Lately it seems that every second post on Early Childhood social media pages is someone selling something to make things “easier” or people asking for new ideas to “extend” children’s thinking. So the team at First Years Started thinking, and we agreed that sometimes we simply need to go back to basics.
What does this mean? Well that’s what we are here to help with. Over the next few months, we will provide our thought provoking and reflective “Back to Basic” series that will encourage educators to look over each quality area with a back to basic approach.
How will we do it? Well, each issue will focus on a different quality area and provide simple and effective approaches on how you could implement a high quality approach to certain elements of each quality area.
Why are we doing it? Because when we visit different services, quite often we see one common denominator: Educators over thinking things, trying to reinvent the wheel to get the same outcome. So we simply ask why? We encourage educators to reflect on practices, as we see this not happening enough. However, sometimes they reflect on the wrong things. Feedback suggests that educators feel that it’s easier to reflect on things that they feel comfortable with, rather than thinking about things that challenge them.
So that is how we got to this point and we look forward to bringing simple approaches to everyday practices, all for one simple reason: to help services provide high quality Early Childhood Environments for all children, because they deserve it.
So here we go!
Quality area 1- Educational program and practice.
The updated National Quality Standards has brought a simplified version of each of the 7 quality areas and their respective standards and elements, breaking them down into sections that provide easier reflection on all aspects.
Quality area 1 is broken down into 3 standards: program, practice and assessment and learning, with each of these having 3 elements each.
When we visit a service, the educational program is probably the area that takes up the most time. Why? Because it takes some time for educators to explain it. Now there are 2 sides to this. Side 1 is that the service has developed a program so elaborate, that it takes a while to explain how it all works together or side 2 is that it does not meet the regulations in any form, so takes a while for us to help them develop it. Either way, it is usually the part that services and educators over think (or under value) the most.
So what do services have to do? Well to tell you that we went straight to the source, the Education and Care Services National Regulations. Now within this document, there are 3 regulations that link to this Quality Area, which are as follows:
Reg. 73- The educational program is to contribute to 5 outcomes for each child (as shown in the Early Years Learning Framework).
Reg. 74- Documentation of children’s developmental needs, interests, experiences and participation in the program and how this is assessed against the 5 outcomes.
Reg. 75- That the information is available at the service for parents and relevant stakeholders.
That’s it! There is no hidden information saying that each child needs to achieve each outcome before they leave the service, there is nothing saying that you need to write 10 observations per child per month and there is absolutely nothing saying that the information has to be kept in journals, online or displayed daily, weekly or even monthly.
So our advice is to create a program that provides less time in the office and more time with the children. A program that shows the importance of the children’s day and that they can effectively and meaningfully contribute too. Documentation that showcases real learning, rather than meaningless page fillers to fill up journal space. Value children and their learning and encourage them to be involved.
Another important aspect of a high quality educational program is the practices and approaches of educators. All educators throw the term play based learning around, but you will be surprised how often this is misinterpreted. What educators describe as play based learning, is in fact an experience planned by the educators, with a desired outcome to be reached. The resources are required to stay in one space and there is often someone close by directing how the experience should go. In our opinion, this is not true play based learning.
Childhood is simple. It is complicated by adults who feel that children need to know more than is necessary. In a fast paced world, we need educational services that slow things down and focus on the now. Why do we need to have group time? Why do all children have to come together for a story or music time? Why can’t those things be implemented into the environment for children to explore at their leisure? What is the purpose of the program and who are we doing it for?
Still not sure if your program is meeting the standards? Don’t be too proud to ask for help. There is a range of information and workshops out there to support educators through this process.
If you would like to know more about the services First Years Early Childhood Consulting offers, including compliance checks and Assessment and Rating support, please call 1300 251 575