I follow the UK based Curiosity Approach on social media. I love their focus on play, on natural materials, on spending time outdoors and on keeping children central to everything, while equally recognising the huge role that educators have in ensuring their focus is on their core principles.
A few weeks ago, I was struck by a line on one of their Instagram pictures. It said, ‘Policies and procedures are what we do, Values determine how we do it.’
It really got me thinking. September is always such a busy time, this year busier than most, with additional protocols due to COVID-19. But if you can at all, try to take a breath and as you review or develop new policies, think about how these fit with your values.
Let’s looks at the second aspect…to ‘rate something highly’. All of us working with babies and young children value them, we know they are competent, capable learners. Is that value evident in our Policies and Procedures? Do we always try to take a minute when drafting the policies to see things from the perspective of the children and their families? It goes without saying that a lot of content in policies and procedures stems from legislation, regulation, guidelines, health and safety protocols and so on, but I think it is worth taking a little time to think about linking these documents to the daily, lived experience of those who use our settings. Policies and procedures are essential and implementing them in a way that aligns with our values should be essential too.
One example that comes to mind is the current discussion about families coming into settings. I have seen educators comment that rooms are in some ways easier to manage without parents being there, that some children are settling better without the presence of another child’s parent in the room, which they may find unsettling. From a COVID-19 perspective, it is essential that the number of people inside the building is limited. But if we value parental involvement and partnership, how can we look at different ways of encouraging parents to be involved in their child’s day-to-day experience. Parents need to see where their children spend their time. If a child is moving to a different room, which they haven’t seen, can they have a virtual tour? Can they be brought into the room briefly if they can arrange to come first or last in the morning? If the setting has a website, is it possible that new photos are uploaded, bearing in mind that this is the only glimpse parents may have of their child’s indoor play space? If there is a shelter outdoors can time be made, even every few weeks, that parents can have a decent chat with their child’s key worker?
I think that maybe having a few scenarios in mind when we are revising policies may help make this a bit easier. Perhaps a few questions to ask ourselves such as:
- How would this policy work for me if my partner and I are bringing our one-year-old to crèche for the first time?
- How would this policy work for me if English isn’t my first language?
This would mean that while the content of the policy might not change it may be applied in a different way, which everyone might find easier to adhere to and see the benefit and rationale behind it.
We need to have a shared understanding of what we do and how we do it in our settings. We need to ensure that legislation, regulation and high standards are maintained at all times. That is the road to quality, to which we aspire. But having a discussion on values and seeing how these policies can align with our values is a core dimension of quality and child-centredness also. A quick revisit of the principles underpinning Aistear and Siolta is well worth reviewing to assist in this. A key Principle, for me, is Síolta’s first one: The Value of Early Childhood, saying Early Childhood is a significant and distinct time in life that must be nurtured, respected, valued and supported in its own right’.
Keeping this in mind will ensure that our child-centred ethos is central to all our practice and that our values are indeed evident in our Policies and Procedures.