When I had my first son, I knew that I would be sending him to day care so that I could return to part time work. We were lucky to secure a spot in a centre very close to our house, but if we hadn’t lived so close to one or if I was looking for one in another suburb, I would definitely have struggled!
That was over three years ago and up until recently parents searching for child care options have had to rely on word of mouth, internet searches and sometimes even sending their kids to various centres to find the right fit for their family. All that has been simplified with Starting Blocks, a government website that helps parents easily find information on all of their child care choices. These include providers of long day care, family day care, preschool/kindergarten and occasional care. Parents simply enter their address into the search bar along with the distance they would be happy to travel.
Immediately they will get information about all the registered child care providers within that radius. One of the most valuable features of the Starting Blocks website is the inclusion of every providers’ ratings based on the National Quality Standard (NQS).
The NQS is a system that rates providers across seven quality areas that cover health and safety, outdoor space and environment, and the educational program that a service will use with each of the children. Having the ratings at their fingertips, parents can quickly see how a particular provider is performing and also gives parents the opportunity to ask their preferred centres about their results and how they are continuously improving. Knowing how each service provider performs in each quality area is certainly empowering for families. As the ratings have been awarded through rigorous quality review process, parents can rest assured that they can use it to make an informed decision on which provider is suitable for them, rather than rely on word of mouth, location or cost alone. Some parents may not be aware of each of the areas or what the ratings mean, so let’s take a look. Each of the seven quality areas are broken down into 18 standards and under each standard are elements. There are 58 elements in total, so it is a really comprehensive system.
You can find out what each standard and element is under the seven quality areas at http://www.acecqa.gov.au/Educational-program-and-practice.
1. Educational program and practice Your child is being supported to participate in play and learning.
2. Children’s health and safety. Your child is protected from illness and hazards
3. Physical environment Your child plays in a safe and well maintained environment
4. Staffing arrangements There are enough qualified staff to give your child the attention they need
5. Relationships with children Your child is made to feel supported and welcomed
6. Partnerships with families and communities Local community involvement and respect for the beliefs and values of families
7. Leadership and service management Your child is cared for in a positive environment Excellent rating.
This can only be awarded by Australian Children’s Education and Care Authority (ACECQA) and is only when a service provider performs consistently at the Exceeding National Quality Standard for an extended period of time. Exceeding National Quality Standard Meeting National Quality Standard Working Towards National Quality Standard Significant Improvement Required I would definitely recommend Starting Blocks as the first point of call for parents who want to find out more about their local child care options. It also helps parents familiarise themselves with the NQS and the quality areas, so they can feel comfortable asking the right questions that will allow them to make the best decision for their child care needs. You can find information about developmental milestones and there’s lots of great ideas on activities to do with your children at home. There are also heaps of resources, factsheets and info graphics.
You can find out more by visiting the site at www.startingblocks.gov.au, utilising the search function at www.startingblock.gov.au/find-child-care and following Starting Blocks on their social media sites www.facebook.com/startingblocksearlychildhoodeducationandcare and www.instagram.com/startingblocks_au. Starting Blocks was created by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) in 2015. Like their Facebook Page and follow them on Instagram. Starting Blocks was created by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) in 2015.