With schools constantly on the lookout for more services offering quality experiences for students, more and more are choosing to outsource their outside of school hours care requirements to external providers, writes Michael Rasmussen, General Manager at Sherpa Kids Australia.
Outside of school hours care (OSHC) services have come a long way – from volunteer-based models to P&C committee-led models to the more regulated model we currently see in most schools today.
One of the main roles of the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is to “support the children’s education and care sector to improve quality outcomes for children”. The way this is reported is through ratings and assessment outcomes based on the National Quality Standards (NQS). Having a thorough understanding of the results is important in guiding decisions about what equates to a quality service.
There is currently a revised set of 40 elements that services are rated on, with the overall rating reflecting the lowest rating given for a standard. What this means is, if for example you receive a ‘meeting’ rating for one standard and ‘working towards’ for another, the overall rating is the lower of these, not the average. ACECQA’s thought process behind this is about ensuring all services are working above and beyond to provide quality care.
However, as a school, what defines ‘quality’ when looking at an OSHC service? Happy and engaged children, happy parents and families, a variety of rich experiences for children, consistency in staff at the service, qualifications and experience of staff, and engagement between the service and the school all form part of the NQS assessment.
Just like in the classroom, a child engaged in OSHC learning will take something away from it and connect it to their world. When children enjoy coming because of the experiences, it shows the service is connected with the children in its care and creates programs directly out of their interests. This equates to a quality program offering quality experiences.
Happy parents generally exist when their children are happy too and they know they are in an engaging, friendly and safe environment. However, they are also happy when the service experience is uncomplicated as far as costs and administration goes. The service needs to be personable, approachable and understanding.
A quality service has staff that bring their own talents to life through the program; who have a passion for sport, dance, craft, cooking, science, music, to name a few, to ensure experiences are rich and rewarding.
Staffing is also critical. Services that churn staff regularly are generally those with inconsistent and unconnected programs; behaviour issues with children; reduced rapport with children, parents and the school; and too much time away from the important aspects of spending quality time with children. The level of experience and qualifications among staff ensures what is planned and delivered is of the highest standard.
The best services involve genuine relationships with schools, where schools identify the service as their own, even when it is delivered by an external provider. A quality service builds rapport with all staff at the school and buys into the school’s culture and ethos. These are the types of services that have better programs, are better resourced, have less behavioural issues, and ultimately ensure more quality time for the children in their care.
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