By Sarah Alexander
There seems to be so much to do in trying to provide a quality service, does there not?
Is all your work worth it or could a change in focus and method achieve better results?
To help you to think critically on this consider your responses to the following questions:
- Who defines what quality is? And for whom?
- Whose quality do you prioritise and why?
- How much time, energy and money (e.g. additional staffing, administration and training costs) do you (your service) put into meeting external licensing and other legal requirements, expectations for conformance from the Ministry of Education and Education Review Office and professional obligations? Now, compare this with the time, energy and money put into researching, discussing, planning and anticipating children’s and parents’ wishes and perspectives.
Consider who you are providing the service for – if it is families and children then as much if not more time must go into listening to children and families about their views on quality, what they like, and what improves the quality of experience and benefits.
Going Above and Beyond Quality
Parents will have their own reasons for selecting your particular service. They are likely to have already factored into their decision the organisational characteristics of your service (e.g. location, hours, look and feel).
If your service follows a particular educational philosophy such as Montessori or Rudolf Steiner or has a particular cultural perspective then this could well be important, and a key reason for families to select your service.
To assist parents with their choice you should provide written information and also discuss the organisational, philosophical and cultural characteristics of your service with them (and if possible other family members). Simply telling parents that your service is a quality one that is licensed and mentioning other features such as the percentage of registered teachers is not giving parents sufficient information to help them to make their choice.
It is useful for parents if they and their child can have a number of visits to see your service or home-based educator in action at different times of the day.
Beyond the organisational, philosophical and cultural characteristics that define the quality of your type of service it is possible to strive for higher quality. To describe this higher quality the concept used here is that of “remarkable” quality.
Your most direct stakeholders – children, and their parents and families – are the people for whom you will be constantly assessing quality to see if it is remarkable for them, meets their expectations and provides value.
To go down the road to providing a remarkable quality service you need to be willing to be involved with families. You will be non-judgmental and show respect, display openness, have an ability to take on board values that are not your own and transmit an attitude that nothing is too much trouble.
To be remarkable means delighting and exceeding expectations, providing value and making a positive contribution to families. What is remarkable for one family today may not be remarkable tomorrow. Further every child, every parent and every family will have different perceptions based on experience, their values and what they think.
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