The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.

How can families and the community contribute to your quality improvement processes and goals? How can these collaborative relationships support children and contribute to quality outcomes? In this third instalment, I turn my attention to the partnerships at the heart of Quality Area 6 and their potential for supporting and enhancing outcomes for children.

Part 3: Family and community engagement – Continuous improvement is a shared endeavour 

Relationships are very much at the heart of our profession. Quality Area 6 – Collaborative partnerships with families and communities speaks to the familiar adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and reflects current research that suggests when educators, families and communities work together as partners to collectively support children’s healthy development and wellbeing, the potential for improving positive learning outcomes is enhanced. This quality area focuses on educators, families and communities uniting around a shared vision for children and working together to achieve goals.

The changes to the National Quality Standard (NQS) present an opportunity to reflect on existing practices and consider how families – as children’s first and influential educators – are meaningfully supported from the time of enrolment to exercise their agency and contribute to service self-assessment, decision-making and quality improvement processes. The 2018 NQS can also help you consider how your service establishes and maintains an active presence in the local community, seeks to strengthen community links and learn about local community contexts, aspirations and needs to develop inclusive and responsive programs and quality improvement goals. You might also like to reflect on  the way family and community engagement in your service’s self-assessment and quality improvement processes speak to the advocacy of education and care in your community and help raise public awareness of the importance of early childhood development and the benefits of quality education and care.


Tip:
‘Family’ is a single word with many different meanings. Children have diverse understandings of ‘family’ and unique relationships with those who feature predominately in their lives. Extended families, kinship ties, carers and guardians can provide essential relationships in children’s lives.

How do you reflect on what the concept of family means to each child and nurture the important relationships that exist between children and their families?

Does your concept of family reflect the diversity of family structures in the service and the wider community?


Questions for consideration:

  • How are your self-assessment and quality improvement processes shaped by meaningful engagement with families and the community?
  • What techniques or strategies do you use to encourage families and the community to meaningfully inform the development and review of quality improvement planning processes, including self-assessment? How effective are these strategies in receiving and addressing feedback?
  • Is your service’s Quality Improvement Plan displayed or accessible so families can view the current goals and strategies for quality improvement? How do you share your progress and celebrate achievements with families?
  • How is community level data (e.g. the Australian Early Development Census [AEDC]) used to identify the vulnerabilities of children in your community, identify quality improvement priorities and support partnerships that provide targeted support to children and families?


Tip
: Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and the Queensland Department of Education have developed a free suite of resources to help services use the AEDC data. The AEDC data provides important information about the development of Australia’s children, with these resources providing clear links to the NQS and approved learning frameworks. View the AEDC resources and read more about how you might use the results to inform your self-assessment and quality improvement practices and support areas of vulnerability in your community.

 

Building on these collaborative relationships, in the next instalment we will look at relationships with children and their active and meaningful participation in your self-assessment and quality improvement processes.

 

Read the complete series:

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 4

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

Connecting with communities

 ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.

Standard 6.3 of the National Quality Standard (NQS) highlights how helping children contribute to their community can improve children’s wellbeing and learning.

When educators make connections within the wider community, they advocate for children’s rights to be seen as active citizens who contribute to society. Children’s understanding of citizenship and stewardship develops and the community is reflected in the service program, practice and operations.

Early Childhood Australia’s Code of Ethics includes a set of statements related to engaging with the community, advocating for children’s rights, and promoting shared aspirations for children’s learning, health and wellbeing. These statements also emphasise the value of learning about the community to:

  • enhance practice and the educational program, ensuring it is reflective of the context and community priorities
  • promote community understandings of how children learn.

It is useful to find out what is happening in your local community and identify national or international events that children can be involved in. This can help children to feel a sense of belonging in, contributing to and influencing their world.

Recent posts on our We Hear You blog highlight the practices of two services that have effectively engaged with their communities. Larapinta Preschool in the Northern Territory focused on developing and nurturing partnerships with families and their local community by working alongside organisations in the community to develop an understanding about Indigenous perspectives in the local context. Gowrie Victoria Docklands worked with the Melbourne Museum on the redevelopment of the museum’s children’s gallery, advocating for children’s ideas and suggestions to be taken into account in the design and development stages of the project.

Making links with the local library, schools, Indigenous communities and family support services, for example, can help build understandings and make relevant and authentic connections and partnerships in the community. The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) also is a useful source of information about your community, that can inform decision making.

Engaging in authentic and respectful community celebrations is also a great strategy for building children’s understanding of their community and respect for diversity. You might like to develop a calendar of relevant community events and add national events appropriate for young children and their families, such as Children’s Week (22-30 October), NAIDOC Week (3-10 July), Book Week (20-26 August 2016) and Literacy and Numeracy Week (29 August-4 September).

Further reading and resources
Creating a sense of community – KidsMatter
Working with communities – AEDC

 

Networking – opportunities for sharing practice and creating professional learning communities


 ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.

One of the things that inspires me in the national workshops I’ve been facilitating is how much educators enjoy getting together and engaging in professional conversations about the work they do. Most educators enjoy sharing practice ideas and working together to critically reflect on the situations they come across each day.

What if you had these opportunities more regularly, building local learning communities where you come together as professionals and talk about what you do and reflect on issues and trends together? Professional learning communities can connect people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact, enabling them to explore new possibilities, solve challenging problems, and create new, mutually beneficial partnerships. These communities stimulate learning by serving as a vehicle for authentic communication, mentoring, coaching, and self-reflection.

Opportunities to network in this way can come from conference attendance, workshops and professional development opportunities. You could also join an online community, such as the ACECQA and Early Childhood Australia Facebook pages and blogs or establish your own sharing platform. KidsMatter offer some useful thoughts about keeping safe within an online community. There is a range of learning and networking communities already established, some examples are listed below.

Under National Quality Standard Quality Area 7, Standard 7.1, leaders in the service are encouraged to develop professional learning communities. This is also reflected in the Early Years Learning Framework and the Framework for School Age Care principle of ongoing learning.

A professional learning community within a service has a shared vision for service operation in which everyone makes a contribution and is encouraged to collectively reflect on, with the view of improving, practice. A professional learning community in the wider sense enables sharing multiple perspectives from a range of services, providing a vehicle on which to engage in critical reflection on and about practice.

KidsMatter, in their Being collaborative learning communities article, share nine essentials for leading a collaborative learning community. While this article focuses on individual services, many of the principles can be used to establish networking opportunities within your wider early education community. You could do this by asking:

  • What are the benefits of a professional learning community?
  • What does a professional learning community look/feel/sound like in our community?
  • How can we build our collaborative learning community?
  • How might we involve all services within our community?

There is a range of established networks, including the following:

Gowrie NSW Networking Hub
Gowrie Victoria
Community Early Learning Australia
PSC ACT
Child Australia NT
Workforce Council QLD
Gowrie Tasmania
Child Australia WA

Further reading and resources
Child Care Staff: Learning and growing through professional development

Useful email subscriptions for early childhood services could include:

ECA Web Watch
Australian Early Development Census
Australian Policy Online
Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth

Cultural Competence

ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.

Interacting with various cultures enriches our everyday lives. Building cultural competence in educators and children promotes equity, respect and valuing of different cultures. But as the Early Years Learning Framework and Framework for School Age Care show, cultural competence is much more than an awareness of cultural differences. It is the ability to understand, communicate and effectively interact with people across cultures and includes:

  • being aware of your own world view
  • developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences
  • gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views.

The frameworks also promote respect for diversity and equity. Strategies include:

  • reflecting on our personal biases
  • challenging discriminatory viewpoints
  • using resources that are culturally relevant
  • adapting curriculum to children’s ideas, interests and culture
  • drawing on the expertise of families and those belonging to a cultural group
  • inviting guests from a range of cultures to visit your service
  • using the reflective questions in the learning frameworks (EYLF pp.13, FSAC pp.11), such as ‘Who is advantaged when I work in this way? Who is
    disadvantaged?’.

Cultural competence also includes delivering a curriculum that respects the cultural identity, language and values of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Significant value lies in spending time with your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Suggested ‘first steps’ are:

  • Make contact with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners and Corporations/ Co-operatives in your area
  • Find out if your jurisdiction has an Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, such as the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc
  • Contact your State/Territory Education Department for referral to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander liaison workers
  • Look up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander training or support providers in your area, for example NGROO Education Inc in NSW and the Indigenous Professional Support Units (IPSUs) and/or the Professional Support Coordinator across each state and territory.

Further reading and resources

Cultural Competence: Language Program Development
Children’s Services Central. Engaging with Aboriginal Communities: Where do we start?
Kidsmatter. Cultural diversity: Suggestions for families and educators
Cultural competence fact sheets for School Age Care.  My Time Our Place (for OSHC services)
Cultural Connections booklet