Why this Excellent-rated service says Under the Roof needs to stay - and be embraced
The Sector > Quality > Compliance > Why this Excellent-rated service says Under the Roof needs to stay – and be embraced

Why this Excellent-rated service says Under the Roof needs to stay – and be embraced

by Freya Lucas

July 18, 2022

Milford Lodge is an Excellent-rated long day care service in South East Queensland that uses the “Under the Roof” ratio calculation to offer children the opportunity to play with their siblings, cousins and friends throughout the day across any room of the service. 

 

Milford Lodge first received the Excellent rating in June 2016, being recognised a second time in May 2019, and for a third time in June 2022. 

 

Milford provides long day care to 100 children aged from birth to five years of age, and is on a journey which it affectionately calls “Bringing Back the Magic,” reintroducing experiences such as pony rides, collecting eggs and daily outings. 

 

An important point of difference for the service is its family grouping arrangement, which sees children being offered the opportunity to play with their siblings, cousins and friends throughout the entire day, across any room of the service.

 

Key to the success of the family grouping arrangement is the implementation of what is colloquially known as the “Under the Roof” ratio calculation, which sees the children self select whether they want to stay in the main building or spend time in one of the five other cottages or buildings that make up the service. 

 

We have 100 children per day and they can play with whoever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want,” a representative from the service explained. 

 

“They can share their day with their siblings or cousins. They can spend time with previous years’ key educators. In fact, one might argue that is still the child’s key educator, by their choice to continue to spend a large portion of their day, or share every meal time with them.”

 

“What we are utilising when we allow this freedom for children is what is currently referred to as Across the Service Ratios. In services where age segregation is still occurring, it effectively allows one room to be over ratio, and one room to be under ratio, so long as the ratios across the service are correct. It is to be used to benefit the children.”

There is a misconception from many in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, the Milford representative continued, that Across the Service ratios are “the worst thing ever,” “poor practice,” “stressful”, “wrong” and “illegal”. 

Instead, Milford Lodge would like to encourage other services to consider what might happen if “we created beautiful spaces for children to enjoy, and then provided appropriate adult supervision for those children. Not based on their age or size, but in fact based on experience and common sense”. 

 

“Imagine if we drew on the knowledge of our families and community to provide this – oh wait, this is all in the Early Years Learning Framework, Regulations, UN Rights of the Child and many more current documents.”

 

“Milford Lodge comes from a time before too many minimums…maybe none actually. Children played freely outside with their friends, and the adults provided some pretty awesome experiences – cooking, gardening, pony rides, water play, community walks, singing and games….oh, hang on, that’s a bit like (present day) Milford!”

 

Reflective questions to provoke this thinking include: 

 

  • Why are we still so ridiculously intent on counting the EXACT number of 0-2s, 2-3s and 3+ years children in one space?
  • Why are there still siblings in Australia crying for each other through an outdated regulated fence?
  • Why is nobody actually thinking about what is best for the children?

 

When using centre-based ratio requirements ratios are calculated across the service, according to the youngest child in care, which offers services and providers the opportunity and flexibility to respond to the needs of children. 

 

Kathy Walker suggests that if the children’s needs come first all day every day like they should, then shouldn’t services adapt their practices,” the Milford representative explained. 

 

“I can guarantee that it is in every service philosophy in some way, shape or form. I have never read a philosophy that states “We aim to group children by their date of birth to provide quality care” or “It takes a Village to Raise a Child, but in this village thy siblings shall not meet…”

 

“Milford Lodge is not usually one to promote trends, on account of usually ‘walking to our own beat’ – but if you are really passionate about quality care for children, and believe you advocate for their rights to play and to be happy – and for goodness sake, to spend their few short early years with their sibling then now is a good time to jump on that bandwagon.”

 

To learn more about how Across the Service ratios can work, please see here. This piece was adapted from content provided by the Milford Lodge team with permission. Access the original content here. 

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