Dropping off children at a care centre is an everyday ritual for millions of Australian families. Notably, most parents choose a specific facility for various reasons, ranging from cost and location to value and program focus. However, one thing that remains universal is that all parents expect their kids to have fun, grow and develop in the company of affectionate caregivers. Sadly, the search for a centre providing high-quality programs is often uncertain since parents lack the necessary tools to gauge program quality. This post identifies the core components of a high-quality early childhood program.

Stable Teacher Workforce — The ideal child care centre has trained educators and caregivers equipped with foundational knowledge in child development. However, having experienced and qualified teachers counts for nothing if the workforce is unstable. Notably, children need time to get used to strange faces, and a preschool with a high teacher turnover makes early learning difficult for preschoolers. Therefore, parents must first look at the retention rate of a preschool before enrolling their kids. Most importantly, a centre should have a stable workforce for a healthy learning environment. A facility should also arrange for backups in case a teacher goes on paid leave. Hiring sufficient substitutes or floaters to cover teachers on leave prevents program disruptions.

Comprehensive Family Engagement — Since the family is critical to a child's early development, a high-quality program must have policies for actively engaging parents. Such guidelines encourage parents to participate in the learning process, promoting communication and understanding of kids. For instance, it allows you to share your child's unique strengths and talents so that teachers know how to get the best from them. Additionally, active engagement in a child's learning process helps teachers understand your culture and values, which they can leverage to develop a responsive learning experience. Comprehensive family engagements can take various forms, including regular parent-teacher conferences, daily parent-teacher communication, periodic newsletters, and family open nights. Overall, comprehensive family engagement activities build positive relationships and help teachers address issues like behavioural problems and developmental delays.

Continuous Quality Improvement System — Some preschools believe in the 'if it is not broken, do not fix it' approach to run their programs. However, it is the wrong strategy for any preschool claiming to offer a high-quality learning program. Notably, early learning programs should never be static since they must constantly monitor, reflect, and revise policies and practices. It is the surest way childcare centre administrators can maintain high standards. For instance, a learning program should measure children's progress individually and collectively. Emerging insights should inform proactive improvements through formal training, mentor programs, coaching, and informal support networks.

For more information on an early learning program, contact a professional near you.