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Answers to common early child education and care centre questions

I heard about large differences in the quality of care provided by community, private and family day care centres, could you explain where this data comes from and what it means?

1972 saw the introduction of the CHILD CARE ACT, which elevated women's participation in paid employment. Prior to this, child care centres were rare. The number of facilities changed considerably in 1983 with an agreement between the Commonwealth Government, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). This united front referred to as the "ACCORD" triggered major development of childcare facilities around Australia. Since then numerous frameworks based around good quality ECEC learning have been implemented, and are imperative to achieving good outcomes for children. The National Quality Standards (NQS) provides guidelines and assurance measures that ensure that children are supported, and educated against a particular set of quality guidelines. Centres are assessed on these guidelines by ACECQA, and achieve a specific rating from five standards based on the seven quality standards of the NQS (ACECQA, 2018).

Recent information from ACECQA expresses concern that 23% or one in four ECEC services, are not yet meeting the requirements of the NQS. The informative research results showcases a serious bias towards privately owned centres, maintaining the bulk share of facilities not yet meeting the NQS. Family day care, in particular showed real concerns, with the majority of centres currently not meeting the minimum requirements (ACECQA, 2017). This is problematic for children because it would appear that those centres maybe placing profit above education, spelling disaster for children's learning development. The NQS has seven standards that ECEC centres must meet to satisfy government regulations.

Based on the results released by ACECQA it would appear from those seven areas of key concern of the NQS, that profit-based centres show the most concern in meeting several of the standards. In particular the following quality areas are of major concern:

Quality area - one: Educational Programming

Quality area - seven: Governance and Leadership

Quality area - two: Children's Health and Safety (ACECQA, 2018).  

For areas of high risk for example educational programming, this raises serious concern about the quality of vocational qualifications. In theory ECEC staffs may not be receiving relevant up to date training to equip them in their role as educators, if current practices in educational programming in centres, are not meeting the benchmark. The national regulator entitled the Australian Skills Quality Authority will be given priority for reviewing current ECEC relevant training courses. The regulator will address and monitor any educational or financial concerns associated with educational training practices, in order to build the quality of educational programming, and hence build the quality of centres (Australian Government Productivity Commission, 2011).

Centre quality is pivotal for longterm success. Professor Heckman's research into high and low quality early childcare and education centres, shows that when children are placed in high quality centres it yields a 13% return on money invested. The results both in the short and long term especially for disadvantaged children, showed lasting results into adulthood for people placed into centres, from birth to five years (Heckman, 2017a). Areas that showed lasting results were from cognition, social and emotional areas linked to drive and ambition (Heckman, 2017b). 

Why do staff need to have a university degree to look children?

This would be a typical response for anyone uneducated in the workings of an ECEC setting. This is a problem because without community support and understanding the early childhood education and care sector will remain an unrespected, underpaid profession with a high staff turnover. Staffs want to feel validated in the work they do, so it is up to all staff when and wherever possible to address these questions in a way that allows people to understand the benefits fully, whilst not becoming hostile to the question or the person.

A typical educators response may sound something like this: I understand it's hard to imagine that something that people have been doing forever naturally, now suddenly comes with a university degree, but imagine you have a child, and let me ask you this. Have you ever stopped to think how your child's brain is formed? Now as a parent myself, I have to admit I never did. It didn't even interest me to learn about it. But now as a university trained educator, l can tell you exactly how to maximize your child's brain building power and development to be more successful for lifelong learning. I know this through a world renowned child developmental theorist named Vygotsky and a child developmental specialist, Dr Brenda Fitzgerald (Reid, 2002; Fitzgerald, 2014). They suggest if l educated your child through play by using informed cognitive, social and emotional interactions, with strong emphasis on word development and language use that your child can create and build stronger hard wired neural pathways, and synaptic connections in their brain. What that means is, stronger brain connections increase your child's future academic, and life learning potential, (Reid, 2002; Fitzgerald, 2014).

Here's an example: imagine a foster child who has experienced great trauma in early childhood. Good quality educated staff can provide the positive traits when required like a warm voice, stimulating interactions, correct facial gestures, and knowing to limit physical stimulation that is imperative to encouraging positive directional change, and increasing the development of the brains frontal lobe. Good educators can help a child to develop vocalisation and behaviour management, by providing appropriate stimulation and responses to a child's distress (Brookes & Tayler, 2016). Now that is what l called an investment in a child's future; good educators equate to better child developmental outcomes!

A teacher educated at the highest level in child developmental issues and milestones, such as cognitive functioning, physical, social and emotional development, motor skills development and how the brain and body should develop, can provide this for your child via up to date curriculum based pedagogical practices (Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett, Farmer, 2015). A teacher that understands child development including how to link it to industry related frameworks like the National Quality Standards, and the Early Learning Years Framework, can better plan and implement strategies that can aid children's learning and gear them towards a successful outcomes. Frameworks that teachers draw from when planning engaging programs, assessing your child's skills, needs and requirements individually, in order to meet curriculum and developmental demands (ACECQA, 2018; Australian Government Department of Education and Training, 2010).

Early childhood education is complex, and you are not alone in your opinion. But l hope that by providing a clearer perspective for you that you now understand the importance of educated staff when working in an ECEC environment.

I don't want my child to have a daytime sleep anymore because they are not going to bed till late at night, why can't they have a worksheet and practice writing instead.

It is vitally important that parent/educator collaboration is established in identifying what is in the best interest of the child on an individual day (AGDET, 2010). This can include an acknowledgement that their child may not require a sleep at age four based on evidence that 50% of three year olds don't require a day sleep (QGDET, n.d.). However before changing any daily routine, key indicators should be addressed that may highlight any issues pertaining to the child, the educator, the parent/s and the environment, these include:

The Child:

·         Environment is safe for the child whilst awake

·         Needs of the child are met

·         Will it maximize or hinder learning outcomes

·         Will the child benefit in interactions with other children

·         Will the action cause stress or discomfort for the child

·         Is the child developmentally ready (QGDET, n.d.).

The Educator/Centre:

·         Does the request align with the National Quality Stands expectations

·         Does it comply with the centre's own policy and practice surrounding sleep and rest

·         Does the evidence support no day sleeps for the age of the child

·         Do staff ratios meet the request

·         Is the request consistent with the centres philosophical views (QGDET, n.d.).

The Parent/s:

·         Is the request stemming from family beliefs, values and cultural practices

·         Will the request ease parental stress

·         Will the arrangement be informed by regular parent/educator communication (QGDET, n.d.).

It is good practice to keep up to date with new evidence based research in child development. Through good communication skills this evidential information can be utilized to support interactions with parents, both by verbally acknowledging research and by print outs or emails (QGDET, n.d.). In this situation it could be shared to the parent that a transitional sleep arrangement could be in the child's best interest, providing the child with rest and relaxation time, instead of physical sleep. This negotiated outcome could alleviate any concerns that both the parent and the educator may have about taking away the day sleep all together, whilst also aligning the new arrangement to continue to meet NQS area 2.1.1 wellbeing and comfort (ACECQA, 2018).

The parents desire to fill the allotted time with work sheets could be negotiated to include play based learning. Through books or puzzles to engage in whilst on a bed the child could practice quiet time, also providing them the opportunity if they feel tired to also have a sleep if needed. (Queensland Government, 2018). By explaining the key frameworks that support child developmental evidences that children learn best through play based learning, the ELYF and the NQS, parents can gain a better knowledge and understanding of their child's grow and developmental outcomes (AGDET, 2010; ACECQA, 2018). The educator can also offer parents links to engage in literature based around the benefits of play in childhood development. Education via communication and through different methods is the key to growth and understanding (Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett, Farmer, 2015). 

You are a same sex family having trouble with comments from other children to your children about having two parents of the same gender, how should educators handle your concerns?

 In Australia, our early childhood frameworks have a strong emphasis on the inclusion of collaborative partnerships with parents. The National Quality Standards (NQS) area six recognises the importance of partnerships through consultation and communication (ACECQA, 2018). The Early Learning Years Framework (ELYF) principle two and four express the need for equality and shared decision making (AGDET, 2010).

By utilising frameworks to help support and guide interactions, the educator in this instance needs to be understanding of the values and beliefs of the parent  as stated in the NQS - element 6.1.2 (ACECQA, 2018). Educators need to present a professional, sensitive approach that utilises cultural competence when dealing with diverse family situations. Through engaged listening, the educator can empower the parent/s by discussing tangible strategies and decision making including identification of any experience/s of the parent/s that could help future planning. By being inclusive and respectful, the educator is building repour and developing a collaborative connection (Chan, Ritchie, 2016).

Three elements that encompass the ELYF Belonging, Being and Becoming, could be utilized as a framework base for achieving equality in this collaborative partnership (AGDET, 2010). If issues are viewed from one perspective as 'normal' instead of being inclusive to differing values, beliefs, rituals and family rules, than this could have detrimental outcomes for children and families. When families don't experience an equal level of issue resolution, they may feel marginalised or like outsiders. This displacement may hinder future outcomes for children, so educators need to be proactive and engaged in representing issues from differing standpoints (Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett, Farmer, 2015). Kania and Kramer (2011) are of the opinion that in order to establish a proactive and successful issue outcome, the initial and follow-up must occur:

·         Common agenda- All parties must be on the same page, sharing a common vision and goal.

 

·         Shared measurement system- All parties must have an agreement to how successful progress will be measured and how the final outcome is reported to all collaborative parties in order to have accountability throughout the process.

 

·         Mutually reinforcing activities- All designed activities must have a mutually beneficial and enforced action plan.

 

·         Continuous communication- This can only be established after all parties have or can see that their interests will be served based on individual merit and evidence, and not the priorities or personal views of the establishment or staff. Staff must prioritise that continuous communication is present throughout and beyond the matters resolution.

 

·         A backbone support organisation-Coordination of issues must be supported by an internal and independent structure where the primary goal is to focus on planning and developmental goals. (Grace, Hodge, McMahon, 2017).

 

Having a range of communication strategies is the essence of good policy and maintaining good standing with families (Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett & Farmer, 2015). A universal email could be sent out to parents stating that an incident has occurred, and just a reminder to all parents without singling out anyone in particular (diplomatic approach), that the centre policy is an inclusive one. Communication to parents will inform them that to move forward with diversity guidance to children, the centre will be focusing on teaching inclusive practices through ELYF learning outcome 2.1 and 2.2. Educators will encourage children to discuss their ideas and understanding of the issue through the addition of book readings, talks and play programming about what constitutes different family dynamics. Follow up emails could be sent to all centre parents to establish ongoing connections and to express updates to how the children are receiving and understanding the topic of diversity in relation to ELYF element 2.2. (AGDET, 2010).

 



 

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