Increasing occupancy in early childhood education settings is a priority for many childcare service providers. While the sector has been booming, attracting families and growing your centre requires ongoing efforts.
With a range of factors impacting occupancy rates, including the pandemic and increasing competition in the sector, it is important to utilise innovative ways to boost your occupancy. Even if your service is currently thriving, a strategy to showcase your service to families in your community is a must.
Occupancy rates and the booming childcare sector
The early childhood education sector has been undergoing significant growth, with more families using childcare services. There are a number of reasons for this growth. Notably, the sector has been increasingly acknowledged for its important role in children’s development, wellbeing and education. Further driving the demand is improved Government funding which has made early childhood more accessible for more families.
In response to the growth and demand for quality childcare options for families seeking it, there has been a record number of early childhood education services opening around Australia. With so many options available creating increased competition, paired with the impact of the pandemic, many childcare providers are facing the challenge of reaching a level of occupancy that will allow them to continue to stay open — and to grow and thrive.
Creative ways to improve early childhood occupancy rate
Having a great service with highly skilled educators is vital, but how do you let your local community know how great you are? Even with restrictions, there are ways to stand out and showcase your early childhood education offering to prospective families. Let’s look at a few ideas:
- Stay on top of marketing: A strong, active social media presence that highlights your offering paired with an an up- to-date website are useful tools to present your service to the community. When people want to learn more about your service, they will typically head online, so use digital marketing and advertising to reach your prospective families and target specific clientele in your area.
- Strive for high NQS rating: Much like we check restaurants for their star ratings, families with young children tend to look to your NQS Rating for an indication of the quality of your childcare offering.
- Flexibility for families: Families are looking for flexibility from their providers, so when considering your hours or how you approach enrolments, try to be flexible and understanding where possible. Letting families see that you understand their situations shows that you genuinely care.
- Keep your educators inspired: Inspired, motivated educators create the most engaging learning experiences for children and make your early childhood education service shine. Keep your educators feeling valued, happy and support their upskilling and career goals.
- Virtual tours, professional photography of your centre: Putting your best foot forward is important, and investing in professional photography can ensure you get the best angles to present your service for those deciding on where to send their children. And while in-person tours may not be allowed depending on your area due to restrictions, virtual tours are fun and free. Invite your social media following and target your local community with a virtual tour opportunity to show off your amazing centre.
- Enhance your point of difference: Consider what makes your centre stand out. Do you have a unique focus on, say, wellbeing or literacy and numeracy? Is yours a Montessori or Reggio Emilia approach? Do children at your service spend a certain amount of time outdoors each day? Know what makes your centre special and tell people all about it in your marketing efforts.
- Referral incentives from other parents: The best client or customer is often the one you already have. Ask your current families to recommend your service when they can to help support your contribution to early childhood education. You can even create a referral system with incentives to make families more inclined to recommend your service. This might be a in the form of a voucher for a local business for successful referrals, or a discount on a portion of their own fees.
- Seek out media attention: The local newspaper or even more broadly are frequently looking for organisations who are doing some special, something different or just doing their job really well and with passion. If your service is hosting an event, getting certain outcomes or anything that might be of interest to others, reach out to the media to let them know what you’re up to.
Create the best early childhood service possible
At the end of the day, families want an early childhood education provider that they trust. One that they feel will give their children the very best start in life. A service prioritising employing quality educators who have access to ongoing training is capable of continually maintaining an exceptional standard of care for children during their most critical time of development.
Find out how we can support you in creating the best early childhood education service possible — get in touch with our team here at Practical Outcomes!