A quality improvement plan childcare enables a childcare centre to self-assess their practices and identify areas for improvement. Maintaining a quality improvement plan is now a government requirement for approved providers under the Education and Care Standards.
What is involved in a quality improvement plan for childcare?
A quality improvement plan will have information containing
- An appropriate assessment of the quality of practices conducted by the centre. The assessment should conform to NQS and National regulations
- A list of the centres strengths as well as areas identified for improvement.
- A statement on the centre’s service philosophy
The plan itself should address seven quality areas in childcare. These are:
- A section on educational program and experience
- A section addressing children’s health and safety
- The physical environment
- Staffing arrangements
- A section addressing relationships with children
- A section addressing collaborative partnerships with families and communities
- Governance and leadership
The 7 stages of a quality improvement plan
The improvement plan will have detailed information on these key areas:
Educational Program and Experience
In order to meet the National Quality Standard the educational program and practice needs to be stimulating and engaging. It should be aimed at enhancing the child’s learning and development. For services catering to school age children the educational program should focus upon nurturing life skill development while complementing the child’s experiences, opportunities and relationships.
Factors to be considered in this area would include the following
- Standards and elements addressing the learning framework and curriculum development.
- Coordinators and educators are focused on being child centered and tailoring the program to meet the individual child’s needs.
Children’s Health and Safety
Naturally, the National Quality Standard focuses on children;s health and safety. Key areas to consider include
- That each child’s health is promoted
- That the children’s program has healthy eating and healthy physical activity embedded in the program.
- That every child in the program is protected.
It is imperative that the physical environment be taken into account and it is important to ensure that the environment while being safe and suitable,also provides a rich diverse range of experiences that help to promote each child’s learning and development. Items that need to be addressed are
- That the premises location and design is appropriate for childcare service delivery. Considerations include outdoor and indoor spaces, that all furniture and equipment is cleaned and maintained, that facilities allow access for every child to participate.
- That the facility environment promotes inclusiveness, competence and independent exploration using the medium of play. To this end, outdoor and indoor spaces should be designed and organised to engage all children in quality play experiences and that resource and materials are sufficient and organised appropriately to ensure that the overall program is implemented effectively.
- That the service behaves in a sustainable way and cares for the environment. Service operations should have sustainable practices embedded within them. Children should be encouraged to be environmentally responsible and to adopt sustainable practices.
Staffing quality is imperative to ensure that children’s active engagement in the learning program is optimised and encouraged. Focus should be given to recruiting qualified and experienced educators, co-ordinators and supervisors who have the ability to develop warm, respectful relationships with children with the aim of creating a predictable environment that every child will feel safe in. Items that need to be considered are :
- Staffing arrangements should be organised to ensure the safety and well-being of the child and to enhance the child’s learning and development.
- That all staff behave in a respectful and ethical manner. To support these principle interactions, relationships and practice should be guided by professional standards. A collaborative environment should be maintained to ensure that staff members support, learn from and challenge each other to assist their own professional development .
- Interactions between staff should convey respect and appreciation for each individual’s strengths.
Relationships with Children
Relationships with children should be responsive, respectful and promote the child’s sense of belonging and security. These types of relationships encourage children to explore their environment while engaging in learning and play. Factors that will influence relationships with children include:
- A focus is placed upon respectful, equitable relationships being maintained with each child. Every effort should be made to ensure that interactions with each child are warm, responsive and build trust so that each child is sufficiently confident and empowered to engage with educators in meaningful open reactions. A measure of this is that each child should feel confident, included and secure.
- Each child is encouraged to maintain and build sensitive responsive relationships with other adults and children. The dignity and rights of each child is paramount and each child should be supported to learn from others in a collaborative way. They also should be supported to learn to manage their own behaviour while learning to respond to others through effective communication to help to resolve conflicts.
Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
Maintaining a collaborative relationship with families is fundamental if you want to achieve quality outcomes for children. Strong collaborative relationships are also critical to building community partnerships that are founded in active communication, collaboration and consultation. Key issues that need to be considered in developing collaborative relationships include:
- The development and maintenance of respectful supportive relationships by maintaining an effective enrolment and orientation process that is inclusive and supportive of families. Every opportunity should be given to families to be involved in the service while contributing to service decisions. Up to date information about the childcare service should be readily available to families.
- That the service supports the parent’s beliefs and values about child rearing. Support can be provided by recognising the parent’s specific expertise and involving them in decision making about the child’s learning. Information about the child’s education and wellbeing should always be readily available.
- Where appropriate, the service liases and collaborates with other organisations and service providers to add to the child’s opportunities for learning and wellbeing. Relevant links with agencies should be ostered and relevant information is shared with families to facilitate inclusion and support services when necessary.
Leadership and Service Management
Effective leadership and management of the childcare service make a huge contribution to creating quality environments to facilitate children’s learning and development. Effective leadership will ensure that all policies and procedures are well documented, records are well-maintained , values are shared, clear direction is given and reflective practice is encouraged. Proper leadership and service management is critical in helping the service to function properly as a learning community. Leadership and management principles should involve:
- Creation of a positive organisational culture will help to build a professional learning community. A positive organisation will include appropriate governance regulations, comprehensive induction of all staff members, the establishment of clear learning and teaching goals, the recruitment of fit and proper adults to work with children.
- A commitment to continuous improvement that includes a statement of philosophy that guides every aspect of the centre’s operations, consistent evaluation of staff performance, effective self-assessment and quality improvement programs.
- Regulatory authorities are notified promptly of any changes to the facility or when serious incidents or reaches of legislation occur
Naturally quality improvement plans are living documents that should address all of these areas and identify strengths, areas for improvement and steps to be taken to rectify any issues.
Quality Improvement Plan Early Childhood writing can be quite a challenging task. It is not something that can be paid lip service but needs to be allocated sufficient time and resources to gain the maximum benefits from its use.