We want Quality Childcare screams the Early Learning sector. We want quality childcare scream parents, but are these two one in the same?
Childcare is an emotive issue. The first time parents come to consider childcare they are more than likely pregnant with their first child. A child they haven’t met yet. Forget the old superstitions of not letting anyone know about the pregnancy until the 3 month mark, apart from your partner you also share the early news with your childcare centre director. An introduction to childcare is often through friends, colleagues, and a visit to a local family daycare or childcare centre. Parents initially are drawn to the services that are rebated and registered for protection and relief both financially and emotionally but childcare to new parents is essentially a bit of a mystery.
How can a parent judge a childcare service on a 10minute tour? Do they base their judgement on cost? If a centre is $160 a day is it better quality than the one thats $80 a day? We have a problem with access for parents. Pregnant parents have a limited time talk to staff but don’t know what to ask? They can be on the waiting list for a few years and by that time there is a place available there is new staff and the service may be different. Trying to secure childcare, return to work, operate as a human on reduced sleep, deal with confidence issues transitioning back to the workforce makes for a very stressful time in a parent’s life. As parents we rely on the fact the government has registered childcare services and that it is a ‘quality’ childcare service if it’s been rebated.
Parents have a bit of an issue in that it’s hard to choose a centre based on quality alone because you don’t get a choice. Despite there being a national agency ACECQA, whose job it is to provide ratings across 7 quality areas most parents haven’t even heard of them. Parents rely on the fact they are rated by the government but ultimately it feels like the services choose us. Parents in metropolitan areas often take what they can get and if there are any issues that emerge then they change.
According to Early Childhood Australia these are the key factors that represent quality in the sector:
– the qualifications required of staff
-numbers of qualified staff
-staff to child ratios, and
– requirements regarding group size, health, safety and physical space.
-child–adult and child–child interactions and children’s education programs
For parents, we expect that these quality childcare standards are met and in addition staff should be warm, caring and nurturing drawing on our little ones personality and interests to engage them in activities which help them grow and learn.
Australia really is a lucky country, because we have a system which values regulations and qualifications in managing a early years education system for our most vulnerable, our littlies. When it comes to our children, I think, despite parents moaning about the cost of childcare we all believe regulations and qualifications are worth paying for because we all want to give our kids to have the best start to life, to drop them off, kiss them goodbye and trust they will be cared for, safe and engaged in learning. We all believe in quality childcare no matter the focus of our definition. Parents and the sector will unite to keep the strength of our current childcare system intacted. We’ve all seen the magpies in the nesting season and beware the government who makes parents feel their child’s welfare is under threat.