Standard 6.2 Collaborative partnerships – Case study 1
Collaborative partnerships enhance children’s inclusion, learning and wellbeing.
Educators from a family day care service in a small rural town have set up a number of strategies to support each other in their educator role. Given the difficulty in meeting up during the week due to the distance educators needed to travel, some educators meet at a local café on a Saturday morning once per month to share information and ideas. Others, who live further away from the town centre, make use of the service’s closed Facebook page. Educators also receive ongoing support through the coordination unit, which includes regular home visits, Zoom sessions and facilitated play sessions. Team meetings are held in person every few months. These meetings allow coordinators to facilitate opportunities for critical reflection and ensure practice across the service aligns with the service philosophy and the principles and practices of the approved learning frameworks.
The service is well known within the local community. This is due to the ongoing efforts of the coordination unit, championing the value of early childhood education as well as the benefits of family day care for children and families. Consistent with their philosophy, the service actively promotes their image of the child as strong, capable and confident, and the importance of all in the community supporting all children to flourish. One way this is achieved is through the service’s active involvement and participation in the town and local events. Not surprisingly, excursions have long been a feature of the service and have contributed to a strong sense of belonging to and connection with the local community. Visits to the town library, café / bakery, honey farm and lavender gardens are firm favourites with children, families and educators alike.
The coordination unit has established strong links with local schools and centre-based early childhood education and care services through regular participation in the local networking group. Members of the group include family day care services, preschools / kindergartens, long day care services, schools and outside school hours care services. With encouragement from coordination unit staff, a few educators also attend these meetings. The educators report that just knowing the names of people from these other services has made them more confident approaching them at the meeting, calling them on the phone, or speaking to them when they see them in the community.
Most educators with the service care for children of varying ages, and some have children who will be commencing their first year of formal schooling in the following year. At a network meeting earlier in the year, educators from a long day care service and primary school talked about a transition to school action research project they were participating in. They shared some of the main messages as well links to useful resources and videos. This included one they found particularly interesting, which showed children talking about their feelings about starting school and what had helped them to get ready for school.
Drawing on some of the key ideas raised in the meeting, educators reflected on what it meant to them for children to be ready for school, with some arguing an alternative question was what does it mean for schools to be ready for children. Many educators were motivated to start planning for the children’s transition to school as soon as possible. Others expressed some reluctance, particularly with regard to the idea of “school readiness” and what this meant for children, families, schools, and for them as educators. Coordinators used home visits to offer tailored support to educators according to their questions and concerns specific to the children and families they were working with. One educator, for example, was caring for a child who would be attending the School of the Air in the coming year. This was a whole new experience for them, as many of the strategies used to support children and families in the past were not suitable in this context.
A professional learning session was organised by the educational leader shortly after the networking meeting. At the session they shared some Australian research about what makes a positive transition to school, including the importance of collaborative partnerships. This resulted in lively discussion about how the research findings linked back to the principles and practices of the approved learning frameworks. Coordinators spoke to individual educators to discuss how they might translate key ideas into practice. This included thinking about which partnerships with schools and other stakeholders were already strong, which ones they might need to work on and how they might go about this.
Educators each came up with one or two action steps and timelines about what they might do with this information. They also made a commitment to share what happened with each other through their various communication strategies, including their Saturday morning coffee catch ups and conversations at play sessions. Coordinators used home visits to have follow up conversations with individual educators, to assist them with their specific action steps and identify solutions to any challenges that arose.
One educator had two children starting school who also attended a local preschool / kindergarten two days per week. Both the educator’s home and the preschool / kindergarten were within walking distance of a local school. They contacted the school principal who they had met at the network meeting to ask about bringing their children into the school playground to have morning tea while students were in class. These visits became the highlight of the children’s week, including the younger children in their care. Over time, they were invited to visit the school library as well as the prep / kindergarten classroom. On one visit, the principal took the children and educators on a tour of the school. The children were most curious about the school toilets, which were very different to their toilets at home.
The visits to the school were documented through photographs taken by the children as well as their comments and impressions of the visits. This documentation was shared with children and families as well as with the preschool / kindergarten and the school. The visits were so well received they became an ongoing feature of the approach to transition to school of the family day care service, as well as the preschool / kindergarten and the school.
As an unexpected outcome of the visits, the family day care educator and the preschool / kindergarten teachers and educators actively sought to maintain the partnership established beyond transition to school. For example, they regularly took their children to meet in the local park for morning tea. They also scheduled Zoom meetings to say hello and talk about what they were doing in their different education settings.
Another educator was working with a child with a diagnosed disability who would be going to school in the coming year. The educator spoke to the child’s family about reconvening the child’s ‘support team’ that had previously worked together to develop a Working together agreement. The support team consisted of the child’s family, the family day care educator, and a representative from the local early intervention service.
The Working together agreement documented the agreed way for these individuals to work together to support the child’s learning and development in an informed, consistent and collaborative way. The support team met to discuss how they could update the agreement to best support the child through their transition to school. This included extending the support team to include representatives from the school the child will be attending. This led to ongoing discussions about the child’s strengths, interests, capabilities and preferred way of learning. Also discussed was what the school needed to know and do to ensure it was ready for the child’s commencement.
Through their connections with the local networking group, some educators got involved in planning an information night for families with children transitioning to school, which included presentations from school principals. This was the first time this event had been a collaboration of centre-based early education and care services and the family day care service. The event was a huge success and was even reported in the local newspaper. Included in the article was an interview with the coordinator of the family day care service, the director of the preschool / kindergarten and the prep / kindergarten teacher. The article described some of the transition to school initiatives happening in the town and how this was supporting children’s continuity of learning.
At a recent team meeting the educational leader facilitated a reflective conversation with the educators to discuss their various transition to school approaches. This gave the educators an opportunity to explain their practice and shifts in thinking over time. It also gave educators a safe space to ask questions, share their views and perspectives and think about where improvements could be made. The service also decided to develop a plan to continue some of the new practices in the future. Building on the success of many of the activities, the plan also paid attention to how educators could enhance the learning and wellbeing of younger children in the service through their involvement in these experiences.
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