Parents often ask what makes a high-quality childcare centre, and how do I know I am making the right choices for my child? How do I ensure the centre my child is enrolled is in going to provide the very best environment for my child’s wellbeing?
These are great questions as quality in early childhood education and can vary from area to area, and at the same time, personal ideas about quality childcare can vary depending on values, beliefs and cultural or social context, and also on who is making the judgement.
In this post we will be covering what we believe is represents a high-quality childcare centre and the standards required to achieve a high-quality status as rated under a system called the National Quality Framework here in Australia.
Definition of a high quality childcare centre
So what is the definition of a high-quality child care centre and what does high-quality really mean?
While there is no single definition of quality in childcare, experts in the field agree a centre which creates a stimulating, safe and loving environment for your child and meets the standards outlined is deemed to be considered high-quality.
Key factors in a high-quality centre essential to the well-being of children include:
- Health, safety and good hygiene
- Safe physical setting and well-maintained environment
- Well-balanced nutritional diet
- Suitable number of highly skilled staff who are sensitive and responsive to children
- Times for active play with an age-appropriate curriculum, especially outdoors
- Time allocated for quiet play and rest
- Opportunities for developing motor, social, language, emotional growth and cognitive skills through play
- Positive, warm and responsive interactions with adults, staff and children
- Participation of, support for and communication with parents
- Respect for diversity and difference, gender equality and inclusion of children with disabilities
Childcare centres with broad learning and development goals for children that go above and beyond early literacy and numeracy skills to include social, emotional, cultural, artistic and physical goals are generally agreed to contribute to a high-quality childcare program.
Additionally, allowing children to learn through play and experiencing a wide range of artistic, cultural, educational, social and physical activities is also highly desirable.
If we think it about in terms of a child’s view, a high-quality program may mean feeling accepted for who they are no matter what their ability or culture. It means having friends and responsive adults, being emotionally and physically comfortable and the possibility of having a variety of fun, interesting and engaging activities.
Parents may define high quality child-care as one that has the child’s health and safety at the top of their list, the child is happy, the program is conveniently located and affordable, and is a key to balancing work and family so that parents have peace of mind while at work.
Other areas parents may describe a high-quality program as one that includes incorporating discernable school ready activities, such as pre-or early reading or learning to count or highlighting learning social skills such as cooperation.
An environment where families’ culture and their child’s abilities are respected, their child is happy, makes friends, has interesting and positive experiences, and learns about a wide variety of things are also highly regarded by parents.
National Quality Framework
As we know ‘quality’ can mean a range of different things to a range of people. Understanding this range of differing views, the National Quality Framework in Australia was designed to raise the quality of early childhood services.
The National Quality Framework’s core focus is measuring the quality of services. This information is then given to families to help them choose early education and care with confidence.
How early childhood services are rated
The quality of early childhood services is measured against seven quality areas as outlined. These standards are based on what the research shows are the most important parts of a quality early education and care service.
- Quality areas – What this area is about
- Educational program and practice – Your child is supported to participate in play and learning
- Children’s health and safety – Your child is protected from illness and hazards
- Physical environment – Your child plays in a safe and well-maintained environment
- Staffing arrangements – There are enough qualified staff to give your child the attention they need
- Relationships with children – Your child is made to feel supported and welcomed
- Collaborative partnerships with families and communities – Local community involvement and respect for the beliefs and values of families
- Leadership and service management – Your child is educated in a positive and well managed environment
Services receive a rating for each of the quality areas and an overall rating based on these results. Services are assessed and rated regularly by authorised officers from the Victorian Dept of Education and Training.
For more information about these quality areas and ratings, please visit the Victorian Dept Education & Training Department’s pages about the National Quality Framework and early child-hood services.
The ChildsPlay ELC Tarneit team are very proud to hold the “Exceeding the National Quality Standard” Rating and are working towards achieving our Excellent NQS Rating in 2020.