ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.
In the previous instalment, we explored the way collaborative relationships with families and the community can contribute to your quality improvement processes and goals. In part four, I want to build on this collaboration and focus on how engaging children’s voices and ideas in your decision making can reflect your service values and philosophy, as well as encourage and support children’s agency.
Part 4: Engaging with children’s voices in service decision making – Are we truly listening?
The right of the child to be heard is set out under Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). It establishes the right of every child to have their say in decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account. The articles within the UNCRC are embedded within the guiding principles of the National Quality Framework (NQF) which apply when making decisions about operating education and care services and working to meet or exceed the National Quality Standard (NQS). Similarly, the approved learning frameworks explicitly incorporate the Convention and highlight the central role of children’s rights in the provision of quality curriculum decision making and service delivery.
The NQF, NQS, approved learning frameworks and the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Code of Ethics (as a professional standard) apply a strengths and rights-based approach that positions children as active participants in their learning and as owners of rights, respect and agency. The concept of ‘agency’, applied within the NQS and approved learning frameworks, refers to children’s ability to ‘make choices and decisions, to influence events and have an impact on one’s world’ (Early Years Learning Framework, p.45; Framework for School Age Care, p. 41). Even very young children have preferences, make choices, and have the ability to influence others, actively construct their own understandings and contribute to others’ learning. Having a sense of agency is closely linked to the key concepts of being, belonging and becoming, and to developing a strong sense of identity.
The process of embedding the 2018 NQS provides an opportunity to reflect on how your self-assessment and quality improvement processes meaningfully involve children’s input and welcome their feedback and suggestions. Remember, children are the best source of advice for matters affecting them – as the quality improvement goals you are seeking to make mainly benefit children, it makes sense to engage them and reflect their voices in the process.
The 2018 NQS also supports you to consider how self-assessment and quality improvement processes are informed by and reflect the values, beliefs and philosophy of your service. For example, if your service philosophy values children as ‘active participants and decision makers’, how might this belief be embedded and enacted in your self-assessment and quality practices?
Questions for consideration:
- Do your self-assessment and continuous improvement processes encourage children’s developing sense of agency by embracing their input and incorporating their decisions and ideas? Are children provided with the sense their ideas and opinions matter?
- What strategies are used to encourage children to express their ideas as fully and richly as possible? Are the processes accessible, inclusive and meaningful to children? How do you respond to children’s comments and criticisms?
- How do your self-assessment and quality improvement processes reflect Article 12 of the UNCRC: ‘Respect for the views of children’? Do you consider the way your decision making ‘affects children, their right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account’?
- The approved learning frameworks note that ‘viewing children as active participants and decision makers opens up possibilities … to move beyond pre-conceived expectations about what children can do and learn’ (Early Years Learning Framework,9; Framework for School Age Care, p.7). How does authentically listening to children inform your work as an educator?
In the final instalment of this series, we will further explore the importance of your service philosophy, the way it guides all aspects of service operations and your approach to achieving quality outcomes for children.