- Assessment & Ratings
- Exceeding the NQS
- Quality Area 2 – Children's health and safety
- Standard 2.2 Safety – Case study 2
Standard 2.2 Safety – Case study 2
Each child is protected.
This outside school hours care (OSHC) service is situated on the grounds of the local school in a small regional town. Both the service and the school are well known within the community for championing children’s rights. Upholding children’s rights is a critical consideration in the service’s philosophy, which recognises and celebrates children’s competence and capabilities, and welcomes and respects their ideas and opinions. This is informed by the principles and practices of My Time, Our Place – Framework For School Age Care in Australia (MTOP). It is also informed by the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child and the guiding principles of the National Quality Framework. The service is also committed to building and maintaining respectful and collaborative partnerships with families, the school and the wider community, recognising that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.
Consistent with the service philosophy, and their commitment to ensuring children’s opinions are considered and taken seriously in matters impacting on them, the service team has been critically reflecting on the degree to which they actively consult with or take children’s views into account regarding regarding health, wellbeing and safety issues. For example, being a small service, the children are actively involved in planning and evaluating emergency and evacuation rehearsals, which take place every three months. Recognising children’s capacity in this way acknowledges their confidence as learners and affirms children viewing themselves as successful, competent and capable.
Following a recent evacuation drill, some children suggested having a portable emergency first aid kit for circumstances where an emergency prevents educators from accessing the first aid kits in the office or play room. The portable emergency first aid kit was added to their emergency procedure rehearsal checklist as an item to take to the evacuation area. This new practice was identified as an improvement opportunity in their Quality Improvement Plan (QIP).
One child, whose mother was a paramedic, also suggested the service provide first aid training for children. The other children readily agreed with this suggestion as did the service coordinator, who organised a first aid workshop during the next vacation care program. The training included checking for danger, how to get help, performing CPR, recognising and responding to allergic reactions, and first aid treatment, including bandaging for burns and fractures.
Afterwards the children proudly shared their new first aid knowledge and skills with their families. Some children were so keen to share what they had learnt they designed posters with key first aid messages that were displayed throughout the service and the school. Families were so impressed with the first aid training they asked if something similar could be made available for them. The service coordinator was happy to oblige. They also advised the school principal of this in one of their regular catch ups. The principal promoted the event to families who didn’t use the OSHC service through the school newsletter, website and Facebook. The first aid workshop quickly booked out, with a wait list. Both first aid courses have since become regular training opportunities offered for children and families at the OSHC service and the school. The service has also experienced an increase in their vacation care enrolments, with children who do not typically attend care wanting to access the first aid training as well as other program days.
At a weekly group meeting to discuss planning ideas for the following week attended by educators and children, a group of children expressed interest in building a cubby house in the services’ outdoor space, making use of some old wooden fence palings one of their families had provided, as well as some pallets and crates that the service had sourced. The children identified that the project would require a risk-benefit assessment prior to commencement.
Children at the service had previously been involved in conducting risk-benefit assessments for other higher risk experiences, which was consistent with the service’s ‘risk in play’ policy. As an added component of the risk-benefit assessment, the children worked with the educational leader to discuss and document their roles and responsibilities for staying safe and options for seeking feedback from key stakeholders, including the school principal. Families were also involved, some of whom were anxious about the children’s safety given the perceived risks associated with building the cubby house.
The service recognised that there are sometimes misunderstandings about risk-benefit analysis and that both families and children may perceive the analysis as a weighing of the pros and cons of risky experiences to determine whether an activity was worthwhile. It was important to dispel this myth and share with both the children and families that risk-benefit analysis is about promoting the educational benefits of risky experiences in order to strengthen skills, provide appropriate challenge to sustain engagement, nurture children’s natural curiosities as learners, and support problem solving and resilience building. In this way the risk-benefit analysis still identifies suitable and appropriate control measures for minimising the risk of harm while making the important learning opportunity available.
To inform the risk-benefit analysis of the cubby project, the service created a display in the service’s reception area, asking families the following questions: What was your favourite place to play when you were a child? What was it about this space that you loved most? Families were offered a number of ways to provide feedback, according to their personal preference. Some families, for example, wrote their responses directly onto the whiteboard set up in the reception area. Some even added photographs of themselves as children engaging in their favourite play spaces. Others wrote their responses on the notepaper provided and submitted it anonymously.
The display generated considerable interest from children, families and educators, as they eagerly awaited new contributions to prompt further discussion. All responses were collated and key themes identified. One common issue, regardless of activity, was a strong preference for being outdoors. Another major theme was a preference for being out of the spotlight of adults. Specific examples included messy play involving dirt, mud, sand and water. Physically active play was also popular. This included cricket, touch footy, ball games and tag, as well as bike riding, billy carts and skateboarding. Climbing trees and making cubbies also made the list.
This exercise was an eye opener for children and families alike. The children commented that their parents/carers seemed to have much more freedom and less adult supervision to contend with when they were children. Similarly, parents and carers came to realise that many of the activities they did as children were probably riskier than those their children were now involved in. The educational leader extended these discussions by providing information to families and educators about the benefits of outdoor/risky play. This included articles by UK advocate and consultant Tim Gill.
Time was allocated in team meetings for educators to share their responses to the articles and their reaction to the feedback received from children and families. This provided a safe space for educators to ask questions and raise concerns. Some staff were initially uncertain about the cubby house project. However, by considering a range of perspectives and talking about it as a group, and with OSHC services in their local networking group, they began to see more benefits than they had first anticipated. They were also comfortable with the process for undertaking a risk-benefit assessment and developing safety guidelines to address risks identified by children, their families and staff.
The children completed the risk-benefit assessment for the cubby house with the support of the educational leader. They sought advice and guidance from one of the children’s parents, who was a builder, about the basic carpentry skills they would need to learn, to assist them to develop safety behaviours and shared responsibilities. The children also contacted a local men’s shed, to see if they could help them design and build the cubby as a shared community project. Both the OSHC service and the school had an existing relationship with the men’s shed, having worked with them previously to design and build a street library, which was now proudly located at the entrance to the school.
The children presented the completed risk-benefit assessment and safety guidelines they had developed to the nominated supervisor and OSHC management committee, seeking their endorsement for the cubby house project to be included in the next vacation care program. The nominated supervisor discussed the outcome of the meeting at a team meeting for all educators working in the vacation care program and provided copies of the risk-benefit assessment and safety guidelines. They also highlighted the educator’s responsibilities as detailed in their ‘risk in play’ policy, to ensure a shared understanding specific to the cubby house project, and the roles and responsibilities of all involved. Other key policies were also revisited at the meeting, including supervision, visitors to the service, relationships with children, and children’s participation and decision-making.
With only one week of the school term remaining, the service team, children and families eagerly awaited the start of vacation care and the action-packed program, including the cubby house project.
* To create a print friendly version of this case study, please click ‘print’ in the red menu bar.