A multi-perspective approach to quality in long day care: Considerations for the National Quality Framework

Year: 2008

Author: Fenech, Marianne, Harrison, Linda, Sumsion, Jennifer, Press, Fran, Bowes, Jennifer

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The OECD (2006) Starting Strong II report identified two broad categories as being critical to the provision of quality in children's services: external legislated requirements and internal processes and practices. In this paper, the authors suggest that the regulatory environment in which long day care (LDC) centres in New South Wales operate (National Childcare Accreditation Council, 2005; NSW Department of Community Services, 2004), and the observation ratings scales predominantly used in research to assess quality practices in children's services (Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 1998; Harms, Cryer, & Clifford, 2003), are grounded in positivist approaches. Drawing on Foucauldian (1978, 1980, 1983) notions of power and discourse, they argue that while useful, such positivist understandings of quality have their dangers. Resisting a binary positioning, we propose that a multiple perspective approach to quality, and one that embraces positivist and poststructuralist underpinnings, has the potential to lead to richer, and appropriately, deeper understandings of the complex processes and practices that underpin the consistent provision of high quality LDC.

This conceptual problematising of quality is complemented by drawing on preliminary findings from a multi-phased project, A multi-modal investigation of current and proposed structures and processes determining and sustaining quality in Australian centre based child care, funded by the Australian Research Council to Charles Sturt University (Discovery Grant DP0881729, 2008 -2010: L Harrison, F Press, J Sumsion, J. Bowes, M Fenech. $257,196). This project is investigating current and proposed structural and process level elements that determine and sustain quality in Australian centre based child care. Findings from an in-depth case study of an identified high quality LDC centre will be used to elucidate less tangible but equally critical dimensions of quality - teachers' reflective practices being a notable example (Goodfellow, 2003) - than those generally acknowledged in quality child care research and accreditation discourses. As the Rudd Labor government moves to a five tiered system of accreditation in Australia, this paper will raise considerations for how a multiple perspective approach to quality, and its ensuing refined understandings of 'within centre' processes that determine high quality, might inform current Federal government policy.