What to look for in an early learning service
Features to consider
There are a number of features that you should consider when choosing an early learning setting for your child. The following gives you some idea of what to look for as indicators of good quality.
Introduction to the service
The amount and type of information shared with parents and children as well as the type of information the service asks for from the parents (about the child's background, interests, needs, abilities, likes, dislikes, special relationships will tell a lot about a service.
How the service is managed
The quality of the management impacts directly on the children's and parents' experiences in and with the service.
Children have the same rights in all settings in which they spend significant parts of their lives - to be able to have a say and make choices, to be treated with respect, to have their needs met, to be nurtured, educated and well cared for and, importantly to learn through play.
The learning environment (indoors and outdoors) influences what and how children learn. Lots of natural materials and equipment that encourage children to play and to explore, and to use freely in their own way - in particular access to sand, water and blocks - are good indicators of quality.
Policies & procedures
It is important to ask to see the services policies and procedures. These are the 'rules' that guide practice in the service. Having good policies that include more than just basic requirements is a good indicator of quality. It is essential that policies are implemented and are not just on paper.
Health and nutrition
Ask about the services kai routines to ensure the service meets your needs regarding nutrition.
Ask how the service deals with illnesses and accidents as well as routines in the service to support children's wellbeing, such as sleep and rest areas.
Inclusion and individual needs
A good quality service will have an Inclusion Policy. They will be respectful of differences of all, including culture, family, background, religious beliefs, ability and disability.
The procedure for supporting children to settling-in period is particularly important and there should be clear information given about it, well before the child starts at his service.
Relationships are hugely important to children's development and wellbeing, and so the quality of relationships in an early learning setting must be one of the most important considerations.
Information on the NZ ECE curriculum can be found on www.parents.education.govt.nz
The service can talk through with parents at the introductory meeting. Not all programmes are the same buts its essential that the provision focuses on:
- Relationships with whānau and community
- The best interests of the children
- Children's needs
- An understanding of the ways in which young children learn and develop
- The important of the relationships and interactions
- The need for all children to be and feel included
It is particularly important to consider how children learn and that learning is holistic - this means children learn many different things at the same time and what they learn is connected to where, how and with whom they learn. Trust, motivation, interest, enjoyment and social and emotional development are as important as purely physical skills and thinking skills.
Ask to see the services latest ERO report or view it online.
Play and learning
The amount of time given to play and the type of activities through which young children learn best - hands-on, playful, meaningful activities, that encourage creativity, exploration and curiosity - are big indicators of quality.
Young children also need lots of movement in the development of their thinking skills as well as their physical development.
Good, clear, open communication is very important at all times and at all levels. Engagement with whānau and teachers is an indicator of quality.
The extent to which the service is a part of, and involved in their local community is important for families and for children's growing sense of their identity and belonging.
Preparing for the move to school
Preparing for the move to school happens over time, and should happen in collaboration with schools. While not the only consideration, it is an important part of planning for the children.