This month we hear from C&K Coolum Community Childcare and Kindergarten Centre Coordinator, Jennifer Leo, and Educational Leader, Carol Ruskin. This service was awarded the Emeritus Professor Dr Mary Mahoney AO Award for Excellence in Innovation in Curriculum at the inaugural C&K Innovation in Curriculum Awards. This is the first time a C&K long day care service has been honoured with this award.
Dr Mahoney has given a lifetime of service to medical education, general practice training and The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). This award honours her, as former C&K President, and acknowledges education and care services or individual employees who encompass C&K values and demonstrate innovative implementation of the organisation’s Listening and Learning Together Curriculum Approach.
C&K Coolum Community Childcare and Kindergarten has a long-established a leadership team. Built on our experience, research and ongoing professional learning, the team has a common belief that a child’s early years are the most experientially critical to their life and are foundational to them becoming a life-long learner.
Five years ago we developed a clear plan and objectives of what the leadership team wanted to achieve for the children and families of the service in the future. Our goal is to provide every child with opportunities to become a strong, confident and capable learner and to succeed as they transition to formal schooling.
The service’s professional teaching team actively promotes the importance of early learning within the education continuum and the role of long day care education within the community. It achieves this through collective professional practice, documentation, engagement with the local community, connection to education facilities and continuing professional development.
The changing landscape of modern Australian family life means that more children are attending early childhood education and care at a young age more than ever before. At C&K Coolum we acknowledge this societal change and recognise the important role we have as educators to support each child’s learning and development journey. This has been the impetus for our service to continually strive for excellence by supporting and connecting our children and families to create a genuine community of learners.
Educators, families, children and the community are all seen as equal participants within the C&K Coolum inclusive learning environment. We strongly believe it takes a village to raise a child.
Some key strategies have supported our success promoting and leading innovation.
1. Fostering inquiry-based professional development.
From our experience, it is important to develop a long-term, centre-specific, ‘inquiry-based,’ professional development plan.
When doing this:
- ensure each step is built on the integrity and success of the previous step, ensuring that knowledge and skills genuinely grow
- use critical reflection as the impetus to make positive change and ensure you are remaining true to the centre philosophy, and
- discuss success and areas for improvement openly with the team using positivity and support.
A good starting point is for each educator to reflect on and respond to these questions:
- What is your image of a child, a teacher and early childhood education?
- What theory or philosophy has influenced you and your beliefs about this image?
- What is the one professional development project you would like to do to enhance your image?
2. Using distributed leadership
Identify and then use all educators’ strengths by using a ‘Distributed Leadership Model’ to support engagement and ensure projects are genuinely meaningful:
- appoint a willing leader to guide the projects and provide continuous support to the team
- as a team, celebrate every success as this breeds further success
- critically reflect to ensure the journey stays true to C&K’s core values, and
- trust, support and respect each other and enjoy the journey.
Appointing non-contact time for educators to further their leadership goals, research, and engage in and with the community is an important factor for success.
3. Creating accessible visual displays
Create visual and readily available files and displays that reflect the development of each continuous improvement project:
- include educators’ contributions, related articles, correspondence, and information from supporting agencies
- personalise and highlight the contribution of each leader of a project with a photo on the front of the file, and
- invite families to be part of this visual display to support their engagement, connection and understanding of the project.
Within our C&K Coolum context, some resources were integral to our quality practice and innovation success:
- organisational professional development support resources and tools, and
- professional networks and resources such as Communities of Practice groups, contemporary information from current students, ACECQA resources and research.
Our teaching team continues to be a vital resource. As new information is shared, a contribution is made to a project or a colleague has an inspirational idea, it generates enthusiasm and inspiration amongst the teaching team. The collective sharing and discovering of new resources relevant to each project is motivating.
Interested in finding out more?
To engage with C&K Coolum and find out more about their innovative practice, you can email:
- C&K Coolum Community Childcare Centre: firstname.lastname@example.org
- C&K Advisor Curriculum & Pedagogy, C&K Practice Advisor: email@example.com