Standard 5.1 Relationships between educators and children – Case study 1

Respectful and equitable relationships are maintained with 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.
Children and educators planting a tree


icon representing family day care - a set of houses and children

Family day care educators in a large regional city attended a professional learning session organised through the service’s coordination unit that focussed on relationships with children. The principle of secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships was a lively topic of a recent discussion on the vision, principles and practices of the approved learning frameworks and supporting children’s learning. Respectful relationships are also a key component of the service’s philosophy. The philosophy is often used as a reference point to shape educator’s practice relating to upholding children’s dignity, rights and agency, and building and maintaining caring, respectful, reciprocal and trusting relationships with children.

A key message of the professional learning session was the importance of establishing trust in relationships with children. The session also explored approaches for developing secure and respectful relationships with children and their families. As part of this session, educators reflected on some of the questions specific to Exceeding Standard 5.1 in the Guide to the National Quality Framework. The question ‘How does the service’s approach to building and maintaining respectful and equitable relationships with each child contribute to a culture of inclusiveness and sense of belonging and connectedness for all children and families at the service?’ resulted in debate as educators reflected on their varying levels of experience, knowledge and confidence. One educator, for example, was interested in exploring this question specific to working with younger children. Another educator was interested to strengthen their relationships with children from cultural backgrounds different to their own.

Following the professional learning session, coordinators engaged educators in individual conversations during fortnightly home visits to discuss their responses and perspectives. This included key ideas and impressions and what it caused them to think about specific to their current relationships with children. It also included what ideas from the session they were interested to try out or explore further. Coordinators also extend on these discussions, sharing their professional experience and expertise and providing continued support and guidance at weekly play sessions.

Some educators were interested in the teachings of Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber, which had been introduced in the professional learning session and were the focus of a recent newsletter from the coordination unit. The educators were keen to implement some of the key principles of their teaching in their interactions with the younger children in their care. This included slowing down to create a calmer pace, providing uninterrupted, unhurried play time and giving children their full attention. Drawing on their interest in children’s rights and agency, one educator also sought to take on a more cooperative approach with the younger children, for example, by talking to children about what was about to happen at various times of the day and more actively seeking their involvement during everyday care routines such as nappy change, dressing and meals times.

After implementing some of these ideas for some weeks the educational leader suggested they video the educators’ interactions with children throughout one part of the day so they could review it together afterwards. While the educators were initially a little nervous about taking this step, they were also committed to strengthening their relationships with children. They saw this as an opportunity to get a better sense of what they were doing that was working and not working so well, and what aspects of their practice they might need to rethink or do differently. It was also nice to know they weren’t alone in trying out new ideas and that they could celebrate their successes and discuss solutions to issues and challenges with each other and with coordinators.

In reflecting on their experiences some educators reported that their biggest challenge was slowing down to match the children’s pace as they played. They also agreed that this became easier with time and practice. Educators also shared the changes they had noticed since trying out some of the ideas from the professional learning session, for example, many educators described their day as being calmer and less hurried. Some educators observed that the children were remaining engaged in what they were doing for a much longer period of time. Others remarked they had learnt so much more about the children by being more in the moment and paying closer attention to what children were doing and communicating. These observations and insights had also led to some meaningful conversations with families about their child's learning, wellbeing and development.

The educators also found the feedback from the video and the perspective of the educational leader to be invaluable. One educator was pleased to see themselves sitting back and waiting for children to engage with specific play materials, where as previously they might have offered something to the children or suggested what they might do or make. Another educator watched two toddlers engage with a basket of clean towels and handkerchiefs for an extended period of time in ways they would never have imagined themselves. Reliving this moment through the video allowed them to revisit the sense of curiosity, joy and delight the children had experienced in their play.

The professional learning session motivated another educator to build a stronger relationship with two siblings whose family had migrated from India to Australia, spoke Hindi and were learning English as their second language. Prior to the children commencing, the coordination unit connected the educator with the local inclusion agency, which they had worked closely with in the past. The service had an existing Strategic Inclusion Plan (SIP) in place. The focus of the SIP was to build educators’ knowledge and confidence working with children from diverse cultural backgrounds. It included a number of strategies and action steps, including seeking access to bicultural support. The inclusion professional also provided information and links to resources for the educator specific to supporting the children and their family.

With support from the educational leader, the educator sourced information from the family about their culture, home language, traditions and child-rearing practices. They asked the family to take photos of the family’s everyday practices to share with the educator. This helped the educator get to know and understand the children and family more. It also helped them to better align some of their own practices to what happened in their home, to provide consistency and a sense of belonging. The educator spoke to the family about recording key words in Hindi to greet the children and support them with routines throughout the day. The family also recorded some of the child’s favourite songs and provided picture books in Hindi, which the educator included in the educational program for all children.

This educator recognised the importance of developing trusting and respectful relationships with children’s families to ensure children feel safe and supported in their home. They understood from their reading that children were more likely to trust them as an educator if they saw that their family members trusted them. Drawing on this thinking, the educator invited a family member to visit their home and stay with the children for periods of time over a number of days prior to them officially commencing with the service. This helped the family to better understand the educational program, including routines and transition times. It also meant they were more comfortable their child would be happy and safe with the educator.

Through these visits the children also got to know the educator and become familiar with the educator’s home. Importantly, the children saw the educator interacting with their parent in a warm and friendly manner. As another outcome of these visits, the family told the educator about an upcoming community event to celebrate Holi, the festival of colours, and invited them to join them. Apart from being a whole lot of fun, this provided yet another way for the educator to get to know the children and their family in a more holistic way.

While the children’s transition from home to the service was positive, the educator was keen to examine their own thinking of cultural inclusion and how this impacts relationships with children and with families. The coordination unit again contacted the Inclusion Agency, given their knowledge about the various professional learning programs available to strengthen inclusive practice in early education and care services. The Inclusion Professional mentioned an upcoming session focusing on cultural inclusion and cultural responsiveness. The educator attended the session, seeing this as a great way to build their knowledge, skills and confidence in this area.

The educator shared information from the session with other educators who also wanted to strengthen this aspect of their practice. This included a cultural responsiveness self-assessment tool that the educational leader asked educators to complete prior to the next team meeting. The self-assessment tool asked a series of reflective questions that required educators to examine their physical environments and resources, programming and planning, communication strategies and values and beliefs in relation to cultural inclusion and diversity.

This led to lively discussion as educators questioned their current practice and considered alternative views and perspectives. One educator said the section on values and beliefs got them thinking about their own values and world views and how this impacts their relationships with children and families. This reflection made them more mindful of how they might increase opportunities for families to share their culture and cultural practices with them. For another educator the self-assessment tool made them question the extent to which their resources were based on stereotypes or generalisations about specific cultures. As a first step, they made a time to meet with the educational leader to conduct an audit of their children’s books with this focus in mind. All educators agreed this had been a useful process and one they wanted to continue on a regular basis as part of their ongoing commitment to high quality practice.

How practice in this example aligns with the Exceeding themes

Exceeding theme 1

Practice is embedded in service operations when it occurs consistently, frequently and intentionally as part of an ongoing process that is understood and implemented by all educators across all aspects of the program. In this example:

How practice in this example aligns with the Exceeding themes

Exceeding theme 1

Practice is embedded in service operations when it occurs consistently, frequently and intentionally as part of an ongoing process that is understood and implemented by all educators across all aspects of the program. In this example:

  • Educators approach to building and maintaining consistent, trusting, respectful and equitable relationships with children aligns with the service’s philosophy and the approved learning frameworks. These documents are revisited over time to guide reflections and promote ongoing and consistent quality practice.

  • Interactions between educators and children support each child to feel secure, confident and included, regardless of their circumstances, strengths, gender, capabilities or diverse ways of doing and being. Educators draw on their knowledge of children as well as the expertise of families to maintain and strengthen trusting relationships with children.

Exceeding theme 2

Critical reflection involves a deep level of regular and ongoing analysis, questioning and thinking that goes beyond evaluation and review. Critical reflection informs practice when the continuous reflection of all educators, individually and together, influences decision-making and drives continuous quality improvement. In this example:

  • Educators critically reflect on their interactions with children and on opportunities to further enhance children’s lifelong learning and sense of belonging and connectedness within the service and the child’s world.

  • Coordinators encourage educators to reflect on their approach to building relationships with children and identify where quality improvements can be made. Educators draw on theoretical influences and recognised guidance to inform their pedagogy and the practice across the service. Educators consistently reflect, individually and with each other, and engage in robust debate, on approaches to building and maintaining relationships between educators and children. Educators share their ideas, reflections and learning with each other to enable all educators to strengthen practice across the service.

Exceeding theme 3

Practice is shaped by meaningful engagement with families and/or the community when educators actively seek input, guidance and feedback from children, families and the community. Meaningful engagement with families and/or the community helps to shift thinking, shape ongoing practice and foster a culture of inclusiveness and sense of belonging for all. In this example:

  • Educators’ approach to building and maintaining respectful and equitable relationships with children is strengthened by meaningful engagement with families and community partners.

  • Educators actively promote a culture of inclusion and sense of belonging and connectedness for all by drawing on the culture, strengths, priorities and perspectives of children and families.

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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