With many early learning options available, choosing an early childhood care service can be an overwhelming yet thrilling experience. In Australia, there are various early childhood education and care services, which parents can choose from. Some child care services are controlled by the National Quality Framework (NQF), including long daycare, family daycare, kindergarten/preschool and outside school hours care. However, other child care services, such as mobile services and occasional care, are regulated by individual states and territories. Here is what parents need to know when choosing a quality child care centre.
The NQF is an Australian system that regulates school-aged care and early learning by offering national quality standards, learning frameworks, legislation and sector data and profiles. Therefore, the regulated services, including family daycare, long daycare and kindergartens, must meet stringent national standards. The guidelines ensure that children enrolled in standardised child care services are safe and regularly receive development and learning opportunities. Child care services are rated based on seven critical national quality standards (NQS), including governance and leadership, staffing arrangements, physical environment, relationships with children, health and safety of kids, educational program and practice and joint partnerships with communities and families. Always opt for daycare services with an overall "Excellent" rating, which means that they exceed the NQS.
Beginners should bear in mind that the cost of child care services is significant and might affect a household's expendable income. Just like any other service, the cost differs from one jurisdiction to another and between services. Remember that an expensive child care service is not necessarily the best, and vice versa. Therefore, you must strike a balance between the fee charged and the services offered. Similarly, find out what is entailed in the daily fee because costs can quickly escalate if you must provide your supplies, such as nappies, toys and food. Also, try to inquire about rebates that your child is entitled to because the federal and most states and territories offer different childcare services subsidies.
Ask the Right Questions
Parents or guardians should find out as much information as possible about a child care program before enrolling their kids in it. The data can only be found by asking the right questions about an organisation or service. Ask questions about operating hours, drop-off and pick-up hours, holiday durations, staff-child ratio and visiting policy. Parents should also ask about the qualifications, experience and skills of available staff.