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An OSHC coordinator shares what she wishes parents knew about the educators and programs their children attend.

Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) programs can often be overlooked by the community as a babysitting service, but it’s more advanced than that. Educators of an OSHC program are required to do a number of things based on the National Quality Standards and National Regulations set out by the Department of Education

During my eight years as a coordinator and running a large service of 60+ kids, here’s a few things that I wish the parents knew and feel they would have benefitted from. 

Child portfolios

Every service dedicates a portfolio to each child. In these portfolios, they will have the child’s development using My Time, Our Place. Alternative to school-based education, educators will observe the children in a social setting, paying attention to their ability to learn adequate life skills. These skills can be in making friends, solving tense situations, being environmentally conscious, considering their community, interacting with others in a respectful way, being resilient, and many more. 

Portfolios often have photos and examples of what they’ve done within the service, accompanied by a written learning story/observation.

These are used for the educators to document the child’s development and ensure that they’re developing specific to their needs. The educators focus on one key area of development, determined by the parent or the educator’s observations, and then work on developing that skill.

Parents can gain access to this by asking the educators, but this should also leave with the child at the end of their journey at the OSHC program.

Daily reflection journal and program

Most OSHC services will have a reflection journal near the sign out desk. The intention of the journal is for the educators, children and parents to critically reflect on the program for the week. This is also used to document experiences within the program such as evacuation drills, community participation, and any major changes. 

OSHC can get loud and busy so it’s important for parents to read the reflection journal or planner so they are aware of what’s happening within the service. Parents can also use the journal to make comments about the program, whether that’s positive or simply a suggestion of improvement.

Parents are always encouraged to provide their feedback and get involved.

Complaints

More commonly, services are run by large companies (Camp Australia, OSHClub, Team Kids, Big Childcare, and more). It can be easier for a parent to address any complaints directly to the company and avoid confrontation, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to communicate with the service educators.

Most educators take pride in their work and working with children can often lead to miscommunications or misinterpretations. Each child and family are different, and unfortunately, educators aren’t perfect.

With an industry that is incredibly personal and high intensity, I wish parents would communicate directly to the educators with any concerns.

Communicate clearly and build that relationship. If it doesn’t improve, then take it further. 

Documentation

There are expectations set by the Department of Education and National Regulations about specific documentation that is required from the parents for their child to attend. It is stressful for the coordinator because if it’s not perfect, this can leave the service non-compliant and unsafe under the Regulations. 

This type of documentation commonly includes enrolment forms (filled out correctly and fully) and medical management plans with their corresponding risk minimisation and authorisation to give medication (medication provided should be in the prescription packaging including full name of child and dosage labelled).

The government sets high standards for the safety of the children and if the service doesn’t comply, they can risk being shut down. If parents don’t provide this, they have to then confront the parent and have a difficult conversation about excluding their child until compliant. It’s unfortunately not as simple as “letting them come” anymore. There are laws and regulations to follow, so I hope that parents have this in mind when working with their educators.

Assessment and Rating

Every service goes through a process with the Department of Education called Assessment and Rating where they will attend and assess the service based off of the seven National Quality Areas. These areas include: 

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
  7. Leadership and service management

These assessments should be completed frequently, but usually occur every couple of years. These rating outcomes can be accessed on the ACECQA website and is a good indication of where the service is at for quality of care. 

I highly recommend that parents get involved in this process and ask where they can assist in improving the quality of care as having the community and families involved is a huge part of this. A service that has a rating of Meeting, Exceeding Themes or Excellent is doing well. If a service has received Working Towards, it usually means that they weren’t compliant when the department visited (back to that documentation!).

Food provided

Each service has a licence to serve specific food through the local council and must abide by the level of that licence. This means that some services can’t provide food that requires refrigeration. 

Educators understand that children might want butter on their toast and real milk with their cereal, but unfortunately the licence doesn’t allow this. And no, families can’t provide these items to be consumed by their child. If any of these foods are found by the council, the service could receive a fine and be closed for breaking their licence agreements. 

Please, be understanding with this. Most educators at the service can’t control this or change it. The same goes for nut products. Most schools do ban nuts, but being in a space that has a large variety of children attending, it isn’t worth a child’s life so another can eat a Nutella sandwich.

Educators buying supplies using their own money

Most companies have a clause in the employee’s agreement that they’re not to buy anything for the children using their own money, but most educators don’t comply. Throughout my eight years in the industry, I bought many things like craft supplies, storage solutions, candy canes, Halloween and Christmas decorations, books, costumes, Easter eggs, speakers, movies, games, sporting equipment and many more. 

There’s a budget for each service and it’s usually never enough to decorate the room and provide enough supplies to entertain the children. It means the world when parents recognise the hard work educators put into not only the presentation of the service, but also the activities provided. There is a lot that goes on outside of those couple of minutes parents’ step into the service, so recognition is always appreciated.

With all of this in mind, I just ask that parents take the time to appreciate their educators more.

I understand that this isn’t applicable for all educators (I know more than anyone that there can be a few awful educators out there), but for the majority, they work really hard. They go above and beyond for the children in their service to ensure that they feel at home while their parents are working late. 

Parents can get busy, but taking the time to stop every once in a while, and having a conversation with the educators, read what they write in the journal, asking to see their child’s portfolio or even complimenting how the room looks can completely change an educator’s day. 

Building those trusting and respectful relationships can be incredibly important not just to the children, but also the adults involved. 

Take a look at the benefits ‘Learning Through Play’ could have for your child!

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is… UNLESS you’re talking about Learning Through Play! In fact, research into quality, play based learning has shown that learning through play encourages:

Communication – play allows children to develop their speech, language and listening. A child’s language and communication skills develop by listening, reading, music, rhyming etc. so the more they play with their friends and listen to adults the more advanced these will become. 

Cognitive development – (imagination, problem solving, math and science) play encourages children to develop their natural curiosity, create all kinds of scenarios and solve any problems that they encounter all by using their imagination.

For example when a child is taking part in water play and tipping water from a measuring jug into a cup, the educator can stretch their thinking by asking questions such as how much water do you think will fit into the cup, will you have any left, what else can you tip the water into…? This stretches thinking and builds on maths, science and problem solving skills. 

 

Relationships (social skills, friendship and resilience) – play supports children as they create the bonds of friendship and build their understanding of social situations. The more children play with one another, the more they learn to communicate in a social setting and the bigger their friendship circle becomes.

Balanced with child-directed and educator supported play, a quality play based Early Learning Program will closely align with Australia’s Early Years Learning Framework. Children should be able to learn through play in a variety of activities designed to spark their curiosity, individual interests and create an open ended learning experience.

In 2018, Australian researchers advised that 15 hours a week in a quality, play-based three year old pre-kindy can greatly support a child’s learning and development. With pre-kindy attendance showing consistently positive short and long term advantages in the lead up to kindergarten and into higher education. To support these findings, the Australian Government has put their money where their research is and committed to providing universal access to Early Childhood Education. Every child now will now be supported to access a pre-kindy program in the year before they enter school for 15 hours a week.

Where to from here?

Deciding if, when and where to send your child to pre-kindy is one of the biggest decisions you will make in their early childhood. You find yourself balancing the options near you. Should I send my child to a high end early learning school with better educators, fancy facilities and higher ratings? Or should I send them to the more affordable local community pre-school with lovely welcoming staff, small group sizes and a nurturing learning environment?

via GIPHY

At Meerilinga, there’s no need to choose between quality and inclusivity – AND it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Meerilinga is home to a wide range of children from diverse families and backgrounds who share a common goal of wanting the best for their child. Supported by over 100 years of experience, working with toddlers and training quality educators, Meerilinga’s skilled early educators enthusiastically teach children about the world around them.

Your child is gently introduced to the life-cycle through community led chicken hatching programs; learning about sustainable practices through environmental awareness activities, recycling programs and harvesting from their bush tucker gardens.

Meerilinga children are celebrated as capable individuals, with their interests, strengths and challenges identified and fully supported to develop their confidence, learning and development. All of which are shared throughout the day, week and year with parents through a specially designed communications app.

The entire family is supported with access to free parenting support services, community events, street & toy libraries, school holiday activities, play groups and seniors groups. At Meerilinga you’re more than just a number, your family. To join your local Meerilinga community, find a centre near you or contact your local Centre Director.

KU teachers are specially trained to see what your child sees in the moment to take their learning further. 

There are many factors parents need to consider when choosing a preschool or childcare centre for their child, as not all early childhood services provide the same level of quality of education and care.

Current research suggests about 90% of brain development happens in the first five years of a child’s life. The early childhood service parents choose will have a significant impact on their child’s overall learning and development.

Christine Legg, CEO of KU Children’s Services, a leading provider of preschools, childcare and other early education services in Australia, says there are a number of factors that determine the quality of a service, with a key factor being the quality of educators.

“Early childhood educators led by a university qualified early childhood teacher are essential. Each teacher and educator plays a crucial role in supporting the ongoing learning and development of each child,” says Legg.

An important aspect of early childhood educators’ work is recognising ‘teachable moments’ throughout the day. Teachable moments are unplanned opportunities that teachers and educators can use as opportunities to extend children’s learning. For example, standing in the sun may provide an opportunity to talk about the importance of sun safety or shadows.

“90% of brain development happens in the first five years of a child’s life”

Vandana Vasudevan’s daughter attends KU Chatswood Community Preschool and has been seeking out familiar shapes in everyday items ever since her teachers introduced the idea through teachable moments.

“My daughter saw a pineapple at the supermarket and said ‘Mum, we have to take a picture! My teacher said we can see a pentagon shape’. Now she goes around taking photos of all the different shapes she finds in our house,” says Vasudevan.

“The teachers at KU Chatswood are amazing. I see their commitment and can tell they have inspired my daughter. She loves her teachers.”

Young children learn best by ‘doing’ rather than by ‘being told’. All KU centres have play-based learning programs which provide a wide range of active and meaningful experiences for children.

“Active participation through play is vital for each child’s learning and development and helps build and strengthen brain pathways,” says Legg. “Play has a wide range of intellectual and cognitive benefits, including those relating to memory, language development and regulating behaviour.”

When choosing a preschool or childcare centre, also consider the environment where the children will play and learn. The centre’s environment should be open, inviting and nurturing to support each child’s learning.

Belinda Rahim’s daughter Zakiah attends KU Corrimal East Preschool and the safe, warm and supportive environment at the preschool has allowed her daughter to feel more comfortable and become more confident as she learns.

“KU Corrimal East is the type of centre I had been looking for because it matched with our gentle and respectful attachment style of parenting,” says Rahim.

“KU feels like part of our family. Our daughter loves to tell her teachers exciting things that have been happening in her life, and her stories and experiences are always celebrated, listened to and remembered.”

Ultimately, while the quality of teachers and educators, the educational program and the environment are all central factors to consider when choosing a preschool or childcare centre, sometimes the difference between centres is more instinctive. Visiting a range of centres is recommended before choosing a place where you can see, feel and hear the difference.

www.ku.com.au

How would YOU feel about sending your three year old to pre-school?

The prospect of seeing your little one grow up and seeing them off for their first day of school can often be bittersweet. That familiar feeling that time really does fly is especially present in these moments, so many parents would be understandably hesitant about their child starting pre-school at the age of three.

But this is exactly the plan that Bill Shorten announced at the beginning of October: a $1.75 billion subsidy for parents to allow 15 hours of pre-school for three year olds. So far, the proposal has proven a contentious topic among parents.

In unveiling this plan that is set to be implemented if Labor win the next election, the opposition leader believes it will transform childcare into “early education”.

Labor also framed the proposed subsidy as an important jump start into school, and are working by the angle that children who receive high quality education in the two years leading up to the start of their formal schooling experience long lasting positive outcomes.

That is, starting our kids in pre-school at the age of three has a supposedly high impact on their educational development for many years after.

Overall, if the plan was put into place, it would mean that it would be free for us to send our three year olds to state government run pre-school, and sending them to pre-school education at private childcare centres would be subsidised.

Shorten made it clear that the main objective of his plan was to get 90% of the three year
olds in Australia in pre-school by 2023.

That can be hard to fathom considering those children haven’t even been conceived yet!

The opposition also highlighted Australian children in comparison to foreign children of the same age, stating that Australia was behind in its pre-school education because several other countries already had high attendance rates in pre-school for three year olds.

So far, the proposal has been met with mixed reactions.

The Project’s Facebook post regarding the topic has received several hundred comments in a couple of weeks. It seems there are only few fence sitters, if any…

Phrases along the lines of “let kids be kids” and “what’s the point of having children?” are frequent, with many expressing the importance of letting children learn and develop at home. There are a number of people who also believe that the money could be better spent in other areas of education of their children, such as tertiary education in the future. One comment in particular even goes so far as to say that “danger of abuse” is evident.

It seems the conversation has also expanded to consider the logistics involved, with one woman pointing out that the proposal should not go ahead simply on the basis that staff in this area are already “underpaid and undervalued”.

On the other hand, others think it’s a good idea and will help take the pressure off working families and ease the cost of living. Many parents are also focusing on the educational format and content itself, and are advocates for the benefits of education at such an early age. Several comments support the Labor government’s way of thinking, with one mum stating that “early childhood education benefits all children”.

A number of people believe that pre-school education for three year olds can be positive in terms of social, mental and cognitive outcomes, and provides an invaluable preparation for the schooling lives of children.

This leaves us to ponder; is this proposal in the best interests of three year olds? Would we be comfortable sending our children to pre-school at an earlier age? Does the education system of other countries matter?

Where do YOU sit on this topic?

With the implementation of the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) initiative in many Australian schools, questions have been raised over the impact of technology in the classroom.

In recent years, an increasing number of Australian schools have begun to implement “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) schemes.

However, with this new trend an issue arises of whether this introduction of more technology will impact student learning. It raises the question as to whether it could be distracting students more than helping them.

What is BYOD?

This concept originated in the business world, with companies allowing employees to use their personal smartphones, laptops, tablets and other technological devices in the workplace. The initiative has since gained popularity in the education sector with a number of schools encouraging students to bring their own personal devices to use in the classroom.

What are the issues?

With this new trend have come many issues associated with it – such as financial concerns; technological infrastructure; teacher training; privacy; and network security. The issue of equity is seen as a major issue in any discussion of BYOD, as not all students can afford their own iPad.

Not all students can afford their own iPad.

The issue that requires the most consideration is that of the impact on student’s learning as a result of this increase in technology within the classroom, and the potential distractions that come with it.

The pros and cons

While questions have been raised on the impact of BYOD programs, there are many benefits of the initiative. One study outlined these benefits which include:

  • High levels of student engagement through interactive assignments,
  • The use of a range of online apps to help teach core curriculum skills and independent learning activities,
  • The contribution to more flexible and collaborative learning experiences.

However, there are arguments for the implications of the rise of BYOD programs. The issue of distraction is a big one. A survey of teachers found that more than 70% feel that students’ devices were having a detrimental effect on their attention span.

With the new opportunity for learning apps at their fingertips, students now also have constant access to social media and the distractions and dangers that this can bring. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other sources of entertainment can be tempting distractions for students that could otherwise detract from time that could be spent on learning activities.

With the new opportunity for learning apps at their fingertips, students now also have constant access to social media.

Utilising BYOD

Despite potential impacts, it is inevitable that technology is going to play a larger role in our children’s lives, both at home and in the classroom. It should therefore be an integral part of their learning. The issue is how to understand the role of BYOD in education, and consider ways for educators and parents alike to utilise their benefits as learning tools rather than thinking of them as a diversion.