Early learning only counts when it’s high quality
Quality counts in many things, but when you’re talking about the development of a child in those crucial first five years, there’s simply no substitute for it.
It’s hard to overstate the significance of these early years. Research
at Harvard University on brain development shines a light on this very importance, with numbers almost too incredible to believe.
In the first few years of life for example, more than one million new neural connections are formed every second
. The process is driven by the interaction of genes and the child’s experiences, and it’s these early connections which build the brain architecture upon which all future learning depends.
The experiences provided to babies and young children all have an impact on how many neural connections are retained, and which ones are strongly developed, as they grow older. All experiences – positive and negative, stimulation and neglect – play a significant role in the future of every child.
These amazing facts and figures are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole world of research out there, and it all points to the one thing: the first five years of a child’s life matter, a lot
It’s for all these reasons, and more, that we’re so committed to raising the quality
of early learning in Australia. And it’s also for of these reasons that we developed one of our most valuable resources - the Goodstart Practice Guide
What is the Goodstart Practice Guide?
Getting the best outcomes for children comes down to two things: evidence and practice
. The Practice Guide is our link between these two essential ingredients.
It was developed through 12 months of consulting with international experts, reviewing the evidence of what works best for children, and blending it with the on-the-ground experience of Goodstart educators.
The Practice Guide works with two important elements of Australia’s national approach to education and care:
- The National Quality Standard (NQS), which sets benchmarks in seven quality areas for all childcare providers
- The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), which charts Australia’s national approach to quality teaching in the early years
You can learn more about the NQS and EYLF here
, but in short they both combine to define what high quality in childcare looks like and how teachers and educators can deliver the best outcomes for children.
Why not just use the EYLF?
Being a framework the EYLF takes more of a broad brush than prescriptive approach, and that’s where the Practice Guide comes in.
It gives our teachers and educators guidance in the best ways to implement the EYLF in their centres, while still offering flexibility for centres to adapt and implement in ways that work with their families and community.
With 644 centres across Australia, The Practice Guide helps us in clearly articulating what we see as necessary to provide a consistently high level of quality throughout our network of centres. And with one in five
Australian children starting school with a developmental vulnerability, this is vital work and shows why it’s so important that we get it right in early learning.
How do centres use the Practice Guide to benefit children?
We wanted to be sure the Practice Guide actually worked in centres, so before releasing it nationwide we had around 30 of our centres put it to the test in a 12 week trial.
was one of these centres, and as Centre Director Melissa Griffiths explains, using the Practice Guide as a planning tool for each age group has been invaluable.
Melissa and her team decided to use their nursery room as a test case within the centre, before implementing more widely in the other rooms.
“We figured if we could do it successfully with babies, we could do it in any room!” Melissa said.
“As we started implementing the guide, we quickly realised we’d been underestimating babies as being competent learners and the nursery room environment was reflective of this.
“The room’s resources weren’t challenging or accessible enough for babies. The guide helped us recognise that they needed to be exposed to items that weren’t so plastic and structured.
“It prompted us to bring in more natural items and things with what we call ‘loose parts’, which means objects or materials that babies can arrange, sort or build. This encourages learning without the limitations of structured items like plastic toys.”
Melissa and her team kept a video diary and photos to chart the progress of babies in the nursery room, and shared the results with families.
“When we started showing photos and video evidence to the families, they were amazed to see the progress and how competent these very young children were.
“The Practice Guide has made it easier to ensure we cover every area of learning possible and get the best outcomes we can for the children in our centre.”