Little Scholars Burleigh lead documentation revolution
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > New Little Scholars initiative designed to connect with children and forget the paperwork

New Little Scholars initiative designed to connect with children and forget the paperwork

by Christina Copp

May 19, 2023

When educators at Little Scholars School of Early Learning Burleigh met at a lead educator evening, the topic of documenting children’s learning came up, with one educator voicing “I feel like I spend more time writing things down than I do with children”.


While educators were physically present, and attending to the children’s social, emotional and educational needs, there was a tension a feeling of needing to have multiple points of focus, and of not being able to be fully present, in the moment. 


It was from this statement and realisation that a revolution was born one which has come to be known as The Collective. 


The Collective is a service-wide, multi-faceted educational initiative, designed to enhance each child’s learning and development and best support educators’ time spent with children. Driven by children, and centred on early childhood pedagogy, The Collective allows for educators to have freedom in how they document and plan for children.


Children are given the time and space to explore, imagine, create, problem solve and develop social groups, and are guided to find their individual learning journey. In this space, the individual strengths of educators also thrives, and multiple voices are heard, allowing for a collective response to children’s learning. 


We caught up with The Little Scholars team to learn more. 


Humble beginnings and a pizza box


Alice Micklewright, Campus Manager of Little Scholars Burleigh (pictured), came up with the idea of The Collective and led its early development.


“I wanted to look at the curriculum for a while because there were a lot of things that we felt were just kind of there but didn’t feel like they had a place, so streamlining that focus was good,” she explained.


The meeting, where the topic was first raised, was held at the peak of the pandemic, a time when Alice says her team had a heightened sense of the need to be in the moment, and that being present and available was “far more important than anything else”.


“The first conversation we had, we looked at what we were doing and wrote down notes on the back of the pizza box ideas about why we’re doing what we were doing, what the processes were and what we felt didn’t really fall within the planning cycle appropriately for it be conducive to having good outcomes for everybody involved.”


From there, the revolution began. 


Acknowledging the need for change


Understanding the demands of documenting processes, Little Scholars wanted to create a streamlined approach to the educational program across all its campuses. 


The intention was to demonstrate quality over quantity, foster children’s growth, and develop them to become successful citizens and critical thinkers. There was also a need for a curriculum approach which would support educators to adopt theory and put it into practice. 


A space where educators, through observations of children’s play, conversations and their interactions within their environment, were able to explore what the child might be thinking. 




“We really started The Collective off the back of our engagement Initiative – that’s the one day a month we have with no documentation of photos, no technology,” Ms Micklewright explained.


“It was purely based on educators getting back in touch with engaging with children and not focusing so much on some of the perceived pressures that have come about in the sector in terms of things like families’ expectations on photos being received, and the amount of documentation that sometimes can spiral.”


While there is a regulatory need for services to demonstrate a cycle of planning, Little Scholars was seeking a streamlined approach to guide its campuses to set the benchmark to support and engage. 


“It’s really been child-driven on the focus of what we want to do,” Ms Micklewright said. 


“At its core, it’s really been just trying to pare back what we were doing to deliver quality curriculum for children, that supports their outcomes and their developmental needs, to generate a stronger culture of critical thinkers in terms of children and educators.” 


Families now receive weekly updates not daily about their child’s learning, allowing educators to focus more on being with children. Families still get photos daily to see what their child has been learning and enjoying that day, but learning outcomes, routines, links to the Early Years Learning Framework and research are saved for the end of the week, and individual child updates are sent out on a term by term basis. 


“Sometimes you find that services will continue to add a lot of documentation [about each child] and to try to meet the needs of the framework and the standards, when it can be a lot simpler and child-focused,” Ms Micklewright added. 


Reflection in action


Educators and others involved in the program are now more focused on the purpose and intent behind their actions, she continued. 


“Everything we do really needs to have a purpose, a thought behind it and a reason why we want to engage in it that way, and then involving the children in that process and the families as well,” she said. 


“If you look at the planning cycle in the National Quality Framework (NQF), you gather information from an idea or interest that children have, engage the children in what they’d like to do moving forward and analyse the information you’ve gathered, plan for it, then reflect and review is the whole cycle.”


Using The Collective approach, educators may, for example, look at children who are engaging in an activity and consider it across developmental milestones, evaluating the outcomes of what they think the children are trying to achieve.


“Children are exploring all of these different concepts every day, even though you may not realise because they’re playing and it’s natural for them to do that,” Ms Micklewright said. 


The use of open-ended questioning with children supports the understanding of their play and helps gain a child’s perspective as opposed to an adult’s agenda.


The planning comes from what educators talk about in the moment, and educators act on what they’ve gathered, followed by a review at the end, where they decide if the activity worked well or didn’t, and if it didn’t, questioning why.


Communicating with families


Little Scholars produces individual learning journeys for each child that highlight significant milestones and achievements to their development whilst in care. Various modes of documentation record the learning identified through the child’s participation in the program.


Little Scholars sends out the personalised mid-year assessments to the families and then at the end of the year they receive a transition letter which wraps up their child’s journey, acknowledging achievements and progress in their studio. 




For Founder Jae Fraser, the initiative has been an important part of ensuring that educators feel seen, heard and valued. 


“We really care about and listen to our teams, so when they are feeling pressured due to a significant amount of paperwork, we act,” he said. 


“It’s all about the educators and the children, so if we can achieve amazing outcomes without all the unnecessary paperwork, and children and educators are interacting and engaging in really meaningful ways  this is what we need to focus on.” 


Learn more about Little Scholars School of Early Learning here

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