ACECQA Newsletter Issue 2 2015

Sector Snapshot shows NQF continues to drive improvement  

ACECQA’s latest Snapshot report, published earlier this month, shows the number of services with a quality rating has increased significantly over the past 12 months. With more than half of services assessed and rated, more families are able to get information about the quality of their local services.   
 
Highlights from the Snapshot include:
  • 14 577 children’s education and care services operating under the NQF across Australia
  • 7637 or 52% of services have received a quality rating 
  • 65% of assessed services are Exceeding or Meeting NQS. 
The ratings for the 7637 services already quality rated are available in the national registers. Families are able to find information about services and quality on ACECQA’s national registers
 
The NQF Snapshot Q4 2014 is the eighth report on the NQF. The next update will be published in May 2015.

A quick guide to your assessment and rating visit  

Not sure what to expect of your assessment and rating visit?

While each state and territory regulatory authority is responsible for conducting assessment and ratings visits, one of ACECQA’s roles is to support national consistency and comparable outcomes.

Read our quick guide to know what to expect and remember the assessment and rating process is an opportunity to gain valuable feedback about the operation of your service.

Before the visit

  • Approved providers receive a letter notifying them of the four week period in which their assessment and rating visit will occur. 
  • Regulatory authorities will ask services to submit their Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) within three weeks, giving the approved provider time to ensure their QIP is up to date.
  • To be prepared for the visit authorised officers will review the QIP. They will also consider the service’s compliance history, including previous assessment or accreditation visits, and records of any notifications, complaints or investigations as this information is part of determining a rating level.
  • Approved providers typically receive at least five days’ notice of the date of the service visit.

During the visit

  • The number of authorised officers present and the length of time spent on an assessment visit will depend on a number of factors including the size and location of the service, the number of educators and whether the authorised officer is supervising a less experienced officer.
  • During the visit the authorised officer will observe day to day program and practice, and discuss and view supporting documentation to identify examples and evidence that the service is meeting the NQS and legislative requirements.
  • The authorised officer may give some general comments at the time of the visit but will not give the service rating results.
  • The authorised officer may also identify any minor adjustments that the provider can make before the draft report is issued. If the service appropriately addresses these minor issues, their rating may improve.

After the visit

  • Around three to five weeks after the assessment and rating visit, providers will receive the assessment and rating draft report. 
  • Providers have 10 working days to comment on the draft report before it is finalised by the regulatory authority. 
  • After receiving the final assessment and rating report, providers can request a review of the decision within 14 days.
Read more about the assessment and rating timeframe

Paperwork for services reducing over time

Education and care services have reported a small reduction in the level of administrative burden or paperwork experienced during the second year of the NQF.
 
The second report from ACECQA’s longitudinal study into regulatory burden, Report on National Quality Framework and Regulatory Burden – Wave II, shows:
 
  • centre-based services report lower overall burden in 2014 than in 2013
  • the perception of burden is lower around supervisor certificates and displaying information than reported in the first survey
  • a greater proportion of not-for-profit services agree that administrative requirements are simpler now than under previous licensing and accreditation systems.
The report was sent to Ministers in late 2014 and the Education Council has now agreed to its publication.
 
ACECQA started annual surveys of administrative burden in 2013 to examine, over time, whether paperwork under the NQF is reducing.
 
The second wave of surveys, completed in February and March 2014, show that administrative burden is reducing as processes are streamlined and the sector adapts to the NQF.
 
The third stage of the study will be undertaken in the first half of 2015.

What do I need to display?

Recent enquiries show some approved providers are unsure of what information they need to display at their service, so we’ve put together a handy reference guide.   
Information all services need to display, see National Regulations: regulation 173, Operational Policy Manual page 233 to 234
 
While the National Regulations do not state how this information should be displayed, you must ensure all information is clearly visible to anyone from the main entrance of your service’s premises. Examples of how information can be displayed at a service include posters, whiteboard, a display folder that is clearly accessible to visitors, a series of fact sheets, or a computer screen.

Glossary of terms from the Frameworks 

Do you ever come across words and phrases in the Early Years Learning Framework and Framework for School Age Care that leave you wondering ‘What exactly does that mean?’  
 
We’ve developed a Glossary of commonly-used terms in our sector. The reference guide provides succinct, easy-to-understand definitions to assist you in the important work of enhancing outcomes for children and families.
 
The Glossary includes definitions for: 
  • Agency - being able to make choices and decisions, to influence events and to have an impact on one’s world. 
  • Intentional teaching - involves educators being deliberate, purposeful and thoughtful in their decision and actions. Intentional teaching is the opposite of teaching by rote or continuing with tradition simply because things have ‘always’ been done that way. 
  • Curriculum - in the early childhood and school age care setting curriculum means ‘all the interactions, experiences, activities, routines and events, planned and unplanned, that occur in an environment designed to foster children’s learning and development’. [adapted from Te Whariki]
  • Scaffold - the educator’s decisions and actions that build on children’s existing knowledge and skills to enhance their learning. 

Download the complete Glossary


Building a reflective culture at your service 

Thinking critically helps us to improve outcomes by looking beyond the surface and exploring deeper layers of experience. The ability to think critically and reflect on practice is an important professional skill and a key aspect in the cycle of planning, documenting and evaluation that aligns with elements 1.2.1, 1.2.3 and 7.2.3 of the NQS.

The Early Years Learning Framework (page 13) and Framework for School Age Care (pages 11 & 12) identify ‘ongoing learning and reflective practice’ as a key principle underpinning practice. Both frameworks explain that ‘critical reflection involves closely examining all aspects of events and experiences from different perspectives’. 
 
What does this mean in your service? Critical reflection involves considering an experience – what happened and what approach was taken, and then stepping back and examining the thinking, assumptions, views and behaviour behind the actions. Through this process an educator can consider what changes might result in improved outcomes.
 
When an educator critically analyses they are able to extend learning opportunities and safeguard children against disadvantage. Critical reflection asks educators to challenge their perspectives and attitudes that may have unintended consequences. Careful observation also allows educators to notice otherwise easily missed learning and development opportunities. As part of critically reflecting on events of the day, the educator might consider questions of philosophy, ethics and practice to identify learning opportunities that may have been overlooked and strategies that could improve practice. 
 

Not sure where to start? Overarching questions to help guide critical reflection can be found in the approved learning frameworks. Some examples include ‘Who is disadvantaged when I work in this way? What are my understandings of each child? Are there other theories or knowledge that could help me to understand better what I have observed or experienced?’ (Early Years Learning Framework page 13 and Framework for School Age Care pages 11 & 12). 

Other strategies which can help with critical reflection: 
  • thinking deeply about the child’s perspective 
  • drawing on the experience and knowledge of other educators and professionals
  • considering theories, research and literature and how this information can inform practice 
  • considering broader societal issues which may impact on practice such as stereotypes and cultures
  • engaging in professional discussion or action research with colleagues and other professionals.  
This promotes an ongoing cycle of review where issues such as curriculum, equity and children’s wellbeing can be discussed, debated, gaps identified, resources shared and improvements made to further children’s learning and development.
 
Educators critically reflect on practice throughout the day and scheduled meetings, professional conversations or professional development sessions offer more formal opportunities to critically reflect.
 
In her article Critical Reflection, Melinda Miller suggests some useful tips for building a reflective culture in an education and care service. Another model to help educators reflect on practice is detailed in the publication Reflective Practice. You may also find it helpful to hear educator Michelle Gujer share her experiences of reflecting on practice to self-assess and inform quality improvement planning processes. If you are working with school age children, the Introducing Reflective Practice fact sheet offers some additional questions to guide practice.  

On the road: 2015 National Workshops on educational program and practice 

We’re excited to be holding the first national workshops for 2015 on educational program and practice in Western Australia next week. 
 
ACECQA, in partnership with local Professional Support Co-ordinator, Child Australia, and regulatory authority staff, will visit Perth, Geraldton and Albany from 23-26 February.
 
Next stop on the map is Victoria and South Australia in March, followed by New South Wales and Queensland. Workshops were held in Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory at the end of 2014.
 
Registrations are open for Victoria and South Australia, so visit our Events page for dates and session times. The workshops support services in Quality Area 1 and are open to all educators and providers, especially those rated as Working Towards NQS or those not yet rated.

Nominations open for Australian Family Early Education and Care Awards

ACECQA  is proud to support the 2015 Australian Family Early Education and Care Awards and encourages you to nominate outstanding early childhood practitioners and services in four categories:
  • Early Childhood Educator of the Year – for all educators/carers who work directly with children
  • Early Childhood Director of the Year – for those in charge of an early years’ education and care service
  • Early Childhood Service of the Year - for all early years’ and out of school hours education and care services
  • Rising Star Award – open to people who have worked in early childhood for five years or less, regardless of their age. 
These national Awards celebrate the accomplishments, innovative practice and quality improvement of early childhood professionals across all areas of early childhood education and care.  They are an important way of creating recognition for the work all early childhood professionals do. Click here to nominate now.

Productivity Commission final report released 

ACECQA today welcomes the release of the Productivity Commission’s final inquiry report on Childcare and Early Childhood Learning. The report follows the release of the draft report in July 2014. 
 
ACECQA looks forward to working through the NQF related recommendations with governments. 
 
The final report is available on the Productivity Commission website