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Active Supervision In Early Childhood Settings

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Children need safe and positive environments to learn and grow. To ensure this, services and educators need to ensure effective supervision at all times. The following article provides information on the different aspects of supervision, ranging from regulatory requirements and principles to practice strategies.

Regulatory Requirements

The importance of actively supervising children in meeting positive outcomes is reflected in Quality Area 2 of the National Quality Standard (NQS), in particular: Standard 2.2: Each child is protected. Element 2.2.1: At all times, reasonable precautions and adequate supervision ensure children are protected from harm and hazard.

The Education and Care Services National Law require that all children being educated and cared for at an approved service are adequately supervised at all times and are protected from harm and hazards, under the following Sections:

  • Section 165: Offence to inadequately supervise children.
  • Section 167: Offence relating to the protection of children from harm and hazards
  • Section 174: Offence to fail to notify certain information Regulatory Authority

The National Regulations further require that regulatory authorities be notified in case of any serious incidents or complaints alleging compromise of the safety, health or wellbeing of children. Regulations related to supervision include:

  • Regulation 101 (2)(f): Supervision during excursions.
  • Regulation 115: Premises designed to facilitate supervision.
  • Regulation 168(2)(h): Policies and procedures are required in relation to providing a child-safe environment.
  • Regulation 176: Timeframes for notifying certain information to the Regulatory Authority.

The National Regulations also prescribe the minimum educator-child ratios to further ensure the active supervision of children at all times. Failing to ensure that children are adequately supervised can result in penalties of up to $10,000 (for an individual) and $50,000 (in any other case).

Approach To Supervision – Things To Keep in Mind

Learn how to conduct a risk assessment - To effectively supervise groups of children, educators need to conduct risk assessments to determine the level of supervision that is required for particular situations, like water play or excursion.

Consider the context – When determining an approach to supervision, consider the environment, the children, and the context of the activities children participate in. for example, an activity that involves some risk, such as carpentry, will require more supervision as compared to low-risk activities like block play, perhaps.  

Be proactive – proactive strategies to ensure children’s safety and involves more than just complying with educator-to-child ratios. There are times you will need to increase your educator-to-child ratios, including during:

  • water play
  • high-risk physical activities (such as climbing on monkey bars)
  • transitions (including transitioning children between a school and the service or between outdoor areas for outside school hours care services)
  • excursions
  • bush kindy
  • transportation to and from the service.

Allow children’s agency - When adopting an approach to supervision, it is also important to consider how children’s agency is promoted. For example, when an educator allows a child to engage in independent exploration and appropriate risk-taking even while keeping a close watch, they provide opportunities for the child to make responsible and genuine decisions about their play.

Promote communication in staff - Educators need to communicate and collaborate with one another to ensure children are never left without supervision. For example, if an educator needs to leave an area for any reason, such as to get a resource from another room or to go to the bathroom, they should let their colleagues know about it. Educators may also need to communicate details about individual children. Thus, an infant who has had difficulty eating solid foods due to cold may need to be monitored more closely when they are eating food.

Go by the setting – children’s supervision will directly depend on the type of ECEC service since each setting has different combinations of age groups and activities. Generally, the younger children are, the more they need an adult to be close by to support and assist them. So,

  • In a centre-based setting, supervision of infants and toddlers who are sleeping will need to be carefully considered to ensure educators can see and hear children. With preschool-age children, the program may involve the simultaneous use of indoor and outdoor environments. It is important that educators effectively supervise children in both of these environments.
  • In an outside-of-school-hours care setting, because of children of different age groups, supervision will have to be balanced by older children’s growing need for privacy and autonomy. Educators will have to take into account the location of children’s toilets and how children will be supervised when visiting and returning from the toilets. The other important aspect of supervision in this setting is children’s transition between school to the OSHC service and their transportation to and from OSHC premises.
  • In a family day care setting, children may play in different parts of the family day care residence or venue and the educator will need to consider how these children will be effectively supervised.

Strategies For Effective Supervision

Arrange the environment

Effective supervision can start even before children have entered the venue. Arrange furniture and other material objects in rooms in a way that sight lines remain open. One way to do this is to keep furniture at waist height or shorter so that adults can see and hear children more easily. It also makes it easier for educators to move around and view learning spaces from several different locations in the room. Likewise, check routes to and children’s rest and bathroom areas to ensure that these allow access to visible monitoring.

Additionally, be aware of how children may use the equipment. Set up climbing equipment well away from fences so that children don’t cross over. Similarly arrange high-risk activities, such as carpentry, where educators can help children while adequately supervising the rest of the play area.

Position educators

For active supervision, educators should place themselves so that they can together see and hear all of the children. Decide where to stand or sit before starting a new activity to ensure maximum supervision and to minimise risks. A good rule of thumb is the ‘back to the wall’ position so that educators are looking at most of the children instead of walls or fencing. Also, by moving around the area, educators can ensure the best view possible of the children. Ensure a colleague or a staff member is located near any corners or areas that are less visible. Above all, stay close to children who need additional help as well as to those engaging in high-risk activities, such as when they are using monkey bars.

Scan and Account

The heart of active supervision is made up of constant scanning of the learning environment. This helps educators keep track of each child – where they are and what they are doing. Educators should also be aware of ratios, particularly as children transition from one space to another – a useful tip is to do a regular head count so as to mark arrivals and departures. During supervision, also avoid undertaking tasks such as administrative work that entail removing your gaze away from children. Make sure enrolment records are easily accessible and up to date with the names of people authorised or not authorised to pick up each child. When scanning, also watch for environmental hazards such as open doors or gates, play equipment in unsafe positions or children trying to enter out-of-bounds areas.

Listen carefully

Specific sounds or the absence of them may signify a reason for concern. For example, sounds of splashing water, crying, choking or gasping or bad language can alert educators to signs of potential danger. It is important for educators to carefully listen for any changes of tone or volume in children’s voices as such cues can assist in supervising children who may not be in direct vision.

Anticipate behaviour

Observing children’s play and anticipating what may occur next is yet another way that educators can ensure that children remain safe. For this to happen, educators should use what they know about each child’s abilities, culture, ideas and interests to anticipate what they may do. Indeed such information can also be used to create challenges that children are ready for and support them in succeeding – for example, outdoor play and sun safety. In the process, children learn to watch out for hazards and minimise risks to their own safety.

Create appropriate processes

Policies and procedures that address supervision clearly go a long way in preventing risks and incidents. There should be careful planning of rosters to ensure that educators are always available to respond to children. Flexible supervision arrangements may be needed to allow for supervision of individual children or small groups, such as sleeping children or indoor and outdoor experiences offered simultaneously. Planning experiences ahead of time also minimises the risk of harm and injury by keeping little ones busy and focused on safe activities. 

Active supervision calls for constant, deliberate, and focused observation of children. Educators stand in a position to keep an eye on every child at all times, counting, listening, and watching. Educators visually identify each child throughout transitions and use name-to-face recognition to account for every child. They also use their understanding of the growth and talents of each child to predict what they will do, then intervene and guide them as needed. Children learn safely because of this constant watchfulness. 

Further Reading

NSW Staff Ratios and Adequate Supervision - The following article provides information on Staff Ratios and Adequate Supervision for NSW early childhood services, which has been revised and updated by the NSW Regulatory Authority, NSW Department Of Education.

Mixed Age Ratios In An Early Childhood Service - The following provides information on calculating and maintaining ratios in a mixed age group of children for supervision requirements.

Under the Roof Ratios - The following provides information on the term "Under The Roof" and how to implement it to ensure correct ratios for supervision. 

Active Supervision Ensuring Safety and Promoting Learning, ACECQA
Get Active Supervision Strategies, Early Childhood Queensland 
Active Supervision Posters, The Guardian

Created On August 22, 2022 Last modified on Monday, August 22, 2022
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