Standard 7.1 Governance – Case study 2
Governance supports the operation of a quality service.
This outside school hours care (OSHC) service is situated in a regional city and is one of several OSHC services in the community. The service is located in a local school and governed by a volunteer parent committee. The committee strives to achieve ongoing quality improvement and support the OSHC service team through the coordinator (appointed as nominated supervisor) who leads the day to day operations and management of the service. The committee, together with the nominated supervisor, view feedback from key stakeholders, including complaints, as an opportunity to critically reflect on and, where necessary, improve current practices to support quality improvement.
A recent parent complaint raised with the committee secretary gave the service cause to take a step back to reflect on the clarity and communication of some of their policies and procedures, and to review the overall effectiveness of their management systems and processes. The parent expressed concern and disappointment that the service didn’t ensure children completed their homework at after school care. They noted that by the time they got home from after school care the child was too tired to engage with their homework and the parent was occupied preparing dinner and unable to help. The parent added that this was creating some stress for the family.
The complaint was shared with the committee president, who in turn raised it with the nominated supervisor. This incident highlighted two issues. The first issue was how to best address the parent’s complaint. The second was a potential misunderstanding of the service’s complaints policy amongst some committee members, which encouraged families to direct grievances to the nominated supervisor in the first instance rather than via the committee. Their vision was to ensure a shared understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the committee, nominated supervisor and service team, specific to complaints and more broadly. They also wanted to ensure they had systems in place to ensure these roles and responsibilities were clearly communicated to and understood by families.
The committee and nominated supervisor viewed the complaint as an opportunity to review, reflect on and improve current systems, policies and practices, as part of their commitment to continuous improvement and to support the effective and ethical operation of the service. It also offered a valuable opportunity to strengthen current practice specific to involving families and community partners in the review and evaluation of management systems. In doing so they hoped to support a culture of inclusiveness and sense of belonging at the service, a key component of their service philosophy.
As a first step the nominated supervisor met with the parent to talk to them about the issue in order to better understand their perspective, priorities and needs. The nominated supervisor reassured the parent that they take complaints seriously and that they would involve them in coming up with a suitable solution for the family. The nominated supervisor also shared the parent’s concern with the service team at a staff meeting to discuss their views and determine their best next steps. This resulted in a lively discussion about a broad range of issues, including what the purpose and focus of their OSHC was and how to stay true to that and their service philosophy.
Some educators, for example, were adamant that their role was to provide children with play and leisure opportunities and offer a reprieve after a day in the classroom. In their view homework was the responsibility of the family. Others could see the parent’s predicament and, when reflecting on the families’ wellbeing more holistically, were open to collaborating with the family to explore a workable solution. They also highlighted the importance of balancing families’ needs with children’s rights. This included children’s right to make their own decisions about the activities they wished to engage in after school, which may or may not include homework.
This conversation led to more questions than answers and the team were unable to reach consensus as to what to do. The nominated supervisor proposed they revisit their service philosophy and My Time Our Place: the Framework for School Age Care in Australia (MTOP) to guide discussion, as was typical of their practice, particularly when there were varying opinions and perspectives to consider. In doing so they were reminded of the service’s values of respect, curiosity, connection and ongoing learning. They spoke about how these values could assist their decision-making in this situation.
The team also revisited the principles of MTOP, highlighting partnerships with families and respect for diversity, as well as the overarching theme of belonging. They considered the pedagogical practices identified in MTOP, including holistic approaches, collaborating with children, and learning through play. The team also found it useful to reflect on the overarching guiding principles of the National Quality Framework, which speak to respecting and supporting the role of families as well as the rights and best interests of the child being paramount.
This conversation assisted the team to determine their next step, which was to seek feedback from other families, as well as from children. Initially, the nominated supervisor, in collaboration with the team, created two surveys, one for families and one for children, to gauge their views and perspectives. Children and families were also offered the opportunity to provide unstructured written feedback. Sharing feedback via video or audio clip was also encouraged. Unsurprisingly, more children decided to provide their feedback through a recorded video or audio clip. This feedback was particularly useful and many of the children had recorded their feedback together with their parents. This approach allowed for balanced and complementary perspectives from both of the key stakeholders to be obtained.
The nominated supervisor considered some of the barriers to homework, acknowledging the different perspectives on homework supervision shared by the educator team. To unpack this further, the nominated supervisor decided to undertake an anonymous survey of the team to identify if there were some personal perspectives, agendas or biases influencing why educators did or did not support homework being supervised in OSHC. The nominated supervisor wondered if some educators didn’t like supervising homework, didn’t feel confident in their capacity to do so, or if there were other reasons that created some of these barriers, such as lack of clarity around the educators’ role and responsibilities in supporting homework completion.
They also consulted with other OSHC services at a networking meeting to hear how they had addressed this issue in the past. One educator sourced an article highlighting differing perspectives on homework in OSHC, to inform discussions amongst the team. The article was also made available for families to read through a link in their feedback survey, and through the service newsletter and Facebook page.
The service team set up a working group of children and educators to identify key themes and explore possible solutions based on the feedback provided. Working groups involving children were a regular feature of the service team’s practice, to ensure they had an active voice in issues impacting on them and to demonstrate their views and perspectives were taken seriously. This was an important feature of their service philosophy, which they referred to regularly in guiding all aspects of the service’s operations. One of the working group meetings was broadcast live on the service’s closed Facebook group so families could hear the conversations in real time. Families were also kept informed via various communication strategies, including the noticeboard in the foyer area as well as the service’s communication app. The working group identified a range of options for everyone to consider.
The solution the service decided on was to set up a homework club in a dedicated homework space separate from other programmed activities, which could be packed away so the space could be used for other activities/experiences during the vacation care program. The service team worked with the committee, school, families, staff and children to develop a new homework policy, informed by team discussion, the family surveys and children’s working group, which was in keeping with the service philosophy and acknowledged and respected children’s rights. The policy acknowledged that while it was not appropriate to enforce homework completion, creating an inviting and respectful space in which homework could be completed would facilitate greater homework completion when children wished to do this. This was welcomed by children, parents and educators.
Children were involved in the design of the space and selection of furniture to ensure it was both functional and aesthetically pleasing, and to provide a sense of ownership. A small group of children got together to come up with a name for the homework club and create a sign for it. It was decided that the club would run immediately after children arrive from school following their afternoon tea. The nominated supervisor rostered educators to be available in the area if needed to provide support and assistance for as long as children required. Following the educator survey about the homework program, the nominated supervisor recognised that some of the educator team were more confident than others to support homework completion. These strengths were taken into account when rostering staff in the homework area.
The nominated supervisor worked with the parent who initially raised the concern, and their child, to discuss what the implementation of the new homework policy would look like for their family. They also offered other families and children different ways to provide feedback so they could continue to monitor the new arrangement and make changes as necessary. Initial feedback was positive, particularly with families who noted that the club was taking the pressure off them when they get home at the end of the day. Some children remarked that they liked that they can get their homework done as soon as they arrive so they can move on to other preferred activities. Other children said they found it easier to get their homework done when their friends are doing theirs. Some of the younger children in particular enjoyed reading with educators. This led to a new cycle of reflection about how children’s homework progress might be reported to families.
The nominated supervisor kept the committee informed throughout the process of consultation and implementation of the homework club. They also talked with them about the process of taking a bigger picture look at the service’s management systems. This included reviewing their process for revising the service’s policies and procedures to ensure they remain current and continue to reflect the needs of the service, educators, children and families, as well as the service philosophy.
A working group was set up to undertake the review, which included representatives from the committee, service team, the school and families. At the first meeting, the working group devised a timeline for reviewing policies and procedures and established key considerations. These included regulatory requirements, recognised guidance and current research. It also included strategies for seeking feedback from families, such as making use of the service’s suggestion box and noticeboard, through every day conversations, as well as keeping families informed via the service newsletter and communication app. Service representatives offered to come back to the group with suggestions as to how they would continue to seek appropriate feedback from children, where appropriate.
The working group meeting began with a review of the service’s complaints policy to ensure it clearly mapped out the steps to follow at each stage of the process. This included ensuring it empowered families to raise issues and express their concerns, and provided options for raising complaints with the most relevant person.
While the working group was undertaking this work, the service leadership, including the committee president and vice president and the nominated supervisor and educational leader, reviewed the service’s various induction processes, including the service family handbook. A key part of this review was looking at current information about the service’s organisational structure, including key roles and responsibilities, and how each of these fit within all aspects of the service’s operations and management. This information was then documented in appropriate handbooks supported by diagrammatic representations of the complaints flow chart and organisational structure. The committee felt that inclusion of visual aids in the handbook would help to illustrate and clarify these processes, structures and systems.
The service leadership also looked at how new committee members were inducted into their role. Feedback was gained to inform this process using exit data from all stakeholders. This included data on what worked well to support a positive orientation to the service as well as any gaps and what would help make this process easier. As a result, the induction process for committee members was reviewed and resulted in a new orientation manual and training for committee members to define their roles and build their confidence and capacity in understanding their responsibilities as an approved provider. The new manual is now incorporated into the organisation’s operational documents and will be regularly reviewed.
Educators also spoke with children to hear their views on what was important to know about the service to ensure all children settle in more easily. These insights were reported back to the service leadership to inform induction processes for all. Interestingly, many children noted they would like more guidance on who they should speak to about any issues or complaints that they might have and how the complaint is managed to ensure the issue is taken seriously and they feel supported and safe. A clear process for children to raise concerns, along with a visual representation, has now been developed. As part of their ongoing and continuous improvement, the service is now considering the development of a ‘child-friendly’ handbook to be provided to children upon their enrolment.
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