Standard 4.1 Staffing - Case study 3

Staffing arrangements enhance children’s learning and development.

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.
image of educators organising a room

 

icon representing centre based care - a family under a roof

This family day care (FDC) service is located in a major city. As reflected in their statement of philosophy, the service is committed to ensuring all children have the best possible start in life, the importance of respectful relationships, and maintaining strong and positive partnerships with families and with each other. The service is continually striving to look at how it can strengthen current practice in each of these aspects, including how their staffing arrangements enhance children’s learning and development.

As part of reflecting on the importance of relationships, the service’s leadership team undertook professional reading to inform and enhance current practice. The educational leader found the Educational Leader Resource Addendum for Family Day Care a valuable source of inspiration and a tool for critical reflection. One idea that resonated was to develop a relationship strategy to map out the steps the service could take to strengthen relationships with families, and with and between educators, to support better outcomes for children. The educational leader shared the idea with coordinators to consider what this might look like for their service and to discuss best possible starting points. This included looking at the recruitment of educators, the ongoing support provided to them, and strategies for sustaining respectful and supportive relationships with their peers.

The coordination unit team has a deep understanding of the value of, and commitment to engaging educators who are committed to high quality practice. For example, as part of the selection criteria when engaging new educators, the nominated supervisor has outlined key dispositions educators should display, noting the unique context of enhancing children’s learning and development in a home-based setting. These dispositions include being reflective and open to challenge, demonstrating a flexible and responsive approach, and a commitment to ongoing learning and development. This process helps the coordination unit recruit educators who are a good fit with the existing team and have a shared commitment to high quality practice. As part of their recruitment process, coordinators also look for educators who reflect the diversity of the local community and its unique geographical, cultural and social context. They recognise diversity of educators as a strength to promote a culture of inclusiveness and sense of belonging for children, families, educators and the community.

The coordination unit team works hard to support educators to have respectful and collaborative relationships with each other and with coordinators, as well as to prioritise a sense of collegiality and cooperation. This is achieved in various ways. For example, the leadership team is intentional when allocating coordinators to individual educators to ensure there is a good fit in terms of their skills and experience, goals and aspirations, and personalities and temperaments. This recognises and supports the building of strong, respectful and positive relationships.

The nominated supervisor ensures that regular and ongoing opportunities are created for educators and coordinators to come together for team meetings and professional learning sessions. These gatherings focus on creating a learning community and building and sustaining social connections. They also provide a forum to highlight and celebrate achievements and successes, as well as a safe space to discuss and explore solutions to address issues and challenges. 

Play sessions (also referred to as playgroups) are organised by coordinators and set up in location clusters to enable the children to get to know, become familiar with, and interact with other children and educators. These sessions also facilitate relationship building between educators and have created a sense of belonging and community across the service. Play sessions are also open for families to attend, should their circumstances allow, so they can also become familiar with other educators. While this isn’t always possible, families have expressed their appreciation for the opportunity.

Some educators have begun initiating their own play sessions with other educators and children in local parks. These opportunities have further strengthened relationships with and between educators and children. They have also proved to be helpful when the need to organise alternative/temporary care arises, as educators have knowledge of which other educators have capacity to take on additional children while keeping within maximum numbers. They also know which children have stronger connections with particular children and/or educators. This helps to ensure children experience as much continuity with educators as possible. 

Feedback from families obtained through regular surveys has revealed that several families feel reassured knowing their child is familiar with the replacement/back up educator. The survey also highlighted that some families were keen to have other ways to meet replacement/back up educators when the need arose. At a team meeting (involving educators and coordinators) held via video conferencing, coordinators shared with educators the key themes and findings emerging from the survey. This resulted in robust discussions about ways forward, with several options being suggested. One suggestion was to place a short bio of each educator in the service newsletter to help families become familiar with different educators across the service. Other suggestions included inviting families to attend professional learning sessions when there were similar priorities and interests, as well as continuing to invite families to play sessions. 

While educators explored the pros and cons of the different options, the educational leader suggested they reflect on their service philosophy, which draws on the importance and strength of their relationships with families, to inform decision making. This prompted educators to consider whether there were better ways to achieve this. For example, an educator suggested they look at where and how they can actively engage with families to seek their ideas and suggestions and involve them in problem solving and decision-making in relation to staffing arrangements, rather than deciding for them and seeking their endorsement afterwards.

As an outcome of this discussion, it was agreed that coordinators would prepare an article sharing feedback from families about what was working well in relation to the organisation of educators and continuity of staff, as well as options for improving current practice. It would include opportunities for families to provide additional ideas and comments as well as questions for families to guide their thinking and inform conversations with their educator. Educators undertook to follow this up with families at drop off and pick up times, to gain their insights, perspectives, and report back to their colleagues at the following team meeting.

At the meeting, educators commented that while families had endorsed some of the options proposed by the service, they had also added some ideas of their own that hadn’t previously been considered. For example, some families expressed interest in attending professional learning sessions and provided some potential topics including learning through play, the circle of security and supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing. To make these more accessible, families suggested online sessions might be more practical than face-to-face programs, a suggestion also supported by educators.

Building on the idea of coming together virtually, one family suggested that when alternative/temporary care was required, having virtual meetings with their regular educator and replacement/back up educator would be a useful way for them and their child/ren to meet and get to know the new educator before commencing in the new setting. Another suggestion was to create a photo book of the alternative FDC service, including photos of the replacement/back up educator and their family, as well as of their indoor and outdoor learning environments. This book would then be made available for families to look at with their child before accessing alternative/temporary care when their regular educator was unavailable.

After discussing the options at the next team meeting, coordinators and educators agreed they all had value. Coordinators agreed to investigate providing shared professional learning sessions for educators and families. Educators volunteered to try out other ideas according to their personal preference. For example, one educator who meets regularly with one or two other educators at a local park, was preparing to take leave. They were interested in hosting a virtual meeting (or, if necessary, meetings) with children and families using their FDC service with educators who had capacity to provide alternative/temporary care for them. One of the replacement/back up educators was also keen to make a photo book about themselves, their family and home, to help prepare children and families for this transition. 

Educators continue to maintain communication with families when trying out new ideas and use their feedback as a tool for ongoing critical reflection to determine what is and isn’t working. Coordinators encourage educators to share their reflections with each other at team meetings, to celebrate successes, and determine where improvements can be made to support familiarity and continuity for all children and families across the service. To further extend on these discussions, the nominated supervisor and educational leader proposed to share what they had learned with a networking group organised through the state FDC association. They are also interested to hear other family day care services’ ideas, so that they continue to build on current practice in relation to staffing arrangements, and to enhance children's learning and development.

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. 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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