Quality indicators for childcare
We all know that early education can provide academic and social benefits that last well beyond preschool. However, researchers have also repeatedly demonstrated that for children – especially those from low-income backgrounds, to benefit from preschool, it must be of a high quality
BestStart’s Chief Operations Officer, Fiona Hughes explains how to recognise quality:
“You can usually tell a high quality preschool or child care the minute you walk into the centre, you’ll see learning occurring and you’ll hear happy and excited voices” she says.
“There are three other indicators of a high quality child care programme: people, place and programme.
In your preschool you want to know that the early childhood teachers and assistants are expert, well-trained and that the majority of them hold qualifications in early childhood education.
It takes three years to get qualified and then teachers need to do professional development for a further year. At a BestStart centre you will find teachers also get on-going professional development to ensure they are up to date with the latest teaching practices.
We also ensure there is plenty of time for teachers to reflect and work on children’s individual learning programmes so that they can observe, consider and track how best to encourage and motivate children’s learning.
It’s important too, for a centre’s teachers to reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the children and families.
The learning environment should make all children feel welcome regardless of the cultural, ethnic or language background. Look for lots of supplies, materials, equipment and play activity arranged to entice children to learn.
A stimulating outdoor environment that challenges and motivates children to explore, run and play is also important.
A quality learning programme will provide lots of learning opportunities in a wide range of areas (reading, water play, sand play, dress-up, science, social play). A variety of whole class activities, working in small groups and individual interactions with teachers are something else to look for.
Ask the teachers how they intend to build on your child’s interests and natural curiosity. Find out how they integrate learning opportunities across children’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. And most important, how are they preparing your child for school.
Finally a quality preschool or child care centre builds trusting relationships with parents, including respecting and supporting different families cultures and languages.
At a BestStart centre, Fiona adds, we encourage parents to exchange a lot of information about their child’s strengths and successes, favourite activities and learning progress. We often run parent evenings and other events to help parents see the progress their child is making and appreciate the learning their child is doing to ready them for life.
Finding Quality Childcare
At any one of our quality childcare centres your child will be nurtured and cared for in a warm, friendly and positive environment. We have qualified and caring teachers, quality equipment and toys and safe, attractive learning environments. Children will learn early literacy and numeracy skills, social skills, build confidence, develop a love of learning and be well prepared for school.
According to the Rand Corporation in the United States when you look for childcare focus your search in three areas – people, programme and place. Here are a few of the things you should look for:
- What kind of training and education do the teachers have?
- Are the teachers and children engaged in conversation?
- Can teachers tell you not only what they are doing, but why?
- Does the programme use a curriculum to guide learning?
- Does the programme welcome and involve families?
- Does the space have separate learning centres (reading, art, dramatic play, writing, etc.) and a well-equipped playground?