Don’t know where to start or what you should look for?
Here are some tips and the steps to take to locate a quality early learning service for your child.
As a parent, you unquestionably want what’s best for your child. When it comes to choosing a mainstream early childhood service for your child to attend, it is crucial to be well informed. You want to give your child a quality experience that will allow them to blossom and reach their full potential. By finding a centre that facilitates a program that will foster your child’s holistic learning and development, and provide a safe and nurturing environment.
But where do you even begin looking? There are so many options when it comes to services nowadays. It can be stressful trying to locate a place that meets your criteria – service type, locality to your home or work, cost consideration. Even more importantly, ensuring that you feel secure and confident in leaving your precious child to be cared for in a quality service, where they too will be happy, cared for, and supported to learn, grow and develop.
Here are some tips that will assist you throughout the process of finding a quality education and care service.
Step 1: Do your Research
All registered education and care services (long day care centres, preschools, family day care and outside of school hours care) are regulated by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) against the National Quality Framework. These approved services are monitored, assessed and given a rating for seven Quality Areas in their provision of safety and quality. Each service then gets an overall rating based on these results.
The 7 Quality Areas are as follows:
Quality Area 1: Educational Program and Practice
Quality Area 2: Children’s Health and Safety
Quality Area 3: Physical Environment
Quality Area 4: Staffing Arrangements
Quality Area 5: Relationships with Children
Quality Area 6: Collaborative Partnerships with Families and Communities
Quality Area 7: Governance and Leadership
To find out the Rating for a particular centre/service, visit the website: www.startingblocks.gov.au
Here you will be able to search for child care services in your community, and also view their most current quality rating.
So what does it all mean?!
- If the service is rated as Meeting, they meet all the elements, and provide quality education and care in all seven of the Areas above.
- If the service is rated as Exceeding, they go above and beyond the requirements in at least 4 of the 7 quality areas.
- If the service is rated as Working Towards, there are one or more quality areas identified that require improvement.
- If the service’s rating is Significant Improvement Required, the regulatory authority has identified risks to the health, safety and wellbeing of the children in the service.
Ultimately, you would want to find a service for your child to attend that at minimum has an overall rating of ‘Meeting,’ (that they meet the benchmark of quality requirements in all areas). An overall rating of ‘Exceeding’ the National Quality Standard, is an even better reflection of the provision of high-quality education and care.
As well as researching, you may want to speak to people you know in your community. Perhaps they have had experience with their own child/ren who have attended a high quality service, or know of one with a great reputation that they could recommend.
Step 2: Visit the Service
Organise a time to visit the service and have a tour. This is a great opportunity for you to see the centre’s philosophy in action and the educators work in practice before you decide to enrol your child or put them on the wait list.
Have a look around. Observe the daily routine and curriculum. Are the educators engaged and playing with the children? How do you feel when you walk into the service/rooms? What is the overall atmosphere like? Is it inviting? Do the children seem happy, cared for and engaged?
The most important thing here is to go with your gut feeling! Do you get a sense of ease, comfort, safety and familiarity? Remember, it is important that you feel comfortable and happy with what you see, as this is a place your child may be spending a substantial amount of their day/s.
Step 3: Ask Questions
During the enrolment process, you will be asked a range of questions about your child. Similarly, you should ask the Director some questions to get familiar with the service philosophy, curriculum and routine, so you feel better informed before making a decision.
Some possible questions to ask:
Room Routine – what does a typical day look like?
Staffing – Educator training/qualifications: mix of experienced/trained educators?
– Educator to child ratio (group size and how many educators will be with them.)
Centre Philosophy – their values, priorities and beliefs that guides their practices and service operations.
Menu – How will my child be provided for if they are a fussy eater? (only applicable if the service provides meals).
Program – How will my child be planned for? How does the program meet their needs, interests, strengths and experiences?
Inclusion Support – How does the service support a child with additional needs? How will my child be supported on a daily basis to be included? How will you collaborate with other early intervention services my child accesses? Will you apply for funding for an Inclusion Support Worker? What does their role look like?
Family Involvement – How can I be involved in the centre? E.g. feedback, open door policy, centre events.
The Next Step…
Once your child is enrolled in the service, I recommend going for a few visit days prior to their commencement at the centre (particularly if they will be attending Long Day Care / Preschool). Bring your child for a few short visits so they can play while you stay with them on the premises, in order to familiarise them with their new environment, their educators and routine. This will assist them in the transitioning process as they establish their sense of belonging in their new centre. Speak to the service to ensure this aligns with their philosophy and suggest that you’d like to have a few visits prior to your child’s commencement date.
Early Childhood Teacher (B.Ed Birth to 5 years)