Many early childhood professionals work in the children‘s service area. There are various roles within a children‘s service, including:
- Area Manager
- Centre Director
- Early Childhood Teacher
- Room/Group Leader
- Floater (works throughout the centre in a number of rooms in a supporting capacity)
- Centre Cook
- Relief Staff (someone who is called in to work when a staff member is away)
- Administration assistant
In order for the various roles to effectively and efficiently work together, there needs to be a structure outlining roles, responsibilities, routines and procedures. Such a structure ensures all tasks are completed, consistency throughout the children‘s service, and safety for all.
Structure is provided in a children‘s service through: job/position descriptions
REGULATIONS, POLICIES AND PROCEDURES.
This topic will discuss the various elements that provide structure and clear boundaries in a children‘s service, allowing for efficiency, effectiveness and quality outcomes.
All roles within the children‘s service are important and contribute to the effective running of the service.
A job or position description is a document that outlines the duties, responsibilities and tasks associated with a specific position (see the Introduction above for some examples of positions).
All position descriptions are designed to link the various roles together to ensure consistency and effectiveness of the service provided.
When offered a position in a service, an early childhood professional will be provided with a position description outlining:
- who to report to
- a role summary
- duties and responsibilities.
Refer to your job/position description, or ask your manager for a copy of a position description for an Assistant. Write down a list of tasks that are specific to the role of an assistant.
It is critical that you are familiar with your position description as it outlines your roles and responsibilities associated to your position.
WORKING WITH OTHERS
Working in children’s services brings you into contact with many people, and we refer to these people as stakeholders. A stakeholder is a person or group that has an investment, share or interest in a business or industry. Children; families; co-workers; management, and other professionals are stakeholders. Working effectively with stakeholders involves teamwork, effective communication, negotiation and, sometimes, tolerance.
Successfully working with others requires effective team work. Team work involves “productive working relationships and outcomes”. To ensure a high quality responsive children‘s service, all early childhood professionals must work together effectively. To achieve this we must be mindful of our roles and job descriptions within the service.
The message is simple: when one person does not fulfil their responsibility someone else has to ‘take up the slack’ and this can result in resentment and a hostile environment.
It can also result in an important task not being completed which could impact significantly on the health and safety of another. Imagine if someone did not feed a bottle to a baby, or failed to administer required medication!
A SCENARIO FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
In the 2004 Beijing Olympics there was an incident with the Australian women‘s rowing team. During the final heat, while the team was leading the race, one of the rowers stopped rowing.
Without communicating to her team-mates what was happening or what was wrong, she just stopped rowing.
The consequence of her action (or rather, inaction) was that the remaining team members had to put in additional effort to make up for her lack of action (this is commonly referred to as ‘not pulling your weight’), resulting in disharmony and negative, destructive comments and feelings of resentment.
ASSISTANT AND GROUP LEADER POSITIONS
Generally, the role of an Assistant is to support the allocated Room/Group Leader. An Assistant will have specific job tasks that may include:
- maintaining a healthy and safe environment interacting and caring for the group of children participating in activities
- being an effective member of the team.
What this may look like:
The Room/Group Leader is sitting with the children at group time, reading a book during a whole group activity and the children are all listening intently to the story.
The Assistant, while still observing and supervising the children, is quietly setting up the planned activity of easel painting. Once group time is finished the children are able to transition smoothly, straight into the planned activities.
The scenario above allows for a smooth transition for children, as they will be able to leave group time and commence the activity. If the Assistant and Room Leader did not work together, the children would have nothing to occupy them while they waited for the activity to be set up.
What are some of the ways in which you would work effectively as a member of the team?
CO-OPERATING WITH OTHERS
Working as a team member is essential to ensure quality care is occurring in your children‘s service. Quality care is a group effort and even though we may all have different roles and responsibilities in the organisation, promoting cooperation assists in developing productive workplaces.
The following are some hints that can be reflected upon in your own work environment to assist in better work practices.
- Demonstrate an interest in others. Find the time to ask how other team members are going and have a genuine concern for their wellbeing as this will build on positive, long-term relationships.
- Know yourself and be aware of others. How you react in different circumstances can affect your work performance as well as others around you. Reflect on how you receive constructive feedback from your team members and how you give constructive feedback. Nobody likes to be wrong and nobody likes to tell others they are under performing in the group.
- Speak the truth. In the workplace, speaking the truth is imperative to better workplace relationships. As well as speaking the truth, listen to what others have to say. Excellent listeners promote better workplace cooperation.
- Be accountable. Take responsibility for your own actions. Making mistakes promotes a learning environment. By providing a safe environment, staff will not feel shame at making a mistake and be willing to improve their own work performances when faced with difficult issues in the workplace.
Conflict can be a learning experience. Use conflict to learn and grow. Consider others‘ point of view, reflect upon what you may say before presenting your point of view and take time out if necessary.
When working with others, there will be times when you do not see eye to eye. When a problem, concern, dispute or complaint arises it is important to deal with it in a timely manner.
Grievance resolution is an important topic in any profession. There are organisational policies and procedures in place within the Early Childhood sector that assist both the employers and employees through any grievances or conflicts that may arise.
There are general steps to follow when faced with grievances in the workplace; however, it is imperative that you access and follow your organisation‘s policies and procedures.
Grievance Resolution Steps
Talking to co-workers about issues you have with another person can aggravate an already sensitive relationship. This could also lead to further issues resulting from gossip.
If an employee has a grievance or conflict within the workplace with regards to another member of the team, appropriate processes must be followed and the relevant person of authority to be involved in the situation.
Rather than talking to other co-workers about a grievance you may have with another staff member, it is better to follow these steps:
- Approach the specific staff member and start to discuss your grievances.
- If the first approach doesn’t work, then have a quiet word to your Centre Director for some advice on how to handle the situation.
- If the above steps do not work, you may need to take a more formalised approach by submitting a grievance form to the Centre Director in writing.
A fundamental component to successful and effective teamwork is communication. The value of communication is recognised by the National Childcare Accreditation Council (NCAC) as it is embedded throughout the National Quality Areas and Principles of Quality Care with specific emphasis on relationships and partnerships.
Communication is also an integral aspect of the National Quality Standard derived from the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 which came into effect as of the 1 January 2011.
Communication in a children‘s service can take many forms, including:
- conversations in person
- conversation via phone email correspondence notes
- memos and newsletters
- body language, hand gestures and facial expressions signs
- feedback sheets and surveys.
It is important to ensure that your language matches your target audience (who you are talking to). The language you would use when speaking to a parent would vary from the language that you use when speaking to a child or a Centre Director.
The National Childcare Accreditation Council Inc (NCAC)
The NCAC is a National organisation, funded by and accountable to the Australian Government that is responsible for the administration of quality assurance (best practice) in a licensed children‘s service.
The NCAC administers the Quality Improvement and Accreditation System (AIAS) which outlines 7 Quality Areas that are described by 33 Principles of quality practice.
THE NATIONAL QUALITY STANDARDS
In the National Quality Standards that came into effect as of 1 January 2011, Quality Area 7 Leadership and service management covers the effective management of grievances and complaints in Standard 7.5 Grievances and complaints are managed effectively.
It is important that you follow the service policies and procedures in dealing with any issues or concerns you may have, so that they can be dealt with accordingly and effectively
National Quality Standard (NQS)
“For the first time, Australia has a National Quality Standard that is linked to a national learning framework which recognises that children learn from birth. The National Quality Standard will support the implementation of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and frameworks supporting the care of school age children by ensuring that necessary environments, facilities, staffing arrangements, resources and management structures are in place.”
INEFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION HAS REPERCUSSIONS
Ineffective communication can potentially endanger the lives of others or impact the quality of service provided. Consider the impact of ineffective communication in the following scenarios:
FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
You are working in the role of a ‘Floater’ and you have gone into the pre-school room to relieve the Group Leader so he can go and have his lunch.
The children have just finished eating and are transitioning from lunch to rest time.
Kim, aged 4, approaches you rubbing her eyes saying to you “I have a sore head”.
You look at Kim and notice she looks tired, so you suggest that she go and lie on her bed and you will be with her shortly.
Once the children are all on their mats resting, you notice that Kim is sound asleep.
An hour has passed, and the children are getting ready for afternoon tea, yet Kim is still sleeping.
You go to Kim to gently wake her yet she does not stir.
You comment to the Group Leader that Kim is sound asleep and has not stirred since moving to the mat.
The Group Leader says, “Well, she did fall in the bathroom before lunch and hit her head on the floor. I wonder if that’s why she is sleeping”.
In this scenario, the Group Leader failed to communicate that Kim had hit her head. What presented as tiredness could actually be the symptoms of something far more serious.
The Group Leader failed to verbally communicate the incident, and also failed to provide written documentation of the incident.
As a result of the lack of communication, the child is placed at serious risk of harm.
FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
One daily task may involve recording what a young child eats and drinks throughout the day, and how many nappy changes occur.
It is the middle of summer and Sara’s record sheet has not been completed.
The parent collects their child at the end of the day and has no record of what her child has eaten or drank during the day, nor is there any record of how many times Sara’s nappy has been changed.
You are unable to provide this information to the parent as you generally work in another room and had swapped to do the ‘close up’ shift. You had not been working with Sara during the day.
In the scenario above, valuable information regarding Sara‘s fluid intake has not been recorded or communicated.
The lack of communication has placed the child at risk of harm.
A standard intake of fluid is essential for our health and wellbeing.
A lack of fluids can lead to dehydration which can be considered a life-threatening emergency for infants and children.
FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
A parent rings the centre to leave a message for the Group Leader: “Peter will be collected early this afternoon by his Grandfather. Please have Peter and his belongings ready for collection at 12.45pm. Please do not let Peter sleep today as he needs to be ready for his Grandfather”.
You write a note/memo for the relevant staff member that works with Peter, however you forget to pass the note and message on.
At 12.40 pm, Peter’s grandfather arrives to collect him and Peter is still sound asleep on the rest mat.
In this scenario, the child is not placed at risk; however, the lack of communication results in the needs of the client not being met.
The ineffective communication results in the provision of poor service.
FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
You are the assistant setting up the planned activities for the Pre-School 2 room while the Group Leader is conducting the morning whole group session, reading ‘Spot the Dog’
The activity is ‘eye dropper painting’ using hand towels as the medium.
You take what paper hand towels you can from the children’s bathroom, leaving no paper hand towels there.
The Group session finishes and some of the children head off to the bathroom.
The children finish washing their hands but there are no paper towels to dry their hands.
The children shake their hands, flicking water all over the floor tiles.
The Group Leader asks you how long the paper towels have been empty and you reply that you used them all for the activity.
In this instance, lack of communication resulted in insufficient resources.
As a result of the lack of resources the children and staff are at risk due to the excess water on the floor.
In Scenario Four the Assistant failed to communicate that there were no more hand towels in the children‘s bathroom.
In order to be an effective team member, the Assistant should have communicated and actioned the lack of resources.
Shortages in resources can have a direct impact on the effective operation of the children‘s service. It is imperative that steps are taken to monitor these resources to ensure the quality of the service is maintained at all times.
All staff members need to be active participants and demonstrate awareness of the organisational requirements required by their specific children’s service.
A need for resources can be communicated verbally or in written form.
Even though it may not be your responsibility to order the resources, reporting shortages of resources is everyone‘s responsibility.
Communication can take many forms. List ways that you communicate in your workplace to ensure effective teamwork.
Contribution is the part played by a person in bringing about a result. In children‘s services all staff, regardless of their role, have a valuable contribution to make in the aim of providing a quality service.
Contribution in a children‘s service can include:
- completing surveys and feedback forms
- offering suggestions for alternative processes
- offering verbal feedback
- updating your knowledge and skills to support your work practices (studying or professional development)
- participating in staff meetings
- reading safety share fact sheets or industry newsletters/articles
- fulfilling the responsibilities of your job description
- joining networks
- discussions with your Group Leader and/or Director
- reporting low supplies of resources
- providing resources for activities and proposing activities
- identifying hazards
- working in alignment with organisational policies and procedures reviewing and evaluating your work performance.
Regulations provide structure and consistency in a children‘s service. Regulations are unique to each state and territory and set the minimum standards for the provision of child care services.
In general, the minimum standards refer to:
- the minimum staffing levels and qualifications
- ensuring the centre is safe and well maintained (equipment and premises)
- administrative requirements
- health (including infection control)
- safety of children and staff (risk reduction)
- programming requirements to ensure the program caters to the needs and interests of each individual child enrolled in the service
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
In each workplace, a set of guidelines or safe work practice procedures are established, so that all staff and clients remain safe and staff are able to assess any risks that could occur. The objective of any workplace health and safety Act ‘is to prevent a person’s death, injury or illness being caused at a workplace, by workplace activities.’
It is important for you to familiarise yourself with the relevant Child Care Regulations in your state or territory. You should be able to access your own copy of the relevant Childcare Regulations on state government websites.
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
In the same way that Regulations are unique to each state and territory, policies and procedures are unique to each service. A policy is a deliberate plan of action to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes. In relation to a children‘s service, the outcomes in the policies and procedures are based on the legislative requirements and government standards. Policies and procedures ensure consistency in practice: they ensure that processes are completed consistently and correctly in alignment with legislative requirements.
The relationship between legislation, Regulations and policies and procedures can be demonstrated as such:
Policies and procedures are developed because there needs to be a process in place. They include, for example, a consistent and compliant process for: hand washing, nappy changing, reporting of harm or suspected harm (mandatory reporting) confidentiality, and bottle feeding.
Locate and list five (5) policies and the accompanying procedures from your workplace.
QUALITY AND CONSISTENCY
It is your responsibility as an early childhood professional to be aware of the relevant Childcare Regulations and organisational policies and procedures, and also your position description, as these create structure, organisation and consistency in workplace practice. You wouldn’t drive a car without knowing how the vehicle works or without knowledge of the road rules — similarly, when working in a children‘s service, you need to be familiar with the ‘workings‘ of the service and the laws that govern the service.
THE EDUCATION AND CARE SERVICES NATIONAL LAW ACT
In January, 2011, the first National Legislation for early childhood education and care, Education and Care Services was implemented.
The Education and Care Services National Law Act replaced current state and territory licensing and regulation processes, incorporating an Act and Regulations to underpin the National Quality Standard.
National Quality Standard (NQS) For the first time, Australia has a National Quality Standard that is linked to a national learning framework which recognises that children learn from birth.
The National Quality Standard supports the implementation of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and frameworks supporting the care of school age children by ensuring that necessary environments, facilities, staffing arrangements, resources and management structures are in place.
The National Quality Standard comprises seven quality areas:
1. Educational program and practice
2. Children‘s health and safety
3. Physical environment
4. Staffing arrangements
5. Relationships with children
6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
7. Leadership and service management
Each quality area for the National Quality Standard contains Quality Areas and within each Area there are standards and elements for the quality of service are provided.