Kinglake Ranges Children’s Centre awarded Excellent rating
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Kinglake Ranges Children’s Centre awarded Excellent rating

by Freya Lucas

June 18, 2024

Kinglake Ranges Children’s Centre has been awarded the Excellent rating by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). 


The Kinglake Central based service was recognised for its:


  • collaborative partnerships with professional, community or research organisations
  • positive workplace culture and organisational values, sustained commitment to professional development and support of educators
  • practice and environments that enhance children’s learning and growth. 


Some examples of exceptional practice at the service include offering a rich nature-based curriculum focused on mental health and wellbeing, using Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data to evaluate service progress, and for taking proactive steps to drive the growth and development of its staff.


Kinglake National Parklands program 


Kinglake Ranges Children’s Centre (KRCC) utilises the Kinglake National Parklands to offer a rich nature-based curriculum focused on mental health and wellbeing. 


Running for three hours per week during school terms, it seamlessly integrates with the kindergarten curriculum, providing approximately 180 hours of immersive nature play. It was initially established to address the unique needs of children and families in the community affected by the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires.


 It has evolved into a comprehensive initiative promoting health, wellbeing, and environmental advocacy. Regular communication between KRCC and Parks Victoria ensures the program’s effectiveness and safety, and rangers are actively involved in the children’s learning experiences.


KRCC actively participates in maintaining the parkland’s cleanliness, and children are inspired to take action against littering through educational initiatives and poster campaigns.Central to the program’s success is its transformative impact on children’s resilience and confidence, shifting from a reactive response to trauma to a proactive approach to building self-worth and resilience.


Using AEDC data as a measure 


AEDC data gathered prior to the establishment of the nature-based program was compared to recent data and reflected significant improvements in children’s developmental outcomes. 


For example, children demonstrated advanced play, emotional literacy, and social skills and achieved goals ahead of the national average. Additionally, physical skills were developing more rapidly, with elements of risk being mastered at an earlier age.  


After critically reflecting on a few years’ worth of AEDC data, KRCC began a transformative journey of its teaching and practice to ensure the service environment continued to be reflective of the children’s capabilities demonstrated at home. 


This included modifying its outdoor physical learning environment to include additional risk-based experiences in response to most of its children living on rural properties and being exposed to high risks on a regular basis. 


The service applied for and was successful in securing a grant to undertake significant upgrades to include risk within its outdoor physical learning environment. Additionally, the service has removed all internal fences to create a shared space where children of different age groups can move freely, interact and learn from one another.


Commitment to professional development


The service has applied for and received approximately $90,000 of professional development funding over the years, demonstrating a proactive investment in the growth and development of its staff. The service notes that this funding plays a crucial role in facilitating team-wide professional development aligned with strategic goals and areas of improvement identified through leadership strategy meetings held annually in Term 4. 


These strategic goals are intricately linked to KRCC’s visionary mission and strategic direction outlined in the Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) improvement goals. Over the past three years, KRCC staff have participated in over 50 professional development sessions, each with clearly articulated reasons for attendance and outcomes achieved.  


Reflective practice 


Recognising the lowered positivity within its workplace culture during the months of May, June, and July every year, KRCC engaged in critical reflection and professional development to improve the service’s morale.


KRCC resonated with the metaphor of ‘Antarctic winter’, representing a time of adversity and challenge, particularly because the service is located 610 meters above sea level and experiences prolonged winters. 


Drawing on critical reflection, KRCC aimed to cultivate a culture where respect takes precedence over harmony, thereby nurturing resilience and cohesion amongst the whole team. The team drew on research to highlight the link between strong leadership, staff longevity, and positive child outcomes. The service tailored its approach to foster a supportive and resilient team culture.


“As a leader in the sector, KRCC’s program, partnerships and practices acknowledge data-driven improvements to its children’s outcomes, successfully combatting children’s vulnerability as they enter formal schooling,” an ACECQA statement about the Excellent rating for KRCC notes. 


‘This ensures that it remains responsive to the interests, circumstances, needs and strengths of its children and families, enabling it to improve outcomes for children and families at the highest level.”


Services that receive ‘Exceeding National Quality Standard’ in all seven quality areas can apply to ACECQA for the Excellent rating. From 1 July 2023, the Excellent rating is awarded for five years. After this time services have the option to re-apply.


Learn more about the Excellent rating here. More information about KRCC can be found here

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