PLAY IT BY EAR: Starry-eyed
Have you been to a motel that is (apparently) 5 star and has nothing but a dusty jug and a rusty ironing board? Or what about when they tell you that its a 'continental breakfast' and you fall tragically upon a row of Kellogs variety pack cereals in every sugar-filled flavour? The website looked good though. The reviews were good. People said it was good. You work out that the only way to know is to go and see for yourself!
Many early childhood teachers already know what I am inching at just by reading the word 'star' in the title of this blog. Yes that's right, they want to make it mandatory to have a star rating on the front door of early childhood centres as of July 2020. The motivation for this is so that parents can easily identify the good places to go. Sounds straightforward right? Well we all know that when it comes to people and education if it is straight forward and too easy to digest, then it can't be a good thing. Stickers loose their adhesion and buckets get holes in them very quickly.
Assess but don't rate
Well fix it Dear Liza? No Dear Henry, not even Dorothy the Dinosaur will make this one look rosey. See when you are providing education to the citizens of the future in the most influential growth period of their lives you tend not to compare yourself to the centre next door because groups of people in different places all have a unique fingerprint. You can't compare apples with bananas and yet we jumped the hoops the government asked us to, we went through the new assessment and rating system only to have unqualified assessors slap ratings on services without understanding what makes each fingerprint unique. We shouted loudly and thought we were heard and now we are being told to be quiet, be a 'good boy' and we can have a sticker?
Families can be educated, kids aren't cute
As our local group of leaders here in my region concluded, we do not want to waive the idea of assessment as it is necessary to ensure that children are receiving the highest quality education in the least toxic or stressful environments they can be in. However the rating? Nup. Yes, we want parents to engage in conversations about quality but gain education from a local community member, use dare I suggest it......intuition and maybe some information off the internet about the centre. Parents who are new to the area or do not speak English will have a support person that has expertise in the area of early childhood. They do not need to drive around looking for stars. This is one of the biggest insults to our profession I have witnessed to date. We have worked hard to push for more credibility in early childhood and to have a Wiggles character endorse stickers on our doors is just plain outrageous and a giant step back in a very sad direction. Yes children like all types of music and are capable of understanding complex rhythms other than The Wiggles so early childhood teachers don't fall for the 'cute dinosaur' card. My 3 yr old and 6 year old listen to everything from Johnny Cash to the Nutcracker. The point is, children and their are more than the stickers you are adorning them with.
So if not stickers from dinosaurs, what then?
POLICY MAKERS TO DO LIST
Notice, speak with and be around children
Ask teachers, consultants and academics about what quality in each region looks like
Go to look at examples of places that have long waiting lists and happy parents and children
Visit places that have a mixture of longstanding staff and new staff
Go to places that have big trees and outdoor spaces and sit and watch
Employ assessors that have minimum qualifications and minimum experience in our profession
Send the assessors out to work with services in genuine continuous quality improvement not cobweb compliance
Run information sessions for families about the quality things you have observed and tell them to look for that
Fund support for families to stay home with their children for longer
Don't allow RTO's to fast track student through Diploma education so we can have good quality employees to begin with
Notice how all of the above requires you to be experienced and have a love of education and children. It all sounds too hard doesn't it?
You can't put a star sticker on a broken arm.
For those waiting to see what we had for dinner here it is!
Enchilada Kit ( I reuse the box for craft)
Diced Chicken breast (I get it pre-diced, ain't nobody got no time fo dat)
Coleslaw pre made packet ( I re-use the plastic bag for freezing other foods)
Mayo (we get vegan as the little one has egg allergy)
I want to say baby tomatoes but they are cherry
Fry up your chicken, but don't stew it or brown it...there is a fine line, just until it turns white
Throw in the Enchilada sauce and simmer the chicken in the sauce - whack it in a bowl
Make up the slaw and pop in a bowl, get your kids to chop up the cuc and tomatoes and smash the avo, pop spinach and all this in middle of table.
Heat up the corn wraps and put on table - don't make them up as per packet, just let the kids have them open on the plate. They can choose what they want out of the salad and spoon the chicken on.
Tried and tested by the 3 and 6 year old. Nothing left salad and all.