Before we start to discuss the changes to the National Quality Standards that will be applied in 2018, we thought we would look over the current National Quality Standards and provide provocations for educators to think about their practices and how these might change when the new standards are introduced.
Each fortnight we will use our industry expertise to provide insight to each quality area, highlighting specific elements to discuss and question. Now it’s tricky to discuss each element in the detail it deserves in these short newsletters. So we have used recent data from ACECQA, as well as research collected from our many service visits to select the elements that majority of services need help with.
First of all, what is Quality area 1? Well for those you are new to the sector or for those simply unsure, Quality area 1 focuses on the services Educational Program and Practice. It is broken into 2 standards (1.1 and 1.2) and 9 elements (1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3 etc.).
This standard looks at all things that make up the Educational Program and the practices of the educators. This includes, but not limited to, the routine of the room, children’s voices, parent and staff contributions and the planned and spontaneous experiences, as well as more. According to ACECQA’s occasional paper 1 (2016), elements 1.1.3, 1.2.1 and 1.2.3 are rated as the highest percentage of not met elements.
So what exactly are these elements and why are they the trickiest to meet?
Well element 1.1.3 speaks about routines are organised to allow children maximum opportunity to be involved in all elements of the program. When we visit services, one of the first thing most services highlight is their flexible routine. In too many instances, that is sadly not the case. A services routine needs to take into account each child’s needs on a daily basis, but it’s surprising how many services use time as a way to move the day along. If only there was another way to judge when things need to move on or transition, such as the children. Have you thought what would happen if you took the clocks out of the room? Children play where they want for as long as the play lasts, children eat when they are hungry and sleep when they are tired.
Is this possible for all ages? Are there elements that we can implement for our service? Start the conversation with other educators and see what you come up with.
Moving onto element 1.2.1, each child’s development is assessed as part of an ongoing cycle of planning, documenting and evaluation. We do that, don’t we?
Well, most educators believe that they do. They come to the service with ideas, the children do it and then we write it up, stick on the wall or in a folder and we are done. Nailed it. Move onto the next child.
Unfortunately, why you are ticking the right boxes, what is missing in a lot of the documentation we see on our service visits is meaningful documentation. We see lots of observations, checklists to ensure every child has a certain amount each month, including group observations. But what are assessors looking for?
National regulations do not specify how many observations educators need to do. Services pull a magic number out of thin air and force educators to do that many. What this leads to is a whole lot of stressed educators who write pages and pages of observations so they can reach this magic number of observations, in order to tick the box. Wow, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Think about each observation and ask what the Boulder Learning School calls the 3 What:
- What-What are the children doing?
- So What-Why is it important?
- Now What– Where can we take it?
If this is an area you feel stressed about, I suggest bringing it up at the next staff meeting and start the conversation of how to change it.
Finally, we have element 1.2.3, critical reflection of children’s learning is regularly implemented into the program. This is tricky, as I personally believe that before we can critically reflect children’s development, educators need to critically reflect their own practices. Too often we see reflections highlighting that the children were not interested, fidgety, off task. Rarely do we see educators say that they chose the wrong time to do it, that they didn’t ask the children to help prepare or that they didn’t ask the children if they even wanted to do it.
Critical reflection means reflecting holistically about the whole experience, including age of children, abilities of children, external influences, environment and educators biases. Do you think about all these things when critically reflecting? If not, I suggest researching the topic and look at how it fits into your programming.
For more information about what you have read throughout this newsletter or for more information on how First Years Early Childhood Service can assist your service prior to the Assessment and Rating Visit, please contact us today.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for the next issue which will highlight different elements of Quality Area 2- Children’s health and safety.