Does your service vision lead the way?

Child looking through fingers

When vision leads the way

One lesson from supporting providers and leaders of education and care services through ACECQA’s Quality Support Program is that a united service vision gives direction and motivation for the team to achieve quality outcomes for children and families. This is consistent with a finding of ACECQA’s Quality Improvement Research Project (2019) that ‘the Approved Provider’s vision for quality practice, and resourcing and support to realise this vision was a key enabler in achieving quality improvement’ (p.30).

Why have a vision

‘I have a dream…’ announced civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr in his famous speech in 1963. King had a vision for equality and inclusion. Through painting a clear picture of his vision, he was able to influence the people, captivate their imagination, and unify them under a common goal.

Loris Malaguzzi, co-founder of the educational philosophy, the Reggio Emilia approach, shared a vision with the families of this region in Italy. It was to create schools where children would learn about justice and equity, and be seen as active participants with rights who are capable of constructing their own knowledge. This philosophy has had a wide reaching influence on pedagogical practices and how many of us in education and care see children today.

Dr Jillian Rodd, an educational and developmental psychologist who specialises in aspects of leadership in early childhood education, explains that, ‘vision is the means by which leaders captivate the imagination of their followers and engage loyalty and support. Vision provides direction for and sustains action in the team, can boost morale and self-esteem and acts as a buffer against stress during periods of change’ (2006, p.26).

As a service leader, you have the opportunity to collaborate with your team, educators, children, families and community to formulate a shared service vision for all. Your service vision will inspire, provide direction and purpose.

To have vision is to be able to see, to be able to think about and to plan for the current and future goals of the service.

How is a vision formulated?

A vision statement captures the values and beliefs of your team and helps define your service goals. An effective vision statement is short, simple and specific to provide clarity and understanding. An example is ACECQA’s vision: Children have the best start in life through high quality early childhood education and care. This vision is driven by the organisation’s values and purpose. It inspires, provides direction and influences how the organisation can achieve its goals.

You might like to consider Stephen Covey’s strategy for formulating a vision. He suggests to ‘begin with the end in mind’ (2016, p.102). To do this, identify the current quality practices you wish to keep in your service, and then visualise what you cannot yet see but would like to see happening. You might like to take others with you through this visualisation. Take some deep breaths and envision your ideal service:

  • What is it about the service that is important to you?
  • What do you see?
  • Take a look around, what does it look like?
  • What can you hear, what do you smell?
  • What are you feeling?
  • How are the children engaging with the learning spaces?

As thoughts surface during the visualisation, remember these. These thoughts will be guided by your values, examples of which could include honesty, integrity or collaboration. These thoughts are also influenced by your beliefs about how children learn and develop, and what you feel is important for them to experience in your service. You might like to document them on sticky notes and include them as part of a brainstorming session for discussion.

Values and beliefs shape our behaviours. When teams identify shared values, a sense of trust is promoted as is a sense of belonging. This leads to a unified way of working. When you have an awareness of your beliefs and values, you are able to reflect on how these may impact your program and pedagogical practices and, in turn, children’s learning. Reflecting on these together as a team can inform the writing of your service vision statement.

Remember a vision statement is short and specific, can usually be summed up in one or two sentences and it helps define your service goals. Considering the goals of your service also supports the creation of a vision. What do you want to achieve, how will you achieve it and by when? The Australian Department of Health’s vision statement is an example of this –Better health and wellbeing for all Australians, now and for future generations.

Your vision and your philosophy

If your vision is your compass, then your statement of philosophy is your map. It supports your vision statement, and also relates to the purpose of your service. It outlines what your service aims to provide and endeavours to foster. Your vision will become a guide to support you to make decisions for and with children that align with the service philosophy. Your philosophy is a representation of your vision that outlines the purpose and principles under which your service operates. It’s another tool to assist with the navigation towards your shared desired outcomes.

The creation of a service vision might lead to a review or creation of the service philosophy. You might like to revisit your service philosophy as a team. Does it reflect your service’s core values? Does it identify what drives practices? Does it support your vision? Openly identify, reflect on and celebrate each other’s unique and shared values and beliefs?

Your team are an important part of the success of the vision for your services. Support them to support you by providing them with the time, training, support and resources they might need to help you get to where you want your service to be.

Remember to keep sight of your vision. It guides the decisions you make each and every day as you strive to achieve quality outcomes for your children and families.

References and further reading

ACECQA information sheet – Belonging, Being & Becoming for educators

ACECQA information sheet – Reviewing your service philosophy

ACECQA Newsletter 6 – Reflecting on your service philosophy

ACECQA, 2019. The Quality Improvement Research Project. [online] Sydney.

Covey, S. R (2016). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, Simon and Schuster, New York

Rodd, J. (2006). Leadership in Early Childhood, 3rd Edition, Allen and Unwin, Australia.

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

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

A statement of philosophy guides all aspects of your service operations and your approach to achieving quality outcomes for children and families. But how can this statement be a living document that is the foundation for continuous improvement every day? In this final instalment, we wrap up the series by exploring the connection between your service philosophy and self-assessment and quality improvement processes.  

Part 5: A philosophy of continuous improvement

A statement of philosophy, which guides all aspects of a service’s operations, is a requirement under Element 7.1.1 of the National Quality Standard (NQS). The National Regulations (Regulation 55) further require the approved provider of an education and care service to ensure the service Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) links to a statement of the philosophy of service.

Your service’s statement of philosophy should be a living document used in daily experience, setting the foundation for your approach to achieving quality outcomes for children. It should be used in daily practice and clearly guide your decision making and service practice – outlining the purpose and principles under which your service operates. Further, it should reflect the unique ‘personality’ of your service and incorporate the beliefs, goals, commitments, aspirations and intentions of those who belong to your service community. This service philosophy should also express a shared understanding of the role of the service with educators, children, families and the community.

The 2018 NQS provides an opportunity to think through your service philosophy and actively consider the extent to which it references quality improvement and/or speaks to the intent and importance of self-assessment and quality improvement processes within your service. It is also an opportunity to reflect on how your service self-assessment and quality improvement practices are informed by the philosophy and how well this is understood in your service community. You may also look at the introduction of the 2018 NQS as a chance to reflect on how your service philosophy advocates more widely for the profession and the provision of quality education and care.


Tip
: In making decisions about operating education and care services and working to achieve the National Quality Standard to improve quality at services, the guiding principles of the National Quality Framework (NQF) apply. The guiding principles of the NQF can be found on pages 10-11 of the Guide to the National Quality Framework or section 3(3) of the National Law.

Your service philosophy should also reflect the approved learning framework/s that guide curriculum decision-making and inform educational program and practice.

 

Questions for consideration:

  • How is your service philosophy used to inform decision making, build commitment and align actions with your self-assessment and quality improvement priorities, goals and outcomes? How do your practices match your philosophy?
  • Is your service philosophy statement a living document that reflects the views, values and beliefs of current management, educators, children, families and the service community regarding quality, self-assessment, best practice and the commitment to continuous quality improvement? How often is it reviewed?
  • How accessible is your service’s statement of philosophy? Is it visible and made available to your service community, such as induction processes for all staff members, orientation processes for families, on the service website?
  • What messages does your philosophy communicate to the broader community about the importance of self-assessment and continuous quality improvement in providing quality outcomes for children and the importance of quality education and care more generally?

~o~

I hope this series has provided you with useful and practical ideas, prompts and resources to support and strengthen your self-assessment and quality improvement planning processes. It is important to recognise and remember these processes reflect the uniqueness of your service and are shaped by your meaningful and collaborative relationships with children, families and communities.

 

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

Why are we so afraid to march to the beat of our own drum?

This month on We Hear You, Meghan Woods, an early childhood teacher and member of the Educational Leadership Working Group at Gumnut Cottage, located on the campus of Macquarie University in Sydney, reflects on the important role of a service’s philosophy and the key issue that might be driving practice in early childhood education and care services across Australia.

ACECQA Newsletter - August 2016 - Content - Meghan Woods - Gumnut Cottage photo #2

In the last year I have had the opportunity to attend a variety of different professional training sessions. Meeting educators from all across NSW, I recently found myself reflecting on a recurring driver in all of our conversations. While there was always passion, energy and knowledge, there was often also a sense of fear. Regardless of the topic of conversation, this fear, this anxiety, was lurking in the background. At times, it was underlying in our conversations, at others it was clearly articulated: “Is what we are doing right?”

My reflections seemed to be suggesting that there is an underlying anxiety in some early childhood educators around their pedagogy, the programs they are delivering and how they are documenting their practice, as well as the way this might affect their rating as a quality early childhood service.

Today, I was sitting in our outdoor space when I was handed a book by Caspar, one of the two-year-olds in my class. His smile said that he wanted to share this book with me. So we found a spot on a rug and began to read.

Many of you would be familiar with this book – Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees. As I began to read, I couldn’t help but smile. The story had me drawing a direct parallel between my earlier reflections and the tale of a giraffe who had no confidence in his ability to dance, and who, with the support of a wise cricket, discovered he could be the best dancer once he found the right music.

So, how can we as educators find the music that we need to be the best we can be?

I believe that our music can be found in our service’s philosophy. The philosophy is the one document in a service that is unique and only applicable to that service. It communicates the distinctive rhythm and beat that is created when we work together with children, their families and our team of educators.

With that in mind, here is my challenge to our leaders in early childhood services: Does your philosophy clearly communicate the distinctive rhythm of your community? We need more leaders who can embrace their inner wise cricket and help us all to establish the music that we need to be our best dancers/educators.

Our responsibility as educators is to find the music that allows us to be the best dancers we can be.

Are we salsa dancers, ballroom dancers, jazz dancers, tap dancers, break dancers or head bang along to 80s rock dancers?  With so many styles of music, how can we be sure which is the right one for us?

Music can be so varied, however it still contains fundamental elements. In all music, you find components such as rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics, texture, tone or colour. In this same way, our approaches to our teaching, documentation, programs and practices need to be underpinned by our fundamentals – the regulations, the Early Years Learning Framework and current research. We need to be mindful that our music must also be reflective of our community and sector. It is dynamic in nature. It is an expression of who we are and what we value.

As a sector, we need to be like a good radio station – we need to be broadcasting and celebrating the unique role that early childhood education services play within the Australian community. We have a deep connection with a huge number of families and work in partnership with them to nurture the future generations of the Australian community.