cent, is nowhere near where she would like it, she was uplifted by the crucial role her centre played in supporting children, staff and families through an unprecedent period.

“One of the issues with COVID is that parents lost confidence and that resonated through to the children. Because of that, we have worked incredibly hard to support our families who, during stage-four lockdown, would not speak to anyone face-to-face outside their own house- hold besides us.”

“When we came out of lockdown late last year, we had a birthday party in each of our rooms because all the children missed out on their normal birthday parties. Our philosophy was always to keep things as normal as possible for the sake of our children.”

Now, with life as COVID-normal is becoming clearer, Mrs Scheinberg is ready to welcome back children with open arms.

“We’ve been around for five years, we have consistency in staff, we have passion and we always want to welcome new children and families into the centre.”

Giraffe Early Learning Centre is located at level 1, 25 Star Cres at The District Docklands (above Uni Qlo) •

For more information, visit giraffedocklands.com.au

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