Policies and procedures support the efficient operation and management of early childhood education and care services. They also support the integration of practices throughout the service.
The purpose of a policy is to establish the rules and guidelines to be followed by the family day care service. It gives a clear framework for decision making ensuring consistency in practice. Having a policy is very important in identifying a service’s stand on certain matters which is crucial in times of making decisions.
A policy comes hand in hand with a well thought out procedure. A procedure details the actions to be taken to effectively implement policies in place. All of these must be incorporated into the documentation required to meet legislative requirements and national regulations.
Policies and Procedures To Be Followed
The approved provider of a centre-based service must take reasonable steps to ensure that nominated supervisors, staff members such as educators and volunteers follow the policies and procedures required.
Meanwhile, the approved provider of a family day care service must also take reasonable steps to ensure that nominated supervisors, staff members, and family day care educators engaged by or registered with the service, follow the policies and procedures required.
Why policies and procedures are important in childcare
Under the National Quality Framework, policies and procedures are a legal requirement in Education and Care service settings. These are crucial in identifying and minimising risks.
Having policies and procedures can establish the service as a professional and effective organisation. It also encourages consistent practice to support staff, educators, families and children.
These are important to both the families, educators and the staff members of certain services. In order to prevent uncertainty on how particular situations are managed, families can refer and always go back to the policies and procedures in place.
As for the support staff members, policies and procedures help them better understand their role and responsibilities in the Service. This can be particularly useful for new and recently qualified staff members and lead to more efficient service delivery and management.
Key areas of quality for childcare policies and regulations
Health and safety
The National Quality Standard quality area 2 promotes children’s health and safety. It aims to minimise risks and protect children from harm, injury or infectious diseases.
When it comes to developing policies and procedures, health and safety is of top priority for all service types, including family day care services. It should include matters relating to nutrition, food and beverages, dietary requirements, and considerations for children with medical conditions.
The policies and procedures must cover water safety in the service including safety and supervision during any water-based activities. Sun protection, the administration of first aid, sleep and rest for children are all essential too. Having first aid kits in the vicinity is also crucial to safety.
Every child should receive quality education and care in a safe and healthy environment, whether it is physical, emotional, or social. In order to ensure a safe environment, a child safe environment policy should clearly define guidelines for what needs to be done.
A service’s policies must ensure that approved providers, nominated supervisors, educators and other staff meet their legal obligations to prevent child harm or hazards.
In creating a child safe environment policy, the service needs to consider the physical environment, and staffing, supervision and child protection requirements.
The staffing policy and procedures should consider all regulations that can impact the service. The guidelines in place must address code of conduct for staff members such as educators, determining the responsible person present at the service, and the participation of volunteers and students on practicum placements.
The policy and procedures should address these requirements as well as quality practices relating to staffing that align with the National Quality Standard, especially Quality Area 4 – Staffing arrangements.
Relationships with children
One of the required policies made by the Education and Care Services National Regulations is ensuring that approved providers have policies and procedures for interacting with children.
They have to take reasonable steps to ensure that their service provides education and care to children in a way that encourages and empowers them to express themselves and their opinions during early childhood.
Services must allow the children to undertake experiences that develop self-reliance and self-esteem. Their guidelines set must maintain the dignity and rights of each child and give each child positive guidance and encouragement toward acceptable behaviour.
Children should also have opportunities to interact and develop respectful and positive relationships with each other and with educators, staff, and volunteers. Children’s size and composition must be taken into consideration when providing these opportunities.
It is important to address these requirements, as well as quality practices related to interactions with children that align with the National Quality Standard, especially the Quality Area 5 – Relationships with children.
Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
National Quality Standard Quality Area 6 focuses on collaborative partnership with families and communities. The services are asked to build relationships and engage with their community.
In fact, one of the quality areas call for services, regardless if it’s a centre based service or family day care service, to provide proof that they provided all parents and families with opportunities to contribute to the development and review of the service’s Statement of philosophy or principles, policies and procedures and Quality improvement Plan.
Services might also take into consideration involving community members in developing or updating relevant policies.
Leadership and service management
A service must always go back to its statement of principles or philosophy, it must be anchored on quality area 7 which underlines the importance of leadership and service management. It must be rooted in a commitment to work in partnership with parents to ensure best possible learning outcomes for each child in the family day care, centre or service.
All aspects of the service are guided by the statement of philosophy. The statement has to clearly outline its commitment to continuous improvement. By having a clear, thoughtful Statement of Philosophy, it can demonstrate how the service views itself, what it aims to accomplish, and where it places its priority.
Payment of service fees
Another key area for developing policies is the payment of service fees and provision of statement of fees charged by the services.
The approved provider must notify families at least 14 days before any changes are made to the policies or procedures if the changes will affect the way in which fees are charged or collected.
By communicating the requirements in advance, families and service providers are better prepared for the fees that will be charged. This ensures a clear, transparent and consistent fee structure.
Acceptance and refusal of authorisations
The service must ensure that authorisations are obtained from families or authorised nominees in relation to administering medication to children, children leaving the premises in the care of the parent or the authorised nominee, excursions, including transportation, transport provided or arranged by the service, seeking medical treatment for children and transportation by an ambulance service.
Guidelines should address these requirements, as well as quality practices relating to the acceptance and refusal of authorisations that align with the National Quality Standard.
How are policies and procedures implemented in childcare?
When it comes to the implementation of policies and procedures for an early childhood education and care service, evaluation comes hand in hand with it. The service should test out their policies ensuring that procedures and practices are feasible.
Having clear guidelines for the implementation of the policies and procedures should be put in place. In the event that implementation is not successful, revise the policy and procedures with effective management. Once everything’s ironed out, the education and care service should conduct training and disseminate the updated handbooks to all staff as well as the parents and families with children enrolled in their care.
The provision of high quality inclusive early care and education is based on ensuring that all staff members and educators have access and are fully aware of the policy framework. Parent handbook and staff handbook must cover guidelines for daily practice and relevant policies.
How often should policies and procedures be reviewed in childcare?
Procedures should be reviewed annually. Following a schedule is also part and parcel of reviewing policies in education and care services. A schedule keeps track of those who participated in the review and details on how any changes were communicated to staff not present.
There are particular situations such as having the need to rectify a recurring problem that may prompt a need to review in response to specific situations. Certain incidents or injuries related to health and safety, a need to address a complaint and a change in legislation and as directed by an authorised officer from the regulatory authority (ECED) may require a review of policies and procedures.
How to find childcare with the best policies and procedures
When looking for approved providers, review if their education and care services have policies and procedures covering a range of areas set out in National Law and Regulations.
During the preparation and review of policies and procedures, these guidelines walk providers and their services through the information to consider. A comprehensive policy or procedure, current and appropriate to each service is a good starting point.
Do take note that while the guidelines have been prepared for use across Australia, services still need to consider the specific requirements of individual states or territories when preparing their strategies and policies.