ACECQA Newsletter Issue 3 2015

Evaluating wellbeing, development and learning in OSHC

Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) educators are in a unique position to provide children with recreation and leisure experiences that are enriching and promote positive outcomes for their development, learning and wellbeing.
 
The My Time Our Place: Framework for School Age Care recognises the importance of educators collaborating with children and families to provide spontaneous and planned play and leisure experiences which support each child’s learning, development and wellbeing. When educators are focused, active and reflective in designing and delivering the program they are able to ensure experiences in OSHC meaningfully extend each child’s continued learning, development and positive sense of wellbeing.
 
The Educators’ Guide to the Framework for School Age Care supports a model of program decision making as an ongoing cycle of information gathering, questioning, planning, acting, reflecting and evaluating. This process is referred to as the planning cycle, and it is supported by a documented program that provides children, educators and families with information and guidance about the program to be delivered.  
 
To help develop an informed educational program, the Education and Care Services National Regulations require, for a child over preschool age, documentation to include evaluation of the child’s wellbeing, development and learning (Regulation 74). In preparing the documentation, the approved provider must consider the period of time that the child is being educated and cared for and be prepared in a way that can be understood by educators at the service and parents of the child. This is particularly relevant for school age care where children may come for short periods or irregularly. 
 
As the Framework encourages a view of children as capable and competent, documentation should make children’s thinking and learning visible and capture children’s ideas and suggestions. There are many ways to capture information about children, for example enrolment forms that record children’s interests and strengths, children’s work, photographs, videos, post-it notes and photographs of whiteboard notes with children’s suggestions. 
 
It is important to remember that it is about the quality of the documentation, not the quantity. Think about how your documentation is used to inform decision making and how it relates to the learning outcomes in the Framework. Documentation must be meaningful, relevant and achievable. When documenting learning, educators should also be respectful of children’s rights and privacy.
 
There is no set structure for how to document and educators are empowered to explore a range of ways that work most effectively for their service. In the assessment and rating process, the authorised officers will want to see and discuss information collected about children’s learning, an understanding of how this links to the Framework and evidence of ongoing planning, documenting, reflecting and evaluating. It is important to embrace the cycle of planning as a way of supporting educators, children and families; so think about what is meaningful and achievable for your service. 

Resources to assist

Educators Guide to the Framework for School Age Care (page 11-20 offers advice about program decision making and engaging in the planning cycle)
Meeting the Challenge of the NQS for School Age Care in Reflections, Gowrie Australia, Winter 2012, Issue 47, pp. 8 -10
Planning for children in School Age Care Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development

Reviewing your Quality Improvement Plan (QIP)

Now we are well into the new year, many services will be focusing on their planning calendar and scheduling time to review their QIP, a process that needs to be done at least annually (see regulation 56). Reflecting on and updating your QIP regularly throughout the year helps services identify strengths, and recognise and address areas for improvement. 
 
ACECQA spoke with Olivia Harper-Rummens, Director of the University of Western Australia Early Learning Centre (UWA ELC) to hear about her service’s approach to re-assessment and their quality improvement journey. 

Make sure you use the NQS

In 2012, UWA ELC developed its first QIP using the editable template provided by ACECQA and Olivia still finds it the best format for their plan today. 
 
“No stone was left unturned in our first self-assessment. The QIP template details the NQS and the regulatory standards so it’s a fantastic resource to see how you’re tracking and what goals you’ve achieved,” Olivia said. 

Don’t forget to work collaboratively

“We try to capture everyone in our re-assessment process, including the children, families, educators, staff members and our parent organisation, the University of Western Australia. 
 
“We survey families and include their feedback on how we’re tracking and what areas they’d like us to focus on. Although the response rate is often very small, it is an important element of our review.”

Remember, it’s about quality not quantity  

“To ensure your QIP has a clear direction, I would advise being as descriptive as possible about what you want to achieve. Break goals up into measurable outcomes and really think about how you’re going to achieve each one.
 
“Our QIP is a practical document because we use it in our everyday practice. At team meetings we use the QIP to identify roles and responsibilities, prioritise and set clear timeframes. It’s also integral to how we measure success.”

Keep momentum going 

“We enjoy the satisfaction of crossing goals off as we achieve them and celebrate with staff and families. We are on a continuous journey to improving quality outcomes for children. We implement practices that are working well but we don’t stop there. Updating our QIP regularly helps continue the momentum,” Olivia said. 
 
“UWA ELC has achieved so much over the past three years. It’s fantastic to be able to look back on the QIP and our service’s quality improvement journey.”
 
ACECQA’s Guide to Developing a Quality Improvement Plan and QIP template are useful resources that can help you keep your QIP up to date. For more information, including common QIP questions head to the ACECQA website.  

Driving Miss Daisy...Safely

This month Zora Marko, Road Safety Education Project Manager from Early Learning Association Australia, talks about their new Family Day Care Safe Transport Policy for family day care (FDC) educators and providers.
 
Zora explains the importance of protecting children while travelling and provides helpful tips on best practice when transporting children.
 
Read more on ACECQA's We Hear You blog.    

Screen time - getting the balance right 

How much screen time is too much for children? It’s a topic that has been widely discussed by educators and professionals in the children’s education and care sector.
 
The Department of Health defines screen time as time spent using electronic media such as television, seated electronic games, portable devices and computers. 
 
We all want screen time to be educational and healthy. Tablets and technologies are a fantastic educational tool, but they can also get in the way of meaningful interactions and play. 
 
  • children aged less than 2 years should not have any screen time 
  • children aged 2 to 5 years should limit screen time to less than one hour a day and
  • children aged 5 to 12 years should limit screen time, for entertainment purposes, to two hours a day.
If possible, the time children spend in front of a screen should be a shared and collaborative experience - read a story together, solve a puzzle or enjoy dancing along to a favourite music video. 
 
It’s all about engagement and meaningful play. Creating opportunities for children to play cooperatively, participate well together and share their interests, helps develop social skills and is paramount to children’s learning and brain development. 
 
The more time spent being active, engaging in social interactions and away from the screen, the healthier children will be. 
 
Educators and parents can all play a role in shaping young children’s behaviours.
 
A number of resources and tips for reducing sedentary behaviour and screen time are available on the Department of Health website for children birth-5 years and children 5-12 years. The Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Digital Business Kit is also a useful resource for services wishing to stay smart online. 

Safe sleeping practices

Services must take reasonable steps to ensure that children’s needs for sleep and rest are met. In providing sleep and rest opportunities, the service must have regard to each child's age, development stage and individual needs (see regulation 81). When considering safe sleeping practices it’s worth reviewing the information available from recognised authorities such as SIDS and Kids and Kidsafe Australia
 
While the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations do not prescribe the need for specific policies and procedures relating to safe sleep and rest practices, all services must have general health and safety policies and procedures.
 
The Guide to the National Law and Regulations provides the following guidance regarding the supervision of sleeping children:
 
When considering the supervision requirements of sleeping children, an assessment of each child’s circumstance and needs should be undertaken to determine any risk factors. For example, because a higher risk may be associated with small babies or children with colds or chronic lung disorders, they might require a higher level of supervision while sleeping.
 
Sleeping children should always be within sight and hearing distance so that educators can assess the child’s breathing and colour of their skin to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Rooms that are very dark and have music playing may not provide adequate supervision of sleeping children. Supervision windows should be kept clear and not painted over or covered with curtains or posters.
 
SIDS and Kids covers a broad range of topics on safe sleeping for infants. The SIDS and Kids Infant Safe Sleeping Child Care Kit is a resource that is specifically tailored for educators in the children’s education and care setting. 
 
The Kidsafe Safe sleeping for infants fact sheet provides easy to read information for parents and carers. Their easy to remember message is “Back to sleep, tummy to play, sit up to watch the world”.
 
Services should also check their obligations under Australian Standards for cot safety (AS 2172). 

H is for Harmony Day

Harmony Day (21 March) celebrates Australia’s unique cultural diversity, and this year Harmony Day reaches an important milestone, its 15th anniversary. 
 
The theme ‘Everyone Belongs’ invites cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home. 
 
Did you know?
  • Around 45 per cent of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas.
  • After English, the most commonly spoken languages in Australia are Mandarin, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Vietnamese, Tagalog/Filipino, Spanish and Hindi
  • More than 60 Indigenous languages are spoken in Australia. (Source: ABS 2011 Census Data)
Recognising, respecting and embedding diversity are key themes in the approved learning frameworks under the NQF.  
 
If you’re planning Harmony Day experiences and activities with children and families at your service, make sure you visit the Harmony Day website. They have a variety of resources for early childhood and primary education including lesson ideas, ready-to-go plans and activities for the classroom.  
 
You can also follow the stories of Renata, Kofi and Anh, by downloading the Harmony Day Stories App

NQF video resources 

If you haven’t used these resources with your families already, don’t forget that ACECQA has a series of 13 videos to help explain the National Quality Framework to families and the community.
 
Topics covered include: Why has the NQF been introduced? What are the key changes under the NQF? What is the National Quality Standard? How are services assessed and rated? and What do the ratings for services mean?
 
There’s also a range of videos developed especially for educators, including a discussion with EYLF and MTOP framework co-authors, Jennifer Sumsion and Jennifer Cartmel.
Visit the NQF video resources page.

Nominate for the Australian Family Early Education and Care Awards

If you know someone working in early childhood education and care who deserves recognition, nominate them for the Australian Family Early Education and Care Awards. 2015 nominations are open until 12 April.