Rolleston Playcentre Thrives Through Parent Leadership

Rolleston Playcentre Thrives Through Parent Leadership

While some Playcentres choose to employ a paid coordinator, others rely on the leadership of a group of dedicated parent volunteers. One Playcentre thriving through such leadership is Rolleston.

“Rolleston Playcentre has been in its current location for nearly twenty years,” centre parent, Becs, says. “We currently have forty five children enrolled, about a third of those are over three. Nearly everyone that comes to Rolleston has come from somewhere else, in Christchurch or New Zealand or overseas.”

When Becs began attending in 2015, Rolleston had a paid Coordinator who ran two sessions and two unpaid parents who ran one session each. “The goal was always to grow our culture and the sustainability of our community through parent coordination,” Becs says. “When our original coordinator left we took on one of our parents. Her role was to get us ready for complete group supervision, which we finally began a year ago.”

Rolleston makes parent coordination work by running group supervision teams. These teams ensure that the centre has the right combination of qualifications for licensing every single day. “The recent change to allow C3, C2 and C1 combos to run twenty five children sessions makes it even easier to meet licensing requirements,” Becs says. “We have four sessions running per week and have one supervision team for each session. Every parent who has C1 or above is assigned to a supervision team, which means they are ‘on duty’ once a week.” The upcoming changes to the Playcentre course structure may alter this in the future however.

“All parents on session are there in a supporting role too,” Becs continues. “Even when it's not your supervision day you are expected to be actively involved in the session. We invite all parents into the planning and end of session discussions, and any parent is welcome to initiate invitations to play at any time.”

The benefits of running group supervision are immense, Becs indicates. “It means that there is very little time or energy spent on trying to raise money for projects, as most of our resources can be paid for using our bulk funding and regular fees. Only big projects, like fencing or bark, need fundraising. We can also keep our fees very low.”

The social benefits for the centre community are also significant. “Our families work closely together,” Becs says. “Everyone gets to know the tamariki and we have a strong, vibrant centre. Our parents feel like they can contribute and be involved.”

“Our parents also have a better understanding of Te Whariki and what we are trying to achieve for our children,” she continues. “Most of our parents enrol in the education programmes Playcentre offers.”

“Our centre is thriving,” Becs concludes, “with all of our sessions full, even through term 3, which has been a quiet time for us in the past. We have members who are passionate about Playcentre, and who value the opportunity to be involved in their children's education.”

A fellow parent, Renee, reinforces this. “We are lucky to have dedicated, enthusiastic families that offer their time and expertise again and again, so that we can offer the best experience for our tamariki,” she says. “Knowing that they are an integral part of the way the centre runs, parents show a huge pride in our centre. We are able to achieve so much working together.”

But how does group supervision benefit Playcentre’s key participants, the children themselves? “Our tamariki have a very strong sense of belonging,” Becs says. “It is often difficult for someone entering our centre for the first time to see which child belongs to whom. Most of our children feel confident to approach most adults and ask them for help and to play. Our tamariki have the benefit of talking to people from many different walks of life, people happy to share their knowledge and experience with them.”

Renee adds, “I think it is also valuable for our tamariki to see a strong sense of ownership in the parents and extended whanau. We are role modelling cooperative and respectful communication, navigating compromises, and sharing our sense of pride and achievement when we work together and something really amazing happens.” 

For centres keen to move away from a paid coordinator, Becs has these helpful suggestions:

  • Get buy in from your families, particularly those with C4 and C3 qualifications. Talk about the benefits and the level of commitment required

  • Find one or two members of the Playcentre who really champion the approach, and who are keen to keep it moving forward

  • Put together an education plan and talk to your families about how it can be achieved. Find ways to remove barriers to training, keep checking in on it, and have a strategic plan to work towards

  • If you employ a coordinator, make one of their goals to help move families towards group supervision. Make sure that the coordinator values parent education as well as the education of tamariki

  • Keep talking about it. Get opinions, listen to concerns, and address those concerns

  • Make sure that you inform new families about group supervision right from the beginning

  • Use Facebook or Basecamp to encourage planning and end of session discussion. These make it easier for families to contribute

  • Pay for lots of members to gain First Aid Certificates

  • Use a supervision team approach. Expect all parents on session to have an active role, even if they aren't on the supervision team that day

 Rolleston Playcentre have greatly enriched their centre through implementing group supervision. If your centre is keen to do the same, the team at Rolleston are only too happy to share their advice and experience. You can contact them at

Posted: Saturday 9 September 2017