Tips to meet Quality Area 3: Physical Environment

Welcoming indoor and outdoor spaces enable children to play, learn and develop their knowledge and skills.

Image: Students working outside painting using brushes

The Physical Environment Standards broadly focus on the design and use of the service environment. When considering ways to meet QA3, inspiration may be found in considering how the environment is engaging, inclusive, encouraging, empowering and consistently incorporates natural materials.

Services approved by the Regulatory Authority, have been deemed to meet all of the physical criteria to operate (including Regulations 103 through to 115).

Inspirational learning environments

‘Contemporary theories and research informed by the Reggio Emilia approach recognise and value the environment as a ‘third teacher’. Behind educators and families, physical spaces hold the potential to influence what and how children learn.’ ACECQA - The Environment as the ‘Third Teacher’

Quality learning environments are intentionally designed and used to maximise children’s engagement in learning experiences. Educators can be deliberate, consider, adapt or make additions to learning spaces. Areas can be creatively used for different purposes at different times throughout the day to meet the needs of children in attendance of all ages, stages of development and interests.

Some reflective questions you may consider whilst exploring different spaces at your service may include;

  • How does this space represent our local community? How does it represent and honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture?

  • How do the children use this space, how does it encourage exploration, participation ad independence? Do children feel ownership of a space?

  • Are persons (adults or children) who are not able-bodied, able to access all spaces?

  • Where can I see children’s ongoing or finished work? Does the display of this work demonstrate respect for the work and the children?

  • How can I incorporate respect for natural environments in this space?

Outdoor learning spaces

‘Outdoor learning spaces are a feature of Australian learning environments. They offer a vast array of possibilities not available indoors. Play spaces in natural environments... invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature.’ EYLF P.18 Practice; Learning Environments

Early Childhood Australia in collaboration with the Australian Government developed a collection of vignettes can be used by educators to promote inspiration and reflection about your services outdoor environment.

The importance of service upkeep

Under R103, the service premises and ALL equipment and furniture used in providing the education and care service are required to be safe, clean and in good repair. These Regulations are extensive, they include everything from building structural maintenance (ceiling, painting, carpets, steps etc), fixtures (taps, doors, switches etc) and equipment (chairs, climbing equipment, cubby houses etc).

Your service should have policies and procedures to guide the upkeep and maintenance of your service. All educators and staff should be aware of and action protocols when they note the requirement for maintenance.

Some tips for providers and their services

  • Consider how theories that inform your practice or your service philosophy may inspire or guide your decisions.

  • You may wish to use or adapt pre-developed templates such as ACECQA’s ‘Risk-assessment and management – Indoor and outdoor learning environment safety checklist’.

  • Encourage a range of staff to complete premise checks over the course of weeks or months. Each person may bring a fresh perspective and identify new strengths and weaknesses.

  • Test outdoor surfaces prior to children accessing them to establish if they pose a burn risk to children.

  • The Department partnered with Red Nose to develop a video providing practical information and guidance on Safe sleep and rest. This includes physical environment considerations such as areas set up to provide adequate supervision and equipment and furniture used for sleep and rest been verified as compliant with Australian standards.

  • Ensure your service premise is compliant by using The Guide to the NQF, Chapter 4, Operational Requirements (QA3 can be found on pages 390-403). This chapter sets out the requirements for operating an education and care service, including the responsibilities of approved providers, nominated supervisors, and family day care educators.

Access ACECQA’s website for information sheets on topics which offer practical strategies to support quality practice in the design and use of your services physical environment.

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