This page is current as of 1 October 2017.
This page outlines adequate supervision and the resonsibility of the education and care service as described in the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (National Law) in section 165.
A duty to take reasonable care of a child exists at all times the child is in the care of the service. One part of this reasonable level of care is that the approved provider, nominated supervisor and educator are each responsible for ensuring that children are adequately supervised at all times the children are in the service’s care. This includes when the children are indoors or outdoors on the premises, as well as when they are on an excursion, including an excursion that is a regular outing, away from the service.
What is adequate supervision?
Supervision is an integral part of the whole education and care experience. At its most basic level, supervision helps to protect children from harm and hazards that may arise in their daily experiences in play, interactions with others, and daily routines. Adequate supervision means that an adult can respond immediately including when a child is distressed or is in a hazardous situation.
Supervision is constantly observing and relating to individual children and groups of children to contribute to their safety, health and wellbeing.
Supervision involves more than preventing or responding to potential or actual harm and hazards. It requires the educator to be actively involved with children and have knowledge of what each child is doing at any given time of the day.
Through supervision educators get to know each child and develop essential understandings about them in the social setting of the education and care service.
Thoughtful supervision of children creates opportunities to assess each child’s strengths and interests and ways of relating to other children and adults. These assessments are valuable contributions to planning the program. Sharing assessments with families, with others responsible for the child and with the children themselves is important. This helps to build partnerships and increase understanding of children.
Supervision can contribute to building positive relationships between educators and children. When children are being supervised adequately, there will be evidence of strong, mutually respectful relationships between educators and children.
What does adequate supervision look like?
Although the provision of adequate supervision depends somewhat on the children’s ages and abilities, every child at the service should always be monitored actively and diligently. It means knowing where children are at all times.
Children of different ages and abilities will need different levels of supervision. Younger children will always need to be in sight of an adult whereas older children may not. In general, the younger children are, the more they may need an adult to be physically present and close by to support and help them.
Adequate supervision is therefore likely to be different for different services. For example, in a centre-based service for young children, adequate supervision will mean that the children remain in close proximity to the adult who is supervising them.
In contrast, in an outside school hours care service, in which children are older, knowing where each child is and ensuring that educators are in a position to respond may be considered adequate supervision. In family day care, some children may be playing in different parts of the family day care home and some may be outside and therefore the educator will need to consider how these children will be supervised and responded to.
Whenever children are being cared for, educators will need to make decisions throughout the day about where they are best placed to adequately supervise each child.
In a group of children of the same age there will be some children who need more supervision than others. Educators learn about this as they get to know children.
Educator to child ratios
For centre-based services educator to child ratios must be met whenever children are being educated and cared for by a service (section 169). The Educator to child ratios and qualifications fact sheet outlines the minimum number of educators required to educate and care for children. However, meeting these ratios may not always be sufficient to provide adequate supervision in all education and care services.
For family day care services the maximum number of children that can be educated by a family day care educator are outlined in regulation 124. However meeting these requirments may not always be sufficient to provide adequate supervsion.
For all service types, the adequacy of supervision is determined by a range of factors, including the following:
- number of children
- ages of children
- abilities of children
- number and positioning of adults
- each child’s current activity, for example, physical activities, art activities and playing with others
- areas where the children are engaging in the activities, in particular the visibility and accessibility of these areas
- adults’ knowledge of each child and each group of children
- experience, knowledge and skill of each educator
- need for educators to move between areas.
Planning for supervision
For centre-based services several factors affect decisions about how many educators are needed for supervision and where they should be placed. The number of educators needed in each area of the service for adequate supervision will need to be carefully considered. It will depend on the number of children and the different areas in which the children are located at any one time during the day. A flexible approach to educator placement throughout the day will be required to ensure adequate supervision.
Adequate supervision requires teamwork and constant communication among all educators.
All areas available to children in all service types must be supervised. All educators must be alert to and aware of what is going on around them. Educators must be alert to the potential for accidents, injuries and other harmful incidents throughout the whole service, not just within their own immediate area.
When considering the supervision requirements of sleeping children, an assessment of each child’s circumstance and needs should be undertaken to determine any risk factors. This will ensure adequate supervision practices are put in place to minimise any potential risks.
This includes assessing how to respond quickly and sensitively to children’s needs whenever children are sleeping, either in a children’s room or in a separate sleeping area.
For example, a higher risk may be associated with small babies or children with colds or chronic lung disorders, therefore the child may require someone to stay beside them when they are sleeping to minimise any potential risk to the child. Rooms that are dark and have music playing may not provide adequate supervision of sleeping children.
Educators must be able to demonstrate that they have an understanding of safe sleep practices and have identified and considered any risk factors and acted accordingly to address these factors.
Each service is required to have a policy and procedure about children's sleep and rest. See:
Safe sleep and rest policies
Preparing for a nappy change is fundamental to maintaining an adequate level of supervision of children. This may involve ensuring that all of the required equipment is available and within reach prior to undertaking a nappy change. In preparing for a nappy change, educators may consider:
- is there a sufficient supply of nappies within reach?
- are there cleaning products within reach?
- is the bin for the disposal of nappies close by?
- is the change bench next to running water to clean the child or are there sufficient baby wipes close by for this purpose?
Educators may develop a procedure to ensure that the nappy change area is cleaned and restocked during the day to ensure that equipment required for nappy changing is available at all times.
Preparation and constant contact with the child are key in ensuring that children are adequately supervised during a nappy change. Making sure that all of the necessary equipment is easily accessible prior to undertaking a nappy change will ensure that the child has the educator’s full attention during the nappy change.
While undertaking a nappy change the child should never be left alone on the change table and physical contact should always be maintained with the child. In some cases this may require the educators to position themselves so that they can safely change a child’s nappy while maintaining adequate supervision of the other children.
Educators may need to consider alternative arrangements for changing nappies in order to maintain this awareness; this would be part of the assessment of risk the educator has undertaken for that group of children. Other than in a family day care residence, this may involve ensuring that another educator is available to supervise the other children.
Responsibility of approved providers, nominated supervisors and educators
The approved provider, nominated supervisor and all educators must ensure that every child at the service is adequately supervised (section 165). Adequate supervision relies on always being in a position to:
- respond to each child’s individual needs in a timely manner that adequately meets that need
- intervene if necessary.
This will support your service to achieve and deliver a high quality program that engages with children and their families to get the best possible outcomes for children.
Related fact sheets
Fact sheets for Victorian education and care services operating under the National Quality Framework can be found at:
Fact sheets and resources