Leading Charities Provide a New Start for ABC Learning
21 December 2009 at 4:11 pm
A consortium of four major charities purchases ABC Learning childcare centres.
Subject to finalisation of contracts, 678 ABC Learning centres will be purchased from receivers McGrathNicol by GoodStart, a Not for Profit company established by Mission Australia, Social Ventures Australia, the Benevolent Society and the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
GoodStart has offered to manage the remaining 26 centres while the receiver finalises arrangements for these locations.
The three charities have more than 420 years combined experience delivering social programs, including high quality childcare built on the critical role of learning and care in the early years.
The venture has been backed by the National Australia Bank, one of Australia’s biggest banks, and the Australian Government.
Current ABC Learning Group General Manager Matthew Horton will be appointed CEO on completion of the purchase and the majority of key senior managers will remain in their roles, providing continuity at the most senior levels of the company.
As part of the deal, accrued employee entitlements will be carried over to the new owner.
GoodStart spokesperson Maree Walk says the company will operate the centres to the highest standards of education and care, with financial surpluses reinvested back into programs that improve childcare access and quality.
Walk says the organisations behind GoodStart’s purchase of ABC Learning are stable and respected, with a proven track record of delivering childcare and other social programs with professionalism, integrity, and a focus on the needs of children and families.
She says GoodStart will build on the work undertaken by ABC Learning’s current management, who have done a great job stabilising the business and restoring confidence in the centres, and staff, who have continued to provide a fantastic service to parents in often uncertain circumstances.
Walk says the centres will continue to be run under the ABC Learning brand.
The new company’s aims are:
· Provide high quality, accessible and stable early childhood education and care;
· Work with families to support them providing the best possible foundations for their children;
· Be an integral part of the local communities in which the centres operate;
· Retain, attract and develop high quality staff at each level of qualification; and
· Meet key financial targets to generate surplus which can be reinvested in programs that improve childcare access and quality.
GoodStart will have charitable status under tax laws, and will operate with the business disciplines of a publicly-listed company.
The company has received financial backing from the founding organisations and a number of private benefactors including businessman Robin Crawford, the independent chairman of the new company.
This has allowed the company to obtain debt funding from NAB. The Australian Government has also assisted by providing $15 million in medium-term loan funds.
GoodStart says these funding sources have provided sufficient capital to finance the acquisition of the business and funds to support day to day operations.
In addition to Robin Crawford an interim board will comprise the CEOs of the founding organisations, Toby Hall (Mission Australia), Tony Nicholson (Brotherhood of St Laurence), Richard Spencer (Benevolent Society) and Michael Traill (Social Ventures Australia).
Following completion of the transaction a new board will be appointed with appropriate early childhood and business skills and experience.
The board will be guided by an Early Childhood Expert Reference Group, which will provide recommendations on areas including educational programs and priorities, staff training and professional development.
Robin Crawford says despite the very public consequences of the previous management’s growth strategies, a balanced assessment of the business shows a broad network of generally well constructed and maintained facilities and a 14,000-strong staff that share the company’s commitment to high quality childcare.
He says he welcome’s this week’s COAG announcement on national standards for childcare and early education and look forward to working with the Australian and State Governments on their plans for the sector.”
In April 2009 Mission Australia acquired 29 former ABC Learning Childcare Centres and has since been successfully operating them under the Mission Australia Early Learning Services banner. The purchase of 678 centres by GoodStart will not affect this arrangement.