In a school-age setting, a quality program is crucial for the children's development, learning and wellbeing. It provides an opportunity for the Educators to provide a variety of experiences to support children and collaborate effectively with the children, families, educators and the school community.
In an OOSH Serice, Educators provide play and leisure experiences, while reflecting on the children's interests and needs, using My Time Our Place framework. Experiences may be spontaneous, intentional, take place both inside or outside, or include special events.
When planning for school-age children it's easy to follow the following cycle:
1: Collect information - This includes collecting meaningful information about children, their families and communities to support program development.
Examples include - observations of children, the enrolment form (adaptable form/sheet provided for children to complete at time of enrolment), photos, records of conversations with children, families and other professionals, notes from meetings with children, collected children’s ideas and suggestions, children’s work, children’s enrolment/ information forms and checklists.
- Invite the children to put their suggestions in an ideas book made available throughout the program.
- Invite the children to complete their own enrolment form with their likes and dislikes and their suggestions for programs.
- Establish an OSHC advisory group, made up of volunteers from the children, and keep notes about their experiences of the program and their interests.
- At regular intervals make note of how children are travelling against the five learning outcomes (the frequency will change depending on how often the children attend). This could be a process undertaken with the staff team, with children themselves and with families.
- Make a graffiti wall for children and families to write up ideas, thoughts and suggestions.
- Invite children to ‘vote’ on their favourite experiences, activities, or part of the program.
- Survey the children by inviting older children to survey younger children.
- Have children contribute to the collection of meaningful information by using technology, such as computer diaries, blogs, video logs, scrapbooks, photos and stories.
In regards to completing observation for children in OOSH, it depends on your state/territory. Under the new NQF - Services that educate and care for children over preschool age in the Northern Territory, Queensland and NSW will no longer be required to keep documentation about individual children’s development. Instead, these services must keep documentation about the development of the educational program. There is no change to existing requirements for services that educate and care for children over preschool age in the ACT, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.
2: Question, analyse and evaluate - A process of interpreting, analysing and evaluating so educators can learn about children’s learning and development and the community in which the service operates.
Examples include - making links to children’s wellbeing, development and learning in the five outcomes examining children’s ideas and suggestions for themes and common threads looking at popular experiences. It is more a process of examining the information rather than using set documents or forms.
- Take a sample of the information you have collected about a particular element of the program to staff meetings. Discuss what it highlights about children’s learning in the five outcomes or what children enjoy or dislike. Make a note of how you will respond.
- Use a format that encourages you to write about children’s progress in the five outcomes (one A4 page is sufficient) and at regular intervals (shorter time periods: maybe each term for children who attend regularly and longer for those who attend irregularly or infrequently). This will give you a sense of where children need support or extension.
3: Plan - involves planning in advance to ensure that children get the most from the experience and responding to their emerging ideas.
Examples include - While there are no prescribed methods or formats, the document needs to capture the plans made for children’s wellbeing, development and learning in the five outcomes. It should be more than a list of activities and it should encompass ideas for inside and outside, routines and permanent experiences, as well as children’s emerging ideas. It is important that the plan is made available to children and families.
- Instead of making lists of experiences or activities, try to plan for other components of the program, such as planning for individuals and groups, routines, meal times, experiences, interactions, or the use of the indoor and outdoor environments.
- Plan in a big A3 book, using one page for the planned experience and the facing page to add ideas as the program develops.
- Use a program format that allows room for setting goals for the program for each term or for each program in vacation care.
- Make space for planning inside and outside experiences, routines and interactions between educators and children.
- Make space for capturing children’s emerging ideas and the things you plan to teach children about, for example how to make bread.
4: Act and do - is about using practices to support the program, for example, scaffolding learning, strengthening relationships, modifying the environment, and having rich conversations with children and their families.
Examples include - educators to understand the practices in the My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia and how they are used to support children’s wellbeing, development and learning. It involves making sure that the whole educator team understands how the decisions made on curriculum/educational planning contribute to and support children’s participation in the program.
- It is important that educators take time to talk about the practices in the My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia and the practice principles in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and how they apply to their work with children and their families.
- Identify practices or practice principles that apply to the plan to enable colleagues to better understand their goals.
5: Reflect - evaluating children’s wellbeing, development and learning linked to the Learning Outcomes and Practice Principles. It also involves using critical reflective practice to examine how the program includes every child.
Examples include educators think about how the program is developed and how all children and families are included.
- Use an A3 visual diary (no lines) and place it in a central location with sticky notes and coloured pens. Invite staff to add their ideas, suggestions, questions and concerns. Take it to staff meetings and talk about what is written and how you will respond as a team.
- Extend the idea of establishing an OSHC advisory group and invite the children, educators and families to think about how everyone is included in the program.
- Use some of the ideas featured in collecting information, which promotes children’s voices, such as: make a graffiti wall for children and families to write up ideas, thoughts and suggestions, invite children to ‘vote’ on their favourite experiences, activities, or part of the program, survey the children, by inviting the older children to survey younger children.
When programming and planning for school-age children it's important that you focus on children's strengths to extend on their learning and to support areas of need, include groups of children as well as individual children, create documentation that is meaningful to families, accessible and provides clear evaluations on children's learning and development, offer a variety of experiences based on children's interests and planned opportunities to support learning and development.
For a range of Program Templates that can be used in an OSHC Setting: Templates
OSHC Services should also try Appsessment - Digital Documentation App. Using this App for your service, you will be able to complete the planning cycle of collecting information by using the variety of default documentation, including parent input forms. These are already available within the app, which can also be customised to suit your needs, and you also can create your own documentation such as Curriculum Plans, Notes from conversations with children, checklists and more. All documentation can be linked to the MTOP Outcomes and the NQS, include photos, videos, files and more which can be used to analyse and reflect on the group and individual children.
Appsessment is only 75c per child and includes all features with unlimited parent and unlimited Educators. It's easy to complete your program planning using Appsessment.
Check it out: Appsessment
Planning School Age Care, Education Victoria
Cycle, Planning, Documenting and Evaluating, Network of Community Activities