Early Years Journal
Volume 2 Number 4 | 2013–2014 Australian Childcare Alliance
R e p r e s e n t i n g t h e f u t u r e o f A u s t r a l i a ’s c h i l d r e n
THE EDUCATIONAL LEADER: capturing the extraordinary
The easy child
They need your attention too!
Improve your service’s financial viability
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President’s report We welcome the Hon. Sussan Ley, Assistant Minister for Education to the Federal Government. Ms Ley has constantly engaged with the sector over the past three years, and has a sound understanding of the strengths and challenges that educators, approved providers and families are experiencing.
e look forward to working closely with the Assistant Minister and her team over the next three years to ensure that affordability and accessibility for families is addressed, and that the sector has a settling period, allowing educators to have time to enjoy their chosen profession and be returned to more time with the children rather than being constantly challenged by paperwork. The work of the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) has increased exponentially throughout this year. It was a year when we continued the implementation of the National Quality Framework (NQF); 20 per cent of the sector experienced their first assessment and rating visit under the new National Quality Standard; and, the division and conflict caused by the announcement of the Early Years Quality Fund. It is interesting to note that if 20 per cent of the sector has been assessed through the assessment and rating process in the first year, it will take five years to complete one visit for all services. Already, we have the first tranche of services that achieved a ‘Working Towards’ rating, and are due for their second assessment. A more streamlined assessment and rating process must be considered if the system is going to be successful. The ACA is assembling a submission on the assessment and rating process, and any information that you can provide regarding your experiences, such as positive or negative feedback, or advice on areas that you believe need adjustment, will significantly assist us in ensuring that we are accurately representing the sector’s views. We have just completed our submission on red tape points identified throughout the states and territories. Hopefully, we will have an impact on government and bring about a more efficient approach that will alleviate some of the paper workload that we are all buckling under at the present time. I see many Facebook pages and blogs with
comments from educators across the nation, and ‘pressure from paperwork’ appears to be the most common thread. The ACA has been accused of not supporting the NQF in the past. This is not so. Unlike many other sector representatives, the ACA committee, are hands-on practitioners, and experience the impact of the workload personally and see the effect on our educators. Those who have been through the assessment and rating process agree that the Early Years Learning Framework does promote and assist educators to ensure that children have every opportunity to achieve high-quality outcomes, but this, combined with the huge volume of paperwork required though the NQF, has tipped the balance in the wrong direction for most. The ACA is confident that several of the major imposts that we have raised continually over the past year in the NQF are being addressed with a view to change. Given that the regulations are embedded in legislation, it is not always easy to affect a change as the laws were passed through each jurisdiction – not one National Law. Assistant Minister Ley is visiting all state and territory ministers to discuss the impact of the NQF on the sector. Some of the points the ACA has documented in our red tape submission are: • certified supervisors • administrative burden • a new entrant to the sector having to be studying prior to employment from 1 January 2014 • inconsistencies within and across jurisdictions • criminal history checks do not apply nationally – a new check is necessary when crossing state/ territory borders
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 1
• waivers – we predict they will create the same backlog debacle and waste of money as certified supervisor certificates did if leeway is not granted on the pertinent regulations requiring waivers • the requirement of early childhood teachers by 1 January 2014 is an example of the waiver problem. There will be more issues raised in the submission. Members will be able to view the submission through their ACA state association. The Early Years Quality Fund is currently under review, and I have been interviewed by PwC Australia, the body conducting this review. We would also be interested to hear your suggestions about using the fund to benefit all educators instead of 27 per cent of the sector. The Equal Remuneration Order has been issued and the case is progressing through the Fair Work Commission. We estimate that this case will take between one to two years to attain an outcome.
As we head towards the end of the year, take time to enjoy the children in your care, celebrate with those going off to ‘big school’, celebrate with your colleagues, reflect on the year that has been; most often, it doesn’t seem as challenging as we felt when we were living through it. You are achievers and the ACA committee says thank you to each and every educator. Have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season. Gwynn Bridge President, Australian Childcare Alliance Email: President@australianchildcarealliance.org.au
Australian Childcare Alliance
Funding for training available now! Make sure your educators are qualified to meet the new regulations coming into force in January 2014. • DEEWR is currently offering a funding contribution of $1,500 towards RPL Workplace Assessment costs. • Existing Worker Certificate III traineeships are now fully funded with no cost to employers or students. Existing worker Diploma traineeship funding available. • New entrant Certificate III and Diploma traineeships funding available. ECTARC early childhood qualification traineeships (NSW & QLD), RPL Assessments and distance study programs can commence at any time of year. For all your early childhood training needs visit www.ectarc.com.au or call NSW 02 4223 1111 or QLD 07 3345 8272. 317886A_ECTARC | 1866.indd 1
2 • BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 3 • 2013
The early childhood training specialists ECTARC celebrating 15 years in 2013!
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contents General news
New site is a gift for services 23
President’s report 1
A new online portal will help educators stimulate the needs of gifted children.
State round-up 4 An app a day… 9
Nutrition + menu planning
New Productivity Commission Inquiry 10
Find your SNAC(k) online 26
An Inquiry will review the affordability, flexibity and accessibility of Australian childcare.
An online research project aims to bring educators together to promote healthy eating.
Industry unites at two-day event 11 A sold-out conference augured a successful industry event.
Education + training
Occupational health + safety Cytomegalovirus (CMV)in early childhood services 2 7
The easy child 13
Exposure to a viral infection common in childcare could cause harm to unborn babies.
How can educators focus on the obliging, quiet children?
Child health + safety
News bites 15 The educational leader 18 How educational leaders can improve their abilities, and that of their team’s.
Educational resources, programs + planning
Identifying hearing loss in children 29 Identifying signs of hearing loss is a crucial part of working in childcare.
Finance, business + property Feeling successful 31
A new way to play 21
Baby steps on the road to success.
A three-year study has shown that some unusual materials can trigger more imaginative play.
et inspired to take control of your finances G – and your future! 34 How well do you know your finances?
New changes to Fair Work Act 37 Employers must understand the impact of the Fair Work Amendment Act.
The Businessand andProperty Property The Finance, Finance, Business section on page section page00 33 brought brought to to you you by by
Six steps to financial viability 42 Improve your centre’s viability.
Play areas + sustainable practice ll Star Early Learners tap A out an award 47
Powered by kidsoft
The benchmark in childcare management. FFA231
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The centre that won a national sustainability award shares its inspiration.
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Editor: Megan McGay
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BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 3
n the last edition, we advised you of our upcoming Early Years Conference and Exhibition at the Melbourne Showgrounds. We held it on 25 and 26 October, with Melbourne turning on its usual spring weather – a real mix of rain, sun, wind and calm. Interstate delegates were caught out by the chill and boosted Melbourne’s coffers by buying winter coats. We apologise for the weather and will aim to do better next year! Luckily, the atmosphere inside the Expo Hall was more settled, and delegates were able to enjoy a wide range of speakers and exhibits over the two days. The conference was opened by the Hon. Wendy Lovell MLC Victorian Minister for Children and Early
Frank Cusmano introducing the conference
Childhood Development, with a keynote address by the Hon. Sussan Ley MP, the newly appointed Assistant Minister for Education with special responsibility for childcare and early education. A long lunch break gave attendees time to visit and chat with the exhibitors. Thereafter, delegates separated for breakout sessions on topics as diverse as assessment, risk management, child protection and change management before coming together for a final and most interesting and entertaining session at ‘death o’clock’ by Rod Soper of Semann Slattery and Associates Pty Ltd.
Annette Sax, Yarn Strong Sista calling
Saturday started on a high note with a most engaging and inspiring presentation by Julie Cross entitled, ‘It’s all about you – Your Sparkle’. Delegates then chose from a variety of workshops covering topics such as Indigenous perspectives, natural play spaces, sustainability, promoting positive behaviour, Austism Spectrum Disorder and believing in yourself as an early childhood professional. Overall, the event was a great success and Child Care Centres Association of Victoria is already looking forward to planning for next year’s event. We would like to thank our major sponsor Guild, our sponsors Modern Teaching Aids, ANZ, HESTA and Child Care Super, and our media partners Belonging and CareforKids, who helped promote the event. We hope to see you all there next year.
Frank Cusmano Chief Executive Officer Child Care Centres Association of Victoria, Inc Speaker Julie Cross and Paul Mondo from Child Care Centres Association of Victoria
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Suite 6, 539 Highett Road, Highett VIC 3190 T: (03) 9532 2017 | F: (03) 9532 3336 E: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.cccav.org.au
Child Care New South Wales has a new president, after north-west Sydney-based long day care service operator Nesha O’Neil was elected unopposed at our annual general meeting in September 2013. As the mother of two young children and the operator of two long day care services in Top Ryde and Norwest, Nesha knows firsthand how vital our industry is in establishing the strongest foundations for a lifetime love of learning, as well as stimulating the national economy through increased workforce participation. Nesha and the entire Child Care New South Wales team have acknowledged the extraordinary role our outgoing President Vicki Skoulogenis played in building relationships with all levels of government and establishing Child Care New South Wales as a professional, policy-driven peak body and lobby group. We are grateful to have her continue on as an executive committee member. We have warmly welcomed the appointment of the Hon. Sussan Ley MP as the new Federal Assistant Minister for Education, following the recent federal election. We congratulate the Abbott Government on the Coalition’s Policy for Better Child Care and Early Learning. It is a credit to the policy, advocacy and lobbying effort of our national body, the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA), and all state/territory member associations that there is such a fantastic opportunity for positive change in our sector without compromising our unwavering support for quality, affordable and accessible early childhood education and care. We will continue to work closely with the ACA as we work with the new Federal Government on the Productivity Commission Inquiry into childcare, red tape reduction, review of the Early Years Quality Fund, and develop ways to improve implementation of the National Quality Framework. At a state level, we are assisting members as they prepare for the new vaccination requirements for enrolling children at early childhood education and care services, which take effect 1 January 2014. We have worked hard to ensure that the new requirements are as practical as possible for educators and parents alike.
We have also been liaising with the New South Wales Government on the preschool funding reforms arising from the Brennan Review – ‘Professor Deborah Brennan’s Review of New South Wales Government Funding for Early Childhood Education’ – which Nesha O’Neil recommended a new funding system for early childhood education to achieve the goal of affordable, universal access. The government has supported Professor Brennan’s recommended funding focus on children in their year before school, as well as ‘disadvantaged’ three-year-old children. We are also working closely with the state government as they trial the introduction of a voluntary Transition to School Statement, aimed at children transitioning from early childhood education and care services to school. With so much happening at a state and federal level, please be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (@childcarensw). Social media has become a primary communication tool to update members and industry stakeholders on key announcements and important activities in our industry, such as our exciting new partnership with Cancer Council New South Wales to actively promote and increase participation in the SunSmart Childcare Program. As you may have seen on our Facebook page, it was an absolute delight to see so many of our members not only participating in, but also achieving awards as part of Australian Child Care Week 2013. New South Wales services were involved in 1889 of the 2803 Australian Child Care Week activities this year – a massive effort. Our thanks to Precedent Productions for their professional and enthusiastic approach to what is a highlight of the early childhood education BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 5
and care calendar, as well as the generous Australian Child Care Week 2013 sponsors, Child Care Super, Guild Insurance, Guardian Early Learning Group, Child Care Concepts, Rise Education and Training, Torstar Education Supplies, Backyard in a Box, and Ezidebit. As the year draws to a close, we are busy finalising our 2014 training calendar, as well the program for our 2014 Early Years Conference and Expo, which will be held at Rosehill Gardens 15–16 March 2014. We hope to see you there!
Brianna Casey Executive Officer Child Care New South Wales PO Box 660, Parramatta NSW 2124 T: 1300 556 330 F: 1300 557 228 E: email@example.com www.childcarensw.com.au
@ChildCareNSW Child Care New South Wales
Thank you to all members for your support throughout the year. We trust you will have a relaxing and refreshing break over the Christmas period, and we look forward to working with you in 2014.
We regularly witness the tremendous quality of education and care that our members deliver. We believe that this will not be the only ‘Excellent’ our members can achieve in coming months.
The Childcare Queensland Management Committee would like to extend a warm welcome to the 34 long day care services that have joined us, and therefore the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) family since April 2013. We celebrated Early Childhood Educators Day on 4 September 2013, and it was touching to see so many examples of educators celebrating their contribution to our community. We would love to see Early Childhood Educators Day spread Australia-wide on the first Wednesday of September in 2014. Have a look at the Childcare Queensland website for ideas on how to celebrate this day in your centre, and let our office know if you wish to join in and celebrate the wonderful work that all educators do in the sector. It was our pleasure to welcome newly appointed Assistant Minister for Education, the Hon. Sussan Ley MP, to the Childcare Queensland and ACA national conference on 21 September 2013. Thank you to all delegates who again made the conference an exceptional learning experience. Childcare Queensland applauds all of our sponsors, exhibitors and speakers for their contribution throughout the weekend. We would like to acknowledge our member, Karana Early Education Centre, and all of their educators on being awarded ‘Excellent’ under the National Quality Framework Assessment and Rating system.
6 • BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 3 • 2013
It was pleasing to see more than 360 attendees at member meetings and ‘Staying Healthy’ breakfasts during August and September 2013. The major theme of the ‘Staying Healthy in Childcare’ session was about educators understanding both the ‘what’, and also the ‘how’ and ‘why’ they do the things that they do, and what outcomes they achieve for children as a result. It was also important to hear and understand the state regulatory speaker’s viewpoint on the implementation expectations of the Staying Healthy: preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services, fifth edition 2012. These sessions provide excellent networking opportunities for approved providers and nominated supervisors, and members have reported benefiting from sharing their experiences and solutions.
to our stable of resources for members to access. The ACA is offering online sustainability training through Small Green Steps. This remains a challenging area for many services as assessment and rating data shows weaknesses in quality standard 3.3. This training can be accessed by contacting any ACA state association.
The final set of member meetings for 2013 will start on 11 November in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Cairns and Townsville. Other regional members will be able to access the meeting through a webinar. Childcare Queensland is continuing to expand our package of member benefits, so we are excited about the additional training now available via In Safe Hands. Behaviour guidance and nutrition are two important areas for all educators that we are adding
The second Kindergarten Advisory Support Service (KASS) workshop series is underway, focusing on programming and documentation. This series is getting rave reviews, and we thank our facilitator Pam Maclean and our presenters Vanessa Burkhardt and Susanne Eadie. By the time we conclude the series, more than 500 teachers and educators will have gathered to consider the way they program and document in early childhood. On behalf of the Committee, we wish you well for the remainder of 2013.
James Blake General Manager Childcare Queensland PO Box 137, Springwood QLD 4127 T: 1300 365 325 (if outside Brisbane) T: (07) 3808 2366
domestic product (GDP) in Australia. The Senator presented an outline of a compelling report from the greatly respected Grattan Institute, supporting the case for improving childcare affordability and minimising effective marginal taxation as a huge contributor to GDP.
The AGM, Senator Nick Xenophon and the Grattan Institute Report Childcare South Australia held its annual general meeting and annual dinner in October. The previous executive members were re-elected for another term of office. Guild Insurance sponsored the dinner and again demonstrated its close links and support for Childcare South Australia and the Australian Childcare Alliance. Senator Nick Xenophon was our guest speaker at the dinner. Senator Xenophon, standing as an independent, received an astonishing 25.8 per cent of the South Australian Senate votes at the September federal election. Senator Xenophon is a strong supporter of affordability in childcare as a key element in boosting the opportunity for females to participate in the workforce and contribute to the growth of gross
The Grattan report draws on the positive Canadian experience. The Canadian Government set out to reduce the disincentives for women to work with tax cuts and improved subsidisation of childcare. Childcare costs as a consequence have fallen to as little as five dollars a day. As an outcome, female participation grew rapidly in Canada and is well ahead of Australia. Female workforce participation (aged 25–54) rose from 53.1 per cent in 1976 to 82 per cent in 2012. In this age group, over 80 per cent of female workers are employed full-time. In 2009, 64 per cent of mothers with children under three did some paid work. Contrast this with the current experience for females in Australia, which Senator Xenophon summarised as follows: • The number of women in the Australian workforce is far behind other Organisation for Economic Co-
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 7
operation and Development (OECD) countries. • Only 67 per cent of women aged 15–64 are currently in paid work, compared with 78 per cent of men. • Some 55 per cent of employed women work fulltime compared with 85 per cent of employed men working full-time, with the remainder of women working part-time. • The average superannuation payout for women is only one-third of the average payout to men, and half of all women aged 45 to 59 have $8000 or less in their superannuation funds, compared to $31,000 for men. • The Grattan Institute indicated that Australia needs only to boost its workforce participation levels for women to the same level as Canada – by six per cent – to increase the national GDP by $25 billion. Food for thought! Thank you Senator Xenophon for bringing this report to our attention.
New optimism for the future of childcare Childcare South Australia believes that the change in government will provide new vital opportunities for assessment of the impact of increasing costs of childcare for families. The National Quality Framework is proving itself to be a major driver of costs – outstripping the financial capacity of parents. This needs to be re-evaluated by the Coalition together with the divisive and inequitable Early Years Quality Fund. Unfunded reforms that families cannot afford will result in empty childcare centres, and are counterproductive for all concerned.
The Executive, Childcare South Australia PO Box 406 Hindmarsh, SA 5007 T: 0407 580 645 E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.childcaresa.com.au
All services will also have to ensure that new staff will be signed up to a minimum certificate III level education and care qualification before commencing work. Childcare Association of Western Australia (CAWA) has been working hard with local government to have an amendment to the regulations that will give services and potential staff a three-month grace period before a new staff member has to be signed up. This is just one of many amendments that we are working on, and we need your voice to make them a reality. It’s hard to believe, but another year has almost gone. It has been a year full of many challenges, with the Early Years Quality Fund and the National Regulations and Law. January 2014 is almost upon us, and 1 January is when we will be faced with an issue that challenges us all – staffing. All services are required to have 50 per cent diploma-qualified staff and 50 per cent with a minimum of a certificate III, along with an early childhood teacher (ECT). The introduction of the early childhood teacher and the increased qualifications has many challenges, such as: • not enough ECTs to meet the demand • increase in fees due to higher staffing qualifications • lack of suitably qualified staff applying for positions • highly qualified staff feeling disillusioned with so much red tape, and feeling that they are losing valuable time engaging with the children • rural and remote services in particular are already struggling to meet current staffing requirements. 8 • BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 3 • 2013
It is very encouraging to see the current government looking at addressing these issues that not only the services face, but also the families that are finding it hard to meet the increasing costs of highquality care due to increases in fees for services to meet the new requirements. The CAWA committee continues to meet with the heads of the Education and Care Regulatory Unit (ECRU) bimonthly to raise the concerns highlighted by members, such as the assessment and rating process, and the many issues that have risen due to the regulations being interpreted in different ways. CAWA will continue to meet and address these issues until mutual agreement can be reached. We ask for your support through your membership renewal, and we would strongly encourage services that are yet to become members to come on board so that you receive the correct information to assist you with running your service.
An app a day… 2014 Workshops: Maggie Dent CAWA in partnership with Childcare Training and Accreditation Solutions (CTAS) will host two workshops with Maggie Dent in March; CAWA and CTAS members will have the first option to book at a much-reduced price.
Full-day workshop for owners and frontline managers Further details to be advised, potential topics; assessment and rating, educational program and practice, physical environment and sustainability, leadership and team building along with a panel from ECRU for owners/managers to ask questions.
The Allen Adventure
is a free tablet app available from iTunes. The app has been devised by the Queensland Government’s Safe and Supportive School Communities project, as part of three online tools for children to use to support them through bullying. This app can be used for children between the ages of three and eight. Some younger children will need help working out the answers for some questions. The app tells the story of a young alien who arrives in Australia and tries to fit in at the local school. In a format similar to ‘choose-your-ownadventure’ books, children have to help Allen come up with the right responses for his dialogue with the local students.
CAWA Early Education and Care Awards We will once again be looking at hosting the CAWA 2014 Awards. On behalf of the committee and our members, we would like to say thank you and farewell to our retiring committee: President Evan Hicks and committee member Martin Lowell, who have given many years to the association – thank you and all the best for the future! We would like to welcome our new committee for the 2013/2014 year: • President: Lisa Godwin • Vice President: Anne Chemello
has been published by Rogue Mobile for iPads and iPhones. It is a handwriting tool designed for Australian preschool and primary school students for learning upper and lower case English letters as well as numbers. The app has been co-designed by an Australian teacher and includes correct pronunciation of letter sounds. The app is $2.99 and available from iTunes.
Out & About Word Set 1 is a free app devised
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a safe new year, and I look forward to continuing to work with you, and for you, in the months ahead.
by Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment. It is aimed at five- to eight-year-olds to strengthen their memory of Dr Edward Fry’s common sight words. The app is the first set in a series of the top 1000 common sight words. It works by displaying each word and waiting for the child to say it. After the child attempts to read the word, they can click on it to hear if they were correct. This app is available from iTunes for use on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches.
Rachelle Tucker Executive Officer, Childcare Association of WA Inc
Triple Zero Kids’ Challenge has been
• Secretary: Sarah Lovegrove • Treasurer: Allan Mullet • General Committee: Frits Grader, Karen Stackpole, Natalie Green, Fadi Dorkhom and David Lyons • Associate Committee: Coral Callan and Jenni Kenyon
PO Box 196, South Perth WA 6951 T: 1300 062 645 | M: 0433 498 147 E: email@example.com www.childcarewa.com Copyright in the images,‘The Allen Adventure’ and ‘Out & About: Sight Words’ is owned by or licensed to the State of Queensland (acting through the Department of Education, Training and Employment), PO Box 15033 City East QLD 4002 Australia and is reproduced with its permission. No part may be further reproduced in hardcopy form, electronically or by any other process without the express written permission of the Department.
created by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to teach children about appropriate usage of the emergency hotline, 000. The game can be accessed free on iTunes, Google+ and at the following website, www.kids.triplezero.gov.au. Image of ‘Out & About: Sight Words’ created by Tim Welch, Department of Education Training and Employment.
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 9
New Productivity Commission Inquiry BY THE HON. SUSSAN LEY MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EDUCATION
A Productivity Commission Inquiry will review the current model of early childhood education and care.
n September 2013, I had the pleasure of opening the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) and Childcare Queensland’s national conference, ‘Hands up for Wellbeing’. Since then, I have had opportunities to meet and work with ACA’s staff and members. I look forward to ongoing discussions with the sector. When you consider that almost every young child in Australia is likely to attend some form of childcare and early learning before starting school, this sector is critical to the life of every family. The Australian Government wants to deliver a more flexible, accessible and affordable quality childcare system that is capable of responding to the individual needs of families and ensuring that every child has access to high-quality education and care regardless of their circumstances. I believe that we can achieve this without burdensome and unnecessary regulations that can take educators away from what they do best – educating and caring for children.
The Abbott Government has commenced the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Child Care The Hon. Sussan Ley MP and Early Childhood Learning so the industry can be made more flexible, affordable and accessible. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. I encourage you to engage in this process and put forward your views and ideas on what the future of early learning and childcare will look like. The final report will be made before October 2014. The Government supports quality early learning under the National Quality Framework (NQF); however, we remain concerned by reports that its implementation has caused administrative and staffing problems, which are being passed on as cost increases for families. We will work closely with states and territories, and the sector to improve the implementation of the NQF while always ensuring that high-quality childcare and early learning is provided to Australian children. A key priority for implementation of the NQF is to ensure that Australia has a qualified and professional early childhood workforce. I will be looking at how we can support the sector through professional development opportunities, particularly for early childhood teachers and educators in remote and regional areas. I will be taking a deliberate, measured approach in considering the issues that are faced by the childcare and early learning sector, and I will be examining all early childhood workforce initiatives to ensure that they are directed to achieve these outcomes and deliver quality early learning for all children. I appreciate the strong engagement I have received so far, and I’m excited for what we can achieve together for the childcare and early learning sector. For further information, visit: www.education.gov.au.
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Industry unites at two-day event A sold-out conference augured a successful industry event.
he inaugural National Quality Framework Conference, hosted by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) in Sydney on 12–13 September 2013, was a huge success. Over two days, more than 950 delegates from across the nation attended the sold-out conference to hear keynote speeches about strategy, leadership, change management, the National Quality Framework story, and presentations focused on the key themes of quality, consistency and excellence. ACECQA Board Chair Rachel Hunter described the event as a fantastic opportunity for the sector to come together, and said that it was great to hear the stories from across the nation. The diverse range of participants was one of the reasons for the overwhelming success of the conference. There were representatives from every Australian region and state, all bringing together their unique stories of implementing the National Quality Framework (NQF). The conference was opened by the Hon. Adrian Piccoli, New South Wales Education Minister and Chair of the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood. Ms Hunter gave the introductory plenary and asked, ‘What is an ACECQA?’ with help from some children and their imaginations.
Panel members during the Writing Stories for the Future breakout session at the ACECQA Conference. From left to right, Ellen Newman (Hunter Institute of Mental Health), Galina Zenin (Bonkers Beat Music Kinder and Childcare), Lynne Rutherford (Gowrie South Australia) and Stephanie Mostert (Gowrie South Australia.
The conference keynote presentations were widely praised. Social Demographer Mark McCrindle discussed social trends: what the family of the future will look like, how they will behave, and how this will influence the future of children’s education and care. Focusing on research released just prior to the conference, Mr McCrindle shared his insights into the family of the future. With more than 300,000 babies being born each year – more than those born in the original baby boom after World War II – Australia will need huge increases in the importance and availability of children’s education and care in the future. Change Management Specialist Karen Schmidt followed up with an engaging presentation on coping with change. During the last two years, the children’s education and care sector has been adjusting to change with the introduction of the NQF. Ms Schmidt’s philosophy that change equalled growth, and her suggestions for embracing and encouraging change resonated with many in the audience. On day two, ACECQA Chief Executive Officer Karen Curtis opened the day with a reflection on the nature of the NQF story and how it is different for each participant on the journey. The first National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell followed on with the morning’s opening plenary talking about Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – the right to play. Ms Mitchell, Network of Community Activities Chief Executive Officer Robyn Monro Miller, and a guest panel of educators had an interactive question-and-
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 11
answer session with outside school hours children Rocco and Holly about the importance of play, the NQF and outside school hours care services. Holly summed up the importance of quality children’s education and care services beautifully, saying: ‘If The Cottage was on another planet, I would still feel at home.’ Paul Porteous, Director of Leadership Development at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, delivered an energetic presentation on leadership techniques and their relationship with problem-solving. Mr Porteous noted the importance of taking time to adapt to new environments and situations that have never been faced before, and spending time to diagnose and understand difficult situations rather than rushing to action. Khoa Do, filmmaker, teacher and Young Australian of the Year (2005) wrapped up the conference with his inspiring story of overcoming obstacles. Touching on his own story as a refugee, Mr Do discussed how education and life lessons helped him to write his own success story, reinforcing the message that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. Over the two days, conference delegates had the opportunity to attend nine different breakout sessions with the themes of quality, consistency and excellence. These session presentations will be made available online soon. The ACECQA website is also hosting a variety of resources available to those who could not attend and for participants to gain further insight into the NQF story.
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The success of the conference can be attributed to an enormously engaged sector eager to improve the quality of children’s education and care across Australia. The NQF is an important step in the journey to continuous quality improvement. The conference would not have been possible without the generous support of sponsors, particularly platinum sponsor Modern Teaching Aids, and gold sponsors Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and Family Day Care Queensland. ACECQA will embark on a national Excellence Tour in October 2013, and will continue travelling around the country into 2014. The tour will kick off in South Australia, and will proceed to Western Australia. The Excellence Tour will visit towns and cities across the country to talk about the important reforms being implemented in long day care, family day care, preschools, kindergartens and outside school hours services. ACECQA will host seminars for educators and providers, as well as meet with families in each stop along the tour. To register your interest, go to the events page of the ACECQA website (www.acecqa.gov.au/Events). The next National Quality Framework Conference is planned for 2015. Details will be announced via the ACECQA website once planning is well underway. This article was supplied by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority. www.acecqa.gov.au
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The easy child BY KATARZYNA WIECZOREK-GHISSO
How do educators maintain enough focus on obliging and quiet children?
group of inquisitive children are embarking on adventure in the preschool room. Equipped with varied resources, they eagerly engage in play, negotiating their decisions and planning their discoveries. Jeremy observes the frolics from a distance, but remains removed. As they conquer their self-created challenges, he occasionally catches their gaze. Unaffected, he resumes stacking Duplo blocks while humming a tune to himself in the same space where he began play that morning; unfortunately, no-one has really noticed. Time quickly passes and before long, morning play comes to an end and children are hurried to morning tea. Jeremy is last in the rush, obligingly concluding his play and following the other children to the bathroom. This depiction is characteristic of an average morning for Jeremy, who generally keeps to himself. Jeremy is like many children. He is what you would call an ‘easy’ child. He follows instructions, is undisruptive and he participates in tasks when asked. Jeremy is what experts would refer to as ‘introverted’; his behaviour displaying a particular characteristic or temperament. Research in the area of social and emotional development has recently taken centre stage, and is said to significantly influence how we’ve come to understand the social functioning of young children.
Assumed as having both biological and genetic influences, temperament is a general term concerned with the ‘how’ of behaviour. Not said to impact one’s ability, temperament relates to motivation, which influences ‘why’ a person behaves in the way they do. According to Thomas and Chess, temperament is present at birth, and influences how we respond emotionally to people and objects around us. Clinical trials undertaken in 1977 exploring the temperament of children identified nine psychological responses thought to be present at birth, which would strengthen our knowledge about what influences a person’s temperament and, consequently, their behaviour. The work of Thomas and Chess is significant for educators as our improved understanding will better support our interactions with the likes of ‘easy’ children. Temperament characteristics include: • Activity level, which refers to the nature of children’s active involvement in play. • Rhythmicity and regularity, which refers to how unpredictable children are in their daily care routines (sleeping, eating, toileting). • Approach/withdrawal, which refers to how children react/respond to new situations. • Adaptability, which refers to the way in which children adjust to unfamiliar circumstances or persist when faced with difficulty. • Responsiveness, which refers to the amount of stimulation children require to elicit a response, such as humour, fear, surprise, et cetera. BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 13
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• Reaction intensity, which refers to energy levels displayed by children when reacting to stimuli. • Mood quality, which refers to how content children are in their environment. • Distractibility, which refers to children maintaining focus without being diverted from a task. • Persistence and attention span, which refers to the length of time children maintain attention/interest despite interruptions when undertaking a task. Thomas and Chess grouped the above nine temperaments into three classifications – easy children, difficult children and slow-to-warm-up children – to help educators identify better ways to support their learning. Easy children are those exhibiting predictable behaviours, difficult children display varying moods and can be irregular in their care needs, and slow-to-warm-up children can display difficulty adapting and can be withdrawn in new situations. As said previously, Jeremy falls into the ‘easy’ child category. He is predictable in most care routines, ‘goes with the flow’, and, as a result, tends to be overlooked by educators. In contrast to extroverts, the introverted child like Jeremy draws energy from within and therefore needs opportunities to connect with their own feelings in order to maintain equilibrium. The extrovert, however, is energised by chaos, and overt stimulation, and consequently draws more attention. While researchers link temperament to genetic predisposition, environmental factors have been highlighted as contributing, and thus considered equally important. This has significant implications for educators and the manner in which their environment helps children reach their full potential. This notion is inextricably linked to the question of quality, sparking more interest in early childhood than ever before. Coupled with what we now know about early brain development, there is indisputable evidence that higher-quality responsive environments have social and behavioural benefits, which have fuelled the long overdue nationalisation of quality standards in Australia. Thomas and Chess would consider responsive environments as those that are compatible to children’s temperamental characteristics, or what they referred to as ‘goodness of fit’. Taken literally, this model would effectively accommodate the ‘easy’ child’s temperament, and complement their personality and interests. In the absence of consideration of exhibited characteristics, introverted children would simply fall through the cracks. Thankfully, the concept of a responsive environment is now a key
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feature in the National Quality Standard and is specifically embedded in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). The challenge for us is grappling with terminology, and coming to understand how to represent this work at a practical level evidenced in our documentation. The key is strengthening our conceptual understanding of the EYLF and identifying how the ‘easy’ child fits into the scheme of things. Equipped with the strategies listed below, educators can engage in practices that validate children’s different personalities, which will go a long way to validating varying temperamental styles. • Identifying temperaments: taking the time to document the nature of children’s regular interactions will highlight how well the current environment caters for their varying temperaments. • Environmental considerations: play spaces should be open-ended and arranged to complement varying temperaments, especially those more conducive to choice and those offering privacy and solitude.
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• Reflecting on own temperament: thoughtful educators consider the impact of their own personalities and adapt responses to accommodate for varying temperaments in children. Seeking feedback from other educators, while confronting, would offer further insight into their own characteristics, which may hinder the development of close relationships. • Choosing appropriate guidance techniques: guidance techniques do not always take into account varied temperaments, as we typically adopt the same approaches for common behaviours. Adopting guidance strategies in accordance with the previously listed temperament styles would yield more positive results and strengthen relationships. • Collaborating with families: by far the most important strategy is developing reciprocal relationships with families, as this will ensure a deeper understanding of individual temperaments, and support better transitions between home and care environments. The nurturing of a child’s temperament has the potential to positively contribute to their lifelong social functioning. For ‘easy’ children, this is particularly important as they rely on a responsive environment to complement their individual characteristics. As clearly represented in Quality Areas 5 and 6 of the National Quality Standard, educators in Australia are now legally responsible for ensuring that they know their children and their families well. Educators, equipped with a solid understanding of their children, will be able to make informed decisions about the day-to-day learning opportunities that best support each child’s learning dispositions. This, in turn, would make for compatibility between current and prior experiences, and positively impact future development and learning. The above strategies are a good way forward in achieving this result. Katarzyna Wieczorek-Ghisso, B.Teach (EC), B. Ed (EC), M.Ed, is an early childhood specialist and university lecturer. She is the Director of Early Childhood Consultancy Network. www.earlychildhoodconsultancynetwork.com.au
Musical incursion group Mini Maestros has released two music albums for babies and toddlers. The songs have been created with young children in mind, combining common nursery rhymes with other interactive songs. ‘Rock & Rhyme – Music for Babies’ has 41 tracks designed to introduce babies to a variety of musical tempos, styles and instruments. ‘Jiggle and Giggle – Music for Small Toddlers’ promotes language and gross motor skill development through 36 tracks of rhymes and songs. www.minimaestros.com.au ll Toddlers
Music for Sma
This CD contains music used in the Mini Maestros music program for 1 to 2 year olds.
Tracks: 1. Where are your Knees?
19. We Like to Ride the Camel
2. Down by the Station
20. Old King Cole
3. Engine, Engine
21. Johnny Works with One Hammer
4. Boo, Now You See Me!
22. Come Along Children
5. I Have Two Eyes
23. Oh We All Walk Along
6. Higgety Piggety Pop
24. Baby’s Playing Peekaboo
7. I Went to Visit a Farm
25. Jack in the Box
8. All ‘Round the Brickyard
26. There’s a Cobbler
9. The Wheels on the Car
27. Hold Your Hands Up High
10. Bouncing Song
28. Pop, Pop, Pop
11. Shoe the Little Horse
29. This is the Way We Wash
12. Little Red Wagon
30. One, Two, Three, Four, Five
13. This Little Horse
31. Charlie Over the Water
14. Horsey, Horsey
32. Penny on the Water
15. Ride to Bed
33. Round and Round the Garden
16. Jumping Land
34. Hush Little Baby
17. Way Up High
35. Bye, Bye Baby
18. Here is the Beehive
36. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
le le Jigg Gigg
• Predictable and flexible routines: responsive routines consider the varying engagement levels of children and cater for their styles. Facilitating staggered meal and rest times is one suggestion where the ‘easy’ child can be better accommodated.
All songs traditional and arranged by Mini Maestros and Michael Allen, except: 1 new lyrics J. Smith; 2 extra lyrics E. Hart & J. Smith; 4 & 28 new lyrics J. Anderson; 10 & 34 new lyrics E. Hart and J. Smith; 22 & 25 new lyrics J. Fogarty; 24 written by J. Smith. Vocals: Emma Hart, Rebekah Chapman, Michael Allen, Tim Jomartz-Knowles. Instruments: Michael Allen, Jennifer Smith, Marlena Raymond, John Bedggood, Mal Pinkerton, Emma Hart. Produced and recorded by Michael Allen. Design by Maggie Alonso. ©2013 Major Maestro Pty Ltd. Unauthorised public performance, broadcasting and copying prohibited.
Songs and rhymes from the Mini Maestros 1 to 2 year old program
Curriculum Kids Following the thesis of Liana Caplan, an early childhood teacher, that looked at the difficulties for room leaders to implement the Victorian Early Years Learning Framework into their programming, a new business idea was born. Ms Caplan teamed up with colleague Samantha Dornau to establish Curriculum Kids. The company publishes guides to help educators put the national Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) into practice. With Ms Dornau’s background in psychology and childcare, the result is a set of programming ideas that aids in children’s emotional, intellectual and physical development. All programming activities are linked to the EYLF to aid educators in understanding and documenting their children’s tasks. You can see the range of books and CDs available at: www.curriculumkids.com.au.
Early Years Quality Fund
The Federal Government announced an independent review of the EYQF on 28 September 2013, which will consider the establishment process and implementation of the EYQF. The review may result in the Government deciding to distribute EYQF funds in a different way. In all cases, organisations should do nothing to commit to wage increases in the expectation that EYQF funding will be made available for wage increases. The review was expected to be completed by the end of October 2013, but is still in progress. No further applications under the current program guidelines will be accepted, and no further assessments will be undertaken. www.education.gov.au/news/early-years-quality-fund
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 15
education ++training training education
Brighter future with Better Beginnings
he family literacy program Better Beginnings has been rolled out to more than 150,000 families in both rural and regional Western Australia since it began in 2005, dramatically improving the literacy skills of the children who have taken part. As Australia’s most extensive family literacy program, developed by the State Library of Western Australia, Better Beginnings provides books to children as young as six weeks old, encouraging parents/carers to share stories, songs and nursery rhymes with their children at an early age. Edith Cowan University (ECU)’s Centre for Research in Early Childhood, led by Dr Caroline Barratt-Pugh, has been evaluating the program for the past seven years. Their research has formed the building blocks for understanding why Better Beginnings has been such a successful tool in early literacy development. Dr Barratt-Pugh and her team evaluated the pilot program in 2005 and then conducted research into the program over two stages – from 2007 to 2009, and then again in 2010. Speaking to parents one-on-one as their children took part in the program, she found that Better Beginnings played an integral role not only in early literacy development, but also in strengthening the bond between parents and their children. ‘The importance of early childhood as the foundation of future development in all domains is now well established across the world. During the first three years, the brain is developing rapidly and a child’s relationships and experiences during the early years significantly influence how their brain grows,’ Dr Barratt-Pugh says. Dr Barratt-Pugh’s research has revealed that the program has already had a significant positive impact on the children involved. Her findings include: • In 2009, 62 per cent of mothers reported that after being involved in the Better Beginnings program, their confidence in sharing books with their child had increased. This figure increased to 88 per cent in 2010. • In 2009, 23 per cent of parents took out a library membership for their child. This figure increased to 65 per cent in 2010, and most parents who had taken out library memberships indicated their decision had been influenced by Better Beginnings.
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• In 2009, 79 per cent of those surveyed reported that Better Beginnings had influenced their beliefs about the importance of sharing books with their child. • In 2009, 85 per cent of mothers surveyed reported that they read to their child after receiving the Better Beginnings reading packs. Dr Barratt-Pugh believes Better Beginnings gives parents the tools and support to help their children develop good literacy habits early, which is one of the main reasons for its success. ‘Research has shown that sharing books and stories from birth has a positive impact on language and literacy development,’ Dr Barratt-Pugh says. ‘By supporting parents and carers in reading to children from birth, Better Beginnings helps young children to build the early literacy skills and love of books they need to become good readers and succeed at school.’
SEE YOUR EARLY CHILDHOOD CAREER GROW ThaT�s how universiTy should be
At ECU, we offer many courses specialising in Early Childhood studies. So whether you’re starting your teaching career, or extending your qualifications, we’ll help you develop the skills you need to become an outstanding teacher. If you already have a degree in any area and want to pursue an exciting career change, our Graduate Diploma of Education (Early Childhood Studies) can be completed in just 12 months. These courses are taught by experienced professionals and offer extensive prac placements, giving you valuable experience in a range of kindergarten, pre‑primary and primary school settings. If you currently work in the education field, we offer Early Childhood specialisations at a Graduate Certificate and Masters level. These will help you develop specialist skills through projects that directly relate to classroom needs. We also offer a four year, specialised undergraduate course for those beginning their teaching journey.
Apply now for Early Childhood StudiES reachyourpotential.com.au
303LOWE ECU10592 CRICOS IPC 00279B
Tel: 134 ECU (134 328) E: firstname.lastname@example.org
★★★★★ TEACHING QUALITY ★★★★★ GRADUATE SATISFACTION The Good Universities Guide 2014
education + training
The educational leader: the provocateur, the critical thinker and the vision caster BY ROD SOPER
Educational leadership is a pivotal role within the National Quality Standard (NQS), and as such, to understand, apply and synthesise this role may result in staff having a provocateur, a critical thinker and a vision caster within their midst to capture the extraordinary.
s this role trailblazes within the early years sector, two protocols need to be set in motion. The first is to craft a vision and a purpose around the role to create clarity for the whole community. The second is to impart capacity into this role, enabling educators to be, become and belong within it. As we grasp these protocols, we can begin the process of transformational educational leadership. This exchange will have a deep impact on the learning outcomes for children at the most fundamental level. Considering this, educational leaders need to ask themselves three important questions: •
What am I leading?
Who am I leading?
Which direction am I leading?
Educational leaders need to consider the connection between their program’s vision and philosophy to ensure a deep and meaningful journey for all educators to engage with. Educational leaders also need to make decisions as to the direction of inquiry to help guide and co-construct educators’ knowledge for the purpose of making learning visible.
The purpose and the process The method of educational leadership can be put relatively simply; educational leaders need to be inspired in order to inspire other staff, so the cycle continues. Educational leaders must know what inspires them. They must reflect on their own educational journey and find those key moments
18 • BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 3 • 2013
that connected with their sense of purpose within education and care. As educational leaders pass on this inspiration, both in content and passion, they can begin to feel curious of the same things with their fellow educators. Element 7.1.4 of the NQS notes three very specific aspects relating to the role of educational leader. Standard 7 asks those who are in the role of educational leader to be suitably qualified and experienced to fulfil it. It asks these educators to be capable in developing curriculum, and establishing clear goals and expectations for teaching and learning within their community (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009). This element will help educators to clarify their purpose. For instance, goal setting for both educators and children enables clear and meaningful steps to be planned in an effort to achieve a particular outcome. Without these, we often find ourselves lost in the labyrinth of daily routines. These goals then help educators to make choices around the curriculum for teaching and learning. This, in turn, enables children to begin working towards achieving the outcomes of the approved learning framework. The way these key points are processed by the educational leader is critical to the depth of influence the role might have. The process invites interplay between reflective practice and professional learning for the educator. Teaching, learning and curriculum planning then form the next part of the process as laying the foundations of recording the extraordinary within documentation. The final and most important part of the process is the development of strong relationships. These relationships with children, families and other educators create the scaffold or skeleton by which all else is held together and functions.
Three elements of change Educational leaders need to be provocateurs. They need to be able to create a culture of debate and
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discussion, which nurtures critical thinking and change within their environment. As provocateurs, they have the opportunity to create a greater understanding of reflective practice among educators, and therefore, changes in pedagogical approaches may result from such reflections. Educational leaders need to be critical thinkers. They may give consideration to Bloom’s thinking taxonomy (Forehand, 2005), de Bono’s six thinking hats (de Bono, 1999) or the 16 Habits of Mind (Cozta, 2000) as tools to delve deeper into thinking. The result will be assisting staff to connect theory and practice, and engage in the potentialities of pedagogical research. Educational leaders need to be vision casters. They need to understand and recognise that every detail has a meaning and has a purpose (Sahlberg, 2012). They need to be able to connect the NQS and the philosophy of their organisation to ensure that educational practices are aligned to both, and that they support ongoing improvement in the area of educational practice.
Personal leadership Educational leaders need to know their quality. They need to understand their capacity and believe that they are able educators. As such, it is imperative that educational leaders stop asking permission to be great. Greatness is not just about ability; it’s also about availability. Make oneself available to recognise personal competency and discover new growth areas. Both can be celebrated by collaborating with fellow educators to create purpose-filled personal leadership.
The seven points to remember In summary, the challenges for the educational leader and the details for the role lie in the points below: To effectively activate the role: • Establish clear goals and expectations for teaching and learning with your team, children and families. • Provide curriculum direction for educators. • Ensure that children are moving actively towards achieving the outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework. To effectively fulfil the role: • Develop a collective vision with an articulated philosophical approach that is deeply connected to the NQS. • Understand and develop the connection between theory and its relationship to practice. • Challenge people to be reflective, and support change through modelling best practice. • Be wise, insightful, brave and passionate! This sector needs educational leaders who know their expertise and who are willing to put aside the useless questions of, ‘Am I good enough?’ to see the potential, and to act in a way that leads the whole community into the realisation of the five aspirational outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework. The role of educational leader is the agent of change needed in early education and care, and it has the potential to revolutionise the sector. Now is the time to step up and be the change that we want to see.
Educational leaders who understand and can apply their ontology – their own sense of self – become pivotal in innovating this role. Educational leaders are therefore able to measure their own being, becoming and belonging in order to manage and self-regulate. As educational leaders do this, they will find that they are able to truly make a difference for themselves and others in their educational space.
Rod Soper is Senior Associate at Semann & Slattery and leads the research and professional learning teams. His expertise and research interests include critical thinking, transformational pedagogy and leadership design.
Educational leaders require a mindset that works for the collective. The role needs a person who embodies collaboration and compassion. These kinds of leaders are the ones that have transformational influence in their learning spaces. They have influence because they see the potential of themselves and are therefore able to always see the potential in others. They are always looking for the possibility of people and circumstances to grow, develop and to innovate. Leaders must be able to understand people; how they think and feel. Those who are not capable of this will not be able to be an influencer.
de Bono, E, 1999, Six Thinking Hats Revised, Little, Brown and Company, Boston
www.semannslattery.com References Costa, A., Habits of Mind, 2000. Retrieved 26 September 2013. www.habitsofmind.org/node/713
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2013. www.acecqa.gov.au/Leadership-and-service-management Forehand, M., 2005. Bloom’s taxonomy: Original and revised. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 26 September 2013. www.projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/ Salhberg, P. 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2013. www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/what-we-canlearn-from-finnish-education/3851186.
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 19
education ++training training education
Pathways in early childhood education qualifications BY ESTELLE IRVING, COURSE LEADER, HIGHER EDUCATION, DEPARTMENT OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, HOLMESGLEN
aining educational qualifications to become a qualified teacher used to involve a clear progression from secondary to tertiary education. Final school results used to provide the gateway into higher education and, ultimately, a career as a professional teacher. Few opportunities were available for people to access higher education if they took a different path at the end of their formal schooling. Nowadays, alternative pathways into higher education are available, providing greater flexibility and more options for study. These changes reflect the realisation that education can be a life-long project, and that career changes are commonplace. At Holmesglen, access to higher education is facilitated by specially designed pathways that support students to progress in graduated steps from entry-level qualifications, into mid-level and higher educational qualifications. Beginning at Certificate level, students can progress to the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care. In turn, the Diploma provides a pathway into the Bachelor of Early Childhood Education – a fully accredited, professional teacher qualification. Career options for Bachelor graduates include kindergarten and primary school teaching with a specialisation in early years’ programs. The age focus of the Bachelor is birth to eight years, so graduate early childhood teachers are also specialists in the teaching and learning of babies and toddlers.
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Care and education go hand in hand in this critical period when brain growth and the development of neural pathways are occurring at the fastest rate in the whole life span. Neuroscience highlights the importance of these early years as the foundation for later learning, development and wellbeing. Educational theory and practice embedded in the Bachelor at Holmesglen reflects the importance of providing optimal learning experiences for babies and toddlers. Students enter the Bachelor from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. Their educational histories also differ, some entering at year one, with others gaining pathway entry into year two, with credits from their completed Diploma qualification. Academic support is available to all students, with special recognition of the need to support students who are articulating into year two of the Bachelor, but have not come from a conventional academic path. Holmesglen students range in age, from 18-yearolds, through to grandparents who are finally fulfilling a long-held ambition to become an early childhood teacher. What motivates and unites these students is a keen interest in children’s learning and wellbeing, and a desire to make a lasting difference to young children’s lives. Teaching is often referred to as a vocation or calling, not simply a job: it provides great rewards, but requires passion and commitment. Holmesglen’s early childhood education pathways support all students to realise their ambition to become fully qualified early childhood teachers.
educational resources, programs + planning
A new way to play
BY MEGAN MCGAY
A three-year study has shown that some children need reminders on how to get moving and play.
ome recycled materials have given a different meaning to the way children play, a new study has shown.
The three-year Sydney Playground Project introduced students, aged five to eight, to different flexible materials as aids for playing. The schools received cardboard boxes, old car tyres, milk crates, colourful material and styrofoam to play with. The study followed 12 schools (six received the intervention materials and six were a control group), each for a 13-week period. The study focused on educating the children as well as their parents and teachers. The trial project manager, Dr Lina Engelen, said the idea to motivate children to move more came from a decrease in physical activity in recent years reducing children’s capacity to socialise and increasing their potential to develop obesity. ‘There’s a combination of reasons why outdoor play doesn’t happen as much as it used to; there’s stranger danger, and parents seem busier – it is quicker and more efficient for them to drive their kids to sport, than to walk or cycle there,’ she said. The lack of outdoor play meant that some children have forgotten how to play imaginatively.
Dr Engelen’s team figured that by providing materials to preschool and primary-aged children they would encourge them to play in a more physical, different way, and they could intercept the path of sedentary behaviour that many children were headed on. While Dr Engelen noted that most schools had some form of playground, she said it was not enough to accommodate the whole school. ‘And [playgrounds] are not as flexible in their usage. With the materials that we introduced into the playground, it’s up to the kids to decide what they want to do with them. None of the materials really have a toy value; there are old car tyres, cardboard boxes, crates – things that kids can be really creative with.’ Children used their creativity to build a castle out of milk crates, and wrap themselves in fabric to play out the role of king or queen. Pool noodles were used as swords, and later again in a game of pool noodle hockey. The flexible materials attracted all children, from the sporty kids, to the more introverted people. Even the girls that avoided the ball games, came over to play with the materials. ‘It was a really inclusive way of making kids active. Just because you are not really sporty doesn’t mean you don’t have great ideas and a great imagination. So, for these kids, they could incorporate their ideas into a game with flexible materials,’ Dr Engelen said.
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 21
educational resources, programs + planning
The project ended up being so popular that, in some schools, children were rostered onto the materials to avoid 300-600 children playing with them at one time. Dr Engelen said one boy epitomised the trial’s success. ‘There was one boy who was hiding in the toilets every break. During the weeks of intervention, he came out to the playground. By the end of 10 weeks, he was in the middle of the playground, playing with other kids and interacting.’ ‘We observed kids that were new to Australia and couldn’t speak much English; this was a great way to help them play a game with other children without having to say that much.’ Inclusive play was inevitable given the size of some of the items, such as hay bales and car tyres. Dr Engelen noticed that, ‘Small kids can’t really move them by themselves, so they had to ask a friend, “Can you please come over and help me move this?’’ These interactions helped children to indirectly invite more players to their game. It was a good way of mixing groups that wouldn’t otherwise play together.’ While the project has finished, many schools are still using the materials in the yard and, consequently, increasing the activity levels of their students. ‘The trial showed that with the material, the children increased their activity, were doing more constructive play, more interactive play, less sitting, and less aimless wandering. It has been really good, and the schools have been really positive about it as well,’ she said. The study showed that, ‘If break times are to promote physical activity in a sustained manner then available activities must be highly motivating, such as active play and have adults’ support,’ Dr Engelen said. Dr Engelen said the most difficult part of the project was convincing principals and teachers of the program’s worth. ‘They felt like it might be a risk because they didn’t know what to expect. They were worried about the children hurting themselves and the dangers of having car tyres in the playground,’ she said. Workshops with staff and some thoughtful discussions with the children gave confidence to the teachers, particularly after the children devised their own rules to play safely with the materials. ‘The kids came up with most of the rules by themselves, such as not standing on milk crates more than two crates high, or walking with and keeping your hands on a car tyre when rolling it,’ she said. Dr Engelen said schools could now encourage
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better, creative play and re-use old materials at the same time. She said this low-cost approach meant that low-income communities could still be involved. Dr Engelen said the results of the study are not only applicable to schools; kindergartens and early learning centres could benefit from the materials, even with smaller yard space. ‘They might be slightly limited in what they can do. Perhaps, if they do bring in car tyres, children will only stack them instead of roll them around. Milk crates are perfect and so are cardboard boxes.’ Before beginning the project, Dr Engelen advised centres independently to inform the stakeholders through workshops: the parents, teachers, directors, and children. ‘Start with the parents and show them that there is nothing really scary about it. That’s where the problems come in because parents think it is too dangerous because it is not fixed equipment bought from a reputable toy shop. When they see how kids play with it, and how reasonable kids are most of the time because they don’t want to hurt themselves, they feel more confident.’ Led from the University of Sydney’s Health Sciences Faculty, The Sydney Playground Project has been a collaborative project involving researchers from the University’s School of Public Health, Westmead Children’s Hospital, Australian Catholic University, University of South Australia, Macquarie University, the University of New South Wales and the Australian Defence Force Academy.
educational resources, programs + planning
New site is a gift for services A new online portal may prevent the needs of gifted children from being ignored.
he Victorian state government-funded website will display guidelines for identifying and supporting advanced development and learning in toddlers, preschoolers, and children in the early years of school. The portal, which opened in October 2013, is the work of Deakin University’s Dr Anne Grant and Dr Anne-Marie Morrissey. It will provide guidelines on characteristics frequently associated with early giftedness in areas such as thinking and reasoning, creativity, motivation, language, and social and emotional development. It was created following a 2012 Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the lack of early identification of gifted children. Dr Grant said most teachers didn’t know what to do with the children. If a child was showing welldeveloped literacy skills, then some teachers were mistakenly thinking that the child did not need to be extended in those areas. ‘But [teachers] need to focus on all areas, both the strengths and weaknesses of the child.’ For Dr Grant and Dr Morrissey, the biggest concern is children that mask their advanced behaviours from teachers and their peers for fear of being ostracised. Dr Grant observed a three-year-old boy that was banging playdough on the table while several other children were struggling with a computer game. The boy left the table, walked over to the computer and read the error messages to the children and told them how to fix it. Then he went back to the playdough and continued to bang it. Dr Grant said that later, when asked to read to the teacher, he refused. He replied, ‘Three-year-olds don’t read.’ Dr Grant said these situations could be challenging for educators. ‘Some room leaders get a bit confused [by setting advanced tasks for a gifted child] because they don’t want to set expectations too high for other children.’ Once the teacher
understood the child’s capabilities, Dr Grant said the boy could be gently extended through the regular program by asking him to read to other children, when the educators were otherwise occupied. This would reassure him that his skills were welcome and useful in the class. The new portal, supported by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development website, will aid users in identifying signs of a gifted child and offer extension activities for them. Dr Grant said both educators and parents will be able to make use of the information. Dr Morrissey said children were often identified as gifted in their first year of school ‘either because they demonstrate academic advancement that manifests in the classroom, or less positively, because children and parents realise that school is not recognising or responding to their learning needs (as many would be expecting/hoping). Informally, many parents can become aware that their child is showing advanced development at around three to four years of age.’ Dr Morrissey said teachers could expect at least one gifted child in every class. The ‘Making a difference for young gifted and talented children’ portal is located at: www.education.vic.gov.au/childhood/ professionals/learning/Pages/gtmakedifference. aspx BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 23
educationalresources, resources,programs programs++planning planning educational
New software company making a big splash
iChildTM is a unique intuitive software system with a suite of powerful and highly advanced features, which empower staff to become more efficient, increase their productivity and deliver better-quality outcomes. Built from the ground up, with the National Quality Standard (NQS) at the core, iChildTM enables education and care services to decrease their administrative load while seamlessly sharing information across the centre and with parents. For more information, please visit www.ichildonline.com
Who is behind iChildTM? Hello, I’m Warren Viti (Woz), founder of iChildTM. I’m a software engineer by trade originally from Melbourne, and living in Sydney these days.
What is your background? Since graduating from the University of Melbourne, I have forged a strong career in information technology (IT) and management, with an emphasis on developing software solutions for the health, community care, financial services and education industries in Australia, the Asia-Pacific region, and North America. I am the cofounder of a company that provides software solutions for the aged care industry; it is the leading software used in the industry in both Australia and the United Kingdom today, and represented Australia in the Asia Pacific Innovation Awards. Previously, I have worked at global consulting firm Accenture in the health and public services division and I have held the position of chief information officer (CIO) for the not-for-profit organisation beyondblue: the national depression initiative.
Why did you launch iChildTM? I recognised that widespread technology adoption in the education and care sector was lagging behind many other industries, and since the introduction of the NQS and its associated documentation requirements, there was an urgent increased need for the sector to use high-quality systems to ease the burden. So, I set about designing a solution to help operators take control of this situation.
X 24••BELONGING BELONGINGEARLY EARLYYEARS YEARSJOURNAL JOURNAL••VOLUME VOLUME22NUMBER NUMBER43••2013 2013
What could a childcare centre look to achieve through using iChildTM? The key benefits are increased efficiency, effectiveness and engagement of staff, as well as increased parental involvement and collaboration. iChildTM also provides real-time staff/child ratio monitoring, which empowers management to make minute-by-minute decisions on staffing across all of their services. iChildTM makes a big impact on reduction of risk and operational costs, delivering significant savings; it’s highly likely you’ll save many thousands of hours per year on productivity gains alone.
What are some of the key features of iChildTM? Among the main features are: learning management (create beautiful learning stories/observations, online portfolios, program planning); powerful yet simple-to-use analysis tools to track and monitor a child’s learning over a period of time; routine management; complete child profile; and a staff and parent portal, including a smart phone portal and parent sign-in. These are just a few of the benefits, as there are too many features to sum up here. But iChildTM is truly an Australian first, which we’ve worked incredibly hard to deliver – and it’s We are also committed to reducing growing rapidly.
he launch of iChildTM, a revolutionary Australian software system designed specifically for the education and care sector, offers the ultimate solution for operators looking to improve efficiency, reduce risk and maximise profits. This premium system is the essential tool for enabling services to go completely electronic.
your annual printing costs by 70 per
cent, which saves you the cost of Owners and staff also iChildTM many times over. have the freedom to choose the way they use technology, whether it’s on a smart phone, laptop, desktop or any tablet on the market. For the full list of features, please visit www.ichildonline.com/Products.aspx
Why should childcare operators use iChildTM over another system? iChildTM is a highly advanced, completely unique premium product. Not only does it offer a powerful suite of capabilities, but it is also incredibly intuitive, uncomplicated and easy to use – we haven’t been asked for a user manual yet.
How do you see the current state of technology adoption within the Australian education and care sector? I’m seeing significant change here, similar to trends in the aged care industry around 10 years ago. The majority of new service operators entering the market today are actively shopping around for technology solutions to adopt, as they understand the benefits. They are seeing technology as an enabler, as opposed to technology as a cost. 2014 looks set to be the year of technology adoption.
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nutrition + menu planning
Find your SNAC(k) online
BY RUTH WALLACE
An online research project will support educators promoting healthy eating in their service.
he nutritional quality of food served in early years settings may be sub-optimal at times, thus having a detrimental effect on childhood development, research has found. Optimal early childhood nutrition is essential for physical, social and emotional development, and contributes to health status in adult life. With 25 per cent of two- to four-year-olds having both parents working, more than one million children are accessing early years care. For some children, this may be their main source of nourishment on the days they attend service. It has been reported that 19 per cent of children aged two to four are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes and asthma, and contributing to poor general health and reduced psychological wellbeing. These children often have a higher body mass index, increasing their risk of being overweight or obese in adulthood and developing problems associated with cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that these symptoms are presenting more commonly in childhood, and has indicated that the current generation of overweight children may have a shorter lifespan than previous generations. A research project was established in response to this important health issue. Its first aim was to establish, through formative evaluation, the needs of educators to meet the nutritional requirements of the children in their care. Based on this evaluation, the study’s second aim was to develop a website, with online activities and community forums to assist educators in promoting children’s healthy eating as well as support the centre to meet or exceed the requirements of Quality Area 2 (Children’s Health and Safety) of the National Quality Framework. Thirdly, changes in knowledge, confidence and behaviour around healthy eating of early years educators will be reviewed. The study’s first stage sought to determine the current gaps in educators’ knowledge, and their ability to promote healthy eating to children through 50 face-to-face interviews with educators, managers and cooks in 11 Perth metropolitan centres, and two regional centres (in Australind and Geraldton). Educators highlighted many issues affecting the 26 • BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 3 • 2013
provision of healthy, nutritious food in their centres, such as the child’s food preferences, parental influence, their own ability to discuss or teach nutrition concepts, and access to reliable, accurate nutrition resources. Many educators actively use the internet to seek nutrition resources, but readily acknowledge that some sites may not have accurate information. Moreover, there was limited knowledge of programs already available, such as ‘Start Right, Eat Right’ or the recently revised Australian Dietary Guidelines. It was also noted that while centres tend to work in isolation, educators indicated they would find it beneficial to network with other centres, and share their ideas and strategies online. During this stage, it was established that all early years education and care services have access to an internet connection and a computer. The educators’ feedback was used to inform the development of a food and nutrition specific website, ‘Supporting Nutrition in Australian Childcare’ (SNAC). The SNAC website provides accurate nutrition resources and activities to help increase educators’ knowledge of healthy eating concepts. Educators are encouraged to use the forums to engage with others in the industry; this will foster a sense of community, support and create opportunities to share information. The website was launched on 1 August 2013, and has attracted over 100 Western Australian registered users. The focus now is to encourage the use of its resources: recipes, menu planning tools, fact sheets and nutritional advice, and its forums so users can build a professional, supportive network. If you work in the sector (long day care, family day care or before and after school care) and would like to participate in this research project, please register at www.snacwa.com.au. For further information, please contact Ruth Wallace at ruth.wallace@ecu. edu.au. Ruth Wallace is a PhD candidate at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia. She has graduated from the university with a Bachelor Of Health Science (Health Promotion/Nutrition (Hons)).
occupational health + safety
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) in early childhood education and care services Exposure to a viral infection common to early childhood services can cause harm to unborn babies. What is CMV?
MV is a common viral infection that affects many people. The first time that a person is infected with CMV is called a primary infection. After a primary infection, the virus can live in the body in an inactive or dormant state. It can periodically become active again, causing a reactivation of infection. This may occur when a person becomes ill or stressed. A previously infected person can also be hit with a different strain of CMV, and this is called a reinfection.
How is it spread? CMV is spread occupationally from person-toperson by contact with body substances, including urine and saliva. An infected person can pass the virus to another person even though they do not have symptoms. CMV can also be transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy. This is called congenital infection.
Who is at risk from infection? People who have occupational contact with young children are particularly at risk of CMV infection. Workers in early childhood education and care services are at highest risk because of their frequent
contact with children’s urine and saliva when changing nappies, assisting with toilet care and feeding infants. Health care workers caring for infants and children, and patients whose immune systems are impaired, may also be at increased risk of infection.
The health effects CMV infection does not usually cause illness in healthy people, and people may be unaware that they have been infected. Occasionally, it causes a flu-like illness with fever, sore throat and swollen glands. CMV infection can, however, cause serious illness in people who have an impaired immune system. The most severe form of congenital CMV infection generally occurs in infants born to mothers who became infected for the first time while pregnant. A small number of babies who have been infected with CMV during pregnancy have symptoms at birth. Many of these infants will have lifelong disabilities of varying degrees. The majority of infants who have been infected with CMV during pregnancy do not have symptoms at birth; however, some of these children may develop disabilities later in childhood, such as hearing loss, learning difficulties and developmental delay.
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 27
occupational health + safety
Women working in early childhood education and care services who are pregnant, or expect to become pregnant, should discuss CMV with their doctor, and inform their employer so that their individual risk can be assessed and managed. In a landmark decision in New South Wales, a childcare worker and her severely disabled son were awarded $4.65 million in damages. A Court of Appeal ruled that the child’s disabilities resulted from the woman being infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV) at work (Hughes v SDN Children’s Services 2002).
How to prevent infection There is currently no vaccine to prevent against infection with CMV. Good hygiene practices, including hand hygiene, are the most important ways to prevent CMV infection. CMV infections are common among children attending early childhood education and care services, but most children will not have symptoms, and their infection will be unknown. Children known to have CMV do not need to be excluded from the service because the virus may persist in their urine and saliva for months to years. The occupational risks of CMV infection in childcare facilities should be managed using a risk management approach, as outlined in the ‘How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2011’ (www.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/law/ codes/index.html).
Control measures may include: • installing handwashing facilities close to nappy changing areas • washing hands frequently, especially after contact with urine and saliva, and after removing disposable gloves • using disposable hand wipes or alcohol-based hand rub for situations where hand washing facilities are not readily available • covering cuts with water-resistant dressings • using disposable gloves for activities that involve contact with urine and saliva • providing information to workers about CMV risks and work practices to reduce the risk of infection • purchasing equipment and toys that are easily cleaned • instructing workers not to kiss children on the mouth and face • implementing cleaning programs for surfaces and items that are soiled with urine and saliva,
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including nappy change mats, potties, feeding utensils and toys • implementing procedures for hygienic nappy changing and the storage and disposal of soiled nappies • taking steps to prevent urine from spraying into the face of workers if infants pass urine during nappy changing (especially infant boys) • implementing laundry procedures for linen that is soiled with urine and saliva; for example, make sure that soiled personal clothing and linen are placed in a sealed bag and sent home with the child for washing • implementing procedures for cleaning up accidental spills of urine that could occur during toilet training • relocating workers who are pregnant, or who expect to become pregnant, to care for children aged over two to reduce contact with urine and saliva. This material has been reproduced with the permission of the Queensland Government Department of Justice and Attorney-General (DJAG). Copyright in the original material is owned by DJAG. The original article can be found at: www.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/business/ childcare/cmv/index.htm.
child health + safety
Identifying hearing loss in children BY GIULIA HEPPELL
Identifying the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in children is a crucial part of working in the childcare sector.
earing loss affects just under one per cent of the population at birth, with a further 2.3 per cent suffering a hearing impairment by age 17 through accident, illness or other causes.
child’s parents, and prompt them to seek medical advice and treatment.
According to Principal Audiologist of Paediatric Services at Australian Hearing Alison King, ‘By the age of five, two to three children in every 1000 will have been fitted with hearing aids.’
Mild hearing loss is not easily detected. ‘Sometimes, parents or carers will notice that there are certain sounds that their child can’t hear, but at other times, the signs of hearing loss may appear in the child’s behaviour,’ said Ms King.
The term ‘hearing loss’ covers an array of different conditions that affect a child’s hearing ability and, subsequently, their learning and social development. This loss occurs when there is underdevelopment, injury, degeneration or even an infection of the auditory system. It can be partial or total, temporary or permanent. One of the common complaints among young children is a middle ear infection, which often results in fluctuated hearing and sometimes a temporary hearing loss. ‘Many children will suffer from a temporary hearing loss due to otitis media (middle ear infections or ‘glue ear’) at least once in their preschool years. The hearing loss usually subsides when the infection is treated, but it may persist in children who have repeated bouts of it. Otitis media is more common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – the infections start younger, last longer and come back more often than in non-Indigenous children,’ Ms King said. It is therefore imperative that those working with children under the age of five are aware of the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in order to alert the
Signs and symptoms of hearing loss in young children
It often takes a child entering a noisy environment full of background noise – such as a classroom or day care – for symptoms to arise. Children suffering from a hearing impairment cannot block out background noise as children with unimpaired hearing can, making symptoms arise more prominently in these loud settings. Interestingly, hearing loss in a child is often mistaken as bad behaviour. ‘Children who have a hearing loss due to otitis media can experience fluctuations in their hearing levels, which means that they may sometimes seem “off air”, while at other times they can hear quite well. This can lead parents and carers to think that the child “can hear when they want to”, or it may present as bad behaviour. Children may also be easily distracted – it is difficult to concentrate when you have trouble hearing what’s going on around you,’ said Ms King. Children who suffer from a hearing loss may exhibit the same signs and symptoms as children suffering from a learning disability. These include lower than average academic scores and trouble paying attention.
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 29
child health + safety
Carers should be aware of this overlap to rule out hearing loss as the cause of this delayed academic development. Delayed responses and inattention are also key signs of a child having difficulty hearing. ‘Children may be slow to respond to spoken instructions, and may not always turn the first time their name is called. They may also misunderstand what has been said, and may not be able to tell the direction of sound,’ said Ms King. Slow speech and language development, such as a child struggling to pronounce certain words and sounds, is also a symptom of hearing loss. ‘Permanent hearing loss can affect children’s speech and language development, educational and social outcomes. It is important to intervene early when hearing loss is detected,’ she said. Ms King also warned: ‘Sometimes, the child may pull at or poke their ear if they have otitis media. If parents or carers notice that a child has a runny nose and is pulling at their ears, and is more distracted or less responsive than usual, they should consult their family doctor to see if the child has otitis media.’ Early detection and diagnosis is imperative for a child to develop both their communication and social skills. ‘Children who have a permanent hearing loss that is moderate or worse are unlikely to reach their full potential without assistance, so early diagnosis and early action are vital,’ she said.
A child in your class has a hearing loss. What now? Teaching and caring for a child suffering from a hearing loss requires a team effort. The parents, the carers, the audiologist and the child must all work together to ensure that the child is cared for and their needs and requirements are met. Once every party involved is up to speed with the diagnosis, treatment, and other health facts, childcare workers are able to adopt classroom techniques that will ensure the child will be able to follow and learn. According to Ms King, some simple classroom tips and strategies for employees who are caring for a child with a hearing loss are as follows: • Make sure that you have the child’s attention before giving them instructions, and check for understanding. • Make sure you are no further from the child than two or three metres when talking to them – otherwise, your voice may be too soft for them to hear.
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• When it is important to listen, try to minimise background noise. • At story time, sit the child towards the front of the group so that they can hear clearly and can watch your face. • Ensure that good lighting illuminates your face so the child is able to see your lips moving. The glare of strong lighting behind the speaker makes lipreading difficult. • If the child has been given medication for otitis media, it is important for the child to take the medication until it is completely finished. • If the child has been fitted with hearing aids or other assistive technology, be supportive and encourage the child to use them. This can take some perseverance, especially if the child has only just been fitted! A child suffering from hearing loss may also feel frustrated and isolated due to their condition, resulting in a lack of self-confidence and, subsequently, a lack of social development. It is imperative that childcare workers encourage positive acceptance of the student by their peers, and aid socialisation with class members. The impact of hearing loss varies from child to child. Some children may not experience any difficulties resulting from their hearing loss, such as social or educational difficulties, while others may be affected in a number of ways. Either way, recognising hearing loss in a child is the first step in getting treatment. Australian Hearing is an Australian government agency with information on hearing loss and classroom strategies for carers. www.hearing.com.au
finance, business + property
Feeling Successful BY MATTHEW ROSS
Baby steps on the road to success.
s a business owner, there are many ways to measure success.
Three common ways to measure this success is to work out how profitable you are each year; how much your business is worth to someone else; and, the ultimate measure of success is whether you go on an overseas holiday for a month and have the business grow while you are away. One of the keys to success is sticking to your plan, which is easier said than done. Building the value of your business or getting it to a position where you can step away and it can grow itself can take half a lifetime of blood, sweat and tears to achieve; so measuring your success too often can lead to frustration.
Here was a guy who was in full control of his business and its numbers... He was, in my eyes, a success
Working out how profitable you are is at least something you can measure on an annual basis; however, for many business owners it is only done at tax time. The anticipation of the result for those business owners that are not actively engaged with ‘the numbers’ can be like getting exam results or visiting the dentist. If this is you, there is a high probability that you are not in control of your business – it is in control of you. Having been in this position myself in the past, I know how it feels; but a few years ago, I discovered a way to turn the tables. The idea came from one of my clients who is a very successful business owner. It’s ridiculously simple. It was 1 July. He was on the phone to his accountant booking an appointment to do his tax returns. The previous financial year had ended less than 10 hours ago, and he was ready to pass all his data on to his accountant. I remember feeling two clear emotions: envy and awe. Here was a guy who was in full control of his business and its numbers. He was in a position to analyse the data, track his performance and be able to make immediate decisions. He was, in my eyes, a success. That day, I promised myself that by the following 1 July, I would be in the same position. I wanted to be organised. I wanted to feel in control. I wanted to feel successful. The great thing about getting organised is that instead of feeling successful once a year (assuming the exam results from the accountant are pleasing), I had the opportunity to feel organised Matthew Ross
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 31
finance, business + property
Contrary to what the next few paragraphs contain, this is not a paid advertisement for Xero. Xero rocks my world. I am a raving fan. It is easy to use once your accountant has set up the basic structure for you. The key to the ‘success’ is in the easy-to-create rules that the program allows you to set up. For example, I created a rule that said whenever a transaction contained ‘Telstra dongle’ (stop laughing, a dongle is a real thing), it suggests which expense account to categorise it to. All the transactions from my bank accounts flow automatically into Xero, so when I log in and start categorising transactions, most of it is already done for me. All I need to do for most transactions is click an ‘OK’ button to confirm that the rule has been applied correctly.
It gets better Xero has an app(lication) that I downloaded on to my phone. So, while I am on the tram, waiting for a coffee or bored of the half-time entertainment at the footy; instead of checking Twitter (anyone else over it?), I’m on Xero clicking ‘OK’, getting organised, feeling successful. Once all my transactions are categorised, this big green tick appears on the screen with the words ‘All reconciled. Nice’, which, in a nerdy/sick/bizarre way, is quite fulfilling.
four times a year – one for every business activity statement (BAS) I had to lodge. Within a day or two of the end of each quarter, I knew how much I needed to pay 26 days later when my BAS was due. The reason I decided to discuss this topic in this quarter’s column is that because of some recent technology that I have come across, I feel this successful feeling of being organised on a more regular basis. I now experience it daily. Over the past three years, I have used three different accounting packages. For years (like so many people), I was with MYOB. Their inability to get ‘in the cloud’ and move with the times forced me to choose another package. I chose Xero, but my business partner overruled me and we went with Saasu. Saasu was good, but we recently switched to Xero (my business partner is sick of me saying, ‘I told you so’).
32 • BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 3 • 2013
Four days ago, the first quarter of the financial year ended. I was able to run a report to see how much I need to have available for my BAS payment on 28 October. I was able to run a profit and loss statement for the month and quarter. I was able to measure my success, which empowers me to think of ways to grow the business further. I believe it is one of the ‘one-percenters’ that leads to a lifetime of success (at least, for business owners). Disclaimer: the advice in this article is general in nature. For specific advice, please contact a financial advisor.
Matthew Ross is an independent financial adviser and an Authorised Representative of Australian Independent Financial Advisers Pty Ltd. He is a director of Roskow Independent Advisory. www.roskow.com.au
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finance, business + property
Get inspired to take control of your finances – and your future! BY THERESA MILLS
How well do you know your finances?
aving professionally coached and mentored many women and men for over 20 years in the workplace in relation to leadership in their careers, I find that there is one area often overlooked that requires just as much attention. Taking the lead is also important in your personal life – especially when it comes to taking control of your money. Most of us dedicate ourselves to our profession, families, friends and communities, which is great, but your financial health (and personal health) are also very worthy of some dedicated time. I know money can be complicated; it doesn’t seem to go far and it can’t all be solved at once, but small steps over time will make a difference – guaranteed! It’s about becoming informed and making sure that you are doing the best with what you have. After all, financial independence provides freedom and choice in how you want to live your life. So, let’s get started with some helpful tips.
My top seven tips to take control of your money are: 1. Do a budget or ask someone to help you. Work out how much money is coming in and how much is going out. 2. It’s important that you start by getting a picture of your own circumstances. 3. Look at what the budget is telling you. Are you working hard but money is still disappearing fast? Are there any areas in which you can improve? You’ll be amazed at how small steps and sticking to changes make a big difference. Besides, instead of always feeling like you’re trying to play catch-up,
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you will increasingly understand your money and start to feel more in control. 4. Spend time on it. It’s like anything – if we don’t give it any time, it can’t possibly improve! Make sure that you review and have the best solutions for you on your mortgages, health insurance, personal insurances, personal car loans, credit cards, savings investments, super and so on – perhaps check out a comparison service like mozo.com.au. 5. Understand your own spending habits. Make a conscious effort to practice changes – they can take time as old habits are hard to break and we are all flooded daily with messages to spend, spend, spend… 6. Understanding your own finances is essential, but it’s not something we’re really taught. Read, and reread information, ask questions and talk to people who have been financially successful. You will be amazed at how willing others are to share their experiences, which will add to your knowledge. 7. Give it time; perhaps schedule a regular appointment each week with yourself. Over time, you will gain more understanding and confidence, things will make more sense and this knowledge can be applied so that you can create the lifestyle you want to lead, if you work at it. We know the early learning industry is critical to the care and education of our children. While you’re looking after their future, at Child Care Super, my team and I are helping you look after yours. We’re passionate about helping you gain financial independence so that, over time, you get to live the life you want.
finance, business + property
We’re here to help you take control
unsure, we’re here to help you understand.
Child Care Super has a range of easy-to-use online financial tools and tutorials that can help you:
You can speak to a Child Care Super consultant over the phone, or your local consultant can visit you at your service to answer your queries about superannuation, insurance and the level of contributions that is right for you. They’ll even help you with any paperwork that may need to be completed – it’s a personal touch from the super plan that understands early learning.
• Plan your budget – you can set up your money plan on paper or online – whatever works best for you. Just go to childcaresuper.com.au and use the online budget planner, or watch our easy and convenient educational tutorials. • Review your insurances – make sure you and the people you care about are protected, as well as your most important asset – your income. This is all available at hard-to-beat rates through Child Care Super. • Work out if you will have enough money for when you’re no longer working – go to childcaresuper.com.au to use our calculator. • Discover the difference that an additional super contribution strategy can make to how much you have in retirement with our helpful online calculator at childcaresuper.com.au. Understanding super isn’t always easy, but you don’t have to go at it alone. We work closely with you to keep super as simple as possible, and if you’re
Theresa Mills is the Executive General Manager of Child Care Super. Ms Mills has been a Certified Financial Planner for 12 years and is a member of the Financial Planning Association and ‘Women on Boards’. Phone Child Care Super on 1800 060 215 for advice. www.childcaresuper.com.au Disclaimer: This article contains information of a general nature only. It is not intended to constitute the provision of advice. Before acting on any information you should consider its appropriateness having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. Prior to making a decision in relation to any financial product you should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) in deciding whether to acquire or continue to hold the product. The PDS is available from childcaresuper. com.au or by calling 1800 060 215. Guild Trustee Services Pty Limited ABN 84 068 826 728. AFS Licence No. 233815. RSE Licence No L0000611 as Trustee for Child Care Super (part of the Guild Retirement Fund). Fund Registration No R1000030 ABN 22 599 554 834.
‘halve your time making super payments!’ Our online and clearing house services will give you back your time and help you comply with the new ATO requirements. Contact us for further details.
1300 365 899 childcaresuper.com.au email@example.com
Child Care Super’s Clearing House solution is provided by MercerSpectrum. MercerSpectrum and the online service are products issued by Mercer Outsourcing (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 83 068 908 912 AFSL 411980. Before deciding about any financial product you should consider the relevant PDS obtainable by calling Child Care Super on 1800 060 215. Guild Trustee Services Pty Limited ABN 84 068 826 728 as Trustee for Child Care Super ABN 22 599 554 834.
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finance, business business++property property finance,
Insurance. Do you have enough?
ost people insure their car and their house, but many forget to insure their most important asset – themselves!
It’s unfortunate, but some of us will experience an injury or illness that stops us from working, making it hard to get by and provide for our families. The good news is, all eligible HESTA members are provided with default Income Protection and Death Cover. Default cover is the insurance provided to eligible members who haven’t chosen another insurance option. Default Income Protection Cover through HESTA provides a maximum monthly benefit of $850. Default Death Cover provides a maximum benefit of $170,000.
But bear in mind, research shows the typical Australian mortgage is $299,487.* So, it’s important to consider whether default cover is enough to meet your personal circumstances should the unexpected occur. You may find it isn’t enough to cover all your expenses. That’s why it’s important for you to review your insurance and make sure you’re happy with the cover you have. HESTA’s insurance offering is market-leading, low-cost and provides a variety of benefits, the most important of which is peace of mind.
The benefits of insurance with HESTA • It’s low cost – HESTA insures under a group life policy, meaning insurance through HESTA is often cheaper than insuring as an individual. • Easy to manage – premiums are deducted directly from your super account, so you don’t need to dip into the family budget to remain covered. • Meets your changing needs – the life events option lets you change your insurance to keep pace with life’s changes – without providing additional health evidence. • Flexible – choose from Death and Lump-sum Total and Permanent Disablement (TPD), Income Protection or a combination of all three. Insurance through HESTA offers you the flexibility to insure yourself the way you want. • Family friendly – you’re covered for up to 12 months during parental leave, as long as you meet the terms and conditions. See HESTA’s Insurance Options guide at hesta.com.au/pds for details.
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Reviewing your cover is easy Ensure your most important asset is covered today by jumping online. You can review your cover in just a few minutes using the insurance cover calculator at hesta.com.au/calculate If it turns out you need more cover, as a HESTA member you can apply quickly and easily through Member Online at hesta.com.au/mol Or if you have questions, free call 1800 813 327 to speak to our team. With more than 25 years of experience and $24 billion in assets, more people in health and community services choose HESTA for their super. *www.canstar.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/ home-loans-apr-2013.pdf Issued by H.E.S.T. Australia Ltd ABN 66 006 818 695 AFSL 235249, the Trustee of Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia (HESTA) ABN 64 971 749 321. This information is of a general nature. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or specific needs so you should look at your own financial position and requirements before making a decision. You may wish to consult an adviser when doing this. For more information, free call 1800 813 327 or visit hesta.com.au for a copy of a Product Disclosure Statement which should be considered when making a decision about HESTA products.
finance, business + property
New changes to the Fair Work Act BY ROBERT TOTH AND MICHAEL COCHRANE
Employers must understand the impact of the Fair Work Amendment Act on their workplace.
he Federal Parliament passed the Commonwealth Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 (Amendment Act) in late June 2013. The Amendment Act introduces a number of important changes to the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act), including a new anti-bullying jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) – which the government has agreed to delay until 1 January 2014. Robert Toth and Michael Cochrane from Wisewould Mahony Lawyers have responded to the below questions to assist childcare centre directors in comprehending the Amendment Act.
What are the key amendments to the FW Act? Family-friendly measures The Amendment Act implements a number of ‘family-friendly changes’ to the National Employment Standards and the FW Act, including: • Right to request flexible work arrangements – extending the circumstances upon which employees will have the right to request flexible working arrangements (for example, where an employee is a parent, has a disability, is 55 or older, or is a carer), and introducing a non-
exhaustive list of ‘reasonable business grounds’ upon which an employer may refuse a request. • Concurrent unpaid parental leave – extending the current entitlement for parents to take concurrent unpaid parental leave from three to eight weeks (which can be taken over separate periods). • Unpaid special maternity leave – where unpaid special maternity leave is taken, it will not reduce the employee’s entitlement to unpaid parental leave. • Parental leave (‘transferring to a safe job’) – pregnant employees must be transferred to available appropriate ‘safe jobs’ where inadvisable to continue because of illness or risk arising out of pregnancy. There is no longer a requirement that a pregnant employee must have 12 months continuous service in order to be entitled to this. ‘Genuine’ consultation requirements with employees about changes to rosters or working hours – modern awards and enterprise agreements will have to include provisions requiring employers to consult with their employees in order to prevent unilateral changes to rosters or working hours.
Anti-bullying jurisdiction within the FWC (starts 1 January 2014) One of the most significant changes under the Amendment Act is the establishment of the antibullying jurisdiction within the FWC, which has been delayed to commence on 1 January 2014.
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Workers (which extends to contractors as well as employees) will now be able to apply to the FWC for appropriate orders (but excluding compensation or reinstatement) where they have reasonable belief that they have been bullied at work. The FWC is required to deal with such an application within 14 days. Penalties may also apply to any breach of a FWC order (up to $10,200 against individuals and up to $51,000 against corporations).
Modern awards objective – penalty rates The modern awards objective has been amended to require that the FWC take into account the need for additional remuneration for employees working overtime, irregular/unpredictable hours, and weekends or on public holidays.
Union rights of entry Part 3-4 of the FW Act has been amended as follows (to take effect from 1 January 2014): • Meeting locations – in the absence of agreement to the contrary, a right of entry permit holder may conduct meetings with employees in lunchrooms on worksites. • FWC dispute resolution – the FWC will be able to intervene in relation to disputes over rights of entry, transport and accommodation arrangements; and the frequency of exercise of permit holders’ entry rights for purposes of holding meetings, where this requires an unreasonable diversion of the employer/occupier’s critical resources. • Remote areas – employer/occupier must enter into accommodation and transportation arrangements with permit holders to obtain access to a remote work place.
General protections consent arbitration The FWC will now have the power to arbitrate general protection disputes and unlawful termination claims. The parties must notify the FWC that they agree to allow the FWC to arbitrate the dispute within 14 days after the FWC issues a certificate that all reasonable attempts to resolve the claim have been unsuccessful. The consent arbitration is an alternative to an application to the Federal Circuit Court or Federal Court.
FWC’s powers when conducting conferences The Amendment Act clarifies the FWC’s ability to conciliate, mediate, express opinions and make recommendations in conferences.
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Common time limits for unlawful termination claims The time limit for bringing unlawful termination claims has been aligned with that for general protections claims and unfair dismissal claims, being within 21 days after the dismissal took effect.
How will these changes affect employers? Employees should familiarise themselves with the amendments and review (and update where appropriate) their policies and procedures to ensure that they are complying with the current and future obligations under the FW Act. Employment contracts and policies/procedures should be reviewed to reflect changes to various aspects of parental leave and the extended rights
finance, business + property
to request flexible workplace arrangements and to ensure that they reflect best practice. The establishment of the new anti-bullying jurisdiction is potentially the most problematic area of change that employers need to prepare for from 1 January 2014 (six months later than the Government intended). In light of the six-month delay in the commencement, employers will have an opportunity to prepare themselves by:
provisions requiring ‘genuine’ consultation with employees about changes to rosters and working hours. ‘Genuine’ consultation with employees will differ from other interactions about workplace changes in that: • Representation must be allowed during the consultation. • Information must be provided to the employee about the change.
• ensuring that management and workers (being both employees and contractors) are properly trained with respect to managing bullying issues and applicable human resources procedures.
• The employee must be invited to give their views about the impact of the change.
• reviewing and updating policies and procedures that are to be used for dealing with bullying complaints.
How will the time limit to make complaints affect employees?
Do employers need to advise their staff of the changes? Generally speaking, the Amendment Act does not require employers to specifically notify their employees of the changes to the FW Act. However, employers should consider how they intend to notify their staff by ensuring that managers and employees are properly trained, and that changes to applicable workplace policies and procedures are appropriately communicated to affected employees.
How do you differentiate a ‘genuine’ consultation from other interactions about workplace changes?
• The employee’s views must be considered by their employer.
Time limits for lodging unfair dismissal claims, general protections claims involving dismissal, and unlawful termination claims have all been aligned to 21 days from the date of dismissal. Accordingly, employees will need to act promptly in seeking a remedy in relation to a dismissal, and will be required to choose one claim over another (as opposed to one followed by the other, as was previously the case). Robert Toth is a Partner at Wisewould Mahony Laywers and Michael Cochrane is a Solicitor at Wisewould Mahony Lawyers. www.wisewouldmahony.com.au
As stated above, modern awards and enterprise agreements from 1 January 2014 must include
BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 4 • 2013 • 39
finance, business business++property property finance,
Buying and selling a childcare centre The vendor:
It is vital to prepare for sale of a business and get the ‘house’ in order before heading off to a broker or agent to ensure a smooth process.
From the buyer’s perspective, this may be one of the largest acquisitions that they will make. Here are some tips for buyers:
By preparing your business for sale, you will more likely secure a buyer and achieve the best possible outcome.
1. Ensure that finance is in place and approved. This will put you in a better negotiating position. Consider the best corporate structure to acquire the business, to distribute profit in a tax-effective way and to access the small business (CGT) concessions on eventual sale and protect your personal assets.
The following issues need to be in order: 1. Tax implications: Understand your tax liability before you accept an offer, including the small business capital gains tax concessions that you may access on sale. 2. Regulations: Is your business compliant? Has there been a recent audit? 3. Employment issues: Do you have all Workplace Agreements with staff and management in place? Have you taken into account any adjustments for long service leave and accrued annual leave? 4. Lease: Is your premises’ lease current? Are your options exercised? Does the landlord hold a cash or bank guarantee as a security deposit, which needs to be released and/or adjusted at settlement? 5. Financials: Are your financials up to date with supporting management accounts? 6. Does the business comply with any local health acts, food and safety regulations and other council requirements for operation of the business? 7. Are your business assets leased or financed, and are there PPS interests on the assets that need to be released from the buyer? These are just a few of the primary issues that need to be in order well before the business is placed on the market. Both your accountant and lawyer, experienced in the sale of businesses, will be able to assist you to ensure that you are well prepared for the sale process.
Tip Avoid entering into contracts that are ‘subject to finance’. A contract can be subject to a due diligence period, and transfer of the lease and necessary child care approval; however, we often find that considerable time and cost is spent entering into and negotiating a contract ‘subject to finance’, and the buyer ultimately does not obtain finance and walk away. Wisewould Mahony Corporate Group has considerable industry knowledge and expertise to assist vendors to ensure the smooth and efficient sale of their business.
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2. Are you able to obtain a licence under the National Quality Framework Scheme via the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)? Are you a fit and proper person to operate the centre? The establishment of a new centre involves far more time and compliance than purchasing an existing facility. 3. Conduct your legal and financial due diligence before committing to an unconditional contract. The issues discussed under vendor issues are the very matters that a buyer should focus on. 4. The vendor’s lawyer or business broker will often prepare the contract, which needs to be carefully reviewed before signing, to address any issues of risk. The primary role of your lawyer is to identify and limit risk. 5. At the same time, undertake financial due diligence in relation to the financial viability of the business, and have the financials independently reviewed by your accountant. 6. A key issue in the child care industry is the size of the facility, which will determine the profit. Conduct cash flow projections to ensure that there is a return on investment over a reasonable period of one to two years, not more than three years, and the business can allow the owners to draw a reasonable salary for their time and effort. If the numbers don’t work, don’t buy it! 7. Get the right advice from experienced advisers to limit your risk. Wisewould Mahony Corporate Group have acted in the sale and purchase of child care and related health care businesses, such as pharmacies, medical practices, and optical and physiotherapy practices, for the past 30 years. We have the knowledge and experience to assist you through the process. Robert Toth, Partner, Corporate and Commercial Tel: 03 9612 7297 | Fax: 03 9629 4035 firstname.lastname@example.org www.wisewouldmahony.com.au
Wisewould Mahony Lawyers Accredited Business Law Specialists
Franchise Specialists with Industry Knowledge • • • • • • • • • •
Child care services compliance and regulation National Quality Framework advice Company structure and tax advice Workplace agreements OHS compliance Establishing franchise systems Franchisee reports and assessments Dispute resolution, mediation/solution and strategies Sale and purchase of business Leasing
We can provide support for all your business requirements in a highly regulated industry We also provide fixed fee services to our clients based on the scope of work FCA Member
(Franchise Council of Australia)
(International Franchise Lawyers Association)
Call for a complimentary guide to franchising: Contact: Robert Toth | t: +61 3 9612 7297 | e: email@example.com
finance, business + property
Six steps to financial viability BY PATRICE SHERRIE
Here are six steps for improving your service’s financial viability (that you can implement tomorrow).
usiness owners and operators in all industries – be it childcare, retail, hospitality, legal services or scientific research – share a common goal: to continuously improve the bottom line and maximise profit margins. However, not all industries share the same challenges and opportunities when it comes to operating environments.
Staying ahead of the curve and improving financial returns can be a daunting and overwhelming task...
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In the childcare sector, reforms and new requirements – such as higher staffto-child ratios and increasing standards of staff qualifications – can place Patrice Sherrie significant pressure on the cost drivers for centre owners. Staying ahead of the curve and improving financial returns can be a daunting and overwhelming task; however, by putting effort and focus into the right areas of your business, you can make a big difference to your business in a short amount of time. Patrice Sherrie, Director and Specialist Adviser at Bentleys Chartered Accountants, presented the following six tips for improving your service’s financial viability at the recent Childcare Queensland and Australian Childcare Alliance 2013 National Conference: Hands up for Wellbeing.
finance, business + property
The challenge for operators is to ensure that you charge at the right level to keep your business sustainable while still encouraging demand Occupancy – keep your numbers up As a business that relies on strong demand from parents, you need to ensure that your occupancy potential is being met consistently and that your numbers remain strong. Assess how ‘vacancy-resilient’ your business is by answering the following questions: • How frequently do you measure your occupancy levels? • How quickly can you obtain occupancy information? • Do you measure occupancy on a room-by-room basis? • Does your centre director have a standard method of analysing and comparing the data on a day-by-
day/week-by-week basis? • How equipped are you to react quickly to fill daily/ unexpected vacancies? • Do you use social media as a tool to help spread the message quickly about unexpected vacancies? • Is your database and wait list maintained and up to date? • Do you have a marketing strategy to improve longterm and occasional occupancy? • Is your team on board with the ‘sense of urgency’ surrounding vacancies?
Pricing – and get your numbers right! While most parents will tell you that money is no object when it comes to the care and education of their children, the reality is that cost is a major consideration for many. The challenge for operators is to ensure that you charge at the right level to keep your business sustainable while still encouraging demand. Getting your pricing right firstly involves being clear on what you offer and where you fit: • What are the demographics of your local area? Does your market seek a particular type of service, such as a low-cost service or a premium service? Can you offer what the market wants? • Where do you sit on the competitive scale? Find out what your competitors are charging and then determine if you can use your pricing as a way to differentiate yourself from competitors.
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• Determine the cost and the value of inclusions, such as nappies or catering, and make sure that you are charging accordingly. Similarly, review your policy and rates for public holidays, school holidays and half days.
If you own your building, consider a renegotiation of your loan. The banks are becoming more competitive, so use this to your advantage.
• How elastic are your prices? Full occupancy and a long waiting list will indicate that you have room to increase your daily rates.
At the end of the day, it’s a better (and more cost-effective) outcome for a landlord or a bank to negotiate and keep an existing client, than to try and replace one. Just remember to keep a focus on the benefits that you offer them.
Employ your staff in the most efficient way
Make sure your cash is flowing, not going
Staff-related costs account for between 50–70 per cent of revenue in the childcare sector. It is expected that the reforms being introduced via the National Quality Framework will see this figure increase. For some centre owners, these reforms could put significant strain on their profit margins.
Cash flow is a vital ingredient for any successful business. It ensures that you have the resources you need to sustain your services. With a methodical and consistent cashflow approach, you can protect your business from unexpected events. Ask yourself these questions to assess your cashflow finesse:
Implementing a rostering system to align your staff mix to your occupancy patterns is one way of improving efficiency across your wages costs. For example:
• Are you lodging timely attendance record reports for your Child Care Rebate and Child Care Benefit claims so that you receive frequent payments?
• Have you looked at your occupancy levels in early mornings and late afternoons? Can you identify any opportunities to reduce staff hours at different times throughout the day? • When was the last time you reviewed the roles and responsibilities for your team? Can small changes to job roles be made to do things more efficiently? Also consider offering your director and staff incentives to help improve profit drivers and financial returns. For example, recognising and rewarding efforts made towards improving occupancy, reducing debtors and getting greater efficiencies out of staff can make a difference not only to the bottom line, but also to morale across the business.
Get to know your landlord Following staff costs, property costs are often another significant cost driver for childcare centres. If you are leasing your space, get to know your landlord and don’t be scared to try to negotiate your costs down. Gather your facts before you approach them. The following will help to build a business case that will support your request: • Is there an under- or oversupply of tenants for your landlord? • What benefits are you bringing to them? For example, if you are in or beside a shopping centre then are you driving foot traffic for them? • What improvements have you made to the site?
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• Do you have a policy (that you enforce) on parent debtors? • Are your administration processes quick and efficient? • Do you have controls over expenses and work to an annual budget? • Are your internal controls sound? A comprehensive review of your internal controls will ensure that they are working effectively; identify possible areas for fraud and pinpoint areas for improvement.
When was the last time your childcare business had a health check? Business success can be influenced by myriad factors, but our experience from working with private and notfor-profit childcare providers is that by keeping a focus on some of the key cost drivers across your childcare operations, and by activating internal controls to mitigate risk, you can make a noticeable difference to financial performance and returns. Contact Patrice Sherrie today if you would like a copy of the Bentleys ‘Health Check for Childcare Operators’ or to discuss how to implement these changes in your business. Patrice Sherrie, Director of Specialist Advisory at Bentleys Chartered Accountants. E: firstname.lastname@example.org or P: 07 3222 9777. www.bentleys.com.au
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finance, business business++property property finance,
A look from a buyer’s perspective An interview with Sean Collins, Managing Director of Collins Acquisitions Can you tell us exactly who Collins Acquisitions is?
ollins Acquisitions acquires childcare centres on behalf of Australia’s most active and largest commercial childcare operator.
How long have you been established and what level of sales have you achieved? We’ve been actively representing buyers and sellers in child care for over eight years. To date, we have sales totalling over $300 million. We expect this total to reach $400 million by mid-2014.
They are very large sales figures. What has been the main driver for this? A couple of things. Obviously, price is a major factor, which we do our best to maximise for the seller, so we limit the number of negotiations that take place. We also find that vendors really enjoy the easy process, the relationship and the trust that the sale will be completed.
What are the main things that vendors should be aware of when looking for offers on their childcare centre? Firstly, the special conditions. We find that many people can offer a good price, but if it is conditional upon finance or other factors outside of your control, it makes the deal a little sceptical. It’s also good to understand what rationale the buyer used to come up with their offer, so you feel comfortable that it is firm and unlikely to change. Finally, the process to settlement. Vendors really need to understand the buyer’s ability to complete the transaction in a timely manner. Usually, their track record is a good indication.
How has the market changed, and where do you see it going in the future? As far as acquisitions go, there has been a very obvious push for consolidation from our perspective. It is difficult to know how long this will continue, and history will tell you that things can change swiftly. What we do like is the fact that the market is far more robust now, and banking confidence with both public and private buyers has been good.
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When do you think is a good time to sell? If you love what you do, it shouldn’t really matter about selling, but if your ultimate goal is to ensure that you sell when the value is at its peak, it is probably better to focus on when this isn’t the case. If the occupancy has dropped considerably, this can seriously impact the value. Another factor to be mindful of is when the lease is coming to an end. Too often, people wish to sell without a suitable lease in place for the purchaser. The right time to sell is on the owner’s shoulders, as there are too many personal and emotional factors that need to be considered.
play areas + sustainable practice The children with the tippy tap they constructed at the entrance of the service for families to use
All Star Early Learners tap out an award BY MICHELLE BOUABAID
The centre that won a national sustainability award shares its inspiration. What’s special about water? There’s something magical about water – children develop a connection to it from a very young age. This inspired the children’s interest in the ‘Water Exploration’ project, which won the national award for ‘Best Sustainability Program’ at the Australian Child Care Week awards in September 2013. To the delight of the educators at All Star Early Learners in Botany, New South Wales, the curriculum project could not be exhausted due to the children’s ongoing interest. What started off as a two-week exploration of the children’s interest in water turned into a three-month investigation of how water is used for health and wellbeing around the world. The initial inquiry started with finding answers to simple questions, such as, ‘What is water?’; ‘How do we use water?’; and, ‘What animals live in water?’ After these ideas were explored through a range of learning experiences, the project separated into tangents as the children questioned ideas, such as ‘What happens if we don’t have water?’; ‘Does water keep us healthy?’ and ‘Do all people use water?’
Learning through investigation and research Through research, the children learnt that not all people around the world have access to piped, running water. The educators helped children explore
this idea by holding conversations, looking through books and watching online videos. Following a group conversation with an educator about a recent water-gathering experience in remote Fiji, the staff realised the discussion was as valuable in teaching children, as watching a short online video about Indian children accessing alternative handwashing systems. As the children and educators participated in smallgroup research, they bounced ideas off each other and were learning in a social context.
What is a tippy tap? The children discovered that some remote areas of Africa and India use a ‘tippy tap’ system to promote good health and handwashing. This is a simple tap system made from recycled
The All Stars are proud of their big achievement.
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and sustainable materials to maintain hygiene practices. They were keen to construct their own tippy tap hand-washing system and were involved in all aspects of the decision-making process. They experimented with construction techniques and materials that could be used to make their tap work. Their final design involved the use of recycled containers, large branches, string and soap to construct the foot-operated hand-washing system. Once their container filled with rainwater, the children used the foot control to tip the water out onto their hands, eliminating risk of infection by touching the container. Soap was dangled off the branches by string to ensure that germs were washed away, and they would rinse the soap off by using their foot to activate the tap once again. The educators provided the scaffolding to the children’s learning as new ideas were communicated. A great example was observed when Abigail, aged four, said, ‘Let’s put the tippy tap in the garden so the water that falls off our hands can water the plants!’ – a terrific idea for recycling the water.
Water conservation Children are often reminded not to waste water, but how can educators make this concept easy for them to understand? The creation of the tippy tap inspired the educators to challenge the children to measure how much water is used by this new system, in comparison to their usage of a conventional tap.
Sense of achievement and responsibility This simple design created a great sense of achievement for the children as they had built something that worked for them, which has an important place in their daily hygiene routine. They continue to use the two tippy taps with pride during the day, particularly as they transition from outdoor play to meal times. Not only is it a novel way for the children to wash hands, but it acts as a daily reminder that water is a precious resource, not readily available to others around the world. This helps the children to develop an understanding of diversity as they acknowledge cultural differences in hygiene practices. The program demonstrated the universal concept of using and conserving water to live a healthy life – a fundamental message to be embraced by even the youngest children. In addition to the sustainability practices that are becoming an integral part of the program at All Star Early Learners, sustainability projects, such as last year’s ‘Great Greenhouse Challenge’ and the ‘Water Exploration’ project, trigger family and community awareness of environmental issues. It is most rewarding to see the children take on the role of the teacher as they inspire their parents and siblings to respect the natural environment around them. Michelle Bouabaid is the Director of All Star Early Learners, Botany, New South Wales. All photos supplied by All Star Early Learners. www.allstarlearners.com.au
The children took turns holding a jug under their friend’s hands as they washed using both systems. They then lined up the jugs and compared the volumes of water used. Children and educators were surprised at the findings – the tippy tap used oneeighth of the water that the piped taps used. ‘It doesn’t waste as much water!’ stated Logan, aged four. This experience not only helped to develop their numeracy and mathematical skills, but it also helped the children to understand how the tippy tap system wasted less water than the conventional running tap.
Inviting community participation The children asked to build a second tippy tap at the front of the centre so they could wash their hands with their parents upon entry each morning. This was another great way to extend their hygiene practices and to involve all the families. A sign was displayed near the tap inviting the local community to try out the new sustainable way to wash hands. The children testing out their new handwashing system to evaluate whether the foot-controlled lever is effective in tipping water onto their hands.
48 • BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 2 NUMBER 3 • 2013
Just some of our sales: Magic Kingdom Early Learning Centre, Moorefield Park Childcare Centre, Star Kids
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