3.2.1 Inclusive environment


Outdoor and indoor spaces are organised and adapted to support every child’s participation and to engage every child in quality experiences in both built and natural environments.

The Assessment and Rating process involves Assessors:
⦁ really looking at and referring to your QIP and asking many questions from it
⦁ using the NQS Guide’s description of exceeding to rate your service.
Let’s look at the exceeding themes that relate to this element in detail.

Exceeding theme 1 Practice is embedded in service operations
“Observed practice and discussions demonstrate a whole-of-service approach to the use of space and resources that is inclusive, purposeful, creative, and flexible, and enhances learning and development outcomes for all children.”

First, let’s explore the word inclusive. The Oxford Dictionary says,

‘Not excluding any section or any party involved in something.’

Research conducted by The Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Melbourne Institute in 2017 identified groups in Australia that experienced the highest rates of social exclusion:
⦁ Women are more likely to be excluded than men
⦁ Nearly 38% of people over 65 experience exclusion – more than any other age group
⦁ Social exclusion is more common among immigrants from non–English speaking countries than native-born Australians
⦁ Nearly 44% of Indigenous Australians experience social exclusion
⦁ More than half of Australians who have a disability or long-term health condition experience social exclusion
⦁ Early school leavers are much more likely to experience exclusion than those with a diploma or degree
⦁ More than 30% of single person and lone parent households experience social exclusion
⦁ Public housing tenants experience social exclusion at more than twice the rate of people living elsewhere.

We also need to think about how our language promotes exclusion or inclusion. When we deliberately avoid language that could be seen as excluding a particular social group we are being inclusive, for example avoiding the use of masculine pronouns to cover both men and women.
Sometimes we might use words that exclude people and groups. Here is an example of how an educator accidentally used a name that made a parent feel excluded. The good part of the story is that the relationships between the educators and parents are strong, which led to the parent messaging the centre.

“Hi! Just a little thing- to be respectful to Indigenous culture it is more accepted to use ‘Uluru’ as ‘Ayers Rock’ is ‘white man’s’ name for it. You do such fantastic stuff! Just thought I’d mention it as in your post for the room today you mention it a few times and also talk about respecting Indigenous culture so thought I’d mention it! Have a great arvo! Thanks for all you do!”

Hi Anne- thank you so much for reminding us. We value input from our parents and always aim to be respectful of our Indigenous culture. We are truly sorry for our mistake. I will make sure that it is corrected. We would love to have more feedback from you at any time. Thankyou Julie.

What words do we use or hear that could be exclusive?


Exceeding theme 3 Practice is shaped by meaningful engagement with families and/or the community

“The service’s use and organisation of space and resources:
⦁ reflects the unique geographical, cultural and community context of the service welcomes, respects and draws on the voices, priorities and strengths of the children and families at the service.”
“The service collaborates with family and/or community partners to:
⦁ foster an inclusive, welcoming and flexible play-based learning environment.”
How do you make sure each child’s and family’s voice and culture is reflected in your environment?


Exceeding theme 2 Practice is informed by critical reflection
All educators regularly reflect on opportunities to:
⦁ support every child’s participation and to further enhance children’s learning and development through the creative and flexible use of space, equipment and resources.

What do you see and hear if you look from a child’s perspective (critical reflection) and how is it different if that child is autistic, has cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis or down syndrome? How could your words and perceptions feel to them?

Next we’re going to explore some common myths about these children and see how we could address the Element 3.2.1 to ensure we create inclusive space.

Myth Fact Spaces
Children with autism can’t feel emotions. Children with autism can feel lots of emotions, and often these are stronger than usual. However, they may only find it hard to express emotions, or only communicate how they’re feeling when they feel comfortable. Find out what makes each child with autism feel comfortable and adjust the environment eg consider colour, brightness, temperature, noise levels, textures, smell. Set up small spaces in the indoor and outdoor environment, and use these to help a child integrate into the group.
Children with autism can’t talk properly. Children with autism can have impaired language development. The degree of impairment can vary from minor to severe. Include lots of visual learning supports in all learning spaces eg put words with pictures, take photos of places and people, colour code routines and instructions, use body movements and different voice tones, tell a social story using child or their favourite character.
Myth Fact Spaces
Cerebral Palsy gets worse over time. Cerebral palsy does not get worse as people age, but the symptoms may become more noticeable eg their muscles may get stiffer. Treatments and strategies to manage the condition can help eg a child’s movements can be improved by practising motor skills. Include lots of gross and fine motor physical activities in play spaces, but remember child may tire easily. Source modified sporting equipment.
Myth Fact Spaces
Children with cerebral palsy can’t move around. Children with cerebral palsy are mobile. Some may use splints, sticks, wheelchairs etc to move around. They may have trouble making sense of information they see eg move around obstacles, judge size and shape of objects. Reflect on placement and type of equipment, furniture etc. Discuss layouts with children and families. Ensure access to activities etc is clear for children using walking frames etc. It may help to place activities on coloured place mats. Instal ramps, rails to rooms etc if required. Ensure child who need help to move are not left at same activity or location for more than 20 – 30 minutes.
Children with cerebral palsy can’t communicate. One in four children can’t communicate using speech because their mouth and tongue muscles are affected. But there are many ways to communicate eg sign language, communication boards and electronic devices. Make communication aids available in all play spaces, both indoor and outdoor.

Evaluate your practice compared to these examples.
What are you doing well? (Please write this into your QIP’s strengths)


Where can you improve? (Please write this into your QIP’s improvement section)


Myth Fact Spaces
Cystic fibrosis is contagious. A common symptom of cystic fibrosis is coughing, but you can’t catch the condition. It’s not contagious. Include learning about cystic fibrosis in the curriculum. Include children with condition in group learning and play activities in all environments.
Myth Fact Spaces
Children with down syndrome always feel happy. Children with down syndrome feel the same emotions everyone else does. They’re at higher risk of depression and anxiety than others. Take time to critically reflect through these children’s eyes. What is happening in their play spaces? What needs to change?
Children with down syndrome cannot take part in social and recreational activities. Children with down syndrome take part in sports, music, art programs and lots of other activities in the community. Ensure these children feel included and able to participate in all activities. Set up an edible garden. Children with autism may also like to touch, feel, taste different plants.

“The service’s approach to organising inclusive, play-based learning environments and to supporting environmental responsibility:

⦁ reflects robust debate, discussion, and opportunities for input by all educators, and is informed by critical reflection.”
Inclusion is about making sure each child feels included and able to participate. Read the following examples.

⦁ Educators may read a book to everyone at group time, but there may be children who do not feel comfortable sitting still for an extended period. They may, for example, have Autism or Sensory Processing Disorder. If there is no alternative to sitting and listening, for example acting out the story in the book, these children are not being included.

⦁ There may be a couple of quiet and private places children can escape to for some time alone or in small groups. If there are not enough of these spaces, or they’re not in both the indoor and outdoor environments, then there may be some children who are unable to participate because they haven’t had the time or space to ‘chill out’ and maybe focus on regulating their behaviour.

⦁ A service may have soft fall surfacing in most areas outside. This may not be a problem for many children, but for children with down syndrome, autism or sensory processing disorder, for example, who like to feel a lot of different textures, the absence of surfaces like bark, pebbles, rocks etc will mean they’re less likely to participate.

⦁ Children won’t feel included or able to participate if they don’t feel comfortable using the toilet and bathroom facilities. There may be privacy or hygiene issues, or the layout may mean that children with additional needs require extra help.

⦁ A child who’s seated at a different height to other children is less likely to feel included. They may be in a specialised chair for example, or a high chair. If it’s not possible to seat children at the same height, educators should consider other options, for example, painting standing or using special standing equipment, or lying on the floor to draw.

⦁ A child with additional needs may be reluctant to participate in physical activities and sports with other children unless their needs are accommodated in some way. For example, educators could make activities harder for able-bodied children eg replace running with skipping or enlarge the distance or area involved, or the team numbers can be altered.

⦁ It’s natural that educators give children with additional needs extra help, but if educators are always present the child may not have the chance to develop friendships with other children, or be accepted as a member of a group. This child will not feel included, and will be less willing to participate in group activities.

⦁ If educators know each child well, they’ll be aware of which children, for example, always sit at the front? They’ll also be reflecting on the other children? Why are they sitting at the back? Is it because they don’t feel included? If they changed position would they be more likely to participate?

Evaluate your practice compared to these examples.
What are you doing well? (Please write this into your QIP’s strengths)


Where can you improve? (Please write this into your QIP’s improvement section)



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