I wonder how many parents realise that 10 toddlers can be left in the care of an untrained, teenage child care worker and the centre would not be breaking the law.*
This question is raised in an article from The Australian which I read last week entitled, “Who’s minding the kids?”
It is scary to think that this is the scenario being played out in hundreds of child care centres across Australia. Not only is it unfair for the children but also the staff member and it certainly goes part way to explaining why the child care industry as a whole experiences such a high staff turnover rate. I have one toddler and it can be exhausting and overwhelming at times.
I was fortunate that the Centre I managed in Sydney for six years had owners who realised the benefits of having much more manageable staff:child ratios, as well as higher-than-legally-required numbers of early childhood qualified educators.
I also wonder if parents realise how many child care centres are not Nationally accredited. Centres can operate with a state based licence which defines bare minimum standards for operation (and it is illegal not to have such a licence) but it is currently not mandatory for them to undertake the National Childcare Accreditation process which clearly defines quality child care and current best practice.
With almost 60% of Australian children aged 0-4 years in child care I think as parents we have a responsibility to educate ourselves about what quality looks like and demand better service on behalf of our children. Research findings clearly demonstrate that the experiences of children in the first five years of life impact upon their capacity for learning and their success as future well rounded, high functioning adults.
We should expect (and as necessary demand) the best from Centres in our local areas and be vocal to state and National governments about revising legislation to ensure the best possible start for our children.
* This is in accordance with Australian policy at the time of publication.