AIS Caretaker’s Cottage awarded Excellent rating for the third time
Canberra’s AIS Caretaker’s Cottage Child Care Centre was recently re-awarded the Excellent rating for the third time, recognised for the innovative approach the service takes to maintaining a positive workplace culture, living out its organisational values, and for its sustained commitment to supporting the professional development needs of its educators.
The context of the service is somewhat unique in Australia, with AIS Caretaker’s Cottage being an employee sponsored long day care service, run specifically for the benefit of employees of the Australian Sports Commission (ASC).
Priority in allocation of places is given to ASC employees, and employees and athletes of National Sporting Organisations (NSO) who have a long term presence at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).
Adapting to COVID-19
Assessors took particular note of the adaptive measures put in place by the service to maintain connection, both between educators and children, and educators and their fellow professionals, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The service trialled new ways of working, creating a remote learning coordinator role which assisted a teacher to continue working with children, while also caring for their family at home. The role supported children’s ongoing learning and continued relationships between children and educators accessing the service onsite and online from home.
As the number of children attending the service began to drop, ACECQA said, the service encouraged and supported staff to take short term secondment roles across the organisation and experience employment opportunities outside of the service.
One staff member who returned after a four month secondment with the IT department, communicated feeling motivated as they had the opportunity and space in which to develop professionally.
Utilising professional development opportunities
After attending professional development on the need to visualise the connection families have with their child, the service developed the ‘Stay and Play’ and ‘Leave and Play’ sessions for their orientation program. The sessions support educators to observe family dynamics and care practices, personalised family rituals and routines, and the way language and communication is used by families and children. The sessions have resulted in:
- Supporting children to see that their family is building trusting relationships with educators and teachers, and becoming comfortable staying at the service.
- Families and children developing a greater sense of belonging within their own time, as they chose how many sessions they needed or wanted to attend.
- Children experiencing consistency of family rituals and routines between family members and educators and teachers, which promotes the service as an extension of the home environment.
- Establishing secure educator moments once the child begins to feel confident.
When the service was last awarded an Excellent rating, in November 2017, assessors noted the inclusive partnerships with children and families, practice and environments that enhance children’s learning and growth and positive workplace culture and organisational values.
Examples of exceptional practice at the service include:
- Embedding inclusion measures to ensure that the needs of individual children are met and their opportunities to participate are maximised, such as transforming a space within the service to create an ‘Engine Room’, a safe sensory space to promote self-regulation through sensory and cognitive strategies.
- A strong commitment to supporting children’s emerging social competence through implementing the ‘Educator’s Toolkit for Behaviour’, also known as the ‘Cups Approach’. The framework provides strategies to foster children’s behavioural and social learning and challenges educators to re-think and re-frame their role in supporting children’s emerging social competence.
- The service also extended its understanding of adult wellbeing by introducing the ‘Cups Approach’ into educator’s interactions with each other, which has helped educators to be more conscious and able to recognise the needs of their colleagues.
- Taking into account the unique circumstances of the families and supporting them in their role by providing additional opportunities for children such as swimming lessons and a music program that promotes relaxation and mindfulness.
- Educators appreciating one another through the implementation of ‘Pockets of Gratitude’, with the aim of expressing appreciation for one another which creates a strong sense of collegial respect and closeness, and strengthens teamwork.
As a leader in the sector, AIS Caretaker’s Cottage Child Care Centre shares its knowledge and experiences in various ways that support the development of the wider education and care sector, such as presenting at conferences and workshops, contributing content to professional publications and opening its doors to other services to view its practice.
Services that receive ‘Exceeding National Quality Standard’ in all seven quality areas can apply to ACECQA for the Excellent rating. The Excellent rating is awarded for three years. After this time services have the option to re-apply.
To learn more about the Excellent rating process, please visit the ACECQA website, here.