Standard 1.3 Assessment and planning – Case study 1

Educators and coordinators take a planned and reflective approach to implementing the program for each child.

This case study is a collection of examples of high quality practice to prompt reflection and discussion about Exceeding NQS practice in a range of service contexts. It is not an extract from an assessment and rating report for a service that is rated Exceeding NQS for this Standard, and does not comprehensively describe the ways that a service can demonstrate Exceeding practice.
educators sitting on the floor and talking to each other


an icon representing school age children - a boy and a girl playing with a ball

At this inner city before and after school care program, educators wanted to ensure their educational program planning process meaningfully reflected each child’s strengths, interests, and abilities particularly as they change and develop. To start, a working group of children and educators was set up to determine where changes could be made. The service had recently had a number of new children enrol and wanted to use this opportunity to look at programming for when these children commence at the service.  

The working group reflected on their current methods of gathering information on new children with the aim of improving how information from children and families was being used to strengthen the educators’ knowledge of children and families to build relationships and inform their program decision-making from the time children commence at the service.

The working group discussed the enrolment and orientation process using the service philosophy and the Vision, Principles and Practices of My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia V2.0 (MTOP V2.0). They noted the working group aims aligned with the importance of building and sustaining secure, respectful, and reciprocal relationships with children, collaboration with children and young people and learning through play, leisure, and intentionality. The working group also reviewed their aims against the service’s statement of commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which includes a focus on Article 12 related to children having a voice when adults are making decisions about matters that affect them.

The group also decided to survey new families and children to gain their perspectives. The children representatives decided to do interviews and worked with the educators on child centred reflective questions. The educators discovered that the children not only shared more information when asked by their peers, but it was more insightful and honest feedback. This feedback identified that children did need to have a stronger voice and not only on what they had interests in, but also seeking opportunities to share information on their dislikes, concerns about starting at the service and some children indicated they wanted the educators to know fun facts about them. Families identified in their feedback that they did not really understand how the planning and interest section in the enrolment form was used and after seeing the planning in action they would have added more information.  

The group began questioning – how can we ensure we are capturing relevant and key information? How could our planning be explained to families so they understand why this information is so important?  Where are the voices of the children captured? What do children want to tell us? How is this information communicated with all educators? How are new children then planned for? How is this recorded?  

Educators documented the work undertaken by the working group and the findings and recommendations were reflected on in staff meetings to ensure all educators, including their casuals, had an opportunity to ask questions and give input. This allowed further possibilities and strategies to be brainstormed to ensure changes were contextual to their service.  Each educator was then on board with the changes and understood the reason for them.  

As a result of these reflections and discussions, proposed changes were made to the enrolment form. A new section was added for children to write in their own words or use illustrations to highlight the things they would like to be able to do at the service, things they don’t enjoy doing and anything they wanted the educators to know about them. An explanation of the purpose of this section was also attached for families and added into the family handbook.  

In a re-assessment of this practice, educators saw this as a key way to collect information about each new child in their own voices which supported the first step in their planning cycle. Educators reported that not only had this process improved the programs they designed and implemented for all children, it had also significantly strengthened their relationships with children during each child’s transition period to the service.  They were able to individually program and engage with children on their interests in ways the children preferred from commencement. Families have also become more engaged in the activities their children are participating in as they understand that they have been planned specifically for their children.  

Given the success of the working group, and at the suggestion of some of the children involved, the service decided to set up a weekly children’s meeting so children could be the main drivers of all aspects of the program on an ongoing basis. The children were keen to provide more input and have their say to shape what was available to do daily as well as on long term projects.  The weekly children’s meetings provided a time where any child could come along and talk about the suggested activities for the week and give their own thoughts and ideas.  

In these meetings the children and educators also devised a number of ways they could ensure all children were involved if they missed meetings, had ideas at other times or were perhaps too shy to share at the time. An ‘ideas’ book, where children could write or draw their ideas into the book was added to the indoor space and an ‘ideas’ wall was placed in the foyer, where children and families can continue to add their suggestions. This often led to lively discussions between families at drop off and pick up times.  

Some further examples from the meetings included children suggesting they set up a dedicated art space and were particularly interested in exploring graffiti art, after being inspired by a recent school excursion to the state art gallery. Some children asked to have an opportunity to try out a greater range of sports and sporting experiences, similar to those they engage in outside of the service, such as tennis. One child with an interest in gardening, wanted to create a herb garden. This suggestion inspired other children to request a greater range of cooking experiences to use the herbs in creating meals. Other children described their favourite activities already included in the program that they wanted to see continued.

Educators and children discussed the practicalities of all suggestions such as the resources required, including space, cost and the supervision required, coming up with solutions for how these could be achieved and managed. Timelines and action plans were developed to ensure each child’s suggestions were incorporated into the term planner. These plans were incorporated into the service’s weekly program and documented in a large A3 folder. Space was provided to add ideas as the program developed and to document spontaneous experiences as they occurred. Space was also provided for review and evaluation by the children as part of an ongoing cycle of planning.  

The next stage of the review process was completed by educators, with support from the educational leader. They sought to ensure that children also contributed to the evaluation of their own wellbeing, learning and development within the planning cycle. The practice at the time was that the educators gathered and analysed information to determine what worked and didn’t work, specific to individual children and the program as a whole. To expand this to include children’s views, questions were added to the children’s meetings to remain consistent with their review aims, commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the service philosophy. Educators talk to children during the weekly meetings about the learning outcomes, principles, and practices of MTOP V2.0 and encourage children to assess and evaluate their own learning and progress. Educators then incorporate the children’s reflections and use the combination of these reflections to critically reflect and help guide their future planning for individual children and the group as a whole.  Improvements to the program, such as routines, transitions and changes to the environment are also included within these reflections.

When re-assessing the working group aims and recommendations, educators discussed at a team meeting that they wanted the assessment and planning cycle for each child to be more visible for the children and families and brainstormed how they could enable this. Educators explored various ways this could occur and decided to trial a planning book for each child. They printed simplified blank planning cycle templates to add to the books and took a sample to the weekly children’s meeting for discussion. The children’s group liked the idea of being able to document their own planning cycles and were keen to collaborate with the educators in their books. The children bring their books to the weekly children’s meetings and as ideas and suggestions come up that they want to lead or be involved in, they add this to the planning cycle template. Educators and children then follow the cycle together for each of the children in their books and also share this with families. Links to MTOP V2.0 are discussed between educators and children who can record these in their books. The main service program has also started to be coded to show where this information was being added.  

After the trial period, the service’s ‘Programming for Children’s Learning’ policy and procedure has been updated to ensure this practice continues and is outlined for any new team members to follow. Reflecting on the change to this process, the coordinator and educational leader observed the process has not only made the planning cycle more visible to families and children but supported the educators in implementing their own planning cycles.  

The project led to a larger discussion amongst the team about what critical reflection means and looks like across all aspects of the program. At a team meeting, educators discussed how and when to engage in critical reflection of program implementation to inform future planning, with some staff concerned they weren’t ‘doing it right’.  

As part of this discussion, the educational leader shared a reading highlighting the thinking of Dewey and Schon and the idea of reflecting in and on practice. This also prompted educators to think about the practice of acting with intentionality, as described in the MTOP V2.0. The educational leader also offered the What? So what? Now what? model as one way to structure educators’ reflections. This model supports educators to review an experience in terms of what happened, how to make sense of the experience in terms of what was learnt and what questions it raised, and what they might do differently. In thinking about the ‘So what?’ one educator noted the importance of asking the right questions, with particular consideration to social justice issues. In this regard they found some of the reflective questions in MTOP V2.0 helpful, including the question: ‘Who is advantaged when I work in this way? Who is disadvantaged?’

Over time staff came to understand there was no one way or right way to engage in or document critical reflection, rather, it was the depth of information and how this was then used to inform their own (or the service’s) future practices. Consequently, a range of reflective practices were used amongst the team. Some educators now use a personal reflective journal to document reflections, learning and analysis which informs their planning, personal development, and input into team discussions. Others have buddied up to support each other to critically reflect on specific programmed experiences as they arise, a technique that works well at the beginning and end of each session. Others continue to use documentation of children’s learning to reflect on their role from different perspectives. The educational leader also dedicates time to meet with each educator regularly to support their reflective practice methodology and share professional resources with which to further reflect, engage and explore.  

The coordinator has noted that these discussions and processes along with the increased mentoring provided by the more experienced educators and the educational leader has resulted in a significant increase in the depth of critical reflection from all educators including those new to OSHC.  

Time is also regularly allocated in staff meetings for staff to critically reflect on relevant topics and issues as a group. For example, educators routinely make time to critically reflect on specific aspects of their practice, drawing on a range of reflective questions proposed by the educational leader or by their peers.  

The working group review and recommendations formed a solid framework that supported discussions and a more critical examination to ensure that different views and perspectives were sought, and new or alternative possibilities considered, in their assessment and planning processes.

You may wish to use the indicators for Exceeding practice, the reflective questions for Exceeding practice at the Standard level, or the questions used by authorised officers to establish Exceeding practice to review and consider the examples of practice described above using the online Guide to the NQF. You may also wish to consider them as part of your self-assessment, and in the development of your Quality Improvement Plan.

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