Celebrating diversity at Larapinta Preschool

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Harmony Day on 21 March was an opportunity to celebrate Australia’s diversity.

This month, we hear from Jenny Ashenden, Teacher in Charge, at Larapinta Preschool in the Northern Territory about their daily practice and programs that encourage respect, curiosity, and develop children’s knowledge, particularly in regards to its local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

At Larapinta we use a parent’s eye to understand where children have come from and a teacher’s eye to plan for where they are going to as learners. This means that age, gender, position in family, developmental levels, prior experiences, strengths, needs, cultural backgrounds and family expectations are used to inform our pedagogy, planning and practice.

We strive to create a sense of belonging for the families and children that attend Larapinta Preschool. There is an emphasis on developing and nurturing partnerships with families, local community services and children. Each year we revisit and update the Larapinta Preschool Philosophy to ensure we have a clear understanding of how we can act in a respectful manner towards all cultures.

At our preschool we believe that relationships and partnerships form the foundation for learning and inform our daily practice and long term planning. As we are based in the Northern Territory, we have a particular focus on Indigenous communities but we celebrate and embrace all cultures of our children, families and staff.

Learning at Larapinta

Community partnerships

Working alongside organisations in our community helps develop our understanding about Indigenous perspectives in our local context. Some examples of these partnerships include:

  • partnering with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Health Service through the Preschool Readiness Program
  • provision of a playgroup organised and run by Indigenous staff members – initially established for Indigenous families but extended to welcome all local families
  • attending a Central Australian Early Childhood Educators’ Association meeting, organised by one of our preschool staff members – learning about the world view of traditional owners of the land around Alice Springs via a cultural explanation of how local landmarks and sites of significance were created.

We also make use of the expertise of staff. Last year we celebrated NAIDOC week by organising an excursion to the Alice Springs Desert Park where children and educators worked together to cook kangaroo tail and damper the traditional way, in the hot ashes of a campfire.

Partnerships with families and children

We strongly believe families are the very first teachers and we work in partnership with them. Simple strategies include greeting family members in their home language, having daily conversations, communicating via email and having a suggestion box for feedback.

A ‘My Place’ poster is on display for families to share events, interests and questions from home. Children are encouraged to share their stories in class.

Larapinta - My Place photo

Parent meetings allow us to learn about the backgrounds and cultures of families in detail. A parent shared her childhood memory of a lantern walk, a German tradition celebrating St Martin, and we organised a version that was adopted by the Larapinta Community the following year.

Just a small selection of examples of how we do this when working with and supporting our children and families are:

  • staff build relationships that can be nurtured over time as families return with younger siblings
  • educators exhibit pictorial and photographic displays so children and families can see themselves reflected in the program and learning environment
  • our end of year performance celebrates and reflects our similarities, differences and diversity and children are encouraged to wear traditional clothing.

Resources

The Harmony Day website has a number of resources and activities to assist educators to embed respect and celebration of cultural diversity into practice, policies and programs. These include lesson ideas, lesson plans and activities.

Let us know on the ACECQA Facebook page if you have any other ideas or activities to share with educators.

Collaborative partnerships with families and communities


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Photos_headshot1_editedThis month ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone looks at genuine partnerships with families and communities that foster respect for diversity and contribute to positive learning outcomes for children.

There is a traditional African proverb that suggests “It takes a village to raise a child”. Modern research supports that what children need is for families, educators and communities to collectively support their healthy development and well being.

Recognising this, the approved learning frameworks[1] identify as a learning outcome that children should have opportunities to connect with and contribute to their world. Children’s sense of identity develops through connections in their family, community, culture and environment.

The National Quality Standard (NQS) goes beyond simply requiring parent involvement, instead encouraging respectful, supportive, collaborative relationships with families and communities. Quality Area 6 – Collaborative Partnerships with families and communities focuses on educators, families and communities uniting around a shared vision for children and working together to achieve goals.

This Quality Area promotes respectful supportive relationships with families (NQS Standard 6.1), support for families in their parenting role and their values and beliefs about child rearing (NQS Standard 6.2) and collaboration with other organisations and service providers to enhance children’s learning and wellbeing (NQS Standard 6.3).

Secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships

When educators establish respectful and caring relationships with children and families, they are able to work together to construct curriculum and learning experiences relevant to children in their local context. These experiences gradually expand children’s knowledge and understanding of the world.[2]

Collaborative relationships are built in an environment of mutual respect, trust and honesty, established through effective communication and strengthening each other to feel capable and empowered.

The Connections resource developed by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health offers practical strategies for communication with families including dealing with sensitive issues.

Partnerships

The approved learning frameworks identify that learning outcomes are most likely to be achieved when educators work in partnership with families and communities.

In genuine partnerships, families and early childhood educators:

  • value each other’s knowledge of each child
  • value each other’s contributions to and roles in each child’s life
  • trust each other
  • communicate freely and respectfully with each other
  • share insights and perspectives about each child
  • engage in shared decision-making. [3]

In respectful partnerships, educators also support parents in their parenting role. They may for example source and share information from reputable sources with parents. For example, in response to a parent enquiry, educators and parents may discuss safe sleeping at home, drawing on and referring to reputable sources of information such as the SIDS and Kids resources.

High expectations and equity

The learning frameworks note that educators who are committed to equity believe in all children’s capacities to succeed, regardless of diverse circumstances and abilities.[4] Collaborative relationships and the use of critical reflection allow educators to implement programs that provide equal opportunities for all children to achieve learning outcomes.

As part of Quality Area 1: Educational Program and Practice each child’s current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program.

The NQS requires educators to adapt their curriculum to support each individual child including cultural factors which contribute to who they are, how they learn and how they respond. The experiences, interactions and routines each child engages in need to be relevant to them, respectful of their background and recognise and build on their current interests and abilities.

Respect for diversity

The approved learning frameworks stress the value of demonstrating respect for diversity and promoting cultural competence within education and care services.

To support individual children, educators need to learn about each child’s background and respect and honour family histories, cultures, languages, traditions, child rearing practices and lifestyle choices.

While feedback from families is important educators also need to be mindful and respectful of individual contexts and diversity. We need to reflect and consider a range of ways to appropriately, respectfully and realistically involve families, many of whom are balancing family, work and other responsibilities.

Community involvement, such as drawing on the expertise of those belonging to a cultural group or inviting culturally relevant guests to the service may also build a respect for diversity and cultural competence.

Ongoing learning and reflective practice

The development of genuine, respectful partnership relationships requires educators to seek information or strategies from families or professionals to enhance their pedagogy and curriculum.

Thinking that there is only one right way and not reflecting on practice can mean that opportunities are lost for children’s learning or that they can be disadvantaged by it. Critical reflection involves thinking about all aspects of experiences and considering different perspectives. For example it is important for educators to seek to understand the perspective of the parent as well as reflect on their own pedagogy, feelings, values and beliefs when addressing parental concerns to ensure fair, equitable and respectful outcomes.

The Connections resource shares further insight into considering different perspectives.

With end of year approaching, it’s a good time for educators to consider how end-of-year and new-year celebrations offer opportunities to engage in genuine partnership relationships with families and communities that foster respect for diversity and contribute to positive learning outcomes for children.

Resources

Child Australia. Welcoming Conversations with Culturally and Linguistically diverse families An Educators Guide. Offers practical advice for collaboration with culturally and linguistically diverse families.

Community Child Care. Self-Guided Learning Package, Discussing Sensitive Issues- A Proactive Approach to Communicating with Families. This resource is a practical learning guide to assist educators in communicating effectively with parents.

Connections. A resource for educators to support children’s mental health and wellbeing

Early Childhood Australia. Talking about practice e-learning video: Partnerships with Families

Family Worker Training and Development Programme. Diversity in Practice Resource Kit. A resource kit for early childhood services working with children and families from migrant and refugee backgrounds in the Nepean area

Guide to the National Quality Standard. Standard 6.1. Pages 142- 152

Kidsmatter: Families. KidsMatter provides families with a range of information sheets to help them support children’s mental health and wellbeing, and to recognise if and when professional help is needed.

Linking Together for Aboriginal Children provides educators with advice, information and tips on how to effectively collaborate with the Aboriginal community in their area.

NAPCAN Brochures. Brochures to support parents in their role and prevent child abuse.

Raising Children Network. This website is a useful to share with parents to support them in their parenting role.

SIDS and Kids Website. This website provides useful information on safe sleeping.

Case Study: Bundaberg Baptist Family Day Care

ACECQA spoke with Service Support Manger, Judy Collins at the Bundaberg Baptist Family Day Care Service about the programs and activities in place to engage families and include them in children’s learning.

“We help parents to take an active role in their children’s education, development and overall wellbeing,” Judy said.

“The Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY), funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, is just one example of how we empower parents to participate in their children’s learning. Tutors from our service, (HIPPY Bundaberg) visit families in their home environment and role-play learning activities that the parents then deliver to their children.

“It’s about developing a love of learning and prepares the children for their smooth transition to school. It also acknowledges that the parent is the child’s first teacher. The program has been really successful and we’re looking forward to continuing on in 2015,” Judy said.

Bundaberg Baptist Family Day Care Service also unites with other organisations in the community to support families and enhance children’s wellbeing, especially in the lead up to Christmas.

“With Christmas around the corner we’re working with the local newspaper and Bundaberg Baptist Church for the provision of Christmas hampers for those families who have experienced a difficult year. We are fortunate to have the support of the local newspaper, who organise the ‘Adopt-A-Family Christmas Appeal,” said Judy.

Kids in Cars is another program that helps families at this time of year.

“Short term, free loans of baby capsules, car seats and boosters are available as part of our service; including safety demonstrations and information sessions. Lots of families need assistance with car restraints and in the lead up to Christmas we’re experiencing an increase in the number of families using this service,”

Judy believes a child’s sense of identity develops through connections in the family, community, culture and environment.

“We support the broader community and empower families because we know this leads to better outcomes for children,” she said.

References 

[1] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2009) ‘Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’ and My Time, Our Place – Framework for School Age Care in Australia’

[2] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2009) ‘Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’, Early childhood Pedagogy, pp. 11.

[3] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2009) ‘Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’, Principles, pp. 12 and Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2011) ‘My Time, Our Place – Framework for School Age Care in Australia’, Principles, pp. 10.

[4] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2009) ‘Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia’, Principles, pp. 12 and Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2011) ‘My Time, Our Place – Framework for School Age Care in Australia’, Principles, pp. 11.

Food for thought

DBOOSH_32 copyACECQAPhotos_headshot1_edited‘s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone, explores the physical implications of nutritious food and why healthy eating practices are such an important component of the National Quality Framework. 

We are all familiar with the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and likely remember being told that “carrots help you see in the dark”. But what are the physical implications of the intake of nutritious food and why is their consumption so highly promoted in the National Quality Framework (NQF)?

When receiving nutrients, studies have shown the body prioritises survival first, followed by growth, then brain development. Being well-nourished can have a significant impact on children’s long term health including physical and motor development, brain development, immunity and metabolic programming.

Due to the rapid pace of brain development, nutrition can affect a child’s learning capacity, analytical and social skills, and their ability to adapt to different environments and people. Research also shows that good nutrition protects the body against disease and determines the body’s metabolic programming of glucose, protein, lipids and hormones.

Longitudinal studies have shown that responding early to cases of insufficient nutrition significantly improves long term health and productivity.

The National Quality Standard (NQS) acknowledges the importance of nutrition for children. For example, Standard 2.2 of the National Quality Standard aims to ensure food and drinks provided by services are nutritious and appropriate for each child. To make informed decisions about what is nutritious and appropriate for children, services are encouraged to refer to guidelines and advice from recognised authorities such as the Department of Health and Ageing’s publication, Get up and Grow: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for Early Childhood and the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia.

Services are also encouraged to ensure that food is consistent with advice provided by families about their child’s dietary requirements, likes, dislikes and cultural or other requirements families have regarding their child’s nutrition.

To meet approved learning framework outcomes, services should provide many opportunities for children to experience a range of healthy foods and to learn about food choices from educators and other children (Early Years Learning Framework, page 30; Framework for School Age Care, page 30).

The Education and Care Services National Regulations require that:

  • the food or beverages offered are nutritious and adequate in quantity, and are chosen having regard to the dietary requirements of each child including their growth and development needs and any specific cultural, religious or health requirements (Regulation 79) (this does not apply to food supplied for the child by child’s parents)
  • if the service provides food and drinks (other than water), a weekly menu which accurately describes the food and drinks must be displayed at the service at a place accessible to parents (Regulation 80)
  • the approved provider must ensure policies and procedures are in place in relation to health and safety, including nutrition, food and drinks, and dietary requirements (Regulation 168).

The NQF recognises the professionalism of the education and care sector. Providers and educators are encouraged to use their professional judgement to make informed decisions when developing policies and procedures for their service, children and families.

Collaborative relationships with families play an important role and will help in promoting understanding of healthy eating for children.

Nutrition Australia – Children and the Guide to the National Quality Standard pp. 60- 63 are also useful resources for educators and parents.

ACECQA spoke with a NSW service to see how they promote healthy eating practices, nutritional value and physical play.

Double Bay OSHC in Sydney encourages children to adopt healthy eating practices on a daily basis. Team Leader, Karim Moulay, said by displaying posters and signs around the kitchen and service, staff and children are reminded of the nutritional value of the food they prepare and eat.

“One of our signs in particular reminds us not to add extra salt or sugar to our food,” Karim said. “And we often refer to our nutritional poster board which illustrates the high sugar content in the foods most children want to eat compared to a healthy replacement.”

“Ensuring the safety of children during food-based activities is also a focus for educators.

“We teach children the safe way to pass a knife, the correct chopping boards to use for meat and vegetables, the importance of tying hair back off their face and shoulders, and to wash their hands throughout the food preparation process to stop cross-contamination.”

In addition, all food-based activities contribute to their overarching health and nutrition curriculum, and learning outcomes.

“Even in our cooking classes our children are learning lifelong skills such as teamwork, cooperation, volume and quantities, cleaning, sanitising and cooking,” Karim said.

Embracing natural spaces and communicating with families

This week on We Hear You, Natalie Cowley from KU Lance Children’s Centre at Millers Point in inner city Sydney tells us about how her service has made plans for continuous quality improvement after its assessment. Natalie has been working at KU Lance for a year and a half and has been teaching in early childhood for almost eight years.

At Lance we have achieved a beautiful, calm and natural environment, using only natural materials and no plastic materials in any of the spaces. Our reasoning behind this is we believe children deserve to have beautiful things to engage with and to develop a respect for the world around them.

When I first started at Lance with Donna, the centre was very different. This was not the focus, as Donna and I had previously worked together at another centre where we incorporated the ELYF and used natural materials. Knowing what kind of positive effect this has on children and their development, we focused our time and energy on changing the focus of Lance.

Within a year, we had changed the environment to be more nature focused, plastic free and over all a beautiful place to be. Interactions with children and the quality of care & education greatly improved and become the focus. Many of the staff did struggle with this change, most being able to learn from it and finding a new philosophy. Our practices improved with these changes, which allowed for strength in particular NQF quality areas (1, 2, 3 and 5).

Our assessment visit was early to mid last year and we received a rating of exceeding standards overall. There were a few areas that we were recommended to further improve in as we received a meeting standard in two areas as opposed to an exceeding. From this we further developed our natural spaces, both indoor and outdoor. Focusing on children and family involvement in the program and room set up, ie asking for suggestions or parents to help bring things in or get involved in classroom experiences such as cooking etc.

An area we needed to spend more time on was parent and community involvement. A lot of the families in the centre are quite busy and work long hours and often do not have time to come and contribute to the program, be involved in centre happenings or have time to read the program, journals and documentation. I thought of ways in which I could improve this and get more parent and community involvement. Donna (our director) suggested that we email families the daily diary. We began doing this a couple of months after the assessment and the response was overwhelming. Families loved receiving the daily diary while at work and would respond via email or mention at pick up how great it was to get an insight into their day while they were at work. From this great response, I came up with the idea to start a centre blog. Updating every 2nd day with learning stories, photos and centre happenings. This has also had a great response, with the parents looking at it often and commenting on posts with ideas/suggestions or positive feedback. The quality of our family interactions improved greatly from these changes, being able to communicate through social media has allowed for a lot more family involvement and from families that may not of shown much interest (due to time restraints) previously.

Natalie Cowley
Natalie Cowley

I have been working for KU Lance for a year and a half now and have been teaching all up for almost 8 years. Our director Donna has been at Lance for over two years and teaching for over 20 years. Since our quality assessment, we feel our service has come far in providing an exceeding standard of care for all the children and families attending our service.

Images of KU Lance Children’s Centre’s natural spaces:

KU Lance outdoor space

KU Lance indoor space KU Children's Centre

Regulation in children’s education and care services

Recent media commentary about regulation in the children’s education and care sector posed the idea that regulations are different to ‘common sense’.

There are a number of factors to consider in this issue.

The NQF has consolidated regulation under both the previous state-based licensing and national accreditation systems.  This particularly helps providers with services in more than one jurisdiction, which includes a number of small providers with two or three services as well as the much larger providers.

Another factor is that the NQF is new, and that the introduction of any new system requires an adjustment period. We acknowledge the work of educators and providers to support the NQF in this foundation period has been significant. As new processes settle in to place, we expect day to day administration will become more routine.

A level of administration and paperwork is an essential part of any well-run enterprise. This is even more so for education and care services where parents and the community want to have confidence children are safe and secure at all times.

Naturally people who work in the children’s education and care sector are expected to take a common sense approach to looking after children in their care.

That’s in line with the expectations of families, the community and governments.  It’s in line with professional conduct.

It’s also in line with the new regulations as quoted in recent reports.

For instance, regulation 81 is about children receiving adequate sleep. It has been cited as an example of over-regulation when indeed, it does seem to be just common sense.  However, from the perspective of educators and administrators, the sector knows that sleep times can be highly contentious.  Families, especially parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers, can have very strong views about the way their children receive adequate rest.

Regulations help to set the common sense down in black and white, and are helpful to services when setting policies, and helpful to parents seeking reassurance.  They help ensure a consistent approach to the education and care of children.

In the case of this example, many jurisdictions already had regulations that covered children’s sleep and rest before the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care came into effect in 2012.

The regulations do not mandate the number of hours that children must rest, nor do they tell services how to go about ensuring children get that rest.  They do, however, set an expectation that little children will get adequate rest according to their needs.

If a parent wants to check whether their service is operating in the right way, or if there is a debate between staff about how to do something, they can find the answer in the regulations. They can – and often do – also contact the regulatory authority in their state or territory or ACECQA.

It is clear from the enquiries ACECQA receives that educators are keen to do the right thing by their children and families. Often ACECQA receives enquiries from educators or providers seeking clarification when an unusual situation arises in their service – we then refer to the law and regulations to give consistent advice.

When things go wrong, people expect something to be done about it and regulations provide the grounds for taking action and applying penalties.

ACECQA’s role is to ensure the Framework is now implemented consistently across the states and territories. National consistency is about fairness and efficiency rather than rigid uniformity. The NQF accepts that services can reach the same standards of quality in different ways.

We want to know what we can do to improve its implementation. That’s why it was always planned that ACECQA would conduct research to consider the regulatory burden of the National Quality Framework.

We begin that research this year, speaking to many educators and providers about how the new regulations have affected their operations.  You can read about the research in this week’s newsletter.

Communicating with families

In Issue 15 of the ACECQA Newsletter, we called out for ideas and suggestions on electronic communication with families. We had a great response, including a post on the ACECQA Facebook page from Joanna O’Brien of Platinum Pre School in Randwick, NSW.

While these methods may not be for everyone, it was clear that Platinum had embraced electronic communication and social media in a big way. We asked Joanna to write a guest blog to hear first hand what has worked for Platinum, and whether any of these tools might help other services communicate with parents.

In this post Joanna writes about the reasons her service embraced electronic communication, benefits to the parent community and professional development for staff.

Since opening our doors in mid 2010 at Platinum Pre School in Sydney’s East we’ve spent a considerable amount of time experimenting and developing techniques that would allow our love of early education to fit with the changing lifestyles of the families in our community.

To give a brief overview of our pre school, we are located at the heart of the Sydney suburb of Randwick. Due to the relatively high socio-economic nature of our community, most of our families consist of two parents working full-time, many of whom have little to no family support in the area. As our Directors were previously primary school teachers they knew that we would have to take a unique and well targeted approach when communicating with these very busy people.

So, from the outset we identified that social media and other technology based communication services would allow us to clearly and effectively communicate with our time-poor families in an efficient and interactive way. It is an important balance for us; our parents need to be integrally involved in their child’s education, however we also need to ensure that time spent on communication is streamlined ensuring that our students’ contact time with their teachers isn’t compromised. To manage this, earlier this year we introduced Online Portfolios for our students, which allow parents to log on to a secure portfolio dedicated to their child’s development at preschool. In the portfolios parents can view photos, videos and audio posts related to the daily educational programmes that their child experiences. Our teachers can quickly and easily post observations, learning stories or simply photos directly to any child’s portfolio via their group’s iPad.

Our Online Portfolios combined with our use of FacebookInstagramYouTubeTwitter, our Blog and eNewsletter Weekly Email mean that we make our voice heard! And the response has been nothing but positive. We’ve found that using these technologies, particularly social media, has brought our busy parent community much closer together. We see more discussions between parents at drop-off and pick-up about things that are going on at the pre school and within our community, we have built professional relationships with local and international people and organisations, and we are able to keep our finger on the pulse by following industry leaders in early education.

We currently lecture our practices at two universities and we also take part in conferences held by Electroboard and TAFE. We are passionate about developing the holistic child and to do this we find it imperative to be co-educators with our children’s families and parents.

To see examples of how we currently use technology check out our website www.platinumpreschool.com and we’d love to ‘connect’ with anyone else out there who is interested in the new world of early education. 

Joanna O’Brien is co-director at Platinum Pre School, Randwick NSW. Joanna is a trained primary school teacher with over 15 years’ experience in face-to-face education and education management.

Communicating with families

Recently on the ACECQA Facebook page we asked how services communicate with families, and what works best.

Communicating with families can develop strong partnerships and help families to feel connected to their children’s experience in education and care. Having open and two-way communication forms an important part of NQS QA6 – Collaborative partnerships with families.

The daily interaction that occurs when families drop off and pick up children is often supported with daybooks, noticeboards and newsletters. Increasingly more and more services are beginning to introduce a range of electronic communication platforms to share and discuss information with parents.

But every service is different and unique, and the discussion on our Facebook page captured some great methods for family communication:

“Day book, newsletter, mainly face to face. I find that the most effective and makes the connection more personal.”

“We use all sorts of communication styles. From emails, newsletters, day books, display board, online survey tools, face to face discussions, phone calls and texting.”

“One of the ways my centre communicates with our lovely families is through a daily blog where they can check out what their children have been up to, can comment on activities we have done or provide suggestions. We provide upcoming events on there, recipes of the children’s favourite food that they are enjoying, anything that we think the parents might find interesting and could possibly try at home as well. We generally get great responses from the families and it’s easy as they can access the blog at work.”

Has your service recently introduced a form of electronic communication for families? If so, we would love for you to share your experience by writing a guest post for the ACECQA blog. If you are interested please send outline of your blog post idea to news@acecqa.gov.au and we will be in touch shortly.

If you would like ideas or want to share how your service communicates with families, please join the discussion on our Facebook page.