New target to Close the Gap
The 2016 Closing the Gap Report announces a new target to see 95 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025.
Considerable work is needed to achieve this important goal. In 2013, 85 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds in remote communities were enrolled in early childhood education, compared to 74 per cent in regional areas and 67 per cent in major cities.
Recent analysis of data from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC) by Arcos Holzinger and Biddle (2015) found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged five to seven who attended preschool had significantly better vocabulary. At age 8 to 10, preschool participation had positive impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s developmental outcomes as well as achievements in reading and maths.
The LSIC study was established before the National Quality Framework (NQF) was created so it’s difficult to measure the impact of service quality on outcomes for children in the study. We do know, however, from other research, such as evidence from the Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) study in the UK and emerging Australian evidence that higher quality education and care services contribute to better outcomes for children.
In line with the NQF’s focus on continuous quality improvement, ACECQA works to strengthen the cultural competence of educators, providers and those who assess education and care services. Initiatives include:
- delivering workshops, resources, blogs and social media to further develop educators’ cultural competence
- delivering cultural competence e-learning modules for authorised officers to build their skills in assessing cultural competence; with strong input from the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care
- participating in sector symposiums and action groups to progress Closing the Gap and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education initiatives
- highlighting and celebrating the services that display excellence in engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, such as Kindamindi Pre-School, John Paul College Outside School Hours Care and Canberra Grammar School Early Learning Centre.
Design technology in children's education and care
We like hearing examples of children’s education and care services working within their community to showcase and support children’s agency. The Eco Cubby project is an initiative where architects work with children to design a sustainable model cubby house. This got us thinking about design and technology in children’s education and care.
Using everyday materials to design and build their own project enables children to engage in sustained and meaningful play as they build their project and follow it through to completion. These activities can help children to develop hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness and an understanding of how to use potentially dangerous tools safely. Importantly, these projects support children’s learning by accessing and interpreting information, investigating and hypothesising and representing their thinking in a three dimensional way.
If you would like to expand on your current educational program and practice in this way, take the lead from the children about what they might want to design and build. It may be something for your play area or a storage solution or a free form construction art work.
Source woodwork tools and materials like wood offcuts; sandpaper, PVA glue, carpenters pencils, nails, screws, hinges and assorted fixing materials; and re-useable items such as plastic bottle tops, string, cloth, foil and natural materials. Remember to ensure all equipment and materials used meet relevant safety standards. See the article below on undertaking appropriate risk assessments to minimise risk and promote learning outcomes.
Find a suitable space to work with these materials, preferably outdoors so children have the space to create. If you have little or no experience, learn alongside the children. This will further empower them as they lead the play and share their knowledge.
You might also like to ask the children if their families build things at home. You might find you have a handy family member within your service’s community who can provide support.
The MyECE website has a list of things services may need to consider as they set up carpentry as part of the service’s play options.
Keeping children safe
It’s important to get the balance right between promoting children’s health, safety and wellbeing while also providing learning environments that are interesting and challenging.
Under the National Law and Regulations, services must have policies and procedures in place for the protection of children from harm and hazards, including health and safety matters (e.g. section 167 of the National Law and element 2.3.2 of the National Quality Standard).
How do we balance these requirements and still provide programs and environments that are interesting, engaging and rich in opportunities to promote and extend children’s learning and development?
Viewing children as capable, competent and active participants in the process of risk mitigation is an important part of getting the balance right, as it supports children’s learning around identifying, assessing and taking appropriate risks.
The Guide to the National Quality Standard includes information to assist services to undertake risk assessments to help ensure every reasonable precaution is taken to protect children from harm and from any hazard likely to cause injury (page 71). These may include:
- regular safety checks to assess hazards, such as equipment that needs fixing or removal from the play area
- observing children’s play to ensure they are safe and adequately supervised
- excursion planning where risks are identified and assessed, and strategies developed to manage these
- identifying and mitigating risks associated with the use and storage of dangerous products, including medicine.
For excursions, risk assessments are a legislated requirement (regulation 100) and must be carried out before educators seek authorisation from a parent or guardian. Page 70 of the Guide to the National Law and Regulations includes a list of considerations to include.
Policies must also be in place for managing medical conditions. A service should obtain a copy of the child’s medical management plan for example and prepare risk minimisation and communication strategies. This is an opportunity to also work collaboratively with families to minimise risks and support children’s wellbeing and learning.
Visit the ACECQA website for a selection of sample forms and templates that can assist in meeting the requirements of the National Law and Regulations and can be tailored for your service’s specific needs. Staying Healthy 5th Edition also provides some excellent guidance on controlling infection and providing hygienic environments. Remember this is a guide to assist in making decisions relevant for your service context.
- How do we ensure all equipment and materials used in the service meet relevant safety standards?
- How do we conduct risk assessments for potential excursions and plan for children’s safety during excursions?
- Has the child’s parent provided a medical management plan (if relevant) for the child and has a risk minimisation plan been developed?
Further reading and resources
Early Childhood Australia – Getting to Know the NQS – Episode 3: QA2
How to Series – Work Health and Safety
How to Series – How to develop and update policies successfully
Children’s Services Central – Risk assessment template
Lady Gowrie – Risk assessment and risk management in family day care
PSC – Medication and medical conditions
Community Childcare Cooperative – Risk management procedures (sample policy listed under Quality Area 7)
Community Childcare Cooperative – Medication and health statement (sample policy listed under Quality Area 2)
Appointing those in management or control
It is around this time of year that many providers hold their Annual General Meeting and experience a turnover of those committee members with responsibility for management or control. For these providers, it is timely to think about recruiting new committee members, managing the handover and ensuring legal requirements are met.
If the committee members with management and control of the service change, you are required to notify the regulatory authority using the form PA08 - Notification of change to information about approved provider. Each new member of a committee with management or control of the service must demonstrate they are a fit and proper person. They each must complete the PA02 – Declaration of fitness and propriety form.
You can complete these forms online via the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA IT System). Both forms can also be found on the provider approvals page of the ACECQA website. Please note that in NSW and Victoria, all notification forms need to be submitted online via the NQA IT System.
The Early Learning Association Australia fact sheet Committee Basics – The Handover offers tips and guidelines to assist in a smooth transition of governance. Page 130 of the Guide to the National Law and Regulations lists providers’ legal obligations and the corresponding regulation. Community Child Care Cooperative NSW also has a range of management resources to further support management committees in their role.
Renewing first aid qualifications
ACECQA has updated its advice about renewing first aid qualifications. The information states the relevant regulation and includes Safe Work Australia’s Code of Practice recommendations. The following information is available as an FAQ on ACECQA’s website.
The Safe Work Australia First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice recommends that first aiders should attend training on a regular basis to refresh their first aid knowledge and skills, and to confirm their competence to provide first aid. The Code of Practice also recommends that refresher training in CPR should be undertaken annually and first aid qualifications should be renewed every three years.
Your certificate should state the date on which you completed the course, as well as the expiry date, which is typically three years from the date of completion. Your certificate may include additional requirements, such as completing refresher training in CPR annually.
Please contact your training provider to check any information about your training and speak to your employer to confirm your workplace requirements.
Register for South Australia, Tasmania and NSW workshops
Bookings are now open for South Australian workshops focusing on Understanding Cultural Competence, and Tasmanian and NSW workshops focusing on Educational Leadership.
The free sessions are open to all educators and providers and are led by ACECQA’s National Education Leader, in partnership with local Professional Support Coordinators and regulatory authority staff.
To date the 2015-16 National Workshops have been well received in ACT, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. Details are yet to be finalised for sessions in Victoria. Visit our Events page to register.
Australian Family Early Education and Care Awards
ACECQA, proud sponsor of the 2016 Australian Family Early Education & Care Awards, would like to remind all award nominees to complete their nominee submission to the judges before 6 April.