Welcome to the 6th edition of our Quality area newsletters. This week we will look at some of the ways that services build collaborative partnerships with the families of the service, as well as the local community.
There are two big components of any relationship; respect and strong communication, and it is the same with the families that we work with. On a daily basis, educators of children see and hear a range of beliefs and styles that parents utilise for their children. As educators, it is our job to support parents and their decisions, and use our expertise of Early Childhood to inform parents of best practise where possible. Parents utilise Early Childhood services for several reasons, including work, studying, education and socialisation. Sometimes, parents also utilise our services because they simply need time to themselves. While some educators might find this last point wrong, believing that children should be with their parents if they’re not at work, it is not our job to judge why parents enrol them in an Early Childhood Service. We are here to support the children and their families, and we do this by providing a safe environment for young children to play, explore and learn.
The National Quality Standards has a focus on how Early Childhood service provide families the opportunity to contribute to the educational program, as well as to the services policies, procedures and the Quality Improvement Plan. All parents have a set of skills that, when utilised, can enhance any educational program. It may be as advanced as a parent coming in to make clothes with the children on a weekly basis, or as simple as coming in to read a favourite story. Finding ways to engage parents, grandparents or other family members can be beneficial in many ways and may also be the difference between meeting this quality area and exceeding in it. So how does your service provide opportunities for families to contribute to the service? Is there a small notice on a wall that tells families they are welcome to contribute to the program at any time or do you actively seek them out, enquire about their skills and encourage them to come in at any time? A common statement that is often heard at the services we work with is “we used to do it but parents never contributed, so we stopped”. While it can be disheartening, it is important to remember that it is not about how many parents you get to participate in your service, it is about how the service provides every opportunity for parents to engage and provide feedback. The more opportunities we provide, the more chance there is that a parent or family member will engage.
Just like family members, the wider community holds many wonderful learning opportunities. Excursions are a great way for children to explore and extend their knowledge of the community. It is surprising though, how many services we visit don’t engage in excursions. When asked why, the two main reasons that justify this decision is fear and money. The service does not want to be responsible for something happening while the children are in their care, so they feel it’s safer to stay within the service. My advice to these services is that if we stopped doing things with children that had the possibility of them getting hurt, then it would be a very dull day in deed. Furthermore, excursions do not have to be expensive. A walk to the local park, aged care home or post office can be just as beneficial as a trip to a museum. With an adequate risk assessment and appropriate staffing, excursions can be a regular part of the educational program. However, if your service cannot engage in excursions for one reason or another, the other option is incursions. Inviting members of the community into the service is another wonderful opportunity for children to build relationships. Whether it is inviting the local fire brigade to talk about fire safety or a farmer to talk about farm animals, every member of the community has a story to share. So how does your service engage with the local community?
There are many ways that your service can work with the families and the local community, and this newsletter has only touched on a small section. If you would like to know more about how your service can meet Quality Area 6, as well as information on any of the National Quality Areas, contact First Years Early Childhood Consulting.