ACECQA Newsletter Issue 7 2016
Educators at Goodstart Red Hill had long admired forest kindergartens from afar, never really considering how that might look in an Australian setting. Then they realised they had an amazing and diverse environment right on their doorstep. Skye Devereaux, Early Childhood Teacher and Educational Leader, writes for We Hear You on how Goodstart Red Hill developed their Nature Space program.
It has been over 25 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed by Australia. It is therefore timely to reflect on our engagement with this important convention, which underpins the National Quality Framework (NQF).
The Convention states that all children have the right to an education that lays a foundation for the rest of their lives, maximises their ability, and respects their family, cultural and other identities and languages. The Convention also recognises children’s right to play and be active participants in all matters affecting their lives (Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, p. 9; Framework for School Age Care in Australia, p. 3).
Key components of the NQF, the approved learning frameworks and National Quality Standard (NQS) promote high expectations for children’s learning, recognising children as capable and competent people with agency and rights.
Here are some key considerations to ensure your education and care program and practice are rights based.
The importance of play
The right to play is expressed within article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Universally it recognises the need to create time and space for children to engage in spontaneous play, recreation and creativity.
To fully realise their right to play, children need freedom from stress, social exclusion and discrimination. They need a safe environment, opportunities for time away from adults, space outdoors and opportunities to explore and understand the cultural and artistic heritage of their community.
Play is critical to children’s wellbeing and development and is intrinsically linked to children’s agency.
Agency of the child
Article 12 of the Convention recognises children’s rights to have a say in decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account. This right is reflected in the concept of agency of the child which is embedded in the NQS and learning frameworks. Agency is children’s understanding that they have the capacity to influence others and make decisions, particularly about their own learning. Even very young children have preferences, make choices, and have the ability to influence others, actively construct their own understandings and contribute to others’ learning.
When children enact agency they learn about negotiation, compromise, assertiveness, success, failure and resilience. A sense of agency is an important part of developing a strong sense of identity (Outcome 1 of the approved learning frameworks).
The concepts of children’s rights and agency are reflected in a number of elements in the NQS, including:
- Element 1.1.2: Each child’s knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program.
- Element 1.1.6: Each child’s agency is promoted, enabling them to make choices and decisions and to influence events in their world.
- Element 5.2.3: The dignity and the rights of every child are maintained at all times.
Read about the projects at Docklands Victoria and Uniting Care Jack and Jill Preschool, promoting and showcasing children’s sense of agency and partnerships with community; and Forrest OOSHC and their Beyond the Fence™ program.
Positioning children at the centre of everything we do
Educators are constantly making curriculum decisions in their daily work with children and families. Reflecting on the Convention reminds us to position children at the centre of our thinking, reflection and decision making. It is important to take time to listen to children’s ideas, suggestions and preferences, and to continually explore authentic opportunities to involve them in decisions that affect them.
Here are some questions for reflection:
- In our daily work, how are we promoting the rights of children?
- In the decision making processes at the service, how are children’s rights considered?
- What opportunities exist within the community to further promote children’s rights?
August is just around the corner, so it is time to start thinking about National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day. Celebrated every year on 4 August, the day is an opportunity for all Australians to show their support for and learn about the importance of culture, family and community in the life of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child.
The theme for 2016 is ‘My Country, Our Country, We All Belong’, with its focus on belonging and helping children to feel connected and proud in culture, and celebrate the strengths and achievements of cultural traditions.
See the SNAICC website for more information on the day’s history, and resources and events.
Over 3000 educators attended one of the 52 free workshops, which began in the ACT in October 2015 and finished in Victoria in June 2016.
The professional development workshops were a great opportunity for educators from different services to come together, share ideas, and hear practical strategies to meet the requirements of the NQF.
The feedback on these workshops has been so positive that we are pleased to announce ACECQA’s National Education Leader will be back for round three in 2016-17.
In partnership with regulatory authorities, the workshops will kick off in the Northern Territory from 2 August.
You can register to attend a workshop on sustainable environments in the Northern Territory on our National Workshops page. Details on future workshop topics, dates and locations will be promoted through ACECQA’s website, Facebook page and newsletter.
With winter here and the cold and flu season upon us, it is the perfect time to think about the practices and procedures that your service has in place to take reasonable steps in preventing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases, as well as managing illness.
To meet the requirements of Regulation 88 and Regulation 168(2)(c), your service might find it valuable to review practices and procedures about effective hand washing, cough and sneezing etiquette, hygiene and cleaning routines and appropriate exclusions of unwell children, educators and staff.
This is also an opportunity to speak to families about hygiene and illness. Explaining to families the processes your service has established not only keeps them informed but also puts them at ease during, what can be, an anxious time. Discussions might confirm what records are kept about illnesses, the notification process in the event of illness or an outbreak of an infectious disease, and the exclusion periods you have set to suit the conditions of your service, in line with the guidelines of relevant peak bodies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Involving families in the development and revision of the agreed policies and procedures also helps to build understanding and ownership as well as recognition of their importance.
The NHMRC website features many helpful resources, including the Staying Healthy guide, posters and information for services, in addition to fact sheets for families. The Staying Healthy guide is aligned with the relevant quality areas of the National Quality Standard – Quality Area 2 (Children’s health and safety) and Quality Area 7 (Leadership and service management). This includes chapters on infection control, monitoring illness, hygiene procedures, fact sheets, and work health and safety for employers and educators.
ACECQA regularly presents at different children’s education and care events and conferences.
If your provider or organisation has an upcoming event which you would like someone from ACECQA to be a part of, submit our Speaker Requests form.
Please provide as much detail as you can about the event, what you would like us to speak about and other people or organisations that will be taking part so we can consider your request. Generally at least two months’ notice of the event is needed as we receive a large number of requests.
Most educators around Australia would agree it has been a busy year. Quality improvement plans are well underway and educators are focussed on providing rich and meaningful learning experiences for children. As we embrace these activities and muster the energy to keep up the momentum, it is also important to pause, reflect and feel proud of the positive impact made each day to the children and families at your service.
The new financial year brings an opportunity to pause and reflect on the many achievements to date; it is a time to be kind to yourself, and recognise and appreciate the contributions of others.
Laurie Kelly reminds us in his discussion about leadership that, "You’ve got to make sure the joy is there in the workplace, and that people have a real sense of achievement there, recognising them and their achievements as educators with the vital role in building the next generations of Australians”.
Consider how educators at your service are being supported to work collaboratively, and achieve a sense of connectedness and pride in their work with children and families.
Recent studies and brain research highlight the importance of working collaboratively with others. A model that several commentators have termed the SCARF model involves drawing on five key factors that influence behaviour: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness.
The importance of working collaboratively is reflected in the National Quality Standard (NQS) as educators are required to be respectful and ethical; to be guided by professional standards; to work collaboratively, supporting each other to develop skills and improve practice and relationships; to interact with each other with mutual respect, equity and recognise each other’s strengths and skills; and to affirm, challenge and learn from each other to further develop skills and improve practices and relationships (Quality Area 4). It also requires educators to respect the expertise of families and share decision making (Quality Area 6) as well as requiring leaders in the service to promote a positive organisational culture; build a professional learning community; and strive for continuous improvement (Quality Area 7).
You might like to explore the following questions at your next team meeting or as part of your self-assessment or performance review and evaluation:
- How are educators supported to feel valued and empowered to have a voice?
- How does the service self-assess concepts such as inclusion, empathy and equity for educators?
- How can the induction process be strengthened to gather useful information about the culture, identity, skills and strengths of new educators?
- How does the performance review process inform and support professional development?
- What opportunities exist for educators to work collaboratively and affirm, challenge, support and learn from each other to further develop their skills, to improve practice and relationships (Element 4.2.2)?
Further reading and resources
As we approach the end of ACECQA’s fifth year of operation, it presents an opportunity to look back at the operational achievements to date. As of 30 June 2016, ACECQA has received and processed:
- over 120 Excellent rating applications, of which 49 received the Excellent rating
- 22 second tier review applications
- close to 5500 individual qualification assessment applications, and
- just over 100 organisation program assessments.
Quarterly updates on this operational activity data will soon be published on the ACECQA website for public viewing.