Quality Area 5 – Relationships with children

Quality Area 5 looks at how services and educators build relationships with the children in their care. Although we don’t like to prioritise the importance of the Quality Areas, as each one is just as important as the other, we do believe that this area should be one that educators strive to exceed in and in fact we are doing this. According to the latest ACECQA Snapshot, QA 5 is the overall highest achieved area throughout the country, so congratulations all you wonderful educators and services for building such great relationships with the nation’s children.

However, like a teaching colleague of mine once said “when you think you are done, you have just begun” and there is always more work to be done. We are in the role of educating and caring for young children and this is impacted by the relationships we build with children in our services. So following suit from our last 4 newsletters, let’s look at the elements that make up QA 5, highlight the elements that are the least likely to be met and see if we can provide insight into how we can achieve higher. Let’s go!

Quality Area 5 is made up of two standards (5.1 and 5.2) and 6 elements (5.1.1, 5.1.2, 5.1.3, 5.2.1, 5.2.2 and 5.2.3). Recent data collected and published through ACECQA shows that elements 5.2.2 and 5.1.2 are the two elements that have the highest percentage of not being met. So for the purpose of ongoing Quality Improvement within our sector, let’s look at these two elements in more detail.

Element 5.2.2 looks at how each child is consistently encouraged and supported to manage their own behaviour, respond appropriately to the behaviour of others and communicate effectively to resolve conflicts. What does this look like in an EC setting? Personally, I think it comes down to two things: the learning environment and the routine of the room. I am not saying that these are the only factors, as we know that each child has their own little quirks and life experiences. However, if we as educators want to encourage children to manage their own behaviour and emotions, as well as effectively communicate and resolve conflicts, we need to ensure we give them the time and space to help them achieve this.

Having a routine that limits all children doing everything at the same time allows freedom and flexibility, which in turn supports children to make choices about where they would like to be. This can help reduce behavioural and emotional problems before they arise. Secondly, children’s behaviour and emotions have been linked to the learning environment. An over stimulating environment can encourage over stimulating behaviour, a dull environment, can still encourage over stimulating behaviour. It’s a balance, but one of my favourite quotes is by Erin. K. Kenny “children cannot bounce of walls, if we take away the walls”. Often as educators we blame the child for their behaviour, linking it to lack of sleep or a child’s diet. While this might be the case at times, it’s important to also look at what we are doing and seeing if we can change our actions to support the needs of children. Having an environment that is open to allowing children to explore both the indoors and outdoors as much as possible, provides opportunities for children to regulate their feelings by taking themselves away. A shy child may be overwhelmed by everybody being inside, or vice versa. It may not be possible at all times, but sitting down and having the conversation is a great place to start. Furthermore, there are a great range of Professional Development that supports educators in managing children’s behaviour. Contact First Years for more information.

Moving onto 5.1.2, this element looks at how every child is consistently encouraged and supported to engage with educators in meaningful, open interactions that enhance the acquisition of skills for life and learning. Again, I believe that to support this, educators need to ensure that they give enough time to engage with children and really involve themselves in the conversation. A day in an Early Childhood service can get quite busy with group times, meal times, rest time, programming, meetings and all the other spontaneous things that occur through the day. However, this only occurs if you let it. I recently had a conversation with a colleague about over planning. We were discussing that at a local service, every educator was bringing in something to do every day for a specific focus child or children. Why was this a problem? Well what they found was that every educator was so focused on what they were doing, they were missing everything else. Educators were getting frustrated if they had to leave what they had planned to deal with a spontaneous situation and they felt like they were failing, as their experience wasn’t being completed.

I often feel that this is a common occurrence in Early Childhood services. We constantly remind ourselves about children just being in the moment, but we as educators also need to be in the moment. Sit down and chat to children, don’t worry about the next thing on the routine. Gauge the children’s behaviour and respond appropriately. Stopping children playing, to make them participate in a group time that we plan is counterproductive in my view. Do all children need to be involved in a group time? Does the staffing situation allow supervision for a small group who have built an amazing sandpit structure? Often it is harder for the educators to change the routine, then it is for the children. Again, a conversation with your colleagues and other professionals is the place to start.

Thanks for reading this edition of our Quality Area Newsletters. If you have any further questions about Quality Area 5 or any of the Quality Areas, please contact First Years Early Childhood Consulting today.