What makes this service the BEST childcare centre in Queensland?
Sobering new statistics from the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) reveal that thousands of Australian childcare services are failing to meet basic health, safety, and education quality standards.
Of the more than 16,400 approved services in Australia, just 27% have been awarded an ‘Exceeding’ rating after recent national quality assessments, which are used to regulate and improve outcomes across the childcare services sector.
A Head Start Children’s Centre at Currumbin Waters on the Gold Coast has consistently received an ‘Exceeding’ rating, and has just been rated Best Childcare Centre in Queensland in KindiCare’s recent inaugural Excellence Awards.
So, what does the best childcare service in Queensland look like, and how can parents and families discern between the thousands of services that purport quality care, but fail to meet national standards?
Beyond understanding a service’s quality rating with ACECQA, Laurel, founder of A Head Start, said that there are three distinct signs parents and families should look for when assessing if a service can meet their own and their child’s needs.
“These all have to do with (1) its people, (2) the physical environment and (3) the processes which are integral to delivering a quality service,” Laurel said.
1. Highly qualified, experienced and nurturing educators
“Many of our team members at A Head Start have been at the centre for more than ten years, which is special, considering that the childcare industry is known for a high staff turnover rate,” Laurel said.
“We are like a family; we are really supportive of one another, and everyone goes above and beyond to build great relationships with each other, with the children, and with the families,” she said.
A Head Start’s Centre Director, Renee, who herself has been part of the team for 14 years, said, “As a parent, knowing that a centre has long-term educators speaks to its culture and the wellbeing of its community.
“When educators are happy in their working environment, they love their job, and are passionate about and resourceful in delivering quality education and care to our children,” she said.
2. The centre allows you to ‘drop in’ at any time, and its environment is homely and happy, with evidence that quality care and learning takes place.
Renee advises that childcare centres should be well equipped and always ready to accommodate impromptu visits from interested families.
“Families are not placed on the waitlist at A Head Start unless they have been to the centre for a tour,” Renee said. “We get many enquiries by phone and email asking to go on the waitlist, but I explain to families that it is best to have a tour of the centre first, so they can get a feel for our environment and meet our educators. Some families are unaware that not all childcare providers offer children the same quality of care and unique learning environment that we do, and I like parents to experience this when they visit our centre.
“We are a really close community at A Head Start. Every educator gets to know every child and family in the centre, even when they are not their current educator,” she said.
Laurel said that the best childcare centres are nurturing, loving and homely, with a strong focus on play-based learning, natural environments and connecting with the community.
“Incorporating a homely and natural environment into our centre was very important to us. Our outdoor area features plenty of shady areas, a native rain forest, a creek where the children can pump water, swings, a bike track, a covered sandpit with kitchen, and an abundance of natural resources.
“Kids just love being outside, and the way the centre is designed promotes learning opportunities, discovery and decision making both indoors and outdoors. The children become super creative while playing in our natural outdoor learning environment.
“When visiting our centre, families tell us that they can see the educators are truly engaged with the children, our rooms and outdoor areas are beautiful, and the children’s projects reflect their creative involvement whether that’s artwork on the wall or a structure that the children have made,” she said.
3. The centre can easily demonstrate tangible improvements in children’s learning and development
A Head Start has developed and used its early learning system, Kindybook, since 2007, helping the centre to exceed in all seven quality areas of ACECQA’s National Quality Standard (NQS). With Kindybook, educators keep an in-depth record of every child’s developmental progress from their first day and as they transition through the classrooms, ensuring learning is progressive and continuous. Parents love being part of their child’s daily experiences and can communicate privately and securely with educators anytime through Kindybook.
“It saves us so much administration time and helps us to keep our main focus on the children and improving our own service,” Renee said.
ACECQA seeks to improve learning and developmental outcomes for children and sets a benchmark against which centres are assessed and rated in 7 quality areas of the NQS, including health and safety, educational programs, relationships, physical environments and regulatory compliance.
The KindiCare app is an online marketplace where users can find and compare more than 16,400 childcare services. This is supported by a unique rating system which combines government audits with families’ feedback.
A Head Start was rated best childcare centre in Queensland in the app with an overall rating of 9.84 out of 10. The centre came third nationally to two centres in New South Wales and Victoria who scored 10.00 and 9.89 respectively on the app.
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