Welcome to the world of Early Learning
Written by Deb Callahan
What does sending my child to a Childcare Centre ACTUALLY offer and mean? Where do all these fancy terms come from and how do they apply to what my child will experience?
I’m so glad you asked… let’s start with the basics…
Outcome 1: children have a strong sense of identity
Back in 2009 a group of academics, politicians and other smart people got together and decided to take a look at the best of what was available in the field of early childhood education. They produced a document now referred to as “Belonging, Being and Becoming. The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia” (or the “EYLF”). It was then endorsed by the right group of people (CHOGM) to become the Nationally endorsed ‘go-to guide’ for ‘the industry’.
Not long after (around 2012), further advances were made towards ‘professionalising’ the industry when more clever people enshrined all the legislation (regulations), guidelines, frameworks (including the EYLF) and standards under an umbrella called the “National Quality Framework” or “NQF”.
They also created a national body to oversee its implementation and named it “Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority” – a group we now refer to as ACECQA (a-see-kwa). From this, we saw a shift from terms like “childcare worker” to “Educator” and “daycare” to “Early Learning” or “Early Childhood Development”.
Outcome 2: children are connected with and contribute to the world
Qualifications quality and expectations for the industry were improved, ratios of Educators to children were improved and Quality Standards were defined. The process for evaluating the quality of childcare service providers shifted from being “compliance” based (for example, do you have 27 beds) to being more qualitative as well as quantitative (for example, do you have 27 beds available for those children who would like to sleep as well as a series of alternative learning opportunities for the children who would just like to experience a ‘quiet time’). This process is called “Assessment and Rating” or “A&R” and should occur anywhere from yearly to every 3 years. Centres are given a ‘rating’ from ‘significant improvement required’ through to ‘ACECQA Excellent’. If you’re wondering what your Centre has been rated at, please follow this link.
Each State and Territory in Australia also have bodies (in Queensland it’s the Department of Education and Training, Early Childhood Education and Care) responsible for discharging aspects of the NQF - and many have also built their own additions to the EYLF. For example, here in Queensland, we also have the Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guidelines (QKLG) for the government endorsed Kindergarten Program, designed for children who participate in the year prior to commencing Primary School.
Outcome 3: children have a strong sense of wellbeing
Are you still with us?... Just a little further and we’ll start to talk about what some of what this means for you and your child.
In addition to the above ‘government-endorsed’ programs, there is also a raft of different philosophies that individual centres can offer. You may have heard of… Reggio Emilia inspired, a Waldorf learning centre, a Montessori service, plus many more… these are methodologies, styles and philosophies that may reflect a particular interpretation of, or attitude to, children’s learning.
I would like to take a moment though to focus on the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) as this is the document that we are required to use at our Centre. The EYLF is broken down into Practices, Principles and Learning Outcomes.
The Practices and Principles are about the Educators and how they go about developing and devising a Curriculum and learning approach for themselves. This is focused on ‘professionalising’ the early childhood years of education and ensuring that we have articulate and knowledgeable people delivering the product of Learning Outcomes to your children.
Outcome 4 : children are confident and involved learners
The Learning Outcomes are divided into 5 Headings, with multiple sub headings, that are designed ensure that the children who participate in one of our programmes are provided with the opportunity to develop the range of skills, social competency and confidence necessary to launch into their “formal” years of learning.
Not only does your child gain exposure to these outcomes via a skilled workforce – we are required to document what we do and how we do it. This documentation is prepared on a group and individual basis and a record for your child must be kept and made available to you. So at any time, you can understand what your child is achieving, what they’re finding challenging, what the team are doing to address your child’s needs, how your child’s cultural needs are being met etc.
What about those other things that we used to hear about? You know – developmental milestones… what’s happened to them?
Please rest assured, ‘developmental milestones’ are still valid – however, they are now encapsulated as part of the EYLF. There is also a greater appreciation of the fact that different children develop at different rates and that there may also be greater support needed for different children, due to their individual developmental delays etc.
I can hear you now… this is all very nice, lots of buzz words and frameworks and stuff – but does my child still get loving care and attention?
Yes! Absolutely! In fact, all those emotional, nurturing and practical things (such as cuddling when your child falls over, sitting quietly with your child and talking to them about what they’re upset about and helping them learn how to toilet train) – are still very much a part of what we do!
Outcome 5 : children are effective communicators
Another change in childcare is how childcare (early learning) centres look and feel. Gone are the bright ‘plastic fantastic’ and now we are about replicating the feeling of being at home, and providing an environment that offers a greater connection to the natural world.
Now we recognise the importance of ‘play based learning’, encouraging ‘risky play’ and offering an ‘environment as a teacher’.
We know this can feel quite overwhelming! Please know that our focus is always on ’the best outcome for the child’. This is our primary goal – to offer your child a great place to come and be given the opportunity to be the best that they can be.
So… our door is always open. Our hearts are open and our brains are constantly ticking but we always want to talk to you, to learn about you, your family and your child.
Deb has 25 years of experience in the care and education of children - from assistant to Director. She is part of Giggle Tree Childcare Consultancy who support Little Village where needed.