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Earlybird Educare@Work.

Focus Area
Innovation Lever
Quality Preschool Programmes
New product or service
Proof of Concept

Earlybird Educare@Work is South Africa’s first high-quality, socially inclusive, employer-sponsored educare provider. Earlybird functions as a social enterprise: a fixed portion of revenue generated from their workplace-based educare sites is used to subsidise the provision of the same high-quality educare model at preschool centres in low-income communities.

The Problem.

South Africa has chronically high levels of socio-economic inequality. One of the perpetuating factors is unequal access to quality preschools. At least 1 million South African children aged between 3 and 5 years have no access to preschool educare services despite the large body of evidence demonstrating the importance of preschool for a child’s success in primary school and beyond. For those who do attend an early learning service, there is often little social integration across income levels, most of the ‘learning’ that takes place is rote, families are largely sidelined, and meaningful formative assessment is non-existent.
Ensuring affordable access to high quality preschools for all children in South Africa needs to be a national priority.
The Innovation.

Earlybird Educare@Work is innovative in that it taps into the trend of companies worldwide realising the retention, diversity and productivity gains of including workplace-based educare as part of their employee wellness package. Earlybird runs high-quality educare centres on-site for employees’ children and they work with companies to tap into Enterprise and Supplier Development, Skills Development, and Preferential Procurement funding wherever possible to keep parent fees affordable for employees at all salary levels.

Revenue from their workplace-based preschools is used to cross-subsidize their social franchisees who run community-based preschools delivering the same high-quality Earlybird educare model, at a fee affordable to families in their immediate surrounds.

Every aspect of Earlybird’s early education model is designed to equip children to flourish in school and in life. Earlybird educare centres are characterised by: (i) well-trained and supported teachers who meet each child where they are at to support their individual learning and development journey, (ii) an engaging play-based learning programme underpinned by rigorous evidence, (iii) regular and meaningful family engagement.

Find out more about investee Megan Blair’s journey behind starting Earlybird and some of her learnings and dreams for the social enterprise here.  

Why we invested.

The members of the Earlybird Educare@work team are highly effective, with a clear vision and sustainable approach to delivering affordable, high quality preschool services at workplaces and in communities throughout South Africa. Their offering represents a life-improving intervention for individuals and an equality-promoting investment for society as a whole.
The Project Team
Megan Blair (CEO) is a  former teacher and Fulbright scholar. Meg draws on her experience from both the practical and academic side of the education aisle as she and her team at Earlybird work to build a scalable, high-quality preschool model for workplaces and communities.

Atli Phatudi (CFO) is a qualified CA(SA) with her formative training completed at PWC and KPMG. Atli has acquired experience working at a private school network and national, policy NGO which provides her with an understanding of both the private and public education sectors.

Michelle Dos Santos has been a preschool operator for over 10 years. She is the owner of Little Ones onsite creche, which operates at the Siemens Head Office in Midrand. She brings to Earlybird a wealth of on-the- ground experience that benefits both the operational and curriculum teams.