What to look for in an ECE centre

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When it comes to selecting the best quality childcare for your child, it’s best to look beyond the bright colours and the free T-shirts. Sometimes these gimmicks mask lower-quality education. How can one assess the quality of an ECE school? Simply visit the centre in person and see for yourself. Then ask these 15 questions. Make sure you get honest, non-jargon answers.
1. What are your Teacher:child ratios? [The lower, the better, i.e. 1 teacher to 10 children is better than 1:20]

2. How many Qualified Teachers do you have? [Look for a high percentage, at least 80%, preferably higher. Remember, not all teachers are qualified.]  
3. What is your staff turnover? How long have your teams been established? [The longer, the better. Children form strong relationships with teachers, so a high staff turnover is disruptive and indicates that there may be problems in the centre.]   

3. Does your centre offer Primary Caregiving? [Young children naturally create stronger relationships with one or two caregivers who can concentrate on learning your child’s cues. Once secure with their primary carer, they will feel safe learning in their new environment.]

4. Can you explain what this looks like at your centre? [The centre should be able to explain how this works in their setting.]

5. What is the group size of your rooms? [The smaller, the better. Typically for ages 0-2, a group of under 15 is recommended. Older children can flourish in larger groups]

6. What routines will my child be engaged in? [Routines are important for a child’s development, as are periods of free play.]  

7. How many transitions will my child have in your centre? [Look to see how many times your child will need to change rooms and teachers. Such changes can be disruptive for the child.]

8. Do you provide food, and can I see your menus? [A variety of healthy food prepared on the premises is best. All dietary requirements should be catered for.]  

9. Does this centre fit with my parenting style? [All centres operate differently and have differing philosophies. Talk to the teachers about their philosophy and practices to see if they align with the values you hold as a parent.]

10. Can I share my aspirations for my child? [Ask if there are ways that you can contribute your aspirations to the centre programme – ideally, teachers will follow your child’s interests and meet your expectations regarding their care and learning]

11. How will I find out about my child’s learning? [Ask how the centre shares children’s learning, they may have portfolios, online learning platforms, regular parent events etc.] 

12. What do I do if my child is unwell?

13. What are your illness policies? [Ask to see clear policies around illness, including COVID.]
14. What do I need to provide (e.g. nappies, formula, drink bottle etc.)? [Convenience needs to be balanced against your child’s personal preferences.]  

15. Where and how will my child sleep? How will they be put to sleep? Can I bring in comforters for them?  [It’s important that children feel well supported at rest time – ideally, they can have something from home as a transition item to help them settle.] 

Visit www.treetopslearning.co.nz