Best Practice versus Meeting Legislation

Best Practice versus Meeting Legislation

Coming to grips with the many pieces of legislation and documentation which guide the practices, policies, procedures and administrational running of early childhood services can be a daunting and overwhelming…

As owners and managers of services, understanding documentation is vital and there is also the added responsibility of ensuring necessary information is passed down and understood by the rest of the teachers and other staff working with children. This too, is easier said than done as there is always a variety of people with different degrees of knowledge, understanding and experience. Ensuring that all these differing people have the same knowledge and understanding of legislation, regulations and the criteria that they must work to is not an easy task.

The rules that govern licenced Early Childhood Education and Care Services are divided into 3 tiers:

    • first tier – the Education Act 1989
    • second tier – the regulations for ECE services and playgroups, which both came into force in 2008
    • third tier – the criteria, which are the standards that services must comply with

Let’s look at the regulations first. The official name for the document which came into effect in 2008 is The Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008

The first section of the document gives the title, the commencement of the regulations, how to interpret the document and how it would affect existing ECE services.

It is then divided into two sections

  • Licensing
  • Standards

Because these have not been re-written since 2008 there are a number of regulations that have been ‘revoked’ and often replaced by updated criteria. This can make the document a little difficult to follow as you seem to be continually jumping back and forth from the original document to the amendments at the end.

Part one is really aimed at service owners and operators as it outlines how to apply for a licence and the documentation required to accompany that application. It is very detailed and outlines exactly what is required of anyone applying for a licence as well as the types of licence that can be granted for services and the different circumstances that these are granted under.

Part two of the regulations are the standards by which ECE services must comply. These are divided into three subparts (previously four but subpart three, which was concerned with the differences in standards for limited attendance centres was revoked in February 2009, therefore subpart 2 now applies to all ECE services). These are described as the ‘minimum standards’ that ECE services must comply with and the purpose of the minimum standards is to ensure the education, care, health, comfort, and safety of children attending licensed early childhood services. However, many services chose to go beyond these minimums, thus focussing more on the quality of care and education for children.

Regulations 43-47 outline the minimum standards required for licenced ECE services to meet concerning the curriculum provided for children, the qualifications, ratios and service-size, the premises and facilities, health and safety of children and staff and finally the governance, management and administration of the service. The regulations give broad criteria which could be said are up for interpretation as they lack specific strategies and detail of how to go about meeting the regulation. This is where The Licencing Criteria for Early Childhood Education and Care Services 2008 come in. These are used by the Secretary of education to assess compliance with the minimum standards set out in the regulations and give a much more detailed explanation of how each criterion can be met. There are five different documents concerning the different licencing criteria for centres, home-based services, hospital-based services, Kohanga Reo and playgroups. These documents give valuable help to service providers, giving them the baseline of where they must be at to provide education and care in the Early Childhood Sector.

It is important to remember that these are the MINIMUM standards to adhere to. Many centres and ECE services chose to better these minimum standards as more qualified teachers and better adult: child ratios have shown time and time again increased quality care and education for children. Having better than the minim um adult: child ratios leads to better quality care, education, interactions and far fewer behavioural problems and accidents. It is also a very attractive factor for parents and families when choosing an ECE service for their child, it means a lot to parents to know that a service is committed to quality care and education and having lower ratios is an excellent demonstration of this.

Interested in learning more about this topic? Check out our course – Best Practice Versus Meeting Legislation – via the Online Learning Hub.

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