7 lessons from a top community-owned service

by Community Child Care Association

July 31, 2019

Kensington Community Children’s Co-operative is rated as Exceeding in all quality areas. The service turns over more than $4 million a year and employs over 50 staff. Community Child Care Association recently sat down with pedagogical leaders Kavita Bali and Karen Bonson to find out what lessons this exceptional service has to share. 


Lead with the service’s context front of mind


The role of an educational leader can be so different from service to service. At Kensington Community Children’s Co-operative (KCCC), our general manager was brave enough to play with the management, leadership and administrative areas of the service to make the role fit with our unique context and needs. 


In our large nine-room centre, we have two educational leaders whose positions sit in the management team. This allows us the time we need to provide on-the-floor mentoring and coaching – something we thought was really important for our service.


As leaders, we look at who is in our community, where everyone is at, and what works for our community. Recognising that we are all on a learning journey is one of our greatest lessons. If people are working at a different pace, we slow down – there’s no use trying to rush forward. The role is all about two-way relationships, so spending time listening and getting to know others is key, and makes the service a safer space to critique practice.


Make sure the cycle of planning is complete 


We put a lot of emphasis on making sure educators and teachers do not miss any steps. This ensures that the teaching, learning, and assessment strategies in the program are suited to both individual and group learning. Being reflective during the process is important, so we remain open, flexible and spontaneous.


One educator should not be the holder of information – at our service, children’s knowledge, skills and capabilities are shared. When educators work together to plan and document learning, we see more consistent teaching and learning strategies across the service.


Assessment and rating is about showcasing strengths


For our work to be viewed as professional work, we should be aspiring to high standards. We’ve learnt that when we embrace the process and see it as an opportunity to showcase our strengths, the process becomes relaxed, purposeful and inspiring. But that means continually building on the skills, knowledge and understanding of staff. We ask that our staff live out our service values and philosophy every day.


Behaviour guidance is about building trust 


We see behaviour guidance as tuning in, being present and building close relationships with children. When we look at children’s challenging behaviours as an attempt to make a connection that requires guidance, support and understanding, we have already made a successful attempt towards building trust!


Many times, we have to look carefully at out programs and environments both inside and outside, to make sure that these are not the cause of challenging behaviours. 


An organisation is only as good as its staff


We might have a fantastic mission statement and amazing vision, but if we’re not recruiting people whose values are aligned with ours, we won’t achieve results. For us, hiring the person with the right skills and attitude is just as important as the supporting and mentoring they receive after recruitment. 


We’re very deliberate in the interview questions we ask – we want to get to know the human behind the resume. For example, we might ask a question about the actions taken after failure to give us a sense of the candidate’s resilience and optimism, as well as their transparency and openness. 


There’s more to professional development than training


We’ve learnt that professional development has many forms. It can include peer collaboration, discussions amongst each other, reading articles and staying on top of research, and observing colleagues at work.


Inspiration and knowledge can come from everything we see and do – what we see on the news, what we read, hear and notice around us. When we do head off to a course or training, the learning doesn’t stop when we walk out the door. It’s how we bring back the learning and build on the ideas and relate it to the context of our service that’s really important.


Opportunities to meet with our teams fortnightly provide a different context for discussion and time for reflective practice – a space where we can critique our work and explore new ideas. Recently we have been looking at Brené Brown’s talks on trust and exploring how this fits with us. 


Vulnerability is a skill that every courageous leader needs


Through vulnerability, we connect with other human beings and open them up, resulting in genuine engagement and human-to-human exchange. Vulnerability fosters a safe, non-judgemental environment – where honest and insightful conversations are possible.


It is worth investing in getting to know your team both as professionals and as individuals. When you show that you care, they will care too.


KCCC has participated in curriculum and efficient management training run by Community Child Care Association (CCC). Why do you choose to train with CCC?


CCC runs training that is evidence-based. Our educators come away from CCC’s training with skills and understanding that is tested and trustworthy. 


We love that CCC acts as a spokesperson for many community organisations and takes our issues and challenges to the right platforms, helping organisations to work together for better outcomes.


CCC training can be tailored to individual service needs. To learn more, contact CCC on (03) 9486 3455.


This article has been re-published from the Spring 2019 edition of Roundtable magazine. The original article will be made available on the archive section of the CCC website, and can be accessed here in future.