Oulu-based Touhula Varhaiskasvatus has found growth potential for its national day-care network. Just 13 per cent of early childhood education in Finland is produced privately.
The Touhula Tikasmäki physical activity-oriented day-care centre in Espoo smells fresh and new. There are a few coat racks still waiting to be installed, and the walls are free of smudgy handprints.
The centre opened its doors in January and currently has two groups of children. A big part of the premises is still waiting for new children, or customers, as the children and their families are called in the privately owned day-care centre. The centre can accommodate 100–120 children, depending on their age.
It will take about a year before all the groups in the day-care centre are full.
“Most of the children come from the surrounding area, but the English-speaking group attracts children from further away too. That group, for instance, might include children from expat families in Finland,” says the day-care centre’s Director Daliah Javne.
The business concept of Touhula Varhaiskasvatus Oy, which runs the Touhula day-care centres, is carefully crafted. The company offers the municipality a concept in which it constructs a new day-care centre building and runs the day-care operations in compliance with early childhood education recommendations. The quality of the operations is monitored in accordance with the ISO 9001 standard, and every child’s growth and development is systematically tracked in an electronic or paper growth folder. The exercise-oriented day-care centres have Finnish- and English-speaking groups.
Depending on the municipality, parents pay for the children’s day-care with a service voucher or allowance for private day-care. On top of this is the customer fee.
“On average, the customer fee ranges from 0-37 euros per month, depending on the municipality, the parents’ income and the number of children. We want Touhula to be a feasible alternative for all families with children, regardless of their income level,” says Jari Mäki-Runsas, Managing Director of Touhula Liikuntapäiväkoti and Touhula Varhaiskasvatus Oy, which runs the Touhula day-care centres.
Exercise a regular part of the day
Jari Mäki-Runsas and experienced early childhood educator Sirpa Turves-Mankila came up with the idea for a private, exercise-oriented day-care centre in 2010. Now there are 80 such day-care centres.
The exercise theme is visible throughout the day-care centre’s activities.
“Children are encouraged to be physically active in different ways. Even going to the lunch table involves balancing, climbing and bouncing their way along an exercise course. It isn’t about competitive activity; instead, the children are encouraged to practice various motor skills through daily activities. Without really noticing it, the children get plenty of exercise over the course of a day,” Daliah Javne says.
In other respects, the activities at Touhula are similar to those at all day-care centres: development of verbal and cognitive skills, playing, singing and learning to express yourself.
More economical than public service
Privately produced early childhood education has growth potential. Only 13 per cent of the 3-billion-euro market for early childhood education is privately produced.
According to Mäki-Runsas, Touhula’s model is slightly more economical for the municipality than a service produced by the municipality. The new premises bring such big savings.
“Moreover, the operation is carefully optimised. The staffing is governed by the same regulations as in the public sector, but we make sure that the resources are sufficient also in practice. It shows in the personnel’s high level of job satisfaction. Sick leave absenteeism is very low.”
Clear growth targets
The intention is to open the 100th Touhula day-care centre by autumn. There has also been interest from abroad.
“We just received a call from China this week, and people in Dubai have wanted more information. It’s certainly nice to get the attention, but internationalisation requires a separate plan, and right now we have work to do in Finland. Patience is a virtue, also when it comes to growth,” Mäki-Runsas says.
- Established 2010.
- Three brands: Touhula exercise day-care centres, Aarresaari with an emphasis on exercise, music and adventure education, and the English-language Star Kindergarten.
- 80 day-care centres around Finland.
- Personnel: 1,000.
- Turnover: EUR 39 million (2015).
- ISO 9001 quality certificate.
- The goal is to open the 100th day-care centre in August 2016; total personnel will then be 1,300.
- Ownership: EQT, Cor Group, FII, Norvestia as well as executive management and key personnel.
- Domicile: Oulu.
Exercise day-care centre Liikuntapäiväkoti Touhula Tikasmäki
- Opened in January 2016, initially for two groups (Finnish- and English-speaking).
- Can accommodate a total of six groups, i.e. 100-120 children, depending on their age.
- Operations emphasise learning through physical exercise, activity and community.
- Located in the Suurpelto area of Espoo.