Marketing, Change Model Project And Evaluation Of A ChildCare Service
Just like any other services, early childhood education and care needs to be marketed. The idea behind such marketing is not wholly dependent on passing out critical information to parents and guardians but it also helps in taking competition amongst childcare services providers a notch higher. Ultimately, this increases their overall efficiency in regard to meeting the core needs of the young children. From regulatory point of view childcare services marketing leads to the harmonization of childcare centres management systems with the set early childhood education regulations within the jurisdiction they operate in (Belong, Being & Becoming [BBB] 2009; Zevenbergen, & Logan, 2008). In this regards it is normal that childcare providers will labour to outshine each other in gaining accreditation for their ability to comply with the set regulations. Moreover, from a long term perspective marketing among childcare services providers is beneficial to the whole community as it accords the members of the community an opportunity to actively measure the usefulness of the childcare services offered to their children by the local centres. This in turn opens up dual carriage communication lines between the centres and immediate communities that can be mutually utilized by both parties for maximum benefits (BBB, 2009).
When examined from a pedagogical stand point, a well coordinated childcare services marketing strategy goes along way in instilling a sense of responsiveness among the early childhood education providers as it accords them an opportunity to re-examine their internal structures in view of identifying their strengths and weaknesses (BBB, 2009). Such self-scrutiny is a recipe for the realization of exclusivity and diversity of purpose as it offers operators a chance to pin point the most critical industry features and therefore strive to enlist them into their programs.
On the other hand and from the conventional business wisdom view point, childcare services marketing helps to pass out critical information to potential customers about the existing childcare services at the market. Otherwise it can be argued that without marketing awareness parents may find it very hard to locate care centres near their homes or even centres that uphold values they hold dear. In light of these perspectives, early childhood education marketing accords potential parents the opportunity to make the right decisions in regards to their envisaged early childhood education tastes.
This marketing plan covers a proposed childcare services centre that will be opened in the Bellmore area of NSW, Australia. The name of the centre will be The Holy Family Long Day Care. As the name implies the centre is located in a quiet suburb that provides an ideal environment for the growth and development of the young children aged between two and six years. The ownership of the centre is purely private; however it will run under the licence-ship of the Community Service. Basically, it has a capacity to comfortably accommodate 58 children in a long day care interaction but expansion prospects are anticipated probably after two years of successful operation, at least banking on the tailor-made competitive services the centre proposes to offer.
From a pedagogical view, this early childhood education centre seeks to depart from the norm by offering a complete alternative of the Conference of Australian Governments (COAG) model of curriculum offered in many local childcare centres (BBB, 2009). The frameworks underlying this unique pedagogy will orient around emerging early childhood education developmental issues which apparently lacks in many existing centres. This is because more than any other approach, Montessori takes into account the whole child and his place in the community, hence its relevance for today and the future (Montessori Australia Foundation, 2010). Specifically, the Maria Montessori model of early childhood education will be incorporated alongside the traditional Early Years Learning Framework programs advocated by the state authorities. It is anticipated that this new pedagogy will no doubt offer an interest based learning where the young children can explore their world in more meaningful ways.
The Belmore area has substantial number of working class couples who sometimes find it hard to comfortably handle work and childcare. In response to these tasking situations among such couples, The Holy Family Long Day Care will seek to professionally relieve them of one seemingly burdensome task – taking care of their young children. It is envisioned that the centre will also provide a positive solution to local schools and community centres that offer short day care services by compensating for their operation limits through its long day care services. For instance, since most parents are normally away for the better part of the day it is obvious that they normally find it unsatisfying to engage centres that only offer half day services as they are forced to opt for additional alternatives to cater for the remaining hours of the day. As such, collaboration with such centres will go a long way in fulfilling this dream. It is also obvious that single parents who apparently are on the rise must work to provide for their children. Such parents can better be served by day long care services given they should dedicate more of their waking hours in income generating activities as in most times they have only themselves to depend for their whole upkeep. As a way of smothering the market by opening up new customer links in relatively new and unexploited market segments, this new childcare service will target this particular demographic. Of similar importance will be members of the Lebanese community who have been noted to spend lengthy sessions in attending to their religious obligations such that sometimes they require childcare services for their young children. Young parents- specifically college students who get children while still in school- will be approached and offered very competitive terms that will enable them to acquire childcare for their children while still continuing with studies. Any other notable population segment that has his senior members busy throughout the day will be a potential audience for this new childcare service.
So as to reach out the potential clients in quicker and interactive ways, several marketing tools will be utilized. Without being exhaustive, these will include flyers, community notice boards, neon signs, white pages, TV, radio, word of mouth, newsletters, and newspapers. Advertisements through local daily newspapers such as the Torch and Telegraph for example will be made. In addition, a recorded interview on TV or radio talking about the services at the centre will be utilized in such promotion ventures. Additionally, a highly interactive website will be established that will enhance easy access to the centres products and services. Furthermore., brochures will be distributed to potential parents in neighbourhood, in the local schools and government institutions, shopping centres, churches, health centres, as well as in any other public places. Efforts will be further made to utilize branding techniques through cheaper and more accessible techniques. In this regard, teachers and kids will on certain days of school wear t-shirts branded with the centre emblems and mission statements. Additionally, such t-shirts will be distributed free of charge to willing members of the public as a show of goodwill and commitment to work with the community. Posters, flyers, and cards will be pinned, dropped, or even distributed in conspicuous public places within the neighbourhood for all to access. Moreover, the school teaching staff and the children will regularly hold community service days where they will undertake to accomplish tasks such as awareness about environmental conservation, health eating, or even popular “meet the community” expeditions. It is also envisaged that the proprietor of the centre will constantly undertake to contribute to public discussions and debates regarding key issues on early childhood education – this will help to elicit public attention to the centre’s management and pedagogical ideologies- a thing that will cement its credibility (Zevenbergen & Logan, 2008).
It has been advanced by several researchers that the growth and development of young children is positively influenced by their active interaction with electronic gadgets such as computers (see for example Zevenbergen & Logan, 2008; Kearns, 2007; McNamara, 2010). For example, a survey carried out in a large regional community in Australia covering children aged between four and five years enrolled in early childhood education centres revealed that children whose parents owned computers had a substantial knowledge on the use of such computers and that they used such computers for educational as well as recreational purposes (Zevenbergen & Logan, 2008). This revelation serves as a curtain raiser for the clamour for pedagogical changes in early childhood education centres. Such views are advised by the noble notion that the purpose of early childhood education is to present a mirrored extension of the home environment albeit enriched in view of affording the growing children an opportunity to broaden their overall view of the world around them. Moreover based on the Early Years Learning Framework children should be taken through experiences that emphasize their presence as ‘equal members of the society (belonging), in a meaningful manner (being), capable of influencing their lives positively (becoming)’ (Ibid, p.76). Given that computers have now formed part of a majority of home lives there is need to incorporate them in early childhood centres. Apparently, the management change envisaged in this paper is about incorporating information technology with the Montessori based day long care in The Holy Family Long Day Care centre. Basing on the fact that this is a an area that has not been given much thought by early childhood pundits in the local industry it is hoped that this change will impact positively on the overall growth and developmental needs of young children between the ages of two and six years. Moreover, basing on the fact that young children are noted for their curiosity and urge to explore new worlds the gamut of tasks computers can accommodate (gaming, learning, communication, networking, among others) will positively impact on this developmental facet.
The introduction of change is normally a very tasking endeavour given the conflicting modes of reasoning among persons. Nonetheless, on a positive note such change can be realized without many hassles if it is not imposed on people and if enough information concerning key issues surrounding the envisaged change is provided to the concerned persons in real-time (Karen, 2007). This therefore calls for a lot of patience and humility in lobbying others to agree on the importance of the envisaged change. Having this critical information in mind this early childhood education change will be introduced through a variety of methods that will adequately impart the stakeholders with the change programs underlying facts. Specifically, the parents, staff, and other relevant members of the community will be send newsletters explaining the envisaged change, its importance, its impacts to the cherished goals of early childhood education, as well as how its implementation will be carried out. Meetings will also be held with the state early childhood education officials as well as the community representatives and any other parties who may be interested in the overall provision of early childhood education within Belmore and the larger NSW state with the aim of allaying any potential fears on the encroachment of the new management change to the COAG fundamental goals. Other informal methods such as one-on-one discussions with individuals in the early childcare industry will go a long way in instilling a sense of awareness among industry players and others alike.
Upon successfully securing the support of the key stakeholders in the early childhood education in Belmore area and drawing out a plan of action, the next stage will be to implement the change in the centre. This will be anchored on a framework of making the canter more technologically astute. More specifically, the technical nature of this change process will demand a clear and elaborate implementation plan, whereupon the six stages of change implementation as advanced by Ebbeck and Waniganayake will be deployed. First and foremost the need for a technological change will be acknowledged by identifying the expected outcomes and measuring their viability against the state early childhood education regulations, as well as other existing quality benchmarks such as the Montessori pedagogy, which will be used in place of the locally used COAG model. Based on the interplay between the expected technological change results and the existing state and other quality benchmarks, a further need assessment will be carried out in view of identifying the most critical areas that need intensive inputs. A further evaluation of how such inputs will impact on the overall envisaged end will also be carried out. The third stage will involve an acclimatization process where the entire process of the technical change will be keenly accessed and proper environment created in the form of bonding among the change management team so as to reason together and form collective and clear goals that they be willing to stick. The fourth stage will involve the formulation of double edged strategies capable of mitigating the anticipated snags in the implementation of such technical changes. The best way to doing this is by highlighting the most vulnerable areas of the change process such as financial, staffing, and time issues. Stage number five will involve the implementation of the strategies formulated in the preceding stage. Again this will entail a lot of gentlemanliness given that such implementation will be subject to a deliberate plan of action whose authorship will be the same team members. The final stage will involve a comprehensive evaluation of the overall change plan of action in view of highlighting any potential snags and acclimatizing the team members with the finer details of the change program (Ibid).
As previously highlighted elsewhere in this paper, the success of any technological change process is chiefly determined by the ability of the change leaders to actively involve and inform other interested parties and its underlying facts. As such, the timely provision of support services, communication, and motivation normally goes along way in instilling a sense of awareness and responsiveness among members at the workplace. In this regard, an inspirational leadership will be adopted where the change leader will initiate sustainable social interactions between all the team members at the workplace. In extension this non-domineering centralized leadership will serve to instil a sense of authority in the overall deliberations and implementation of the technical change. The central premise behind this postulation is that the success of any change process depends on the ease with which the team members can source quality and relevant information and knowledge (Ibid). This is because it is only obvious that new projects are more often than not prone to many forms of uncertainties and therefore the timely mitigation of such snags definitely heightens the probability of success for the whole implementation plan. Apparently, open and dual carriage communication channels compounded with inspirational leadership are sure recipes for instilling motivation as well as “in-servicing” the change team members. In this regard, the team leader will labour to extreme lengths in creating friendly atmospheres at the workplace by cultivating the sense of trust and acceptance among the team members. It is also envisaged that active listening, showing of concern and empathy, and most importantly solving potential interpersonal conflicts through mutual leaning negotiation skills will be another morale building strategy to be employed at the workplace (Ibid). Both group based and individualized communication methods will be employed as will be advised by different workplace scenarios.
The initiation and implementation of technical change is usually a tasking endeavour. Many persons yearn for change but when it comes to initiating and/or implementing such change they tend to shy away or even tire in the course of pursuit to such change. So as to ensure that this technical change process will smoothly be implemented and that the implementation process does not digress from the main course it is envisaged that regular evaluation measures will be put in place. Due to the technical nature of the envisaged information technology change program and the fact that it will be targeting an area that until recently did not acknowledge the input of this seemingly ambitious program these evaluations will be carried out from a functionality perspective so as to address even the seemingly trivial aspects of the change. Some of the envisioned evaluation tools to be used are surveys, check lists, rating scales, physical interviews, over the phone and online interviews, questionnaires, documents review, observation, focus groups as well as case studies. A combination of the distinct type of evaluation measures will ensure that all critical information about the program are gathered and proper actions taken (Ibid).
These evaluations will mostly target the change program implementation team that includes the carer’s, teachers, and other centre employees. For instance, teachers will be given check lists to fill while observations will be used to monitor teacher-learner interactions in their classrooms with view of getting firsthand data which will be very useful for comparison purposes with the secondary data acquired through other evaluation methods. Focus groups will be held to bring together a large number of the participants and to get them air their collective and individual opinions regarding the program. So as to ensure uninterrupted program implementation, sometimes the teachers will not be bothered during the evaluation processes as existing students and teachers assessment records will serve that purpose. Such records will be studied to get a glimpse of the programs past performance and salient findings entered for further action.
Nonetheless, due to their anonymous nature, rate scales will form a central part of the overall program evaluation. The major strength behind the use of a rate scales is that they are capable of eliciting the most deep seated emotions, perceptions, and prejudices that the target demographic may have on a change program. A rating scale is a powerful evaluation tool that can be used to elicit instant and sincere responses about a subject through a way of filling sheets. It is very easy to administer especially among literate people and its results are very easy to compare given they are given in form of answers. Moreover it can be easily administered among many people with a very short time as it involves the distribution of such sheets to the targeted demographic. It is very easy to construct as there very many samples of rate scales in online as well as print sources (Ibid).
Basically, these rate scales will be accompanied by instructions directing how different questions should be filled and therefore they will not involve much human efforts in trying to offer information save for the time spent during distribution and collection. A moderated analysis method will be adopted so as to uniformly harmonize the data collected from these rate scales. To ensure accountability, each participant will be issued with a single rating scale and efforts will be made to ensure that no participant fails to return their rating scales. To this end, a register will be maintained for the number of such rating scales issued out, however, to ensure anonymity names of persons issued with such rating scales will not be recorded (Ibid).
Belong, Being & Becoming [BBB] (2009): The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace. Retrieved June 04, 2010, from: http://www.deewr.gov.au/EarlyChildhood/Policy_Agenda/Quality/Documents/Final%20EYLF%20Framework%20Report%20-%20WEB.pdf
Kearns, K. (2007). The business of childcare. Pearson Education, Australia.
McNamara, C. (2010). Basic Guide to Program Evaluation. Field Guide to Nonprofit program design, marketing and evaluation. Retrieved June 04, 2010, from: http://www.authenticityconsulting.com/pubs/PG_gdes/PG_pubs.htm/
Montessori Australia Foundation (2010). Montessori Australia. Retrieved 2010-05-29, from: http://www.montessori.org.au/
Zevenbergen, R. & Logan, H. (2008). Computer use by preschool children: Rethinking practice as digital natives come to preschool, Australian Journal of Early Childhood, vol. 33, No. 1. Retrieved 2010-05-29, from: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/australian_journal_of_early_childhood/ajec_index_abstracts/computer_use_by_preschool_children.html/
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