Forrest Out Of School Hours Care has been re-awarded the Excellent rating

Date first awarded: 15 January 2019
Date re-awarded: 23 December 2021

Valid until:  22 December 2024

Forrest Out Of School Hours Care has been re-awarded the Excellent rating by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), the highest rating a service can achieve under the National Quality Framework. This is the second time the service has been awarded the Excellent rating by ACECQA.

The Canberra based out of school hours care service was recognised for its:

  • collaborative partnerships with professional, community or research organisations
  • inclusive partnerships with children and families
  • positive workplace culture and organisational values, sustained commitment to professional development and support of educators.

Examples of exceptional practice at the service include:

  • Establishing and continuing to be an active leader in the Outside School Hours Care Community of Practice network for services managed by Parents and Citizens groups in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Enhancements have included the development of a buddy system. Directors, assistant directors and educational leaders’ mentor long standing, new and emerging leaders in each of the participating services to promote a professional approach to education and care in the ACT. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 planned virtual meetings offered numerous opportunities for the network members to address and share information regarding government directed restrictions, fees, health and safety procedures and risk assessments.
  • Continuing a partnership with Forrest Public School, including the school’s Culture Club. Extensions to the goals of this partnership included collaborating with the school to design and establish the Winanggaay Garden, which was officially opened during Reconciliation Week in 2021. The aim of the garden is to strengthen the understanding and promotion of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, languages and histories by creating and using a culturally safe outdoor learning space. The garden is open for the community to visit on the weekends.
  • Collaborating with Marc Armitage (an independent Playwork Consultant and Play Advocate) and Camp Hill OSHC located in Queensland, to establish an Australian Playwork Community (APC). The service:
    • Facilitated the inaugural two-day Playwork Gathering in 2019 with 45 educators and Playworkers attending the event in Queensland.
    • Presented in-depth information on how they adopted a Playwork approach in the service and achieved a rating of Excellent from ACECQA.   
    • Provided funds for the educational leader to participate in a weeklong study tour at Camp Hill OSHC before the Playwork Gathering.
  • Ongoing enhancement to the Yr6 Privileges Program with dedicated leisure and play spaces for children in year six. The program now includes a Year Six Contract which children write collaboratively with educators to establish expectations, privileges and consequences. Children are responsible for organising any experiences or activities they nominate as part of the privilege program which has included year six excursions. Children write the permission forms, conduct the risk benefit assessments, book the venue or transport, and choose their preferred day and the educators they wish to accompany them.
  • During 2020 and 2021, the service maintained inclusive partnerships with families and children by:
    • Regularly contacting families who were not attending the service to check in on the children and adult’s wellbeing. This role was assigned to an educator after his regular shifts were reduced following a reduction in the number of children attending the service each day and it allowed him to continue to be employed at the service.
    • Making care packages for families that included home cooked meals for all families at home and attending the service. The Educators home-delivered groceries for families experiencing hardship.
    • Creating videos to address the children’s concerns about returning to the service after such a long time away and to continue to support the connection and trusting relationships between the staff and children. In one video educators and the service leadership team shared what they had been doing and what they had achieved during the COVID-19 lockdown.
    • Refunding gap fees and suspending enrolments to reduce the financial burden for families that were not attending the service and to ensure enrolment when lockdowns were eased.
  • Working in partnership with the ACT Down Syndrome Association and Workways Employment Agency to create a pathway for educators with varying abilities to be employed in high quality school age care services. In August 2021, two educators with Down Syndrome were employed at Forrest Outside School Hours Care. The service hosted workshops facilitated by the organisations to challenge educators’ biases and preconceptions and to identify and remove barriers to inclusion and to build the services capacity to support the educators’ successful employment in the service.

As a leader in the sector, Forrest Outside School Hours Care takes every opportunity to share their experiences. The aim is to encourage other services to reflect on their pedagogy and practice to improve outcomes for children and families.  The service shares, supports and collaborates with other services that use a Playwork approach. Service leaders regularly visit the Canberra Institute of Technology and the University of Canberra to talk to students about the OSHC program and a risk and play approach and advocate for the professionalism of the education and care sector. By sharing its practice and learnings with other education and care services and new and emerging educators, the service is helping to ensure their positive impact reaches beyond the children and families who access their service.

About the Excellent rating

Services that receive ‘Exceeding National Quality Standard’ in all seven quality areas can apply to ACECQA for the Excellent rating. The Excellent rating is awarded for three years. After this time services have the option to re-apply.