ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.
Earlier in this series, we asked you to consider: Who or what is included in your service community? As this can be a challenging question, part three of the series explores six key questions to help you to identify your community members and create effective connection and collaboration.
1. What is our purpose?
Communities usually have a shared purpose. Taking time to clarify your own purpose is a vital, first step when identifying your community. A clear purpose gives you direction and enables you to effectively identify potential community members. Ideally, for a children’s education and care service, your primary purpose is promoting positive educational and developmental outcomes for children. Placing children at the centre of your community will ensure they are the focus of your efforts.
2. Who is in my organisation community?
Some community members are automatically part of your community as they are part of your organisation. The approved provider, educators and other service staff such as co-ordinators, cooks and office staff are all important members of your community. Individually and collectively, they help you to achieve your purpose. A sense of community within your organisation creates a positive organisational culture and can nurture a professional learning community. These both have significant benefits to the service, staff, families and children.
3. Who is in each child’s primary ‘people’ community?
Each child has their own unique ‘people’ community. Family and non-family carers, such as foster parents or guardians, are central to each child’s ‘people’ community and are, therefore, important members of your education and care service community. In some communities, extended family will also be a significant part of the community, as will carers who regularly drop off and collect children from the service. Families and carers will, ideally, also share your primary purpose of positive educational and developmental outcomes for children.
Other children attending the service will also be important members of each child’s ‘people’ community. Daily interactions and relationships with peers give children important social-emotional experiences that shape their development, wellbeing and learning.
4. Who else is in each child’s ‘people’ community?
Other people and organisations are members of your child’s community and share your primary purpose, so are a part of your service community. These could be oriented to:
- Child education: e.g. education professions engaged with the child or service, such as Inclusion Support professionals; or education services that a child might attend or be planning to attend, such as other services or schools. For outside school hours care (OSHC) services, the school is an important part of your service community and vice versa. The school’s broader community beyond the school gates is, therefore, also a part of the OSHC community.
- Child health: e.g. medical, child and family health, or allied health professions engaged with the child or service, e.g. speech pathologists, paediatricians.
- Family support: e.g. parenting groups, playgroups, toy libraries.
Cultural and faith-based groups can also be significant parts of a child or their family’s community and, therefore, part of your community.
5. Where is our community?
Enabling children to connect and engage with the place of your community can promote positive educational and developmental outcomes for children. Some services will have very strong connections to the land or location of their service neighbourhood through shared culture, history and/or experience. For other services, and for those where staff and/or families are not local (for example, a workplace service in a city building), an understanding and connection to place may need to be developed.
To gain knowledge and understanding of your place, start by mapping your local community using paper or digital maps. Exploring and having experiences in your community will provide greater insight. Features that could be a meaningful part of your community may include:
- Geography: e.g. beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes, gullies, paddocks, floodplains, bushland, caves, forests, trees.
- Transport: e.g. streets, railway lines and stations, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, bridges, car parks, bus stops, footpaths, lifts, escalators.
- Urbanscape: e.g. shops, shopping centres, offices, signs, recycling stations, fences, houses.
- Community resources: e.g. the post office, parks, library, fire station, police station, hospital, health centres, sporting fields, schools and education and care services, council buildings, community gardens, halls, monuments.
- Culture or faith: e.g. local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land council, churches, synagogues, mosques or temples.
Engagement with community places also enables social connections to the people of these places – for example, librarians, train station staff, pedestrian crossing volunteers, postman or the park ranger. These people have the potential to become a part of your ‘people’ community.
6. Who could potentially be a part of our community?
Other people or organisations could share or support your purpose of promoting positive educational and developmental outcomes for children, but they may not have been identified in questions 1-5. Potential community members will be unique to your context, but could:
- Support children: e.g. a local business that could donate recycled resources for construction play.
- Support families: e.g. counselling or legal aid organisations.
- Support staff: e.g. a wellbeing organisation.
- Support the service: e.g. a professional development organisation.
- Support your community: e.g. community gardens.
- Promote your purpose: e.g. media organisations such as a local newspaper.
You may not be currently engaged with these potential community members, however, identifying them is the first step to connecting, collaborating and achieving your purpose.
Clarifying your purpose and identifying who and what comprises your community will enrich your understanding of your community. Your service is unique because of its community. I encourage you to talk with members of your community about your community and discover more about who and where you are. Such conversations are an example of valuable community interactions. Communities are not static and multiple, dynamic interactions, relationships and contexts shape your community and each child at its centre.
Reflective questions and activity for you and your team or service
At a staff, parent or community meeting, provide attendees with large pieces of paper and coloured pens and ask them to “draw the service community”. The drawing could be in any form – a list, a map, an illustration, a diagram… Encourage creativity.
Compare and discuss the similarities and differences. Is there collective agreement? As a group, brainstorm if there are individuals, groups, organisations or places not currently in your community that you would like to engage in your community?
To support you to develop relationships and collaborate with community members, to promote positive outcomes for children, parts four and five of this blog series will outline some key strategies.
Further reading and resources
ACECQA – Information sheet – Belonging, being and becoming for educators
KidsMatter – Creating an organisational culture of your dreams
Victorian Department of Education and Training – ‘Ecological model of child learning and development’, Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework
Read the complete series: