There’s an infinite list of things to consider when looking into an education and care service for your child.
Firstly, as a parent you need to decide out of this list what are the most important aspects of a service for your family.
Some of the things on your list may be easy to identify or use as a basis for making a decision, such as location, convenience, and cost, inclusions,
However, there are many aspects of selecting the right centre that are based on how you feel, and what you consider to be important for your child. This could be the educators, the learning environments, the resources, the connections to the community and the list goes on.
To consider these aspects, you truly need to be able to understand what they mean.
There is a lot of information available for parents about how to settle children into care, however this list below will provide you with information that will give you a greater insight into education and care services and access to further resources to aide you in making a decision about which education and care service is right for your family.
First impressions count
Educators are essential in the delivery of a high quality early childhood program. Their qualification, level of experience and passion for the children will drive the success of the program and your child’s involvement within it.
Did you know that Education and Care Services are required to employ suitability qualified educators that are either studying towards a qualification, or who hold a Certified 3 in Children’s Services, or hold a Diploma in Children’s services or hold a Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood?
It is important for parents to be aware of the qualifications of the educators that will be working with their child. It is appropriate for parents to ask about the level of training the educators have, and how the qualified educators are working across the centre. Ask if the centre offer the educators additional access to training?
Look to see if the educators are engaging and interacting with the children. Are the children responding to the educators and are they interested in the activities?
Did you know that services are required to follow educator to child ratios? In NSW these ratios are:
- Babies 0-2 years, 1 educator to each 4 babies
- Toddlers 2-3 years, 1 educator to each 5 toddlers
- Children 3-5 years, I educator to each 10 children
Talk with the Director about how the service manages the ratio’s throughout the day to ensure that the centre meets these requirements.
Chaos to you, learning to us
You may feel when you enter a room that it is a little overwhelming. There should be lots of “busyness” going on, children interacting, working together, talking, singing, maybe some crying.
Did you know that a sign of a great learning environment is evident in the “noisiness” of learning? Children who are actively participating in the day’s events, holding conversations, laughing, singing and negotiating tend to create a lot of noise!
The program should have a range experiences available for the children to access, guided learning that is supported by the educators, as well as some structured times throughout the day, such as story time or group time.
The children’s interest guides the program, and the voices of children should be heard and seen in the rooms.
It is important to know that Education and Care Services are required to implement the Early Years Learning Framework. This framework provides a foundation for learning that promotes quality teaching and learning experiences for children. The curriculum model is founded on the theory of Play Based Learning which is focused on children’s interest, partnerships with families and educator support.
Look at the centres program, read the displays on the walls, see if you can identify the learning that is occurring in the room.
More information on the framework can be found here.
Comparing what services offer is a common and logical process. However, don’t rely purely on the material items, such as nappies and sheets. Compare services on how they rate in the National Quality Standards, not only on the final rating but on the plans they have in place for continued improvement.
Services are required to participate in all aspects of the National Quality Framework, one of which is the National Quality Standards. During this process services are assessed against 7 quality areas, 18 standards and 58 elements.
Each of the 18 standards are assessed as either significant improvement required, working towards (National Standards), meeting (National Standards) or exceeding (National Standards).
The 7 areas are:
- Educational program and practice
- Children's Health and Safety
- Physical Environment
- Staffing Arrangements
- Relationships with Children
- Collaborative Partnerships with Families and Communities
- Leadership and Service Management
Did you know that a service may receive a range of ratings across the standards and 7 quality areas? These are then used to form an overall rating for the service.
A service may receive exceeding on 2 of the quality areas, and meeting in 5 of these areas, however, the overall rating remains as meeting. It is important for parents to determine which elements of this rating system are important to them, and understand that the National Quality Standard is a system designed for continual improvement for services.
Look for the rating certificate as this must be displayed at the centre, along with the profile which will demonstrate the actual rating for each of the 7 areas.
As a parent you should review this profile to see if you are happy with not only the overall rating, but the individual rating for each area.
Services work in partnership with families to ensure that the needs of the family and child are catered for. When you enrol your child the centre will ask for various pieces of information, such as sleep and feeding routines for your child. Keeping this information up to date is important for both the educators and your child.
Ask the educators how they communication with parents, is there a communication diary, a daily “all about me” form to collect information and it’s important to know that you are able to call the service when you feel the need to check in on your child.
Did you know that services involve parents in many aspects of the service delivery, from formal committees, policy review, fundraising committees, invitations to events, parent meetings and special days held at the service? Look at how the service involves families to see if this is something that you would like to be involved in.
Health and hygiene
Maintaining a clean and healthy environment for educators and children is important for everyone. When you visit a service have a look at the environment to see if it cleaned and maintained well. Pay particular attention to the bottle preparation areas to ensure you are confident that the area is hygienic.
Did you know that services follow the recommendations in the Staying Healthy in Child Care Guide for managing the spread of illness in the service? This is a terrific resource for families to have access to and many services use this guide to establish them polices. You can view the document here
It is inevitable that children will become sick in the first few months of using child care.
Healthy eating is important for all children.
Did you know that services are required to offer a balanced menu that reflects the Nutrition Checklist for child care centres? Services may also implement the Munch and Move program that can be integrated into the centre own programing to ensure that children are exposed to a range of healthy eating and physical movement activities.
Ask the service if they prepare fresh meals on the premises or have meal prepared and delivery to the service. Look at the services menu, this needs to be on display for families to access.
Ask the service how they cater for particular dietary requirements and how they follow your babies eating choices as well as supporting your baby as they transition from puree to solids.
As mentioned there is an infinite number of things to consider when choosing an education and care service for your child.
We hope that this has provided you with some food for thought in making your choice.
Find out more about Little Learning School here