How you support work placement students can depend on your own position within the centre, however no matter what your position you will have something to offer the student.
It is best to have the students come in before their first actual practical placement day so you can show them around, introduce them to staff, give them a copy of any policies and procedures that they will need to be aware of and have a general chat about what they need to do during their time at the centre.
When a student begins placement at the centre it’s a good idea to have a pre-prepared “student pack” that contains the following:
- A document that provides brief details about the centre, information on signing in and out, dress code, expectations, policies and procedures, breaks etc. For example:
Welcome to our centre. We are a 44 place centre that has served the community for 25 years. We pride ourselves on our community spirit and quality care for every child in our centre. While you are on your practical placement you are not only representing your institution but also representing us. We hope that you enjoy your placement with us.
Sign In and Out Book – Located in staff room. It is essential you fill this as during fire evacuations we need to know who is in the building, it also serves as a back-up document as evidence of your placement attendance.
Identification – Please wear a name badge at all times during your placement, this helps staff and parents as well. If you have one from TAFE/Uni you can wear that otherwise please ask us for one. We would like a small introduction of yourself that you can display in the foyer for parents & in the rooms you work in so parents/carers get to know you. Make sure you also verbally introduce yourself to parents/carers and the children; this is the first step to building relationships.
Expectations – Smile. Be interested and ask questions. Often educators are very busy and may not have time to tell you everything. If unsure, check before you do. Use initiative; remember the more you do the more you will learn. Engage and interact with the children, talk and play with them, sing to them and with them, dress up with them, do what they do and just have fun. Help supervise, but do not be left alone with the children. Come prepared, bring all your paperwork and goals so you know exactly what you are doing during the day, and so Educators know what you are meant to be doing. Be on time, if you are not coming in or will be late, please phone the centre and inform someone.
Dress Code - Dress appropriately and professionally, no short skirts, short shorts or tops that reveal too much when you bend over. Your top must have sleeves. It is best to wear trousers/jeans or shorts as you will be sitting on the floor with children a lot. Please remove any visible piercings and unnecessary jewellery; dangly earrings can be a hazard if a child pulls on them. Closed toe shoes to be worn at all times. You will be on your feet a lot so comfort over style is paramount. Hats are a must outside so please bring a hat with a brim, no baseball style caps please.
Policies – Polices are detailed procedures based upon law and regulations on the tasks and everyday practices while working within the centre. Policies include: Health and Hygiene, Sun Protection Policy, Guiding and Supporting Children’s Behaviour, Food and Nutrition Policy, Code of Conduct Policy, Participation of Volunteers and Student, Interaction with Children. Please read these before commencing your placement.
Grievances – Report any issues or concerns to your Lead Educator or Director. My door is always open.
Handbooks – Read staff/parent handbooks. Make sure you have read your placement handbook (should be provided by study institution).
Breaks – 20 minute morning tea and ½ hour lunch break if you are working a full day. Be mindful of what is happening in the room before you step out. Always inform the staff you are leaving the room and what for. If you leave the premises please sign out and back in on return.
Walk around centre – Take notice of the following: Fire Evacuations, First Aid Kits, Security, Prep Rooms, Laundry Area, and Supervision (Not to left alone with children) Hats.
Reflection Book – It is a good idea to reflect on things at the end of each day. Take ½ hour at the end of each day to do this and write in down in your book. You can use this book to take notes in during the day as well.
- A copy of the following polices - Health and Hygiene, Sun Protection Policy, Guiding and Supporting Children’s Behaviour, Food and Nutrition Policy, Code of Conduct Policy, Participation of Volunteers and Student, Interaction with Children.
- A copy of the centre’s vision statement & centre philosophy.
- A small notebook for reflective notes.
Supporting Students Within The Room
If you are a member of staff in a room which has a student make them feel welcome. Remember they are new to this industry and this may be the first time they have been exposed to young children, they are probably nervous. We have all been there so understand that walking into a place where you don’t know anyone and are going to be watched and assessed on everything you do is pretty daunting.
Talk to the student and explain what you are doing and why. Make sure you let them know it is fine to ask questions. If they do present a question you don’t know the answer to, best redirect them to someone who can give them the answer, rather than attempting to answer them and give them incorrect information.
The reason why students are on work placement is to gain some hands on experience as well as observe, practice what they have learnt and to complete their own assessments while on work placement. It’s important to support students and provide them with opportunities to get their assessments complete and whatever else that needs doing. A student on work placement is not at the centre to “work” as such, they are not being paid for being there and it is part of the requirement of completing their qualification. In saying this, please be mindful of the tasks you do give students and the amount of responsibility that you put on their shoulders.
Signing Off On Students Work
When it comes to documentation often the Group Leaders will sign the student’s workbook rather than the centre Director. This is because the Group Leader in the room will see more of the student and will have a better idea of what the student has achieved and learnt.
Directors should make it a habit to pop into rooms with students in them and ask the staff in the rooms to give updates on how the student is going. As a director, you can co-sign and finally sign the student’s handbook as they complete their tasks within the centre.
When Student’s Don’t Perform
When students do not perform up to a certain standard or if you do not see evidence of a particular learning experience they need to do, they should not be signed off on it. It is easy to just sign students off as competent, however remember they are the future educators and perhaps your future colleagues. Would you want someone working with you who did not really know what they were doing?
Unfortunately once in a while you may have a student who is just not performing up to standard and steps have to be taken that they are given a chance to improve. For example, a Diploma student may need to do 7 weeks of practical placement instead of 3 or 4 weeks if they are not able to take charge of the room, which is what is expected of someone with a Diploma. Extra time should be given and mentoring by the centre and assessor to improve.
If you find a student needing extra support provide them with as much assistance as possible. Remember it may be there first time dealing with children, being in a childcare setting, being in a working environment or other factors may be involved. Talk to the student and give them guidance on what they can do to improve.
Having students around is refreshing. Use this time as a learning experience for you and your team. It’s an excellent time to talk about practices and revise what we do and why we do it ourselves. Often we get caught up in the everyday grind and work on auto-pilot and this is a good chance to look at things differently and get someone else’s perspectives on things.
Students are the future educators and when we support and guide students, it has enabled us to have played a part in showing them the best of early childhood education, care and practice.