Early Childhood Education and Care Public Policy Statement

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1 Early Childhood Education and Care Public Policy Statement

2 Acknowledgements This policy statement was compiled by the Hobsons Bay Family, Youth and Children s Services Department. For further information contact Hobsons Bay City Council on Council acknowledges the people of Yalukit Wilum of the Boon Wurrung Country that makes up the Greater Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of these municipal lands. Council acknowledges the legal responsibility to comply with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 and the Equal Opportunity Act The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities is designed to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. The Charter gives legal protection to 20 fundamental human rights under four key values that include freedom, respect, equality and dignity. 2

3 Contents Contents... 3 Glossary of Terms... 4 Policy statement... 5 Purpose of the policy statement... 5 Guiding principles... 5 Background... 6 Role of local government... 6 Scope of the policy... 7 Strategic directions... 9 Implementation, monitoring and evaluation Expiry Reference documents Document control Revision details

4 Glossary of Terms Long Day Care provides consistent and secure care and education that meets families and children s individual needs. Programs are designed to provide opportunities for children to develop to their full potential with partnerships between educators, families and the community. Centres generally provide week day education and care for children from birth to school age for up to 55 hours per week (Monday to Friday). Children are usually grouped into rooms according to age and developmental stage. Family Day Care (FDC) provides flexible small group education and care for children up to 12 years of age in the private homes of registered educators. FDC can provide flexible education and care options including all day, part time, casual, overnight, before and after school hours and during school holidays. Kindergarten programs are designed to improve a child s development in the year prior to attending school. Traditionally provided in stand alone facilities kindergarten programs are now available to families for 15 hours per week in a range of settings inclusive of long day care. Occasional care provides families the opportunity to leave children in care for short periods of time on a casual or irregular basis. Occasional care programs particularly meet the needs of families wanting to undertake further education and training or attend to other commitments. Playgroups are either parent run or facilitated by a supported playgroup development worker, usually once a week for two hours. Playgroups provide parents and children opportunities to enhance their relationship in a supportive environment, increase their skills and confidence, develop valuable social and family support networks and empower families to support young children's development through a variety of developmentally appropriate play experiences and activities. 4

5 Policy statement Hobsons Bay City Council is committed to ensuring local children and their families have access to a range of high quality, affordable services which are responsive to their early childhood education and care needs. Purpose of the policy statement The Early Childhood Education and Care Public Policy ( ) guides Council's role in ensuring Hobsons Bay has access to high quality and affordable early childhood education and care services. The policy outlines Council s roles and responsibilities in addressing the early childhood education and care needs of local children and their families and sits alongside Council s Children and Young People s Plan ( ). Within the City of Hobsons Bay early childhood education and care services include long day care, family day care, kindergarten programs, outside school hour s care, occasional care and playgroups. Council also provides Maternal and Child Health services which form part of the broader early year s sector. Guiding principles The following principles guide the work Council undertakes within the early childhood education and care arena. These principles are intrinsically linked to the Community Health and Wellbeing Plan ( ), the Council Plan ( ) and the Children and Young People s Plan ( ): upholding the principles of human rights and social justice facilitating equitable access to quality services and infrastructure, particularly for those most vulnerable within the community building effective partnerships with community, service providers and other levels of government actively informing, listening to and engaging with children and their families utilising a variety of appropriate communication and engagement methods being innovative and proactive in addressing and advocating for the needs, rights and aspirations of children and their families actively supporting vulnerable children and their families 5

6 This policy is further underpinned by the values of the Council Plan ( ) and the Children and Young Peoples Plan ( ) and is consistent with Council's role as a planner, resource and service provider, partner, advocate and community capacity builder. Background Within the early childhood education and care arena Council has been guided by its Childcare Public Policy (2005). The sector has changed markedly since the adoption of this policy with the blending of education and care, such that the 2005 policy is outdated and not reflective of the internal or external early year s environments nor the national reforms. With new entrants into the market, more places in Hobsons Bay and increased regulation that supports quality maintenance, Council in 2014 commissioned a review of the changed environment to consider the adoption a new policy. The completion of an independent review of the policy in 2014 and its subsequent findings has informed the development of a new policy statement to guide Council s role within the early childhood education and care sector. The Early Childhood Education and Care Public Policy ( ) articulates Council's role in the early childhood education and care sector and affirms Council's commitment to addressing the needs of local children and their families. The policy is underpinned by the values of the Council Plan ( ) and is consistent with Council's role as a planner, resource and service provider, partner, advocate and community capacity builder. The draft policy statement was considered at an Ordinary Council Meeting in 2014 with Council resolving to undertake a four week community consultation process to further inform the updated draft Early Childhood Education and Care Public Policy for adoption. This Early Childhood Education and Care Public Policy ( ) has been developed by Council officers after consideration of the feedback provided through the consultation process. Role of local government Local government plays an important role and has the legislated responsibility to achieve the best outcomes for the local community. As the closest level of government to the community, local government is best placed to know, understand, plan and advocate for local and diverse community needs and concerns. As such, the role of Council is one of leadership and one which has the ability to positively influence the quality of community life. As a leader, Council will ensure a thorough understanding of current and future external environments that impact our community. Council will also ensure that strategic planning and decision making processes are informed by evidence based data drawn from current sector trends, including the analysis of opportunities, challenges and threats within the market. 6

7 Council also plays a role as a: planner by participating in service coordination, networking, policy development, consultation, research and partnerships resource provider through the provision and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure; delivery of community grants, education and training service provider through the delivery of community services required for the municipality and the wider region partner and broker by working with others to provide services and facilities advocate and supporter of important issues on behalf of the community, and community capacity builder through coordination, engagement and encouragement of inclusive practices Depending on the needs of the community and external influences the roles are not static and Council will move between functions to best meet competing priorities. Scope of the policy It is the joint responsibility of all three levels of government together with families to provide children with the best possible opportunities to advance children s learning, wellbeing and development. National, state and local policy frameworks and legislation impact on how Council plans for and works with children. They inform funding priorities and local policy initiatives. At a national level most early childhood education and care services are governed by the Children s Services Act 1996, the Education and Care National Law Act 2010 and the Education and Care National Regulations. The Commonwealth Government has responsibility for funding early childhood education and care services and does this through the provision of a child care benefit and a child care rebate which offsets the cost of care to families. The Australian Childhood Education and Care Quality Authority, an independent national body, has also been mandated the responsibility to guide the implementation of the National Quality Framework (NQF) for early childhood education and care services and to ensure consistency of delivery. The National Quality Standard (NQS) is a key aspect of the NQF and sets a national benchmark for early childhood education and care. Services are assessed against seven quality areas ensuring all services work towards meeting the same standard of education and care for children in their early years. The NQS now stands as the key quality assurance mechanism for the sector. The seven quality areas in which services are assessed against are: educational program and practice children s health and safety physical environment staffing arrangements 7

8 relationships with children collaborative relationships with families and communities, and leadership and service management. Within the early years arena the Victorian Government is responsible for making laws and determining policy in regard to health, pre school and primary education. The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework is the key overarching policy document that aims to advance all children s learning and development from birth to eight years by supporting early childhood professionals to work with families to achieve common positive outcomes for all children. In addition to sector specific policy and legislation, early childhood education and care services are also governed by broader pieces of legislation and government policy directions. From a financial and services delivery perspective, national and state policy requires that local government authorities make decisions about service practices based upon the government s Competitive Neutrality Policy and Best Value principles (Local Government Act 1989). All councils must comply with the Australian government Competition Policy Reform Act 1995 and the Competition Principles Agreement (1995) to which the Victorian government is a signatory. Competitive Neutrality Policy is to be applied to significant business activities that Council provides and must adjust service prices to neutralise any competitive advantages when competing with the private sector, unless exempted by successfully meeting exemption requirements under a public interest test. The Best Value legislation incorporates six principles to guide how a service should be monitored and reviewed. The Best Value principles contained within the Local Government Act (Section 208b) are: all service provided by a council must meet quality and cost standards all services provided by a council must be responsive to needs of the community all services provided by a council must be accessible to those members of the community for whom they are intended a council must achieve continuous improvement in the provision of services for its community a council must develop a program of regular consultation with the community in relation to the services its provides a council must report regularly to its community on its achievements against Best Value. Council is the responsible authority for assessing planning applications for the establishment of child care facilities in the City in accordance with the Planning and Environment Act Council will plan for early childhood services for children and assess planning applications from other service providers in keeping with legislative requirements. Council will also provide advice on known demand within the municipality. All of these overarching legislations and policies impact Council s role and the way in which local government plans and delivers services and infrastructure for children. 8

9 Strategic directions Council recognises the community need for access to high quality, affordable and responsive early childhood education and care services through a number, range and mix of services in order to meet the diverse needs of children and families across the municipality. The following strategic directions reflect Council's strong role within the early childhood education and care sector and the understanding that the early years of a child s life are critical influences on brain development and a strong predictor of outcomes later in life. Leadership Council will provide strong leadership to the early childhood education and care sector at a local level and will advocate to all levels of government to ensure there is an adequate supply and mix of quality early childhood education and care services within the municipality to meet community demand. Council will ensure it has a thorough understanding of current and future external environments that impact the community and that evidence based data, sector trends and an analysis of opportunities, challenges and threats are utilised to inform the strategic planning and decision making process. Advocate In accordance with the Hobsons Bay Children and Young People s Plan ( ) Council will actively support, advocate and ensure early childhood education and care services are appropriately tailored to respond to the changing needs of the community and in particular, to those most vulnerable within the community. In recognition of the changing landscape of the early year s sector, Council will advocate for and facilitate the delivery of early childhood education and care services where service gaps exist. Planner In planning for the growth of early years services to meet demand, Council will develop priorities based on social and demographic data while considering existing supply and promoting a mixed economy of service provision. Council will monitor trends within the early childhood education and care sector to inform and develop policies and practices. Council will evaluate each of its early childhood education and care services within the life of this policy to ensure services provided are of high quality, responsive and have a positive influence on health and wellbeing outcomes for children and their families. 9

10 Resource provider Council will continue to support and facilitate access to high quality and affordable early childhood education and care for children particularly children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children with additional needs, children at risk and families from a range of socio economic backgrounds. Council will retain and maintain early year s buildings within the municipality for lease to not for profit and community groups for the provision of early years services. The establishment or refurbishment of facilities will be focussed on the development of early years hubs providing integrated early years services. Council will resource early childhood education and care services to meet policy objectives in a fiscally responsible and sustainable manner. Council will ensure that all public expenditure on Council s early childhood education and care services will be transparent and clearly show the cost of providing services, the cost of providing quality buildings, the charges to service users and the cost of Council subsidies. Council's provision of early childhood education and care services will comply with Australian and State Government legislation and regulations including the National Quality Standards with the objective to ascertain high quality ratings that reflect the optimisation of developmental, social and health outcomes for children. Service provider Council will directly manage early childhood education and care services where relevant with a focus on the needs of those most vulnerable within our community. Council will deliver quality early childhood education and care services with a focus on the needs of those most vulnerable within our community. Council will develop and implement early childhood education and care services that enhance the social and emotional wellbeing and development of local children. Council will ensure priority of access to services for families living and working in Hobsons Bay. Partner Council will partner where appropriate with relevant key stakeholders to develop integrated and responsive services to children and their families. 10

11 Community capacity builder Council is committed to the active retention of a number, range and mix of high quality local early childhood education and care services that provides residents with options but also maximises opportunities for community and neighbourhood connection, participation and decision making in service provision, thereby strengthening and developing the community. Implementation, monitoring and evaluation The implementation of the policy statement will be the responsibility of the Family, Youth and Children s Services Department. Monitoring and evaluation of the policy statement will be an ongoing process. Council is committed to incorporating evaluation into its work and ensuring continuous improvement. In addition the statement will be evaluated across four years which will indicate the Council s progress as well as the identification of any new directions for local government including new policies and legislation. Expiry This policy will expire in 2018 in line with the Children and Young People s Plan Reference documents Children s Services Act 1996 Competition Policy Reform Act 1995 Competition Principles Agreement 1995 Education and Care National Law 2010 Education and Care Services National Regulations Hobsons Bay City Council Community Health and Wellbeing Plan ( ) Hobsons Bay City Council Council Plan ( ) Hobsons Bay City Council Children and Young People s Plan ( ) Local Government Act 1989 Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework 11

12 Document control This document is controlled and distributed in accordance with the following schedules: Endorsed by: Date: Vault File No : Revision No: Revision Due: Document Maintained by: Master Copy Held By: Manager Organisation Development Controlled Copy No Copy Distribution: Revision details Revisions are distributed in accordance with the Controlled Copy distribution List above. Date Issued Revision Number Replacement Page/s Comment 12

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