NQF Mythbusters defying disadvantage infantâ€™s home Gowrie SA: staffing case study settings to inspire + MORE
community Child Care Co-operative (NSW) quarterly journal 108 summer 2013
Rattler is published quarterly by Community Child Care Co-operative Ltd. (NSW) and funded by the NSW Department of Education and Communities, by subscriptions and advertising revenue. CEO, Community Child Care Leanne Gibbs Editorial Committee Lisa Bryant, Marie Deverill, Leanne Gibbs, Eddy Jokovich, Ingrid Maack, Gerard Moon, Wendy Shepherd. Managing Editor Eddy Jokovich (02) 9310 4955 Journalist/Assistant Editor Ingrid Maack Art Director Deborah Kelly Design and Production ARMEDIA Printing Pegasus Print Group Contributors Leanne Gibbs, Jennifer Kable, Ingrid Maack, Lynne Rutherford. Contributions: By publishing a range of opinions, Community Child Care Co-operative Ltd. (NSW) hopes to stimulate professional development and discussion. You can contact the CEO or Managing Editor to discuss your ideas or send in an outline of your article. Copyright is normally held jointly by the publisher and the author. We reserve the right to edit submitted material. Copying: Please email for permission to copy or reproduce any article or part thereof. Subscriptions (02) 8922 6444 Annual subscription to Rattler $60.00 (4 issues). THANKS Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW) gratefully acknowledges the support of Microsoft Corporation in providing Community Child Care with free software under their Community Assistance Initiative. Registered by Australia Post Print Post Publication No 255003/04732 ISSN 0819-9132 ©2013 Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW). Disclaimer The opinions expressed in Rattler are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Community Child Care Co-operative Ltd. (NSW). Advertising (02) 9310 4955 Community Child Care Co-operative Ltd. (NSW) accepts no responsibility for misleading or inaccurate advertisements. We reserve the right to refuse any advertisement that contravenes the organisation’s objectives or the Advertising Code of Ethics. Advertisers have responsibility for all information and any claims made in their advertising. Various sizes of advertisements are available, contact the Managing Editor for details. Office and Postal Address Addison Road Community Centre, Building 21, 142 Addison Road, Marrickville NSW 2204 Phone (02) 8922 6444 Fax (02) 8922 6445 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Web www.ccccnsw.org.au Facebook www.facebook.com/RattlerMagazine Twitter www.twitter.com/RattlerMagazine ABN 81 174 903 921
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ur 35th Birthday has come and gone and the celebration was great! Part conference, part party but all speaking up, speaking out and celebrating the action and activism of Community Child Care (NSW). We had plenty of help celebrating, with our founders and past Board members joining staff and an inspiring crowd to hear voices speaking out and a movement to collective action. This edition speaks to the theme of advocacy and highlights the importance of collaborative goals. The stories in this edition of Rattler have a focus on advocacy and we see people and programs playing a role in transforming children’s lives. We see advocacy in action at Amarina Early Learning Centre, where Campbelltown Council embraces its civic duty by delivering a program unique to the community. You will be inspired by the story of Harry and his family who are a part of The Infants’ Home community. Harry’s story is a testament to the integrated services model that places the child at the centre of inclusive and supportive programs and practices. We have a long-overdue busting of education and care myths, a celebration of play and our Spotlight focuses on the infant-toddler program of Gowrie SA, where a change of approach has led to deeper and more meaningful relationships with children and families. This is just a small insight into what’s inside this issue and I know you’ll find even more to learn about and enjoy as you delve into your last Rattler for 2013. Thanks must go to the ARMEDIA team of Eddy Jokovich, Camillle Howard, Ingrid Maack and Deborah Kelly, along with the Editorial Committee, Lisa Bryant, Marie Deverill, Gerard Moon and Wendy Shepherd, for their fine work on Rattler this year. So, it’s time to wish you all the best as the end of the year comes into sight. From all of the CCCC Board and team we give you our best wishes for peaceful and happy celebrations with family and friends and thank you for your support in 2013. We trust we have delivered a great publication to you over the year and look forward to even greater endeavours and collective action in 2014. Leanne Gibbs, CEO Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW) COVER: (L-R) Candace Permea, Justine Uluibau, Kathy Roberts at Amarina Early Learning. Photograph by Ingrid Maack
in this issue The LOWDOWN
Your guide to what’s up, who’s where, and how you can get involved.
Amarina’s got Talent
Advocacy in action at Amarina Early Learning Centre in a suburb on the cusp of social change.
Face 2 Face
Rattler asks educators and experts to debunk myths, whispers and rumours.
Soothing the Baby 16
A crying baby needs consistency to settle, as does the education and care sector, writes CEO Leanne Gibbs.
We talk to Maree Walk about the challenges of her role as CEO of Community Services.
The whole child
Rattler 108 Summer 2013
Meet Harry, whose life has been enhanced by the integrated services model at The Infants’ Home, Ashfield.
Let the Children Play
NQS case study
Into the blogosphere, we celebrate play and play spaces around the world. A case study for success: Gowrie SA’s new multi-age infant-toddler program. We preview what’s new on the shelves.
Conferences and events Reflections: Learning, Leading and Living Education and Care 8 March 2014 Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney www.campbelltown.nsw.gov.au
Linking up for Kids Conference Hosted by Children’s Healthcare Australasia and the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY). 14–15 April 2014 Menzies Sydney Hotel, Sydney www.childwellbeing2014.net.au
We’re going on a bear hunt!
You’ve read the book, now see it performed live at the Opera House! Sydney-based education and care services should consider taking children to We’re Going On A Bear Hunt from 11–29 December. Adapted from the book by Michael Rosen, children and educators can watch as much-loved characters wade through ‘swishy-swashy grass,’ a ‘splishy-splashy river’ and ‘thick, oozy squelchy mud’ on their quest to find a bear. For more, visit: sydneyoperahouse.com.au
World Forum on Early Care & Education
May 6–9, 2014 San Juan, Puerto Rico www.worldforumfoundation.org
ECA National Conference: Seasons of Change 4–7 September 2014 Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne www.ecaconference.com.au
Community Child Care Co-operative NSW
Above: Gamilaroi man Michael West opened the conference with a Welcome to Country and shared message sticks with attendees.
35 and loving it!
To commemorate this milestone, Community Child Care (NSW) produced an anniversary book celebrating our strong history of activism and all things Community Child Care. To order a copy, visit: www.ccccnsw.org.au/shop or phone (02) 8922 6444. 4 | Rattler 108 Summer 2013
35 a celebration Community Child Care Co-operative NSW
Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW) recently celebrated 35 years of speaking out for children, families and the services that educate and care for them. The 35th Birthday was marked with a one-day talk fest and party, and both were a great success! Speakers included Eva Cox, Jane Caro, Alma Fleet, Anthony Semann and Fran Press. Highlights included the incredible Eva Cox who spoke about the foundations of Community Child Care (NSW) and its radical roots, Community Child Care (NSW) CEO Leanne Gibb’s poetry slam-style presentation Education is Everything, and Rattler’s own designer and resident artist Deborah Kelly, who spoke about the collision of her two worlds: Pleasure and Politics.
Leadership: Perspectives from near and far
Early Childhood Leadership: A Research Symposium on 11 December presents a wonderful opportunity to learn first-hand about current research on early childhood leadership matters. Researchers from Australia, England, Finland and Norway will be visiting the Institute of Early Childhood at Macquarie University during December. They will join Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW) to share their findings at an all-day symposium to be held in Sydney. Key leadership researchers include Professor Eeva Hujala from Finland and Associate Professor Kari Hoås Moen from Norway. Emerging researchers who are doing PhD research will also be presenting some exciting new methodologies on researching early childhood leadership matters. For more information, call Community Child Care (NSW) on (02) 8922 6444.
Laying language foundations
Hop to it!
Thanks to Educational Experience, one lucky Rattler reader could WIN this Proprioception & Gross Motor Kit, valued at $200.
The kit can be used to enhance children’s gross motor development, balance, co-ordination and sensory development. Perfect for a range of abilities and ages, the kit can be used in therapy, rehabilitation or just for fun. What a great way to build children’s confidence to explore their outdoor environment in new ways. To WIN, simply send us an email and tell us in 100 words or less about your outdoor environment and how you encourage gross motor development. Send your entries to email@example.com by 7 February 2014. Congratulations to Hay Preschool, winners of the Go Wild for Science Kit!
Researchers have identified how the ‘wiring’ in toddlers’ brains develops to learn language. The study reveals a particular window, from two years to the age of four, during which environmental influence on language development is greatest. They used brain scans to measure myelin in young children’s brains. The findings help explain why interventions for neuro-developmental disorders where language is impaired, such as autism, may be much more successful if implemented before the age of four. The research was published in The Journal of Neuroscience. For more, visit: www.jneurosci.org
In the Spring issue of Rattler (Issue 107), the article ‘We’ll Never Ever Get Lake Pedder Back’ had the number of community-based long day care services in NSW erroneously listed as 150. NSW has around 384 communitybased long day care services and another 157 council-operated ones. Apologies to all!
Sow, grow, care, share!
Growing up Greener has released a new book entitled Permaculture Gardens: Sow, Grow, Care, Share. Written for early childhood audiences, Author Kellie Bollard introduces children to the concept of permaculture. From compost and chickens to lizards and frogs, this rhyming picture book covers much more than simply growing vegetables. To order a copy, visit: www.growingupgreener.com.au Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 5
Amarina’s got talent!
Rattler sees advocacy in action at Amarina Early Learning Centre in Airds, a disadvantaged south-western suburb of Sydney on the cusp of rapid change. The service is operated by Campbelltown City Council—a local government that understands how early education can transform communities and children’s futures. Ingrid Maack reports.
ust 50 minutes from Sydney’s CBD, Campbelltown is home to 150,000 residents. This Local Government Area is home to a very young population with a high number of sole parent and low-income families. It is also home to some of the state’s most vulnerable children. According to a Campbelltown City Council report*, one in five children under 15 years in Campbelltown live in a jobless household, compared to about one in 14 across Sydney. In the suburb of Airds alone, there is 27.3 per cent unemployment. Airds is a public housing estate built by the NSW Government in the 1970s—a social experiment that created pockets
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of serious urban poverty. This was due to lack of infrastructure and access to public transport and a consequent lack of social mobility. However, Airds is marked for redevelopment as a sustainable mixedincome community. The proposed Airds Bradbury Renewal Project aims to help break cycles of poverty over the coming 15 to 20 years. It will involve transforming the area from 94 per cent public housing to only 30 per cent. And at the centre of this community is Campbelltown City Council’s Amarina Early Learning Centre, where there are 46 enrolled children, 40 of whom receive full CCB rates. It is a place where local families access many specialist services and is clearly a thriving hub for this community. Educators and children recently staged an impromptu talent show called Amarina’s Got Talent. Using its new wooden outdoor stage, some sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, while other children sat at a ‘judging table’ drawing on paper.
Photography: ingrid maack.
at the COALFACE
The performance was a fitting celebration of the recently renovated yard, which Amarina educational leader Kathy Roberts and Manager Education and Care Services Justine Uluibau proudly show off. The yard hadn’t been touched for 20 years and was pretty run down but today it has an outdoor stage, a large rock garden and wooden bridge, a brand new sandpit, raised garden beds and a popular outdoor blackboard mounted on the perimeter fence. The renovation of the outdoor environment involved input from parents, educators and children. ‘One of the children’s suggestions was for a small exercise trampoline to be built into the ground. It is one of the children’s favourite experiences,’ Ms Roberts says. ‘You can imagine the learning opportunities that occurred during the renovation when, for example, the children saw how concrete was mixed or when the stage area was being built.’ Children reportedly have a greater sense of belonging to the new outdoor environment, particularly as many children live in small townhouses and do not typically have access to large outdoor spaces at home.
As well as a room leader, Amarina also has an outdoor leader, a nominated staff member whose role it is to champion sustainability within the service, set up and plan the outdoor program and encourage all of the team to take pride in the outdoor environment. This is Danielle Johnston, who regularly joins leaders from other Council services to share ideas and information as part of an outdoor leader’s group. ‘We often go on road trips to meet other educators and observe other services to gain ideas and network,’ says Ms Uluibau. ‘We are strong advocates within the local government sector, meeting regularly with other managers, coordinators and teams. This allows us to continually benchmark best practice.’ As we tour the grounds, I spot a pink sequined scarecrow in the vegetable garden, which I am told the children constructed with an old plastic Christmas tree, stockings, a wig and a pink cowboy hat. It is perhaps the most delightful scarecrow I have ever seen! ‘When we made our scarecrow, one of the children said: “She should be on Australia’s Got Talent”,’ enthuses Ms Roberts.
It becomes increasingly clear that indeed Amarina’s got talent. Last year it won an ECEEN (Sprouts Award) for its initiative on saving energy. The service went to great efforts to reduce energy consumption through using natural light, turning off appliances when not required, minimising use of the clothes dryer and providing ongoing education to children and families on sustainability. ‘We want the children to see recycling, water and energy saving, taking care and having respect for our environment as part of their day-to-day practices. ‘About four years ago we scaled back on all the bright colours, introduced more natural resources and switched the lights off. Overhead fluorescent lights can be overbearing. Last year we introduced soft glowing salt lamps into our rooms which apparently have a calming effect and aid concentration.’ More importantly, Amarina is also one of two Campbelltown Council education and care services that achieved an Exceeding rating this year, with Amarina Exceeding in six out of seven quality areas. ‘We are currently putting together applications for an Excellent Rating for Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 7
Brothers Jayden and Riley painting at the Child and Family Centre
The new wooden stage is a popular feature both services,’ explains Ms Uluibau. (The only other services to achieve this honour so far have been in South Australia and Queensland.) Inside, there is a large wall display with the words ‘We Value your Contribution’ and a series of photos of children interacting with visiting parents. It is a powerful message to the community that they are always welcome at the service. ‘We have many non-working families and sole parents here,’ says Ms Roberts. ‘We provide a place where parents and carers can come and have a cup of coffee and chat with the supervisor or the educators. ‘The centre is an extension of the child’s family, so it’s important parents and educators work together to provide the best outcomes for children,’ says Ms 8 | Rattler 108 Summer 2013
Sue Stilloni, Outreach Worker at Campbelltown Roberts, explaining their strong focus on family involvement. ‘We want to provide an environment where parents can come to the centre to learn about child development and learn why play is important. ‘Our 3–5 room engages in “family interaction time”. Families book in a time to spend at the centre doing an activity in which they feel comfortable. This may be reading a book, making play dough or constructing in the block corner. ‘Photos of the families interacting with the children are then displayed on the wall and the children constantly comment on them and say, “That’s my dad” or “Look, my mum’s helping garden”. ‘A great sense of belonging has been achieved as a result of this project,’ says Ms Roberts. Campbelltown City Council also has a
Partnerships in Early Childhood Program (PECP) together with the Benevolent Society. The program acknowledges the important role that education and care services have in the lives of families and the role it can play in breaking cycles of poverty. I meet Candace Peremea, who is a Child and Family Worker (CFW) employed by the Benevolent Society that visits Amarina four days week. Her role is to help families and communities develop stronger, healthier relationships using the attachment theory model. She also provides parenting advice, support to educators in identifying the meaning behind children’s behaviour, referrals and information regarding specialist support and community development. ‘Campbelltown City Council is the only council in NSW that is working in partnership with the Benevolent Society with this program, and we are fortunate to be involved’, says Ms Uluibau. (The program is funded by the Australian Government and is evaluated every three years.) Partnerships in practice at Child and Family Centre Right next door to Amarina Early Learning Centre is the Campbelltown Child and Family Centre. Funded by the Department of Education and Communities and managed by Campbelltown Council, it offers a PEPPS Supported Playgroup three days a week and access to a family outreach worker, who works with families in crisis with referrals to other agencies and specialist services. Peta Keating is an early childhood trained playgroup coordinator who
Salt lamps and natural light create a calm atmosphere in the 3–5 room has worked at the Children and Family Centre for 13 years. ‘Here we really encourage the parents to play with the children, engage in conversation and build those bonds. We work with all family members and carers—parents, grandparents and foster parents,’ she says. Parents can access child development support from qualified staff at the centre as well as high quality resources for free. The service offers a supported school holiday program for children. School
holidays are on the day I visit and I have the privilege of briefly meeting several families who use the service, before they embark on a group excursion to a local park for a picnic. Kerry Ellis, who is joined by two of her sons Riley (five) and Jayden (10), has been coming to the centre for 14 years. ‘All my boys have come to playgroup here. I actually live right next door so it’s like a home away from home for us. ‘I’ve been coming since before you were born,’ she says to her boys.
I also chat with Rebecca Giddio as she sits and draws a picture of a penguin with her daughter Charlotte (five). ‘I’ve been coming 11 years. I’m practically a veteran,’ she jokes, explaining that all four of her children have attended the playgroup. ‘When I moved to Campbelltown 11 years ago, the midwives told me about the playgroup so I started coming as I knew no-one in the area. I have made good friends and got lots of support here. ‘I’m illiterate. I had a brain injury when I was five and nearly drowned. Peta [the playgroup’s coordinator] has helped me with my reading and also coaching my kids so they are ready for school. Rebecca and Charlotte have both clearly benefitted from the Campbelltown Child and Family Centre and Uniting Care Burnside’s ‘Books for Airds’ literacy initiative, in which each family received eight free books. ‘I only have a low reading level but Peta has been great at explaining milestones to me so I know my kids are on-track. Charlotte, my youngest, is off to school next year!’ *Campbelltown City Council Report: Revised Campbelltown Social Plan 2010–2012. ★
Pademelon Press Giving a Voice to Early Childhood
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Ph: 02 4236 1881 www.facebook.com/PademelonPress Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 9
Maree Walk’s play, The Lone Woman, could almost be autobiographical when you consider she is responsible for the most vulnerable of children in NSW. We talk to the former social worker and playwright about her role as CEO of Community Services, part of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS). What drew you to a career in social work? I grew up in Queensland and went to university not really knowing where it would take me. What I did know is that I was incredibly interested in people. That’s where my heart belongs. I have always had a sense of fairness and a sense of compassion for people. I worked in a range of social work positions, mostly in social security and later as a child protection officer in WA. I loved the crisis work. I’m good in a crisis. I’m calm and I like a high workload. I also worked as a playwright. I wrote a radio play, which to this day people tell me they hear being replayed on the ABC. One of the highlights of my career was having my play performed at the Seymour Centre during the Sydney Festival in the early 90s. It was a onewoman show called The Lone Woman. My plays were about my working life: human relationships and drama! Tell us about your years as a senior executive at the Benevolent Society— Australia’s oldest charity. I was at the Benevolent Society for 11 years, and I learnt a lot about early childhood in that time. In the late 90s, those of us who had not been trained in ECEC were reading about the importance of early intervention and neuro-plasticity in the early years. It was an exciting time. One of the biggest changes was bringing together the attachment theory literature with child development literature. They had been sitting in two different disciplines. Attachment theory sat with social workers and psychologists and the early childhood people had this extraordinary body of knowledge of child development. When we brought those two disciplines together, we started to see how important childcare was not just as for working mothers but also as a site for intervention for very vulnerable children. I have always had a passion for innovation, it is ‘where the savannah meets the woodland’. It’s the edges of 10 | Rattler 108 Summer 2013
disciplines or sectors that some of the best innovation or incubation of new ideas occurs. That’s what was happening. Tell us about your current role. In NSW, we are part of a whole department which means we can bring together Child Protection, Housing, Disability and Aboriginal Housing and really think about how we help vulnerable people achieve their full potential. In our patch we have a passion for vulnerable children and families and how to meet their needs particularly in the child protection context and in services that we fund such as community centres, neighbourhood centres and early intervention services. I think they play a vital role in helping connect isolated individuals to community i.e. bring them into the social fabric of a community or neighbourhood. That work is foundational. We can do a lot of work in the home and if outside the neighbourhood is toxic then we need other support. That’s what I mean by building communities, it’s building a neighbourhood that helps keep kids safe beyond the front gate. I would love for those very vulnerable children to have a strong sense of safety, wellbeing and belonging. What improvements to child protection would you still like to see? I established the Office of Senior practitioners in Community Services. We then rolled out Practice First. We developed a Practice First Framework and established a Practice Advisory group where our best and brightest case workers and frontline staff advise on practice changes. The other reform is about giving permission for our caseworkers (who are fabulous people) to build relationships with families to help them change. That’s always been at the heart of casework but often we’ve demanded that they fill in this form or use that template and it’s made it difficult for caseworkers to do the hard
work, which is sitting in people’s houses and working with them to help them to parent better. I am most proud of our focus on putting practice with families and children back at the heart of child protection. Our work is all about building relationships—we have held steady on that! We have a have a great team. I always say to people outside the department: ‘Every day our staff knock on peoples’ doors and ask them the most intimate details of their lives. You need to be a very special person to do that.’ What role can early childhood educators play in child protection? Early childhood educators work directly every day with children. They get to observe and reflect on children’s behaviour. Since the Royal Commission, where I listened to adult victims’ recollections of sexual abuse as children, the lesson I am learning is how attentive we need to be to children’s behaviour and what it tells us. Many of these now adults talk of their attempts as children to tell adults—that they tried to tell us and we didn’t listen or didn’t really observe what their whole behaviour was telling us. I am also very proud of work I’ve done throughout my career around partnerships—bringing together different agencies (government or nongovernment). It is part of my DNA. When some suggests a new service or initiative I look around and ask ‘who can we play with?’ I just can’t envisage delivering services or writing policies without bringing in other players. ★
s r e t bus Myth 1
Programs must conform to exact guidelines to be acceptable.
Have you heard the latest rumour? Misconceptions about early childhood education and care practice are rife in our sector. Rattler talks to experts and educators to debunk the myths and paint a clearer picture.
NSW Department of Education and Communities (Early Education and Care Directorate):‘The Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations set out three basic requirements for the educational program. First, the program must be based on, and delivered in a way that is consistent with, the approved learning frameworks, taking into account the needs, interests and experiences of each child. Second, the service must document information about each child’s participation in the program as well as documenting an assessment of their learning and progress towards five learning outcomes in a way that can be shared with the child’s family. Third, information about the content of the program and the way in which it is delivered must be displayed at the serv-
ice, or, in the case of family day care, in each educator’s home. No two services are exactly the same; the type of service, its size, location, its families, children and local community are different and educators in each service have a range of different skills and experience. In recognition of this, the Regulations do not prescribe any particular way in which the program should be documented or displayed. While it may be helpful to seek ideas and inspiration from other services, educators are encouraged to explore ways to document the program that suits their setting, their families and their educators. This might include a visual record on the wall or a board, a journal or daily diary in each room or a digital record that can also be emailed to families who do not attend the service regularly. Similarly, the Regulations do not prescribe how, or how often, educators must document children’s learning. Whatever method is used, information about each child’s progress towards the learning outcomes must be included. Most educators use a range of ways to capture significant moments in each child’s learning, including observations, jottings, diary entries, Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 11
annotated photographs, learning stories and samples of children’s work. It is important that whatever method is used, educators’ valuable time is not wasted on recording things that are have little value for educators, families or children. Quality, not quantity is a good rule of thumb.’
‘The Standard requires us to demonstrate each element. It doesn’t prescribe exactly how the standard must be demonstrated. It definitely doesn’t prescribe what an educator has to do every day!’ –Kay Turner
‘To be an inspirational early childhood educator we need to be thinking deeply about what we see in children’s play and how we can extend the experience so that learning becomes rich and exciting.’ –Sandra Cheeseman
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Kay Turner, SDN’s Executive Director, Integrated Services and Organisational Development: ‘I’ve enjoyed seeing our staff come together to interpret the components of the NQF and to discuss how to apply them to the different SDN contexts. With services in different parts of NSW and the ACT we’re glad we don’t have to conform to exact guidelines to be acceptable! Each part of the Framework has a different role and requires a different response from us as providers. As a whole the Framework focuses on outcomes for children, rather than providing a prescriptive method for us to use. Some things in the National Law and Regulations are precise and tell us exactly what to do, for example, educator-to-child ratios and qualification requirements, and the prescribed information to be displayed in a service. However, others aren’t so precise and require us to use our professional judgement based on the outcomes to be achieved. For example, the regulation relating to fence height doesn’t tell us exactly how high a fence should be. We’re expected to make a judgement focused on the safety outcome for the children. The NQS and the Learning Frameworks outline the indicators of quality to be seen and experienced in our service, allowing our educators to develop a service and a curriculum that is relevant for each context and that is responsive to the diversity of children and families in the communities where we operate. The Standard requires us to demonstrate each element. It doesn’t prescribe exactly how the standard must be demonstrated. It definitely doesn’t prescribe what an educator has to do every day! At SDN, we’ve been able to have our Inclusive Education and Care Practice Unit team, our Service Delivery Accountability Unit Team, our community leaders and our educators working together in teams to develop the pathways we will take to not only
be compliant with the National Law and Regulations but to ensure we’re building a culture of quality outcomes for children and families, of continuous improvement and of programs that are responsive to children and families. This has helped us to be given ratings of Exceeding the National Quality Standard. The National Quality Framework is not just about compliance with rules. It’s designed to support continuous improvement and quality, including children’s safety and wellbeing, to support professional judgement and innovative, responsive, contextual and relevant services with a focus on great outcomes for children.’
Myth 2 You don’t need knowledge of child development these days. Sandra Cheeseman, lecturer Institute Early Childhood, Macquarie University: ‘To be a great educator you need a great deal of knowledge. I imagine this myth stems from a misunderstanding from those encouraging educators to look beyond only child development theory as one way to understand and interpret children’s learning and behaviour. Traditional early childhood teacher and educator courses focused primarily on the developmental theories of Piaget. His stages of cognitive development are useful in showing how children progress in the complexity of their learning and have assisted educators to plan effectively and use play as a means to support children’s learning. More recently though, a number of other theoretical frames have emerged that help us to see other influences important to children’s learning. The EYLF encourages educators to draw on multiple theoretical perspectives and not feel confined to only developmental theories. The socio-cultural theories talk about the importance of the people in young children’s lives and the things in the environment that children can
observe and play with. These theories acknowledge that children can learn very different things at different times in their life according to what they are exposed to. They have also helped us to see children as more capable and resourceful than the developmental theories might recognise. The behaviourist theories help us to understand how learning can be supported by encouragement and can guide educators to think about how their responses and actions can influence children’s learning. Drawing on aspects of all of these theoretical perspectives helps us to provide rich, meaningful and socially just learning experiences and assists us to listen and respond to children as they contribute to their own learning experience. The essence of following children’s interests and creating an environment for an engaging emergent approach to curriculum hinges on a good understanding of these multiple theoretical perspectives. It is not a case of simply waiting for children to have a good idea and playing along. To be an inspirational early childhood educator we need to be thinking deeply about what we see in children’s play and how we can extend the experience so learning becomes rich and exciting. To do this well we need lots of knowledge about children and the way they learn and develop.’ Liam McNicholas is the ACT manager for Goodstart Early Learning and a freelance writer on early childhood education: ‘It seems one of the things educators have most struggled with in the Early Years Learning Framework is a lack of specific direction. The EYLF is designed as a guide, not a rigid template. It draws on a range of views and perspectives, but does not say: “this is how to do it”. When I first started in early learning over 10 years ago, I used to check off children’s abilities against a developmental checklist. This way of working was common in the sector at the time, and on first glance it appeared that the EYLF was encouraging us to throw all our templates and checklists away! One of the great things about the new Framework is it encourages us to work with children in a holistic way. As well as focusing on all the things a child is capable of, we should also critically
reflect on our own skills and strengths as educators and teachers. Co-constructing learning with children encourages us to view children as equal partners in the learning environment. Our work shouldn’t just be about helping children meet “milestones”, but about supporting each individual child to reach their potential and positively affect their world. Does this mean that we don’t need to know anything about child development? Absolutely not! As with any profession, an educator has to have a strong knowledge of the fundamentals. Pilots have to understand the technical operation of an aeroplane before they can fly, so why shouldn’t educators know the background on children’s development and learning before they work with young children? A strong knowledge of children’s development helps us to scaffold children’s learning, as well as giving us the tools to support specific children experiencing vulnerable situations. Decades of research on how children develop can provide us with frameworks and guides to support our work with children—it’s just important to always remember that it doesn’t tell us everything about a child.’
Myth 3 Programs must ensure children are not given opportunities for risk-taking activities
‘The EYLF is designed as a guide, not a rigid template. It draws on a range of views and perspectives, but does not say: “this is how to do it”. ‘ –Liam McNicholas
‘Children who have opportunities to take risks in play are typically better at judging when a risk is worth taking and when it is best avoided.’ –Luke Touhill
Luke Touhill, early childhood teacher and consultant: ‘One of the great things about the EYLF and the NQS is that both actually go out of their way to deliberately acknowledge the importance of risk and challenge for children’s learning. Don’t believe it? Have a look at Quality Standard 3.2 or the Learning Environments section of the EYLF—both deliberately highlight opportunities for risk-taking and challenge as valuable components of high quality early childhood settings. Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 13
‘The introduction of the emergent curriculum may have contributed to this myth. This “new way” (wrongly) spoke of starting with a clean slate, forgetting about programming and “leaving it all to the children”.’ –Rebecca Boland
Of course there is still an emphasis on safety and care—no one wants to see children needlessly hurt—but there is also a growing recognition that “risk-free” learning environments may actually be doing more harm than good. Children need opportunities to take risks and challenge themselves if they are to learn how to make such decisions wisely. Increasingly the research evidence backs this up. Children who have opportunities to take risks in their play are typically better at judging when a risk is worth taking and when it is best avoided. As Macquarie University researchers Shirley Wyver and Helen Little (2008, p.39) note: “Failure to provide children with stimulating and challenging experiences through which they can engage in positive risk-taking exposes them to different risks that compromise their health and development”. None of this means that safety goes out of the window! As we embrace new approaches to risk and challenge we also need to remember our duty of care to protect the children with whom we work. Part of our professional responsibility is to balance safety with opportunities for reasonable and appropriate risk-taking. Such a balance is not always easy to achieve. But at least we now have a regulatory system that goes some way to recognising the importance of such decision-making as well as acknowledging our ability, as professionals, to make such decisions in the best interests of children and their wellbeing—both now and into the future.’ Margaret Sims is a professor of Early Childhood at the University of New England, NSW: ‘As early childhood programs are pushed to include a greater focus on ‘academics’ and to manage the legal issues associated with safety, they are more and more likely to become ‘risk adverse’: that is to set up physical environments that reduce opportunities for risk-taking activities. While research clearly demonstrates rough and tumble play has an extremely important contribution to make to children’s development, such play opportunities tend to be restricted to the home environment, and not encouraged or supported in formal programs. This limitation on physical play
14 | Rattler 108 Summer 2013
has led to the characterisation of today’s children as “the bubble-wrap generation”. This is unfortunate, as risky play is considered to have an important role in providing children with opportunities to practice managing physical and emotional challenges. Sandseter and Kennair (2011) argue that risky play evolved precisely because children needed opportunities to experiment with challenges for which they had natural and instinctual fears; challenges such as exploring what it feels like to be high up and how to manage heights without falling. Risky play enables children to develop the physical skills to manage such risky situations, and, through their physical confidence, overcome the emotional fear associated with them. Without these experiences, they argue, children will not overcome emotional (instinctual) inhibitions, leading to an increased risk of “...neuroticism or psychopathology.” Through out the life course. Early childhood programmes today are caught in the tension between what we know provides good learning for children (risky play environments) and the restrictions placed upon us by legal requirements for safe environments. Our challenge is to show the importance of risky environments for children and how we, as skilled educators, make these risky environments safe through our intentional teaching.’
Myth 4 Don’t set up experiences for children: they will ask for what they want. Margaret Sims: ‘There is considerable confusion between the philosophy of learning through play and the concept of intentional teaching. To many these look to be polar opposites. Learning through play is enshrined in early childhood philosophy and has been so for decades. Piaget’s early concept of “the little scientist” suggested the role of
adults was to set up an interesting and challenging environment then stand back and allow children to explore as they wished. This evolved into modern ideas of children as active agents in their learning with the role of adults being one of building on children’s interests. Thus arose the idea that adults should not set up experiences for children, as they will ask for what they would like to be provided with on the day. However, modern early childhood philosophy couples the fundamental principle of learning through play, with that of intentional teaching. As defined in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) intentional teaching is “deliberate, purposeful and thoughtful”. Intentional teaching is based on an in-depth understanding of children’s interests and strengths. Educators who intentionally teach have a clear idea in their head of the learning opportunities they wish to offer children. They intentionally set up challenging and interesting experiences (including routines) based on their understanding of children’s interests and the learning opportunities they want to offer. They purposefully interact with children who chose to become engaged in these experiences to scaffold and extend thinking and participation. They thoughtfully reflect on children’s participation and learning and use their reflections to guide the new experiences (or new ways to participate in routines) they plan to offer next. To the outsider, it looks as if children are totally in control: choosing what to do, with whom and when. To the skilled educator, planning, preparation and participation are demonstrated throughout the day in all experiences (routines and activities). Skilled educators set up experiences (and routines) because these have been carefully planned to attract children and to offer the right mixture of challenge, learning and success to children who are carefully scaffolded and supported.’ Rebecca Boland, Director Clarence Town Preschool, NSW: ‘Interestingly, this is a myth that I have actually been given as advice by a well-meaning person! The introduction of the emergent curriculum may, I feel, have contributed to this myth. Earliest conversations around this “new way” spoke of starting with a blank
slate, forgetting about programming and ‘leaving it all to the children’. The underlying ideas of power and receptivity to children were well founded, however the message did not translate clearly and became one of myths and whispers. Dynamic early childhood settings are rich with activity; they provide a stable base for children to return to and to build their skills while also providing inspiration, provocation and challenge. When children, educators and families work and plan together we can create a learning environment that is truly childcentred. Our preschool program in action may appear quite busy to a visitor. We have several established learning areas that are rich with materials, loose parts and creative provocations. As children interact with each other and the environment, our educators observe, interact, and talk with the children to learn where they would like their play to grow. Through these intentional actions we are able to work with children to build on our experiences and develop the environment. As our children return to preschool and continue with play from a previous session they are able to build on their skills, use their prior knowledge, develop their sense of self and extend their sustained thinking. Should a child be starting-over each time they came to preschool we would see a dramatic reduction in skill development, sustained involvement and each child’s sense of being, belonging and becoming.’ ★
‘Limits on physical play has led to the characterisation of today’s children as the “bubble wrap generation”. ’ –Margaret Sims
For a full list of references, see: ccccnsw.org.au/rattlerresources
To be continued…
In the next edition of Rattler, we will explore a new set of myths to be busted in part two of this series. The following myths will be well and truly debunked: Myth 1: Children’s learning must be documented in aesthetically presented portfolios containing observations, interpretations, photos and samples of work. Myth 2: You must always include one or more of the five EYLF outcomes in planning and in observations of children.
Myth 3: Only teachers can document observations on children’s development.
Do these myths sound all too familiar? Ensure you have the facts, not just the rumours, myths and whispers by taking the time to reread the Regulations and NQS documents. If you are still in doubt on any aspect of the National Quality Framework, contact Department of Education and Communities (DEC), ACECQA or Community Child Care (NSW) for clarification.
Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 15
Soothe the crying baby
16 | Rattler 108 Summer 2013
Community Child Care CEO Leanne Gibbs shares why the education and care sector needs a period of calm and stability following the election. Like soothing a crying baby, we need to ‘stick with the program and not be tempted to change all the time’.
illustration: deborah kelly
hen I was a very new mother I went to an education session at the hospital called Soothing Crying Babies. This was a hugely interesting topic to all of us there who were crumbling under sleep deprivation. The best tip I heard that day, and remember years later, was ‘stick with the program and don’t be tempted to change all the time’. Be prepared to go through some rocky periods but keep at it, become dependable and eventually your baby will calm and settle. They were right. So why am I bringing this up now? Lately I have been watching a sector that might just be crumbling under a regime of unrelenting change: changes to funding, changes to workforce and wages, changes to programs that support service delivery, and even the proposal that we need to change a system that has barely had time to settle. The political cycle means that indeed the opposing party needs to propose sweeping changes because why else would they need to be elected? And the proposal for a Productivity Commission Inquiry? Bah, humbug.1 Change or proposed change fatigue is the biggest malaise hitting the sector right now, so let’s take a reality check: what is the end game? The most important outcome is the delivery of an affordable and accessible education and care system that puts children first—not productivity, not politicians, not puffedup proposals that put profits ahead of social responsibility. So here is a novel suggestion: let’s propose no new changes. Let’s get bipartisan support for an excellent system based on research instead of suggesting that caring for and educating five children is always better than four and that no qualifications are always better than
qualified staff working with children. The lack of support for these reforms is based purely on who pays. Not what is best for children. I agree with other critics that we are paying the price for the fact that we haven’t decided what we want from our education and care system and that there is a lack of a common agreement. But I don’t agree this would be sorted by a Productivity Commission Inquiry. What we need is a proper implementation plan for a set of reforms that will deliver a quality education and care system to families. While this is happening, we need operational reviews in each state and territory to ensure the system is administered well and that quality affordable education and care is available. We also need to stop the merry-goround on who pays. Quality costs but the outcomes of a good early childhood education benefit more than just the individual. Again let’s pick a course of action and de-politicise the plan. The point that quality is important, but so are people’s livelihoods is a good one. But I can’t help feeling we will end up in a position of ‘don’t buy now but pay later’ if we can’t work out a sound approach to embedding quality and not constantly arguing about who pays.
So what would be a great outcome of this election? Whoever is sitting when the music stops should: 1. Read all of the workforce, sector and productivity reviews that have been conducted in the past five years and see that another review or inquiry just won’t be welcome or useful. 2. Remind everyone of the comprehensive national quality agenda that doesn’t just seek to create outcomes for children but also for the broader workforce, gender equity and equality. Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 17
‘Change fatigue is the biggest malaise hitting the sector right now. What’s the end game? The best outcome is an education and care system that puts children first—not productivity, not politicians, not puffed-up proposals that put profits ahead of social responsibility.’ 3. Implement the National Quality Framework in full with no stepping back. 4. Resource the implementation of the NQF with nationally consistent funding, professional development and support and policy that ensures a child’s experience of education and care in WA could be measured and deemed to be contextually the same in NSW. 5. Treat educators and staff in education and care services the way they should be treated. Like they are doing the most important job in the world. Pay for their training and education, recruit the best, the brightest and the most dedicated and remunerate them like you care. 6. Do the numbers. Get the economic boffins onto the real stuff like how to fund mining of the greatest resource.
7. Check the numbers again and know that the investment made in early childhood education and care makes a return of more than seven times its value. Children experience fewer challenges in primary and high school when they receive a quality early childhood education. There is less spending on prisons, social welfare payments and social services to families. It costs less to invest now rather than pay a higher price later. 8. Be visionary and have high expectations of a sector that is resilient, optimistic and focused. 9. And finally, let’s stick with the program; accept that there will be rocky periods but keep at it. Dependable funding, expectations, systems and support will calm and settle the baby in many more ways than we were ever expecting. ★ 1. This article was originally published in careforkids.com.au the Childcare Industry News newsletter. It was written by Leanne Gibbs in the lead-up to the 2013 Federal election, which resulted in the election of the Liberal–National Coalition Government. Community Child Care (NSW) accepts there will be a Productivity Inquiry soon and, as always, will enthusiastically participate.
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Let the children play Sydney-based early childhood teacher, play advocate and blogger Jenny Kable is the brains behind Let The Children Play (www.letthechildrenplay.net), a popular education blog that celebrates play and play spaces from around the world.
enny Kable curates an online gallery of children’s early learning environments, gathered from the services where she has worked in Australia and from education and care services across the globe. ‘I’m inspired and I inspire others daily by sharing images and connecting with hundreds of other people in the field,’ she says. Four years ago Ms Kable was feeling ‘isolated professionally’ and her motivation levels were dropping so she went online to look for inspiration on creating environments of wonder for young children. ‘Out there in the blogosphere was the professional network I’d been seeking. A whole new world of information, inspiration and supportive networks has opened since I began dipping my toe into the big, wide ocean of social media.’ Today, Ms Kable’s blog showcases and shares hundreds of ideas and images of outdoor play and learning. Let The Children Play has a community of 10,000 subscribers and a growing Facebook audience of a 33,500 followers. Her Twitter feed is also well worth checking out twitter.com/ LetChildrenPlay. ‘Let the Children Play began as a
voice for children to do just that—play. What could be more important than protecting a child’s right to a childhood rich in play?’ Her other motivation for starting the blog was the fact that today’s children are spending less time playing outside than at any other time in history. ‘In the space of one generation, Australia has gone from being a nation of outdoor children to a nation of indoor children. ‘There has never been a more important time for parents and educators to make outdoor play a priority for the children in their lives. It is one of the best things we can do for their health education and wellbeing. Ms Kable says she has also discovered that the best way to influence, inspire and inform her followers is to ‘show, not tell.’ As a result, images feature heavily in her blog posts. ‘I try to write more as a friend or colleague chatting over a cuppa and less as a lecturer standing behind a lectern,’ she tells Rattler. ‘I see one of my most important roles as an early childhood educator as being an advocate for children’s right to play. ‘Play-based learning is not so much a movement as a fact,’ she says ‘Everything we know tells us that children learn through play.’ Turn over for a celebration of children’s play in pictures... Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 19
Jenny Kable has trawled through her online archive, selecting some of her favourite photos, as published on her blog Let The Children Play. RIGHT: Nature provides inviting and open-ended loose parts for play. The children at Takoma Park Nursery school are busy creating their own nests from straw. BELOW: Children can’t get enough of painting natural resources. Rocks, seedpods, sticks, bottle brushes, leaves: nothing is safe from a lick of paint!
BELOW: A supply of natural and manufactured ‘loose parts’ placed outside provide children with the building blocks for hours of creative and imaginative play. Children love to make their own spaces using materials such as wood, stumps, old sheets and table cloths.
ABOVE and OPPOSITE: As early childhood educators, it is important that we advocate for children’s right to engage in messy play.
20 | Rattler 108 Summer 2013
RIGHT: The world of preschoolers is like a series of experiments: ‘What if I paint in the water?’, ‘What will it feel like to stand in?’, ‘What if we add red?’
LEFT: We can tie a lot of different types of learning into our time in the bush. Literacy, turn-taking, scientific discoveries, gross motor skills and so much more learning and growing is taking place in the bush—learning children carry with them as they grow.
Times have changed, but children haven’t. They still enjoy the simple games that we used to enjoy as children, even if they do add their own twist!
ABOVE : Four pieces of wood proved to be wonderful materials for the children to explore, discover and create open-ended art experiences. First, they painted. Once dry, we added baskets of collage materials and glue for the children to discover.
Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 21
‘Harry is an amazing child. You quickly see the child beyond the disability. He’s not treated differently. He is valued for the unique person that he is, as is every other child here at the Infants’ Home.’ 22 | Rattler 108 Summer 2013
Meet Harry. Harry is four and is vision-impaired. He has profound developmental delays. But, Harry is lucky. He attends The Infants’ Home, where he accesses an on-site speech therapist, occupational therapist, play therapist, GP and a team of passionate educators as part of the organisation’s integrated service model. Ingrid Maack reports.
et’s go walking, walking, walking. Let’s go walking far, far away,’ a visiting physiotherapist sings to Harry as he squeals with delight and walks forward in his walking frame. Rattler was lucky enough to see this delightful exchange during a visit to the new Gorton House at The Infants’ Home in Ashfield, Sydney, where Harry Davenport (aged four) attends five days a week. ‘This is new. He usually walks backwards,’ explains Jody Shepphard, a physio who visits Harry on-site at The Infants’ Home every fortnight. ‘Were having a good day today,’ she says. ‘He’s really come on lately. It’s only four weeks since he first started standing upright. ‘We placed a ribbon across the bottom of his frame to stop him pulling his legs up and this has really helped strengthen and straighten his legs,’ she says. Harry is vision-impaired, has profound developmental delays and limited muscle control. Ms Shepphard has worked with Harry since he was 10 months old. She used to visit him at home but now conducts her sessions at Gorton House, where she is able to teach staff techniques they too can use to help Harry strengthen his muscles and improve his mobility.
Harry’s father, Andy Davenport, says the service has been ‘life-changing’ for Harry and his family, with its delivery of early childhood education, early intervention and specialist health services. When Harry was just nine months old, Andy and his wife Emma, were told by doctors that he was mostly likely braindamaged and vision-impaired, but to date he still has no official diagnosis. ‘My wife was due to go back to work and the centre where Harry was waitlisted and where my older son, Oliver, went, reneged and said they could no longer take him. ‘We didn’t know how we were going to cope. Lynn Farrell heard our story and said we were welcome at The Infants’ Home—that was three years ago! ‘Prior to this, we had to go externally for Harry’s therapy and my wife spent a lot of time crisscrossing Sydney to attend various appointments. ‘At The Infants’ Home they give Harry a better standard of care than I ever could at home and he is absolutely thriving.’ An integrated hub Gorton House is a purpose-built education and care service located within the sprawling leafy grounds of The Infants’ Home. It opened its newlyrenovated doors in July 2013 and is the Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 23
first stage of The Infants’ Home plans to build a 240-place integrated early education and care centre. Gorton House is one of five licensed education and care services at the Ashfield site designed to meet the complex needs of families in Sydney’s inner-west. Each education and care service has a 30 per cent intake for children with vulnerabilities or additional needs. As well as early learning and care services, it also offers family day care, play groups, post-natal support, parent education and family support as well as health clinics and access to an on-site speech therapist, occupational therapist and GP for immunisations, eye tests and general consultations. The Infants’ Home is recognised as a pioneer in its integrated service model, working collaboratively with professionals from diverse disciplines to facilitate the inclusion of children with additional needs into mainstream services. Sharing the story of integration During my visit to Gorton House, I soon see that Harry’s hearing is unaffected 24 | Rattler 108 Summer 2013
and I watch him respond beautifully to the music and images on Jody the physiotherapist’s iPhone. ‘His visual attention has gone from a few seconds (focussing on the iPhone) to half a minute,’ she enthuses. Despite his lack of vision, Harry also responds to the sound of planes as they fly overhead and to the children as they brush past, touch him or hand him toys. ‘Children are naturally inclusive,’ says Lynn Farrell, the Integrated Services Manager at The Infants’ Home. ‘Harry is an amazing child. You quickly see the child beyond the disability. He’s not treated differently in terms of relationships. He is valued for the unique person that he is, as is every other child here at The Infants’ Home. ‘Once you get to know Harry you are able to read his signs. He doesn’t have any verbal language but he can certainly communicate his needs. ‘It is difficult for mum and dad because Harry doesn’t have an official diagnosis,’ Ms Farrell says. ‘There is nothing specific for them to hold onto, which makes it so hard for them, as they don’t know what the future holds.
‘And Harry doesn’t have the skills to tell us what’s wrong. There are days when he cries a lot but we don’t know if he is pain or just emotionally distressed. ‘That can be difficult for staff at times,’ she concedes, but Ms Farrell says staff at The Infants’ Home are particularly passionate about working with children with additional needs. ‘Harry’s teacher Melissa recently sent a beautiful email celebrating the fact that he stood up by himself! We are all linked in to those successes and milestones. It validates the work staff do and there is true excitement when there is success.’ Harry has low muscle-tone but has specialised equipment, including a wheel chair and a walking frame, which means he is not excluded from activities. ‘Harry’s chair and walker are designed so he can move about the room and sit at a table and sing a song, hear a story or have a meal with other children. It’s not a chair that excludes him or makes him different from the rest of the group. The concept of inclusion is apparent in the design of this new space. Blessed with abundant natural light, Gorton House has high ceilings (great acoustics
for children with cochlear implants) and there are low-chairs (not high chairs) so children in wheelchairs can sit at the same level as other children. There are also hydraulic nappy change benches so staff don’t injure their backs as well as special markings on the floors for children with visual impairments. There is an intake process, explains Ms Farrell, who says she and the early childhood nurse meet families, assess the child’s needs and the organisation’s capacity to provide an inclusive environment. ‘The medical staff and other professionals on-site all share knowledge and skills. The speech therapist, for example, might notice Harry is doing a lot of babbling so she will sit down with his educators and work out a plan to help him to increase that vocalisation.’ However, inclusion is not only about access to resources, it is also about the attitudes of staff, Ms Farrell says. ‘It’s around seeing and valuing each and every child. ‘For some children who have profound disabilities there is an aspect of offering respite for their families and with that comes our own values around inclusion,
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‘Harry’s teacher Melissa recently sent a beautiful email celebrating the fact that he stood up by himself! We are all linked in to those successes and milestones. It validates the work staff do and there is true excitement when there is success.’
social justice and children’s rights.’ Feedback from parents, especially those who have a child with a disability, strongly supports an integrated model. Ms Farrell also believes early childhood educators everywhere play a key role in recognising the need for early intervention. ‘Educators spend hours and hours with children and understand where they should be in terms of their development. They often see things a family mightn’t necessarily notice in day-to-day living.’ For this reason she says it is important to keep qualified teachers and highly experienced staff who see their role as a profession and are able to make those kind of judgements calls. ‘You have a different set of lenses if you see this as your career and your professional role. You are much more invested in children and children’s services, ‘ she says. ‘I explained to a parent recently that we believe early childhood education is a children’s rights and social justice issue and not simply a woman’s workforce participation issue.’ At an integrated service, it is clearly much, much more! ★
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In the past, Rattler has turned the spotlight on the theoretical background that supports each Quality Area of the National Quality Standard (NQS). In the next few editions, in a series of inspiring case studies we will turn the spotlight on several standout services that have transformed practice at a centre level by focusing on one particular Quality Area. Staffing arrangements, including improved staff-to-child ratios What is the Quality Area? 4.1 Staffing arrangements enhance children’s learning and development and ensure their safety and wellbeing. 4.1.1 Educator-to-child ratios and qualifications are maintained at all times.
case study: 4
staffing Gowrie SA has implemented an integrated infant-toddler program resulting in deeper and more meaningful relationships with children and families. It has also resulted in higher job satisfaction and lower educator turnover with no attrition in the two years since its introduction. Lynne Rutherford, Children’s Program Leader, shares the journey.
26 | Rattler 108 Summer 2013
4.2 Educators, co-ordinators and staff members are respectful and ethical. 4.2.1 Professional standards guide practice, interactions and relationships. 4.2.2 Educator, co-ordinators and staff members work collaboratively and affirm, challenge, support and learn from each other to further develop their skills, to improve practice and relationships. 4.2.3 Interactions convey mutual respect, equity and recognition of each other’s strengths and skills.
n 2009, we began a learning journey with our families, staff and children. We asked the questions: Why do we keep moving children under three years of age from one group up to the next? Was this good for children and families? Was this high quality? Were the numbers of children in our two toddler rooms too high? Were we interrupting children’s relationships and learning each time they transitioned to another room? Most importantly, we asked ourselves what improvements we could make. Our philosophy and practice are based on the importance of relationships using attachment theory and a model of primary care giving. As a group we had reviewed our philosophy and our image of the child. As part of this journey we looked more deeply at the transitions from one room to the next that small children (under three years) were going through. We noted that children were moving to a new room sometimes after only six to nine months. This meant they transitioned from babies to younger toddlers, then to older toddlers, and then to kindy, with some children experiencing up to three transitions (four if you count the initial transition into the centre). We were also concerned that the toddler rooms were overly busy and at times challenging, no matter how well staff were emotionally available and responsive to the children. What impact was this having on staff and staffing arrangements? We wondered whether same-age groups of children were actually supportive of their learning and development. We looked at the impact of transitions on relationship and
educational aspects of our programs for children and our collaboration with families, as well as the impact on our educators. We realised that managing transitions was time consuming and stressful for everyone! Getting started Gowrie SA comprises two education and care centres in different inner suburban locations, offering long day care and kindergarten programs for approximately 400 children, ranging in age from three months to six years. The Thebarton site has six children’s rooms, 110 children attending each day, and 27 educators, administration and support staff. The Underdale site has three children’s rooms, 50 children attending each day, and 12 educators, administration and support staff. Prior to January 2011, our rooms were organised according to children’s age (see Table 1, below).
Based on an initial idea from our CEO, Kaye Colmer, we started investigating the idea of integrated programs. We looked at the literature around placing children in same age groups and multi-age groups and visited another program using multi-age groupings. We thought that mixed age groupings may be beneficial for both reducing transitions and supporting the development of deeper and longerlasting relationships. Through the year we consulted with our educators and families. This included sending out surveys, holding focus groups and information evenings, inviting questions, considering challenges, and identifying opportunities if we were to change to integrated infant–toddler groupings. Our Board members were involved in the decision-making process and our chairperson, Victoria Whitington, collaborated with us throughout the consultation process.
Table 1 Total number of children: Thebarton site
3–18 month age group (x 1 group)
18–30 month age group (x 1 group)
30–42 month age group (x 1 group)
3.5 years – school age group (x 2 groups)
12 children per day per group
16 children per day per group
20 children per day
28 children per group
Educators per group
Total number of children – Underdale site
3–24 month old age group (x 1 group)
24 to 42 month old age group (x 1 group)
3.5 years to school age group (x 2 groups)
11 children per day per group
14 children per day per group
25 children per day
Educators per group
3 Rattler 108 Summer 2013 | 27
Table 2 Total number of children 3–38 month old age – both sites group (x 6 groups)
3 years to school age group (x 3 groups)
12–13 children per day per group
25–28 children per day
Educators per group
After this 18-month consultation process we concluded that changing to integrated infant-toddler groupings was in the best interests of children, families and notably educators. From January 2011, our rooms are now organised as integrated groupings (see Table 2, above). Children now remain in the same room, in small groups for up to three years with the same educators
The literature suggests:
v The principal elements that consistently produce positive outcomes from (ECEC) programs are highly-skilled staff, small group sizes and warm, responsive interactions between staff and children. v Children’s early relationships are the foundation for their social/emotional competence and knowledge construction; v The quality of care for children birth–3 is particularly important because of the sensitivity of brain development during this period. v For children aged between one and three years, a key aspect of the attachment relationship is physical proximity. v School programs that group older children with younger ones have been shown to have improved levels of educational dimensions in the programs. v Making time for regular face-to-face conversations and ensuring that each partner (educator and family member) ‘makes an equal but distinct contribution’ is essential to good communication.
Why staff benefit
Together with Ms Whitington Gowrie SA chairperson (also program director and senior lecturer, Bachelor of Early Childhood Education, University of South Australia) we conducted an initial evaluation of the integrated infant-toddler program. We found: v educators developing deeper and more meaningful relationships with children and families v educators getting to know children and their individual context better, thus providing richer documentation of learning v younger children watching older peers and hearing more advanced language and vocabulary being used v older children learning to be kind and gentle to younger children (stroking their faces and bringing toys closer to them) thus developing crucial social skills v less competition for resources and less frustration than when children of similar ages and developmental stages were together, with fewer accidents between children v educators spending less time managing transitions and more time working directly with children and families in extending children’s learning opportunities and creating a welcoming environment v families and educators spending more time talking together at drop-off and pick-up times 28 | Rattler 108 Summer 2013
v siblings or cousins enrolled in the same room v rooms which look and feel calm and purposeful. Our educators have been strongly involved in this major change. They participated throughout the consultation process, and as result have felt their voices have been heard and it has brought them closer together in their working relationships. A major impact of the change to integrated programs has been educator turnover has reduced, with no attrition in two years in the integrated infant-toddler programs. This suggests (and is voiced by educators) that job satisfaction is high. Below is a summary of the activities we undertook to support this major decision and change process. It was very important that we maintained the involvement of educators and families throughout. Of course, not everyone chose to be engaged, but offering multiple ways to express thoughts and opinions, as well as opportunities to contribute to solutions, meant that many voices were heard throughout the process.
Summary of the 18-month process:
v formation of an initial staff interest group to explore the idea v staff meeting discussion—opportunities and challenges canvassed v early costings done to ensure this change would be viable v questions, questions and more questions were posed v board consulted v initial information sent to families, and frequently asked questions (FAQ) document distributed to staff and families; v survey for families and staff distributed v survey results collated and distributed to families and staff v literature findings distributed to staff and families v study tour organised for staff to visit Gowrie Victoria birth-to-three programs v study tour information and photos collated; v focus group/information nights organised, including guest speakers and slide show of Gowrie Victoria visit v more FAQ documents were distributed v another information and consultation evening was organised v official confirmation of move to integrated infant-toddler programs v update newsletters distributed every couple of months to families and staff and also to families on the waiting list v continuing discussions with families and staff—answering questions, listening to concerns v gradual widening of the age range in each room v sharing equipment and resources between rooms and purchasing more as required v educator visits to view program and planning for children in other rooms (for example, if an educator was working in the infant room, they visited rooms set up for older toddlers) v enrolling siblings in the same room (per requests).
Parents and educators provide valuable perspectives regarding programs in early years settings. It is important that families and educators continue to be involved and heard after the change. These discussions assist us to identify the challenges and opportunities as well as to continue the dialogue arising from the change in age groupings. These discussions also showed that the majority of parents and educators see the benefits in keeping children and
‘Staff participated in the consultation process, and felt their voices have been heard. It has brought them closer together within their working relationships.’ educators together for the first three years, particularly for the development of relationships between children and educators, and families and educators. One of the difficulties in early childhood contexts is that due to the busy and constant nature of the work, there is often little time in which to consider and make well-informed decisions. In such instances, the meta-cognitive process whereby one becomes aware of a problem, tries to understand it, make a decision and enact it, then considers the result can be curtailed. Our consultation process was long enough to allow sufficient time for all of us to explore this change together and in detail. This was done through the forums, asking questions and seeking feedback. It was really important that we prepared for change and involved everyone in the process. The success of the change depended on everyone working together, contributing their thoughts and asking questions. A key element when working with our educators was to give them opportunities not only to share their concerns and potential problems but also to give them opportunities to help each other resolve these. This process helped create a stronger network within our organisation and gave everyone a voice.
v We will continue to observe and learn together, providing opportunities for staff and families to discuss and question our programs. v We will continue to deepen our pedagogical understandings about children’s learning and planning for their development and growth. v We will assist educators to provide programs that meet the needs and interests of individual children. v We will work to deepen our knowledge of children’s learning so that we can safely challenge and extend the learning of a nine-month-old and a two-and-a-half-year old at the same time and within the same space. v We will use our relationships with children and families to create mutually responsive environments. v We will continue to be excited about changes that improve our programs and the new learning that comes from this. ★
Lynne Rutherford has been Children’s Program Leader at Gowrie SA, Thebarton since May 2006. She has also worked in Team Leader and Director roles in not-for-profit services. Lynne has been active in the early childhood sector during her 23-year career, earning the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Barbara Creaser Young Advocates Award in 2005. Lynne has a Bachelor Degree in Early Childhood Education, a Graduate Certificate in Education (Early Childhood Leadership), and is completing a Master of Education (Leadership).
For a full list of references, see: ccccnsw.org.au/rattlerresources
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book worm In Rattler’s literary roundup, Ingrid Maack and Leanne Gibbs preview what’s new on the shelves… It’s Up to Us card set
Ninu Last Journey: A story from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands
Authors and illustrators: Tjirrkarli community members Published by Indij Readers RRP: $15.00 (50% off during November) This story takes place in the centre of Australia in the Gibson Desert—a harsh yet beautiful place of red sand, mulga, spinifex, sand hills and dry salty lakes. It tells the tale of Marrura (a bilby) and her baby as she travels across the country while pregnant. It tells us about the creation of the land and the water ways that still travel across the desert landscape today. There is an audio CD (sold separately) to accompany Ninu Last Journey, which is read in Ngaanyatjarra language. There is also a map in the book showing the exact location of the Tjirrakarli community as well as photos of the traditional owners and illustrators of this story. Interestingly, since Aboriginal knowledge was originally an oral tradition there can be varying interpretations of the Dreaming stories. As Tjirrrkarli community elder Andrew Watson writes: ‘That story there been passed on by my family and I’m lucky that I am alive to put it down into a book. I’ll pass it on to kids in the cities so when they pick up the book they can know what life is like in the Western Desert.’ Dreaming symbolism abounds in this reader, and it is a great introduction to indigenous storytelling. What an honour to share this Dreaming story, which has been passed from generation to generation. Order from: www.indijreaders.com.au
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Yes I Can!
Written by Alisha Borthwick, illustrated by Felicity Johnston Published by Xlibris RRP: $25.00 Any educator will tell you that children love to draw pictures of their families. Author, Alisha Borthwick, knew this when she first wrote Yes I Can! while studying early childhood education as part of her HSC. And it was the inspiration for this picture book that celebrates difference and acknowledges that modern families come in all shapes and sizes. ‘“You can’t have two mummies!” and I said, “Yes I can”!’ is the oft-repeated line in this book that promotes family diversity through a child’s eye. In simple sing-song language, Yes I Can shares examples of disability, same-sex families, intergenerational families, sole parents, pregnancy, divorce and death. It is beautifully illustrated by a child and there is even a page reserved at the end for children to draw their own family! Alisha is now 20 and works full-time in a council-run service in Sydney. She has had the book distributed to Blacktown and Wyong Council early childhood services and libraries. Order a copy for your service for $35 plus delivery from Xlibris (www.xlibris. com.au). Wouldn’t it be great to see this book in every community-based service in NSW and beyond?
Created by William De Jean RRP: $35.00 In our delivery of professional development we are always looking out for resources to facilitate conversations and progress thinking. William De Jean’s cards do that and more. The card set contains 31 cards with questions around Community, Identity and Collaboration and, as William points out, ‘these themes are essential for individuals and groups to consider and discuss in order to navigate change together, while striving to improve their organisation’s focus and success’. Our use of the cards at Community Child Care (NSW) has been wide-ranging. In some professional development settings, I have used these to promote group dynamics or to facilitate reflection on work that has been done well together. It may be a bridge between more formal instruction and a tool to promote deeper thinking on an issue. The themes of the cards coalesce with the characteristics and complexities of the education and care sector and can assist in developing understandings and commitment on the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standards and Framework. William’s suggestions for ways to use the cards include: v At the start of a meeting v To begin a dialogue v Within a professional retreat v As individual and group reflection v To strengthen collaborations v Within a classroom v During times of change. To find our more or to place an order for the cards go to: http://williamdejean. com/index.php/products-topmenus-52 (Review of Card Set by Leanne Gibbs, CEO Community Child Care (NSW)). ★
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©2013 Deborah Kelly
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©2013 Deborah Kelly
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Join Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW) in a creative celebration of quality early childhood education and care. This beautiful poster set features three original artworks commissioned by Community Child Care (NSW) from artist Deborah Kelly to explore the metaphors and possibilities of Being, Belonging and Becoming.
©2013 Deborah Kelly
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For more information, call us on 8922 6444 or see: www.ccccnsw.org.au Like us! www.facebook.com/ccccnsw
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Each poster is 420 x 550mm, presented on high quality matte paper in full colour, ready to frame or pin up at your service. Available for only $25 (plus $7.95 postage) for the set of three. Purchase at www.ccccnsw.org.au/shop
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