Hearing the voices of our children in school age care
As educators in out of school hours care services, we know that we should be listening to the voices of our children and acknowledging those voices in our planning. It is right there on page 15 of the Educator’s Guide to the Framework for School Age Care: “At all times, the child must be central to program planning, so devising experiences around children’s needs and their interests is a good starting place.” It was also the focus of the latest ACECQA Newsletter ‘Inviting children’s participation and voices into the education program’. But how can we do this effectively when in reality, much of our planning needs to happen well in advance?
Well, maybe it doesn’t have to be that complicated. We also know that in order for children to feel safe, secure and supported we need routines and a sense of predictability, particularly when making the transition from the school to the after school environment. To ensure this ‘predictability’ your service might have some activities that remain pretty constant: a chill out zone for quiet activities like home work, reading, colouring in; and an indoor play area with a variety of options such as dress-ups, board games, Lego…. Just because these activities remain constant, children’s voices can still be heard and acknowledged, promoting each child’s agency, and allowing them to influence decisions (QA1 1.2.3).
This can be done by asking the children for feedback on the kinds of board games they might like included, or by asking for suggestions for re-arranging the room. The children might suggest more cushions be put in the book corner, or snuggly rugs be made available when it’s cold. This might evolve into a special interest activity: designing and making cushions and snuggly rugs.
Using EarlyWorks the children’s voices can be recorded as part of the observation and journal entries, and then used to inform the evolving program. Then you will have evidence not only of children’s voices being heard, but also of ‘all aspects of the program, including routines, being organised in ways that maximise opportunities for each child’s learning’ (QA1 1.1.3).