Parents and guardians are always in search of good quality early childhood education and care services, more commonly known as child care, for their little ones. There are numerous options for early education and sometimes the task of selecting can be daunting. The assessment process of parents varies so while there may be stellar reviews for particular centres, it will still be beneficial to narrow down your care program options before settling on one. One of the things you can do is to join a marketplace that demonstrates sector leadership such as Space to jumpstart your search.
The Usefulness of Child Care Ratings
Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) established the National Quality Framework that set National Quality Standard across seven quality areas. Centres are assessed and rated based on past and current performance, as well as whether significant improvement is exhibited. Child care ratings by the National Quality Framework promote continuous improvement in all seven quality areas. National law mandates that regulatory authority, both in state and territory, assess and rate education and care services so the significance of child care ratings cannot be overstated.
Quality ratings is designed to identify a service’s strengths and areas where significant improvement is required. This improvement can be achieved through a quality improvement plan. Centres are expected to work towards National Quality Standard as there are legal requirements to it. If they are not met, it poses significant risk to both centre and enrollees. Get help here if you have any questions.
Can Develop Trust Towards Centre
Assessed centres are classified with an overall rating as either working towards national quality, meeting national quality standard, exceeding national quality standard, and excellent service. The rating system also gives services that have not gone through the assessment process a ‘Provisional—Not yet assessed under the National Quality Framework’ quality rating.
The service’s quality rating must be displayed the service at all times. The quality ratings are also published on the national registers. Services such as Xplor may help you identify which centres are trusted in your area.
Register to Space to see a consolidated database of child care centres. The list indicates whether the service has been assessed and rated. Make sure to shortlist several services to have options if there is no availability.
Overall Valuable Source of Information
Head on over to ACECQA’s website for information regarding the service you are considering. Quality ratings are accessible and various articles may be helpful for parents who plan to use child care for the very first time. Likewise, Xplor Regions can be a valuable source of information on early childhood education service.
Downside to Trusting Ratings
If an approved provider is rated with significant improvement required, they may have fallen short on some quality areas. Identify which standards are important to you and check whether the centre you are interested in passed the national quality standard for that specific quality area.
Seeing the coloured star graphic might be exciting but exceptional education and care services will still eventually be judged by how well the child develops in the service. Our immediate action may be to lean towards a service that have been rated exceeding national quality standard. However, you should not disregard services just because they rank lower in the rating system. National quality standard service overall rating should not be the sole consideration when searching for quality education.
Going Beyond Ratings: Factors to Consider
Google reviews, verified parent reviews on Xplor Space child care listings and recommendations from other parents may be a great source of information to have an overview of the centre you’re interested in. Some of the areas that you might need to check are if centres also accommodate family day care services also keep abreast of the different quality areas. This would mean that the quality rating of a service needs to be high enough for you and if their staff are aware of the different aspects of the National Quality Standard.
Convenience is dependent on your needs as a family. Location of the child care may be closer to either home, work, some relatives, school or even any point of interest. You have to decide which area/s you are willing to drive to and from on a regular basis. Also make sure that the centre’s operating hours suit your needs.
Some centres share information regarding fees per age group. If you can’t find their fees online, make sure to contact them directly to ask. Child care subsidy is also available for most, if not all, centres. Find out what are included in their fees and if they charge extra for nappies, food, beverages or other things. Do not forget to factor subsidy and extra costs when computing for total cost.
Program and Curriculum
Educational program and practice should match the needs of the child. Since extra-curricular activities are unique per centre, check which ones your child may be interested in. Make sure you are comfortable with the program focus of the centre and find out whether feedback on progress of children are provided.
Meals and Nutrition
Nourishment starts in the home but should be supported by the centre you eventually choose. Ask centre management if they have a nutrition policy. Check if you can see the types of meals and snacks which are available for the children. Ask if they have a sample menu or if you can see what they offer.
Sudden changes are inevitable and they usually come at the most inconvenient time. Whether it is for work or other reasons, ask the centre what their policies are regarding sudden changes on your child care days or hours. Centres with more capacity may be able to accommodate with short notice but those that are fully booked, may not be as flexible.
Experience of Educators
Quality of interaction is an important factor when choosing a service. The team must be qualified and experienced to support a child’s holistic development. You can visit a centre and check if educators are attentive and caring to the children enrolled. Their interaction with children during your visit will most likely be the same interaction your child will receive.
Safety, health and wellbeing are of utmost importance so the centre’s standard of hygiene and cleanliness must be excellent. Check their rating in Quality Area 2. If you visit, pay attention to the cleanliness of important areas such as the kitchen and bathroom.
Turnover of Staff
It is important that the centre do not keep changing staff so children can develop a bond and be familiar with staff members. In fact, Quality Area 4 discusses how low staff turnover benefits children’s education and care.
Safe education is another thing to look out for. You can assess the security by asking about safety procedures and approved access. Entry and exit to the centre must be limited to authorized persons.
Finding the Right Childcare
A great starting point to find and compare services is by going to Starting Blocks. You can view child care providers and check the quality ratings if they are part of the assessed services within a certain location.
Choosing a learning centre that is most suitable to the needs of your children is of utmost importance. The right child care service meets the level and quality of education and care that you are looking for. An excellent rating for education and care service is a bonus because what you’re really after is one that is continually improving. Have a look at several centres before making a final decision. Each experience and child is different so, in the end, trust your instincts when making the choice.