Issue 2 - Unpacking the Educator-to-child ratios and adequate supervision requirements

Why do we have ratio and supervision requirements?

Since the changes to the National Law in 2017 there are some common questions on the interpretation of ratios and supervision requirements. The ratio and supervision requirements underscore the importance of the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children at the service and most effectively support each child’s learning, development and active engagement in the educational program.

Most importantly, they reinforce the right of each child to participate in quality education and care in a healthy and safe environment (Quality Area 2 and 4, National Quality Standard).

The following tables show the prescribed ratios for each segment.

Table 1 - National ratios for centre-based services (r123)

Age of children
Educator to child ratio
Birth to 24 months
1:4
Over 24 months and less than 36 months
1:5
Over 36 months up to and including preschool age
1:11
Note: for NSW the educator to child ratio for children aged 36 months or more but less than 6 years of age is 1:10 (r271)
Over preschool age
1:15*

Table 2 - National ratios for family day care services (r124)

Age
Educator to child ratio
All children
1:7, with no more than four children preschool age or under

Table 3 - National ratios for outside school hours care (r123)*

Age
Educator to child ratio
Over preschool age
1:15

*In NSW this ratio applies from 1st October 2018.

When do Educator to child ratios apply?

Educator-to-child ratios apply at all times that an education and care service is operating, including during sleep and rest periods. To be included in the ratio, educators must:

  • hold or be actively working towards an approved qualification (r10 and r126)
  • be working directly with children at the service (r122) meaning they are physically present with and directly engaged in providing education and care to the children (r13).

Educator’s positions must be replaced when not working directly with children (e.g. when undertaking administrative tasks or on a scheduled lunch break). Short unplanned breaks, e.g. for personal hygiene, do not require backfilling.

Common misconceptions on ratios
There is a misconception that an educator on a planned break can still be counted as part of the ratios because they are working on the premises in an non-child-facing role. This is incorrect. Because these educators are not directly involved with the education and care of children during their break, they cannot be included in the ratios at this time.

“Under the Roof”
The phrase “under the roof” is sometimes used by services in relation to educator-to-child ratios. The phrase is not a regulatory term, and is not found in the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations. As the phrase “under the roof” is subject to interpretation and is not a regulatory concept, it is not used by the Regulatory Authority.

Mixed age ratios in centre based services:
Ratios are applied across a service (not by individual rooms) and are based on the youngest child in care. An educator who is caring for one age range of children can also be counted against another age range of children, provided the ratio for each range is maintained and adequate supervision available at all times.

Example
An example of how ratios are calculated across the service is demonstrated below.

Table 4 - National mixed age ratios in centre-based services

Age
Educator to child ratio
No of Children
Birth to 24 months (Baby group)
1:4
3
Over 24 months and less than 36 months (Toddler group)
1:5
8
Over 36 months up to and including preschool age
(Preschool group)
1:11
Note: for NSW the educator to child ratio for children aged 36 months or more but less than 6 years of age is 1:10 (r271)
15

TOTAL

-

26
Minimum educators required: 5
The maximum no of children each educator can look after is:

Educator A can look after 3 babies and 1 toddler
Educator B can look after 5 toddlers
Educator C can look after 2 toddlers and 3 preschoolers
Educator D can look after 11 preschoolers
Educator E can look after 1 preschooler and has the capacity to look after more children.

Maintaining adequate supervision

In addition to meeting ratio requirements, adequate supervision must be maintained at all times. However, meeting ratio requirements may not always mean there is adequate supervision.

For example, a service may meet educator-to-child ratios, but staff may lack visibility of children engaged in a water activity within a particular area. In this case, the children are not adequately supervised, even though the ratios may be met.

Note: The National Law and Regulations cannot prescribe the staffing levels required to ensure adequate supervision for each component of a service’s educational program. The service must use their own experience, judgement and discretion in determining this.

A number of factors may be considered as helpful context when determining if supervision is adequate, including:

Note: for NSW the educator to child ratio for children aged 36 months or more but less than 6 years of age is 1:10 (r271)

  • the number, age and ability of children
  • the number and positioning of educators
  • each child’s current activity
  • areas where children are playing, in particular visibility and accessibility of these areas
  • risks in the environment and experiences provided to children
  • the experience, knowledge and skill of each educator.

In some situations, additional educators may be required to ensure ratios and adequate supervision, are maintained at all times.

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