How your staff interact with each other in the presence of children has significant implications.
Part of having a competent centre is having its educators, management and other professionals display professionalism at all times. A centre’s staff should aim to form and sustain professional and respectful relationships with one another, as this can directly impact the quality of education provided to children.
Quality Area 4 (QA4), Staffing Arrangements, talks about several elements, including how a service’s staff should be organised, arranged and maintained.
The importance of modelling
Even though they don’t express it, children pick up on tension. Children notice when staff members genuinely appreciate each other and work well together, which sets a positive example for them. Since children are more likely to copy the behaviour around them, if the adults around them treat others with respect, they are more likely to practice the same actions.
One of the small things that your staff can practice is using open-ended questions. Most conversations require a mix of open and closed questions. However, most people tend to be more comfortable asking closed questions. To create a reputation as good listeners, we need to ask more open-ended questions.
Learn more about why having respectful and positive staff communication can help children of all ages in our guide, How to Improve Ratings in Quality Area 4.
How to Improve Your Ratings in NQS QA4
Closed-ended questions typically begin with “Have you. . .,” “Would you. . . ,” “Did you. . .,” “Can you. . ..” These can often be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” You receive a very narrow, specific answer. Open-ended questions, on the other hand, usually begin with, “What,” “Why,” or “How,” and they encourage the other person to give a more complete and substantive answer.
|“Did you finish the memo?”|
May put place unintended pressure to accomplish the task.
|“Where are you with the memo?”|
Might open a dialogue and facilitate a discussion around challenges completing an assignment.
|“Can you move the meeting to 4:00 PM?”|
If that’s your only open slot, this is efficient.
|“What’s your schedule like this afternoon?”|
Offers options and promotes open discussion.
|“Have you tried Thai food before?”|
A “yes” or a “no” could be misinterpreted as “. . . and I’m open/not open to having it again.”
|“How does Thai sound to you?”|
Gets more to the point and asks for opinion versus experience.
The essential role of documentation
Regardless of the quality area, it is critical that a service documents its processes. For assessors, they have nothing to assess if there is no documentation to show.
Things to document in Quality Area 4 regarding professional relationships might include:
- Updated cleaning schedules and safety inspection logs
- Sustability policy that can be viewed by all staff
- Email logs and replies of staff demonstrating professional decorum
One of the best things to implement in your centre is good documentation. The more you can document your processes, the more evidence you’ll be able to provide assessors on how you’re meeting the National Quality Standards set about in the National Quality Framework. The more documented things are in your service, the easier it will be for your staff to work within their roles. Established boundaries will streamline things and everyone will know what to do when a certain issue arises.
There are several instances where good, honest and open communication can benefit your staff.
Staff members can greatly benefit from a code of conduct that is established in a handbook for all new and temporary staff to read. Updating this and communicating the changes will prove useful for both administrators and educators.
Another way that open and respectful communication can help is during ‘shadow shifts,’ where new educators are shadowed by experienced staff. This helps new staff feel less anxious, knowing an experienced educator is available to answer questions. It also provides an opportunity for giving and receiving feedback.
Your service can update its policies and handbook based on feedback from both educators and families. This demonstrates that the centre is open to suggestions rather than taking a “we know best” approach based on education and experience. Providing staff with regular opportunities to collaborate and communicate is essential.
Communication is vital whether you use a group messaging app or a communication book that staff can share information in. Educational leaders can also use this information during regular catch-up meetings with educators.
Staff at your service can benefit from improved and more transparent means of communication, which build trust within the staff members themselves and help increase the overall camaraderie within the team. If the people who help guide the children under your care are also given as much attention, it can only contribute to the growth of the centre in the long run.