National Quality Standard 4 – Staffing arrangements

Welcome to the newest edition of First Years Early Childhood Consulting quality area newsletter. This issue we look at Quality Area 4, staffing arrangements. Quality area 4 is broken into 2 standards and 4 elements, and focuses on 2 important staffing topics:

  • That educator to child ratios, as well as educator qualifications are met.

  • That educators are respected for their qualities and that the relationships between educators are professional, ethical and reciprocal.

In a nut shell, that’s it. Simple, right. Just make sure we have good educators on site and that everyone is nice to each other and we have nailed this area.

Unfortunately, that is not it. There is more to it and all will be explained shortly. So let’s begin.

Firstly, let’s look at standard 4.1, which looks at the ratios. In our travels, the educator to child ratios is one of the most well-known regulations, so we don’t think we need to spend lots of time highlighting each ratio by age group. It is important to note however, that educator to child ratios vary from state to state, so please ensure you know the correct ratios for the state you are operating in. Furthermore, in 2016 educator to child ratio’s changed for different ages. So if you have been in the industry for some time and have missed these changes, or are not sure, just double check you are operating within the regulations.

When calculating the ratios, some services like to implement something called ‘under the roof ratio’. It’s a hot topic that divides educators. For those of you who haven’t heard the term before, under the roof is the term some services use to justify not having a certain number of staff directly with the children.

Example: In a NSW LDC service, room 1 has 9 four year olds and room 2 has 11 four year olds. Both rooms have 1 educator. The director does not put an extra staff member with room 2, because collectively there is 20 four year olds, therefore only needing 2 educators, even though the 2 rooms are separate.

That is just one example and yes we know that in this scenario the children could combine or that one child could go across, but that doesn’t explain our point. So moving on.

Just because it meets the regulations, does not mean that it’s best practice. Don’t get us wrong, we have seen under the roof being utilised in an effective way. However, in most cases we have seen it being completely abused. Best practice is ensuring that educators are able to provide support for the children in their care. Best practice is ensuring that if a child is injured, then there are adequate educators to not only support the injured child, but the rest of the group. Best practice is ensuring that if there is an emergency evacuation or lockdown, that the children can be comforted, supported and evacuated safely. Improving educator to child ratios can have huge benefits to behaviour, children’s engagement and staff morale.

So don’t just meet the regulations, exceed them for the benefit of the children, families and staff.

Now let’s look at some of the elements of standard 4.2.

Element 4.2.1 talks about how professional standards guide positive practice, interaction and relationships. This element is not only important at your service, it’s also important to do this with any professional interaction with other educators. We live in a time of greater networking and connection opportunities through social media, blogs email etc. Why this is more often than not a positive thing, these tools of networking can also be used as carriers of abuse. It’s sad how often people post ideas, questions or comments on a social media page, only to be struck down with harsh negative comments that offer no benefit. Sure we are not going to agree on something, but the famous quote of if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything, can apply here. If you have got something to input, word it in a way that allows people to reflect, ponder and see in a different way. A recent article highlighted that childcare (Yuck, we hate that word, but it’s what the article highlights our profession as) is the second biggest industry of workplace bullying, behind nursing. Too often we are quick to judge others of their practices and ideas. Remember 5+5 = 10, but so does 7+3. There are often other ways to do something, that might be different to your own ways. So let’s show each other the respect we deserve and encourage, support and help. Having a staff meeting and reviewing the ECA code of ethics might be a good place to start.

Moving on to a more positive note. We know that all educators some from different backgrounds. We have learnt different ways of doing things and have different interests which, if utilised correctly, offer an amazing array of learning experiences and opportunities for the children. I mean that’s why we are here, right? Not one educator is amazing at everything. Some are really good at music and can play lots of instruments, some are really great story tellers and create their own stories out of nothing more than imagination and a pen. So being honest with yourself and your team can bring out the best in everyone. We work in an industry that is forever changing with new ideas and theories. So asking for clarity on something you are not sure of or admitting you don’t know something is not a sign of weakness. We see it as a sign of strength, honesty and commitment to better yourself and your practices. Having high staff morale and strong relationships between educators is also very important to the ongoing success of your service. High staff turnover or staff that are not motivated effects the overall efficiency and quality of your service.

So how do you build staff morale and relationships in your service?

There are some brilliant educator wellbeing and quality team building professional development opportunities available to the sector at present. If you would like to find out more about these opportunities, contact us today. Otherwise, it can be as simple as a staff dinner or a group walk along the beach. Whatever you do, ensure it keeps staff morale high and educator relationships strong.

Thanks for reading this week’s newsletter. Stay tuned for the next issue, where we look at Quality Area 5, relationships with children. If you would like to find out more about this Quality Area or about the services First Years Early Childhood Consulting offers, contact us today.