73 kids in one room at new Mackay childcare

Michael (holding Connor Hain) and Suzi McEachern, Early Childhood teacher Alison Christian, mum Natalie Hain and Lucy and mum Jess and Zahlee Rozynski at the Moreton Drive Early Learning Centre.
Michael (holding Connor Hain) and Suzi McEachern, Early Childhood teacher Alison Christian, mum Natalie Hain and Lucy and mum Jess and Zahlee Rozynski at the Moreton Drive Early Learning Centre. Tony Martin

SUSIE and Michael McEachern will knock down the barriers of early learning when they build a new child care centre in Mackay.

Inside their $2.5million centre there will be just two rooms, with up to 73 children in each.

It will be "totally different for Mackay" as children of different ages learn together in a real life environment.

In traditional child care centres, kids are separated into age groups and taught in small class rooms.

At the Moreton Drive Early Learning Centre there will be just two rooms, one for children 0-2 years old and another for 2-5 years old.

CQUniversity early learning lecturer Jodie Riek said these types of child care centres had been around since at least the 1970s.

"It does provide a sense of family in comparison to having those single age groups," she said.

"Instead of developmental learning, the children actually learn from older more experienced children."

But she said there were also challenges with this model as teachers had to cover a broad range of topics and experiences for children of different ages.

"That is very much attune to real life because we don't sit together with the same experiences and background in the community and that's what this family grouping model is about," she said.

And that is how Mrs McEachern has been explaining the new centre to parents who are considering sending their children there.

"When you are at home you don't separate your children because of their age, they all get along and work as a family," she said.

"We will have big open spaces that will allow us to have up to 10-13 children of different ages working in groups. It could allow those children to keep the play going tomorrow because we have the space to leave that activity there for them to continue."

With so much play happening between 73 children in the same room, Mrs McEachern was not concerned about the rooms being too noisy.

"We will have quieter activity on one half of the room, the kitchen in the middle and louder activities on the other side of the room," she said.

"And the way we have designed it the outdoor and indoor areas flow openly and the 73 kids can move throughout the spaces."

Mr McEachern said his wife's passion for the new centre gave him the "warm and fuzzies". "It's her absolute field of expertise and from the start she said if we were going to do it we have to do it right," he said.

The new centre is expected to open in about four weeks, meaning the couple are looking to hire staff now. "We are interviewing staff now and already had about 12 to 14 people apply for certain jobs within the centre and probably about 10 families about to enrol their kids so far," Mr McEachern said.

"We're looking at employing up to 23 full-time and part-time staff from the Northern Beaches and Rural View area."

The project was also awarded a 50% infrastructure charge discount by Mackay Regional Council last Wednesday as part of its Facilitating Development Policy. That is a saving of $28,999 if the centre is running by September 2019.

Topics:  bucasia childcare child care child care rebate editors picks mackay news mackay region michael mceachern new news mackay

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