Moving countries with small children is challenging.

Some of you may have tried contacting daycare or preschools in Sydney yourselves. Did they tell you that you will need to be in Australia or you will have to come in for orientation or interview before you can apply? Well, don’t despair. While that is the case with many childcare institutions, there are some that accept enrolment with deposit while you are still in your country.

A family from New York recently relocate to Sydney. Their priorities were not a house with pleasant outlook or easy distance to the husband’s workplace. They did want these things of course but more importantly they wanted to secure a spot at a preschool for their eldest daughter before anything else.

If you are moving to Sydney with small children, pre-arranging childcare is a good move. There are just so many things to do when you arrive in Sydney: unpacking, connecting utilities, cleaning, getting bed linens, furniture, car and parking permit. Your long list of things to do will be ticked off three times faster if your little ones aren’t pleading to be taken to a park at your feet every 10 minutes. I have seen “freshly imported” families both with and without child care arrangements, and I have to say the difference in stress level is evident, for both parents and children. Remember, the quicker you get settled, the more quality time you will have with your kids.

Having said that, it is not easy to find a daycare in the city where occupancy of daycare reaches something like 90%. It is not unusual to find long day care centres with a couple of hundred families on their waitlist. Not only that, these centres often give priority to a child who has a sibling already enrolled in the same centre. So if you are new to Sydney, where do you start?

You can engage a local relocation agency, but if not, internet search sites such as Care For Kids and My Child are a good place to start.

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It is good to keep in mind that you should not expect all the online information to be accurate, especially vacancy. I would call them instead of emailing them and get the latest. Their situation regarding enrollments can change weekly. By talking in person, you will get a sense of how organised or how helpful they are. They often volunteer information like, “you get a spot guaranteed for next year if you paid a deposit now” or “we are full, but there is a new centre opening up nearby”. If they cannot give you all the days you wanted, ask if there are any “casual” spots for the day or the week. There might be some kids sick or away on holidays. The childcare centre may not have a more permanent spot than they already offered to you, but they may be able to take your child as a special case for the first few weeks while you get settled.

But are all types of childcare equally hard to secure? I have talked a lot about long day care as that is the most popular. I find that council operated long day care especially have a long wait list as they generally have good quality control in terms of staff, programs, meals, and facility. And for what you get, they are not the most expensive.

Why is long daycare so popular? As real estate and other prices rise, there are more working mothers than ever in Sydney and this increased demand for long daycare. Enrollments of preschools, however, have declined (9am-3pm, only open school terms) in the recent years. So if you are not desperate for a long day care, you might want to consider preschools. They may be easier to get into and cheaper. Family daycare is a good option too if you prefer more of a home environment and smaller group care with more flexible hours.

When you finally get accepted, and you to pay your deposit, make sure you ask for a written confirmation stating exactly what days of the week you have secured. Kathryn Hall Real Estate had clients told there was a vacancy of 5 days a week at the time of inquiry. They paid their deposit and thought it was all good. Three weeks later they arrived in Sydney, and when they attended orientation, they found out that they only had two days. When they complained, the centre’s explanation was that vacancy situation changed since and there was no guarantee. You should also check what is included in the fee. Some daycare will say you need to bring lunch or nappies (diapers). Sometimes you have a choice of bringing your own nappies and that might be cheaper.

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If all fails, you can still find nannies. They are helpful when you don’t have any relatives to look after your child while you get settled into your new life in Sydney. Many of our clients are not Australian with different cultural background. If you want your child to keep speaking French, for example, you can advertise for a French speaking nanny with childcare qualifications.

Talking of cultural diversity, the suburb of the day care that you are considering of enrolling your child might have a concentration of particular ethnicity. Some people deliberately place themselves in such area because they find comfort in having familiar things around them, while others want to be somewhere more neutral.

Kathryn Hall Real Estate also had an Israeli family, and the parents were concerned about their son not being able to speak English. They found a lovely house within walking distance of a synagogue and a Jewish playgroup nearby. There was an Irish family who was looking to move to a part of Sydney known for a large Northeast Asian contingency. While they were thrilled by the diversity, a little worried at a preschool orientation when they saw a group of children and carers speaking in a language their daughter would not understand.

So how do you find out what level of diversity you are to expect? There is no data easily obtained specifically for daycare and preschools for diversity. You could simply ask the centre but one of the quickest ways to get a good indication is to check on the website called My School. You can type in a suburb and choose a public primary school in the area. Have a look where it says “Language background other than English” on the right-hand side. You can see that Bronte, for example, will have 16% and Chatswood will have 83%. If the ratio is less than 25%, it is not a culturally diverse area by Sydney standards.

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If you are moving to Sydney with small children, best of luck. I would recommend that you research childcare before you move. Remember, happy parent, happy child!

The team at Kathryn Hall Real Estate provided Sydney Moving Guide the content for this post.

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