Siobhan Finegan interview |®
Child care person in the spotlight
Siobhan Finegan
What is your name?
My name is Siobhan Finegan. I am Irish born and immigrated to Australia when I was five years old. Siobhan is a very difficult name to say for toddlers, so I have been called "Shimon, Shiwan, Vashaun, Vaughny."

The very first enrolment I had 19 years ago, was a three year old called Billy. Billy called me "Mon," as new children started they thought that was my name and now nineteen years on I still have staff and families that call me Mon, while Billy is now a university student.

Which service do you work in? How many staff and children are in your service?
I am an owner/operator at Wee Wonders Childcare Centre. Wee Wonders in Kensington has been operating for nineteen years. I then opened Wee Wonders Chifley ten years ago.

Wee Wonders Kensington has 32 children and seven full time educators. Chifley has 35 children and eight full time educators. Wee Wonders has always worked with extra staff and very low ratios for group sizes. Being a teacher meant that I had great insight into the importance of smaller groups and designed the centres around small groups.

I have an amazing team of educators involved across both centres. They are dedicated, passionate and committed to Wee Wonder's Mission of providing a high quality service that inspires children to wonder. The educators are the making of Wee Wonders. We have always achieved the highest ratings across accreditation and are very proud to be offering a service that Exceeds the National Standards. This is achieved by the dedication of the staff and management.

What is your professional background and career experience?
I have been in the education field for thirty years now. I was originally a Primary school teacher. I had worked in Australia, PNG, and England.

I was in London when my Mum, Josie (who is a Nurse) called me and spoke about opening a child care centre. I returned to Australia and converted my Primary Degree to be an Early Childhood qualification. Josie also retrained and together we started this family business, Wee Wonders. We have built a beautiful community of families and a history of high quality care being available to the Kensington and Chifley families. Wee Wonders has been and continues to be a great reputable centre in the Kensington and now Chifley communities. It has won many small business awards and has consistently been acknowledged as a centre of the highest quality ratings.

I have nineteen years' experience in Early Childhood. I also completed my Masters in Early Years Education ten years ago. I have a strong belief that investing in a high quality education in the early years has a positive outcome for the child, family, and community in which we live. I am very passionate about the early years and the importance of the industry having early childhood trained staff involved in it. Running a centre as an educator gives Wee Wonders that special extra advantage. Being able to always advise staff and families on developmental matters has really helped the families feel like we are part of their lives!

What attracted you to a career in the early childhood sector?
My attraction to the early childhood sector started when I converted my primary degree to early childhood. The more I worked in the industry, the more passionate I became about the major influence that a high quality service has on the foundation years of early childhood. Our practices, policies, philosophy and beliefs can really make a difference!

What does a 'normal' day look like for you?
My day is shared between both Wee Wonders. I usually spend approximately four to five hours in each centre. I am involved in managing staff, finances, families, guiding curriculum practices, working with special needs children, working with the children and facilitating play. If the need arises, I will step into be an educator in either centre. I feel privileged that I am a teacher and that I can assist staff, children, and families so efficiently with education matters. I know this is a point of difference to my business.

What makes your service unique?
We are unique because we are Wee Wonders! We are a family run business with a highly successful track record. We have even received emails from the local schools acknowledging that the children from our centre are a standout when they start school. They are independent and successful learners.

We are a small service, in converted homes where children are the centre of all that we do. We pride ourselves on integrity and honesty, and this shines through all areas of our business. When you work in this field, with children, it is crucial that these strong attributes define how you behave. I believe this has been part of why Wee Wonders has such a great reputation.

One reason we have such longevity of staff and low staff turnover is the fact that the teams are supported by a leader who is also an educator. We have three degree staff in both centres, which is two above what is required, but I believe that investment in staff and their education, filters down to the success of the business. Being overstaffed also means that the staff are not under the pump daily!

We have a centre pet: "Rory, " the dog. He has been here at the service for fourteen years and is a real favourite. The children pop their heads into my office in the afternoons to say goodbye to Rory and have a hug. Rory can often help with a bad departure too….Getting Rory a drink or bringing him out to the garden can be a real life saver!

We have a specialized dance teacher who comes weekly on alternate dates for the children, and we do a concert for our families at the end of the year. Children and families love it.

Wee Wonders has a multicultural team, and many of our team are bi-lingual, this gives the children a positive experience in different cultures and languages being part of life. We do a lot of work on belonging…respecting all our families and the cultures and religions that they belong to.

As previously discussed the staff have been around a long time. Some of our educators have been involved in the centre for up to 15, 13 and 10 years. We have clients that used the business for eleven years with all their children and had the same main staff looking after them all those years.

The families that have left Wee Wonders have also stayed very connected to us. I love that. I have loved the relationships!

What are some of the advantages of working in early childhood education and care?
An advantage of working in early childhood education and care is that you are involved with families in the grass roots of a community. Being in Kensington for nineteen years and Chifley for ten years and always working with the best interests of the children and families at the centre of all that we do has meant that we are very connected with the local families. Families express the importance that Wee Wonders has to their own family lives. We are an integral part of the children's lives, and I love those connections.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the sector?
Some challenges and changes in the sector have been welcomed! Wee Wonders has always had qualified staff looking after the children for the past nineteen years, with good ratios for best outcomes. I was so happy to have this as a regulation of the Industry.

I believe a major challenge is that the access to affordable, high-quality child care has become an important economic issue. The government addressed this with the CCR. There is a flood of large centres opening in every suburb and to recuperate monies spent on these large conversions, the fees are being pushed up above the average for the suburb. It's a fine balance between providing for the needs of a community and having too many centres.

How does the early childhood industry need to change to adapt to these challenges?
I feel the industry should be promoting centres to be run by people who come from the Education industry. I know all schools are run by educators, and I think Early Childhood should follow this lead.

What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in early childhood education and care?
My advice to someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in early childhood education and care is that you need a passion for this industry and children. It is hard work, but rewarding. I advise you to always keep upgrading your qualifications and have a sound theoretical background to your practices.

While doing my Masters, I wrote a paper on The status of the early childhood worker in the wider community… I want you to know that if you are an educator, you are a professional in this field and that this is something to be proud of. BUT with great privilege comes great responsibility… do our industry proud and always work with integrity!
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