Friday, December 30, 2011


The National Awards for Early Education and Care

The Australian Family Early Education and Care Awards are a celebration of all professionals working in the early childhood sector throughout Australia.
We recognise and reward the outstanding individuals and teams who make an important difference to the lives of children and families all around Australia and hope to encourage their continuous pursuit of excellence.
Nominations NOW OPEN!





1) Ask yourself: do I need day care?
Here are some reasons for choosing to use day care:
  • Working/studying/job-seeking parents
  • Parents needing a break or respite
  • For educational and/or social opportunities
  • School preparation
  • Many other reasons. There’s no wrong reason!

2) Use your instincts

Listen to your instincts. A positive vibe from a centre is a good start. If you hang up after an enquiry and have a sick or generally bad feeling, that’s not ideal. Of course, we aren’t choosing this based entirely on gut feelings. Listen to this and ask the important questions.

3) Does the centre provide an individual learning program?

Individual learning programs are created by interacting with and observing children. A caregiver learns the child’s strengths, areas to build on and interests.
Play experiences are then planned for the child to meet their developmental needs and interests. Five developmental areas are addressed: physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social.
Some parents aren’t worried if an individual program isn’t offered, as long as their child is well cared for. If my child is running around all day playing happily, what’s the harm?
On the surface it seems harmless. However, this is one of the best questions to ask. This can help you to trip up the dodgy centres! Provision of these programs is a basic Department Of Community Services requirement. If a centre is choosing to ignore this, what else is neglected? Hygiene? Safety? Child-to-staff ratios? Ignoring programming probably means it’s not the only issue being overlooked.
Years ago, I researched local centres to find my daughter a child care centre. I rang around, and some answers shocked me! One director asked me what an individual program is. Another told me outright that they don’t provide it! It’s baffling that centres get away with this. Before this, I’d never seen a centre that neglected these programs, even the bad ones! If individual programs aren’t drastically important to you, please ask this question anyway. It’s very telling.

4) Is there a certificate of accreditation?

Any centre you visit should display this. The national association that grants or denies accreditation to a centre (National Childcare Accreditation Council), rates child care services. Some centres with the highest rankings are centres I wouldn’t use. Some perform well on the day of the validation visit then slacken off afterward. So, look for the certificate, but don’t put too much stock in the rating.

5) Find out about staff

Once again, use your instinct. Rapport between staff, child and parents is important. Find out the staff’s qualifications. It’s ok for child care centres to have one or two untrained staff, but the majority should be TAFE or uni qualified. Also, check that all staff are up to date in first aid.
Look for high child-to-staff ratios. This gives your child a better chance of having supervision, attention, safety and overall quality care. Caregivers cost centres money. When owners willingly pay for decent staff numbers, it’s less likely they’ll cut corners on other aspects of care. Your child is more likely to be their priority.
Find out what the staff turnover rate is. A low rate is a fantastic sign. Talking to locals and other parents is a good way to find out. Observe the staff’s demeanour. Are they satisfied in their job, relaxed? Or stressed, cranky, tired or bored? Are they respectful of parents? This reflects on the quality of care.

6) Pay attention to the facilities

Are the facilities clean and in good working order? Is a first aid kit readily available to indoor and outdoor areas? Is it a safe environment for a child? Does the entrance/exit gate have a secure latch? Observe as much as you can when you visit.

7) Time your visits

Avoid making the first visit during lunch, and for the next few hours after (nap time). You’ll be asked to return at a better time, and you won’t see anything in the dark anyway!
Before visiting, walk past the outdoor play area when the children are playing. Are the children well treated and supervised? Still interested? Schedule an appointment to meet with the director/supervisor.

8) Word of mouth

Try talking to other parents and neighbours of the centre. You’ll soon discover the general satisfaction level. Neighbours will be able to tell you easily if they believe the children are well-treated or not. Don’t harass anyone, though. A quick question to the neighbour walking their dog is acceptable, door knocking every house isn’t!

9) Read their policies

Ask to read the centre’s policies. This shows you if the service will fit your needs, values and beliefs. Is the centre breastfeeding friendly, for example? Is that important to you? Look for what’s relevant to your situation. Policies are an excellent reflection of the management’s values and priorities.

10) Observe the children

Although few children are ever constantly happy, observe them. It’s normal, even in an excellent centre, to see a child crying from separation anxiety. But it’s good to see a large number of children relaxed and playing happily.
Choosing the best care for your child can be terrifying, but when you find the right one, there are many benefits. Children enjoy learning through play, interacting with peers and playing with fantastic toys.