Top 7 Strategies To Make Your Centre’s A&R Visit Stress-free

By Galina Zenin

You’re probably wondering, how can an assessment be stress-free?

That’s right, any assessment and rating visit is a complex and overwhelming experience.
However, today I would like to share some simple, yet practical tips to help you and your team feel excited and meet an assessor with confidence!

After twelve years of running Bonkers Beat Music Kinder and being assessed numerous times, I realised there is a pattern of strategies we have used that contributed to our Exceeding Rating in 2012, 2016, 2021 and Excellent Rating in 2018.

Read below to find out what the strategies are and how you can implement them at your service to get extraordinary outcomes.

  1. Keep your QIP, policies, systems and procedures reviewed and updated.

Due to Covid restrictions, the assessor will, most likely, visit your service only for a few hours. Therefore, within four weeks from receiving notification from the DET, depending on the state, you will be asked to provide the latest revised version of your QIP or Self-Assessment Tool.

You also might be asked to provide a number of policies, samples of educational programs, risk management plans, enrolment records, signed permission forms and a few other documents. Keep your records in order and schedule a day every month to update your QIP and policies to avoid stress. 

  1. Be consistent with all your practices and routines across the entire centre.

Being consistent is one of the main key ingredients when it comes to receiving better outcomes for children and a higher rating. Easy to say, but not easy to do. 

If you are working towards an Exceeding rating, you must make sure that all procedures and routines in all rooms are consistent. Some samples are: transitions (1.1.3), management of hygiene practices (2.1.2), physical environment (3.2.1, 3.2.3), relationships with children (5.1.1, 5.1.2, 5.2.2) and many others. 

Our latest A&R Report 2021 Summary Comments highlighted: “The consistency in intent and the approach to practice across the service created a strong sense of continuity, predictability and security for each child.”

  1. Reflect with your team on your centre’s philosophy and practices. 

Reflective practice is an important component of a high-quality service. Initiate and lead reflective practice in your service to continually improve. Consistent reflection on practices will help the team to develop creative thinking skills, understand each other better and encourage active engagement. Make sure that your centre’s philosophy is holistic, practices are embedded in service operations and educational programs enhance each child’s learning and development. When reflecting on your centre’s philosophy, don’t forget to engage educators, families and children in decision making. Quality Area 1 is one of the most important and complex. To get better outcomes for children and receive a higher rating, take a planned and reflective approach to implementing programs for each child. Aim also for all educators to be trained and empowered to be able to lead a wide range of experiences daily.  

  1. Get external support, help each other and have fun!

There are two old sayings: “two heads are better than one” and “four eyes see more than two”. In other words, work together as a team, solve problems, support each other and get external help. Over the years we’ve reached out to early childhood consultants who visited our centre to give us advice and oversee our documentation. Seeing a service from a different perspective helped us reflect and improve. But most importantly, it saved us time and reduced stress. Getting ready for assessment doesn’t have to be stressful. Create some games, turn a challenge into an opportunity to bring educators together, bond with your team and have fun! 

  1. Have your pieces of evidence ready and be prepared to answer 100 FAQs.

During your A&R visit an assessor will need to sight different files, policies, procedures, documentation, records and forms related to your current enrolled children and educators. Observations, educators’ planning and programming also have to be in a good order and prepared. Make sure you use different ways of keeping records and examples of your practices (both online and offline). When getting ready for an assessment, create a list of different questions to practise with your team during staff meetings and throughout the day.

These might include questions like: “Are you documenting children’s voices? How?”, “What do you do if a child refuses to eat at all?”, “What’s your programming cycle?”, “What’s your view on safe sleeping practices?”, “When do you review policies?”.

In preparation for our last assessment in February 2021, we created a list of 100 questions which definitely helped us feel confident and calm on the day of the visit. 

  1. Be present, enjoy being with children, stay in the moment.

This tip is the most crucial! Being present, being connected to children and each other is a daily practice and can not be faked. To achieve this, you and every educator at your service has to master it on a daily basis. Your genuine interest, deep and open-ended conversations with children, your engaging and encouraging approach will make a huge difference to your rating.

Try to forget about the assessor, stay in the moment and be yourself!

  1. Be confident, feel excited and… SMILE!

Confidence comes with daily practice. Don’t change your practice or routines a day before the assessment. Just make sure that you act confidently and can explain ‘Why’ you do what you do. If an assessor asks a question, don’t rush with the answer. Pause, smile, and if unsure, say: “Can you please repeat your question?” Or: “Can you rephrase it, please?”.  If a question is tricky and you have children around, you might say: “I am busy with children at the moment, do you mind if I come back to you?.” That will give you some time to think and be ready with your answer. 

Recently, I got some great advice, which I also would like to share. There are two answers you should never say to an assessor: “We’ve always done it this way” and “I don’t know”. 

In conclusion, 

Be prepared. Support your team. Get excited about your upcoming A&R visit.

During challenging times I always say: “When everything goes well, smile, when something goes wrong, smile more!” 

The Assessment & Rating visit is an opportunity for you and your team to shine, celebrate your achievements and show your outstanding practices. So keep smiling and keep up your amazing work!

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