Staff ratios and adequate supervision
Educator ratios must be maintained at all times
To be included in the educator-to-child ratio, educators must be working directly with children (Regulation 122), meaning they are physically present with and directly engaged in providing education and care to the children (Regulation 13).
If educators take planned breaks while they are working, or are required to do so under their award or contract, they cannot be counted in ratios during this time. Even if the educator remains on the premises during their break, they cannot be included in ratios, as they are not directly involved in the education and care of children during their break.
Likewise, if a staff member is on the premises but undertaking administrative or programming tasks they cannot be included in ratios. In NSW there is flexibility for educators to take short, unplanned breaks e. g. for personal hygiene, without their position being back-filled by another staff member.
In addition to meeting ratio requirements, adequate supervision must be maintained at all times that a service is providing education and care.
Supervision of children is an active practice that helps protect to children from harm or hazards that may arise during play, activities or routines.
Adequate supervision requires the maintenance of ratio requirements. Educators should always know where each child is, monitor their activities and be in a position to respond if necessary.
Some considerations which are included when determining if supervision is adequate are:
- The number, age and ability of the children
- The number and positioning of educators
- Each child's current activity
- Areas where children are playing, in particular the visibility and accessibility of these areas
- Risks in the environment and experiences provided to the children
- The educator's knowledge of each child and age group of children
- The experience, knowledge and skill of each educator
Volunteers can be included as educators when counting ratios. There are no qualification requirements for OSHC educators in NSW. Volunteers can hold the same legal responsibilities as paid educators.
Complying with ratios is just one consideration when engaging volunteers as staff. Ensuring that children are adequately supervised also means considering each educator's experience, knowledge and skills. These factors should be taken into account when considering staffing arrangements to ensure that adequate supervision is maintained (section 165) and that children are protected from harm and hazard (section 167).
Services engaging volunteers are required to have policies and procedures in relation to the participation of volunteers (regulation 162 (i)), and staff records must also include details relating to volunteers (regulation 149).
It is also important to think about how the involvement of volunteers may affect children's experiences, learning and development. Continuity of educators is an important consideration which makes a positive contribution to children's well-being and development, and supports the development of trusting, secure relationships.
Educators under 18
Educators who are under 18 years of age can be included as educators when counting ratios. When providing education and care, educators under 18 years of age may not work alone and must be adequately supervised at all times by an educator over the age of 18 Years (Regulation 120).