OSHC – More Than “Just” Care
With an increasing number of families working, studying or needing additional support, more and more 5-12-year-old children in Australia attend OSHC services for up to 5.5 hours per day. The positive impact these services have on children’s learning and development should not be overlooked. But there is a common misconception that children attend OSHC programs solely for care purposes.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as OSHC programs offer crucial opportunities for children to engage in play and learning with significant educational and developmental benefits. With a holistic lens of child development, the activities available to children at OSHC programs go beyond the academic learning that occurs at school. Through play, children can be supported to maximise their potential in an environment that fosters their well-being and sense of identity.
OSHC – Learning beyond the classroom
Whether children participate in structured or free play activities at OSHC services, they develop an image of themselves as competent learners. They engage in experiences and interactions that foster their social and emotional development, self-management, connectedness, critical thinking skills, and confidence. They also can connect and play with children outside of their school classroom and with more time than they have available on the school playground. The opportunity to develop their social skills and make friendships is supported and fostered in an environment where relationships and interactions are valued as meaningful learning experiences. They are developing the skills for future success, above and beyond what they learn academically at school.
But how can we change the wider community’s perception that children “only receive care” at OSHC services?
“One of the requirements of Australia’s regulatory regime is that OSHC services use a recognised learning framework to inform their practices.” (ACEQA, 2019)
My Time, Our Place – a non-prescriptive framework for OSHC services
My Time, Our Place is the National Learning Framework for OSHC services. Educators use it to work in partnership with children, their families and schools to extend and enrich children’s wellbeing and development in school-age care settings. The framework is linked to the EYLF, and the principles, practices and outcomes encompass the learning needs of older children. It acknowledges the importance of play in children’s learning and development. Also, it emphasises the fact that children’s life skills, social and emotional development and communication skills are all nurtured through play. The framework is not prescriptive and is a broad set of principles used to guide the learning programs offered by OSHC services.
A need to be more visible
If we are to raise awareness of the benefits of children attending OSHC services and widen the appeal to families and the wider community, we need to do one thing. Get more visible!
Being more visible means providing tangible evidence of the learning and development happening for school-aged children who attend an OSHC service. It means advocating for the value of play for children of all ages and promoting the essential skills and growth they develop when participating in these programs.
Many OSHC services are doing this by documenting children’s learning using digital documentation platforms such as Storypark. Documenting and sharing children’s learning in this way has far-reaching benefits for children, their families and the OSHC sector itself.
“Using Storypark has allowed us to share their children’s learning journeys with families directly. Not many families knew our documentation process before going digital with Storypark. It has allowed us to connect them into what we do daily.”
How does using a digital documentation platform benefit the children, educators and families at your OSHC service?
There is a multitude of reasons to use a digital documentation platform at your OSHC service, but some of the most common benefits we hear from other services are:
- You can link children’s learning and development experiences to the My Time, Our Place curriculum
- Children can contribute to the documentation process and learning program by creating their own learning stories that are significant to them. Contributing in this way empowers them and means their learning is more meaningful
- It builds the capability of your educators
- Children’s learning is more visible, and you can see the progression over time
- Communication and collaboration with families are enhanced
- Families develop a better understanding of the valuable work you do
- Your processes are streamlined, saving you time
- It is a simple way to gain feedback about your program
What features does Storypark offer to help you simplify your work and make documenting and sharing children’s learning easy?
There are so many ways that Storypark can be used, with a range of tools and features that are able to be used in clever and creative ways to make your work easier, and maximise outcomes for children. Some of the features that existing OSHC services find most valuable are:
- Curriculum Learning sets and Learning Tags make it easy to show clear and visible links to the My Time, Our Place curriculum
- Group and individual learning stories are easy to create and save to each child’s Storypark profile. You can even add photos and videos to stories to show a deeper understanding of the learning that is happening for children
- Planning is much simpler when you can create comprehensive child development plans, group learning plans, QIPs, and professional development plans. Use one of our templates or create your own
- Community Posts make it easy to make announcements to all families – no more sending out endless emails.
- The Families App means families can see and respond to their children’s learning stories, helping you build a deeper understanding of each child. Families can also add their own photos, videos and stories, which allows you to work in partnership together
- Routines such as food, sunscreen and incident reports can be recorded for each child, ensuring families have essential information about their child at their fingertips
- Child Notes help you record and link goals, milestones, family aspirations and more.
- Reports make it easy to gain valuable insights that would otherwise take a lot of time and effort! Track each child’s learning journey, monitor activity, notice emerging learning and teaching trends and compare curriculum use over time.
Raising the profile of the critical role that OSHC programs play in children’s learning and development will help families and the broader community value the services they provide. It will also encourage participation for vulnerable children, to help them maximise their potential and develop a foundation for future success in life.