Early Learning Centre Audits

Early Learning Centre Audits

As early childhood education consultants, our core business is helping New Zealand early childhood education services do their very best work. The combined expertise of the 4E’s team – and the individual strengths of each of our team members – enables us to assist ECE providers to grow and enhance their services, which is something each one of us is incredibly passionate about!

Our ECE consulting services range from strategic planning and financial forecasting to designing environments and human resources – and one of the most popular services among New Zealand ECE’s this year has been ECE Service Audits.

While the word ‘audit’ can seem a tad intimidating if you’ve never been through the process, ECE Service Audits offer fantastic opportunities for examination and growth. In this blog post, we offer a basic overview of what ECE service audits involve, what the benefits are for ECE businesses, which centres should consider booking an audit, and how often an audit is required to optimise your business and services that you provide.

What is an ECE Service Audit?

An early childhood service audit is a systematic and independent examination of the inner workings of your business – from accounts and cashflow, to staffing, management structure, licensing and funding – with the aim of identifying what’s working, what isn’t, and future steps and actions required to resolve any issues or non-compliant areas and enhance your operations.

Why Would I Need an Audit?

Want to drive greater profitability, increase your roll, ensure staffing hours and ratios are just right and position your centre to be the leading choice for families in your community? Whether your centre has been operating for 6 months or 10 years, an audit is just the ticket in helping you achieve your company and services’ goals.

Just as every business can benefit from professional expertise and a fresh set of eyes to identify areas for improvement, every ECE service can benefit from a professional audit, undertaken by industry experts. Your centre may be struggling, breaking even, or meeting all of your defined targets – but there’s always room for enhancement!

Something we find time and time again, particularly in the case of independent centres, is that underlying issues the service providers don’t necessarily have the experience to recognise have a significant impact on overall running of their business, and the daily pressure on staff, having a role on impact for the positive environment that you all strive for. Picking up those underlying issues and addressing them properly can make a huge difference – not just to the business’ bottom line, but also in terms of company culture and staff well-being. We are about investing funding into the right places to ensure the best outcomes of the service and those who use it.

What Does an Audit Involve and Achieve?

While every centre audit includes a thorough examination of business operations, finances licensing and staffing, the nature of an audit means that it is customised to your service – so no two reviews are exactly alike. During the audit we identify issues and areas for improvement, and then tailor recommendations and actions to be taken.

A recent example of this was an audit undertaken for a community-based centre, where the Board of Trustees requested our team come in and spend two days with them examining paperwork in preparation for an ERO visit. In that case we found that their BOT had too many people, resulting in a structure that was top-heavy. This pushed percentage wages from the 75% to 95% bracket, which was dangerous for cashflow and longevity of a sustainable business.

The PTA was also mixed in, which meant parents were having input into staff contracts and wages which could lead to confidentiality issues or become a conflict of interest. The solution in removing that conflict of interest and implementing a more professional approach was to advise centre on how they could restructure their BOT and PTA.

Another example unearthed issues with contracts, casual enrolments and funding not being claimed for properly. For this centre the audit focuses on providing them with the direction, guidance and support they needed to make positive changes to employment agreements, staffing hours and funding, while educating their BOT about objective agreements.

Some audits can unearth a huge amount of non-compliance issues that have become common daily practice. We make every recommendation in the best interests of children, staff wellbeing as well as bringing these urgent issues to the table so that operators are aware and can enforce compliance.

Other audits undertaken have shown so many areas of excellence and very few in recommended improvements. This is where recommendations are made to consolidate and streamline paperwork creating more efficient operations across the service.

We have also undertaken audits under group ownership which has given a bigger picture of what is working, what isn’t and what can be streamlined and consolidated across the services to create a more consistent approach. It is something that can pave the way for rethinking the model of the group for the best way forward if planning further growth or looking to diversify.

How Often Should I Book an ECE Service Audit?

Every centre is different, but for more centres we recommend having a professional audit undertaken every 2 to 3 years, or yearly if the service is in the midst of a growth phase, under new management, or has addressed significant underlying issues within the past 6 months.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of an expert audit for your centre please get in touch with our team!

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