Tejveer Seehra swings with the help of her friend Gianna Raffaele under the watchful eye of Sarah Lovegrove and her sister Louise Thomson and brother-in-law Brett Thomson at the Schools of Early Learning. Picture: The West Australian/Sandra Jackson

The waiting list at a group of western suburbs childcare centres is so long that parents considering getting pregnant in 2015 are already registering their interest.

Family-operated Schools of Early Learning in Nedlands, Subiaco and West Leederville are among Perth's most-expensive childcare centres, and parents are so keen for their children to attend that all centres are booked solid.

The centres care for 750 children, with two days costing from $268 (3+ years) to $299 (0-2 years) and five days $496 (3+ years) to $553 (0-2 years).

On a smaller scale in Balga, Kids Academy Early Learning Centre recently expanded to take in 48 children and is about 70 per cent full - and on some days 50 per cent - despite being one of the cheapest in Perth, charging $174 for two days and $392 for five.

Both businesses are run by industry professionals offering an excellent service at different price points in line with regulations. The price difference reflects the cost of overheads, with wages and rent their biggest expenses.

Demand for the Schools of Early Learning was fuelled by the fact working parents recognised the owners would not compromise on quality, commercial director Brett Thomson said.

"All of our centres are located in the western suburbs and they tend to be on an arterial route between Fremantle and Perth, which is probably the most expensive real estate in Perth, and consequently our rents are significantly higher - probably four to five times higher than other childcare centres," he said.

"On top of that we overstaff - we provide more staff than we are required to have under regulation and we provide more space per child."

The schools' qualified staff are paid between 10 and 25 per cent above the award.

"Our fee structure on a five-day rate is not the most expensive in Perth, but it is at the high end and there's good reason for that," Mr Thomson said.

"We carry a lot more overheads than a lot of other centres because we have a lot of support staff for our educators."

Schools of Early Learning has developed and established a registered training organisation for its educators to ensure they are of the "highest quality standard".

"We fund training to the tune of $4800 per student per year out of our own pockets - that's the value we put on training," Mr Thomson said.

Kids Academy owner-director Sharon Soares pays above the award to reward staff's hard work.

Assistant director Bianca Genovese said being in a low socio-economic area meant there was a low demand from parents needing child care.

"A lot of our clientele is non-permanent residents, which means they won't be eligible for the childcare benefit, so they have to pay the full cost without government help," she said.

"They've got to consider how much they're getting paid at work compared to outlaying to child care, and if it's more beneficial for them to stay home they choose that option."

The business owners are adamant child care is not a glorified babysitting service.

"There's a realisation by parents that the early years' education is critical to the development of the child and sets them up for the rest of their life," Mr Thomson said.

Schools of Early Learning was established four decades ago by Bernadette Giambazi and is now run by her daughters.

"She (Bernadette) was a pioneer in developing programs and a very outspoken advocate for the rights of the child, parents and young working women," Sarah Lovegrove said of her mother, who later became the Child Care Association of WA president.

Parents are drawn to the Schools of Early Learning's educational philosophy and facilities, which put the centres in a league of their own and have proved so effective that operators from around the world are keen to employ the model.

Demand is so high that a fourth centre will open in North Fremantle in October, increasing the number of staff at the centres to 120.

The quality of child care in Australia had increased in the past 10 years and West Australian centres were second to none on an international scale, Mrs Lovegrove said.

"At the end of the day, whoever owns a childcare centre has got to love children - you've got to have a passion for working with children and watching them develop," Miss Soares said.

The West Australian

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