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Beyond Regulatory Standards and Expectations to Building Quality

By Sarah Alexander
© ChildForum


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.

 

Your Quality Sits Above Regulatory Standards

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 (e.g. qualified teachers, high adult-child ratio) is not giving parents sufficient information to help them to make their choice.

It is useful to increase parents comfort and support for your service, to have in place a really good induction process including inviting parents with their child to have a number of visits on different days prior to starting. 

There are three different, distinct dimensions of quality in the early childhood field, namely: “standards”, “organisational culture/excellence”, and “client benefits”.
This paper includes a useful diagram showing different paths that quality promotion and assurance can take - and the consequences - go to the paper "The Production of Worthwhile Knowledge about Quality Early Years Education' here. 

 

Higher Quality

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.

Parent Survey Tool
Run this independent, sector tested, and confidential survey to learn how families perceive and rate your service on different dimensions and what you can do to increase parental satisfaction levels.
Feedback from parents is vital to building good relationships with families and maintaining quality for children. Find out more here.

 

 

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