How to identify a quality childcare centre in Brisbane
When it comes to entrusting others with the care of our children, we understandably want to take this matter extremely seriously. Our children are going to spend a great deal of their time in the care of the chosen centre and we need to ensure that time is safe, engaging, educational and above all, enjoyable. We want to leave them there with the peace of mind that they’ll be looked after, protected, included, valued and loved, just as they are at home. Leaving our children is one of the hardest things we ever have to do, which is why it is so important to make sure that we can identify a quality childcare centre for them. These are a few tips for how to identify a quality childcare centre in Brisbane.
Finding local childcare centres
The good news is that there are many excellent childcare centres (often called long day care centres) available to us here in Brisbane, and these services are regulated by the government and must meet certain legal requirements. You can read about the legal requirements for childcare providers in Queensland here.
To find all childcare centres close to you, you can search on mychild.gov.au by selecting ‘Long Day Care’ and entering your location. You can then look at their fee information and vacancies and get their contact information and websites so that you can find out more about each centre.
The National Quality Framework
The National Quality Framework (NQF) regulates most long day care services and aims to improve the quality and consistency of Australian education and care services. You can find out more about the NFQ at acecqa.gov.au.
The NQF has established a National Quality Standard (NQS), which sets a national benchmark for services such as long day care. Childcare centres are assessed to make sure they meet this quality standard. Each assessed centre receives one of five ratings, from Excellent to Significant Improvement Required. Checking the ratings of childcare centres can be a good indication of which are quality centres. To find out the ratings of childcare centres, you can search for them at mychild.gov.au, select the centre and then click on the ‘Quality’ tab.
Of course, this rating is one indication only, and while it can be a useful guide, certainly no one would make such an important choice based on this rating alone. To find out more about the ratings system, how it works and its limitations, see Rating Queensland Childcare Centres: What Is It All About?
Once you have some centres in mind, identifying the best quality centre can be influenced by the qualities that are most important to you. For example, you may consider the following questions:
- Does the centre provide food?
- Does the centre provide nappies?
- What are the group sizes?
- Is the children to educator ratio the same as or lower than the maximum (which is 5 children to 1 educator for children under 36 months, and 11 children to 1 educator for those over 36 months)?
- What is the typical daily schedule for the kids?
- Do all the children have breaks in the same yard or are there separate play areas for younger groups?
- What equipment and facilities are available to the children in the classrooms?
- What equipment and facilities are available to the children outside?
- What does the centre offer to cope with my own child’s personal needs, health issues or special needs?
- What communication does the centre have with families, e.g. daily updates, photos, learning journals, etc?
Visiting the centre
One of the most important ways of checking the quality of a childcare centre is to visit the centre in person. Some recommendations for what to do when visiting a childcare centre include:
- Meet and chat to the Director — to get a feel for the overall ethos and approach of the centre
- Meet and chat to the educators who will be in your child’s room — everyone is different and only you can be the best judge of who will be the right fit for your child
- Have a tour of the centre and the classrooms — check out the equipment and facilities available and see whether it looks like a safe and fun place to stay
- Bring your child to visit the centre — most centres will let you visit and stay with your child several times before they start, so you can see if they feel comfortable and happy there and to get them settled in gently before they begin
- Observe the staff in general and how they are interacting with and supervising the children
- Observe the other children, what activities they are engaged in and whether they seem happy and stimulated
- Consider health and safety — does the centre seem clean, do the play areas look safe, does the centre follow sun safe practices, are the children being well-supervised, etc?
Approved kindergarten program
If your child will be attending the childcare centre at kindergarten age (the year before Prep), you may want to consider whether the centre offers an approved kindergarten program. Offering an approved kindergarten program helps centres to ensure that they are meeting government guidelines for delivering quality early childhood education. You can read about the requirements centres must fulfill in order to be approved kindergarten program providers here.
While everyone’s personal experiences of childcare centres can and do vary, it can still be useful to consider recommendations from trusted friends and locals in terms of which centres they believe are quality. First-hand accounts of people who have actually used the facilities can give us an insight into what they’re like in practice rather than just on paper. Together with the other considerations suggested above, this can help us to get an all-round view of what a childcare centre is really like and help us to make the best decision for our child.
You can visit qld.gov.au here for a full list of phone helplines, websites and email addresses to help you find more information about Queensland’s childcare services, to help you make the most informed decision for your child.
You may also want to visit our directory of Childcare and Kindy Options in Brisbane, which is a collection of services designed to provide you with the peace of mind you would need at a price you can afford.