Children aged zero-to-four are the largest demographic in the Cessnock local government area.
According to the 2011 Census, there were 3803 Cessnock residents in that age group – a rise of 771, or 25.4 percent, since the 2006 Census.
As the number of children in the LGA continues to rise, so too will the need for childcare and early education centres.
A new centre, Community Kids, has recently opened at the former Bunnings site in Vincent Street and another child care centre has been approved for the former Companion Credit Union building at the other end of the main street.
Cessnock City Council has approved three more childcare centres (one in Cessnock and two in Greta) in the past 12 months.
Meanwhile, Bellbird Community Preschool has opened a $330,000 extension to meet the growing need for childcare services at the western end of the city, where more than 3000 lots are proposed for future development.
Preschool director Michele Cherniayeff said the need to expand was identified many years ago through community profile data, which showed Cessnock was 400 places short.
More than 3000 homes are proposed to be constructed at the Bellbird North Urban Release Area, with a further 100 planned for Millfield and 42 at Paxton.
Families from Bellbird and beyond are currently serviced by Bellbird Community Preschool, the Honey Tree Preschool (which opened in 2012) and the Hunter Mobile Preschool, which visits Wollombi and Millfield twice a week.
Bellbird Community Preschool received $329,000 from the NSW Government to expand the centre to cater to an extra 10 children, and a further $19,000 for sustainability upgrades in its yard including chicken coops, edible gardens and recycling, while Cessnock Council provided $1000 that went towards a mural.
The project included a new craft area, commercial-grade kitchen, staff planning room, disabled toilets and an extension to the playroom.
The preschool has been able to extend its hours and employ one new staff member.
“We’re all really excited and happy,” Ms Cherniayeff said, adding that the centre has the potential to expand even further, depending on funding.
The new-look Bellbird Preschool will be officially opened on Saturday, with staff, children and families and representatives of all three levels of government in attendance.