ACECQA Newsletter Issue 4 2015

Families' first steps into early childhood education and care

ACECQA is excited to announce the launch of a new website Starting Blocks to help families, particularly new parents, make decisions about quality children’s education and care.
 
We know that new parents are faced with many decisions and sometimes an overwhelming amount of information about the importance of a child’s early years.
 
Starting Blocks gives new parents and families trusted information on early childhood education and care, all in one place.

The research behind the facts

Learning begins from the minute a child is born. Whether he or she is being cared for at home, or at an education and care service, it’s important that they have opportunities to learn and develop every day.
 
Children’s brains go through a period of rapid growth during their first years, and it is during this time they are learning more than they will at any other time in their life.
 
Research also shows that children who experience quality education and care in the first five years, have improved brain function and health outcomes as well as better education and employment opportunities.

Parents' first steps

Parents will find helpful tips on the Starting Blocks website for things to do at home and to encourage their child’s development. 
 
The Starting Blocks website also provides helpful resources and translated fact sheets about the NQF. This includes fact sheets about educator to child ratios, managing children’s health needs in child care, and nutrition in child care, just to name a few.
 
The website is a starting point for new parents looking for information. You can find lots more detailed information about a wide range of topics through links on the Starting Blocks website.
 
You can also join the conversation by visiting the Starting Blocks Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Sharing information with families about the NQF

Experiences for children are shaped by the relationships they form with the people around them, so it is essential that educators develop positive partnerships with families to share information and learn from each other. 
 
Sharing information and talking with families about their values and expectations helps to build a shared understanding of the importance of the early years for children’s learning and development. 
 
The Early Years Learning Framework and Framework for School Age Care emphasise that ‘partnerships are based on the foundations of understanding each other’s expectations and attitudes, and building on the strength of each other’s knowledge’ (Early Years Learning Framework page 12). Working in partnership with families and sharing information about quality programs helps build a shared vision for children’s learning and development. 
 
It is also important to value and draw from the expertise of families and that opportunities are created for sharing knowledge through discussion and collaboration. This approach also supports parents to actively participate in decisions at the service that shape the program for their child.
 
There are various ways that services can share their understanding of the National Quality Framework (NQF) with families, for example:
 
  • Including an introduction to the NQF during orientation to the service. For example, this could include an overview to the structure of the NQF, a link to the relevant approved learning framework and the National Law and Regulations, an overview of the Quality Areas of the National Quality Standard. Information for families regarding the Early Years Learning Framework is also available in a variety of languages.
  • Displaying information about the NQF at the service entry. The ACECQA NQF posters are a useful resource and can be downloaded and printed from our website. NQF information for families is also available in a variety of languages
  • Informally discussing the NQF with families at pick up and drop off times and applying it to the context of the day. For example, instead of simply discussing routines of young children (he ate, slept and played), educators may take the opportunity to discuss how these parts of the program help their child develop. For example, 'During lunch time we give the toddler group the opportunity to serve their own lunch, as this helps them gain new skills and builds their independence. Today Zahan had success using the tongs to serve himself some fruit'.
  • Providing opportunities for parents and educators to collaborate around learning experiences that could extend children’s thinking and learning in the service and at home.
  • Sharing resources and information in an accessible way. For instance, you can use social media pages to share research, articles and webpages about child development and quality education and care.

Working in partnership with families includes developing thoughtful and respectful ways to share information about the NQF and the program. Some parents may have specific needs and preferences for accessing information, for example some may have English as a second language or may prefer verbal communication over text. To be useful for families, information sharing needs to be culturally appropriate, inclusive and flexible for individual needs.

Case study: Warrawee Care Centre in NSW

ACECQA spoke with Samantha Williamson, Director at Warrawee Care Centre in NSW, about how their service involves parents in the program. Warrawee Care Centre provides outside school hours care and vacation care.
 
'Our program reflects the skills, interests and knowledge of families at the service,' Samantha said.
 
'We encourage parent participation because it creates an opportunity to develop relationships and share in the children’s learning.
 
'Families lead activities like building and flying model aircraft, bush survival and fire safety skills, Spanish culture and cooking classes, and knitting.
 
'A vet educates children and staff about caring for animals in our service, and art and science teachers run workshops in our after school program and during vacation care.
 
'We’re so grateful for the time and effort families contribute to our service. It makes such a difference to program delivery and is a positive experience for everyone.'

Keeping it on the record

Keeping accurate records of educators and children at a service is essential for transparency and accountability. But what is a record, how long does a service need to keep it and in what form? 
 
A record is an account kept in writing, or some other permanent form, that a service holds for a specific period of time. Records can be kept in hard or soft copies but need to be accessible by management and authorised officers if required. Child records must also be available to parents on request. Read pages 116 to 119 of the Guide to the National Law and Regulations for more details.
 
This month we are looking at how long to keep records. Print out the handy A4 guide, Keeping children’s records, to make sure you’re on top of your record keeping. 
 
Remember, records are private and must be kept in a secure place. Requirements for confidential storage of records are at regulations 181 – 184. Next month we will look at staff and operations records.

Growing and learning with Amata Anangu Preschool 

ACECQA first met Tarsha Howard, Early Childhood Coordinator at Amata Anangu Preschool, in 2013 at the NQF conference in Sydney.

Tarsha had some concerns at the time that working in a remote service might be a barrier to raising the quality of children's education and care. This month we catch up with Tarsha after the preschool was assessed and rated to find out about their journey.

Read more on ACECQA's We Hear You blog.


How to have your service's rating reviewed 

There are many opportunities during the assessment and rating process for a service to query its ratings. We spoke with Abigail Weldon-Chan, Manager of Operations at ACECQA, to clarify this process. 
 
'It’s important that a service has adequate opportunities to show how it meets the elements and standards of the NQS, from the first stages of an assessment and rating visit to when they receive their report,' Abigail said. She outlines the main steps for services below.

Providing feedback on a draft report

After the assessment and rating visit, the regulatory authority will give the approved provider their draft ratings report.  At this stage there is an opportunity to provide feedback on the report. ACECQA’s Assessment and rating Information sheet has detailed information on how to provide your feedback as well as links to the feedback template. 

Review of rating by regulatory authority (first tier review)

Once you’ve received your final report, if you disagree with the final ratings given, you can apply to your regulatory authority for review. This is called a first tier review. 
 
The Guidelines for First Tier Review help providers in making a review application, including a step by step guide on how to apply to your regulatory authority. Section 141 of the National Law also has further information on how to apply for a first tier review. 

Review by Ratings Review Panel (second tier review) 

'If a first tier review does not resolve your concerns, you may have grounds to seek a second tier review by a Ratings Review Panel,' Abigail said.
 
ACECQA’s Guidelines for applications for Second Tier Review step services through the process and outline the eligibility requirements. Section 144 of the National Law has more information about how to apply for a second tier review. 
 
'Do remember that for first and second tier reviews, an element, standard or the overall rating can stay the same, be downgraded or upgraded,' Abigail said.
 
'It’s also important to remember that you can’t apply for a second tier review without completing the first tier review process.'

Timeframes

If you are considering challenging your service’s rating, make sure you’re aware of the timeframes for each review process:
 
  • services and providers have 10 working days to give feedback on a draft report
  • first tier review requests must be made within 14 calendar days of receiving a final rating 
  • second tier review requests must be made within 14 calendar days of receiving the outcome of the first tier review. 
For more information on having your rating reviewed, visit the Review of Ratings page on the ACECQA website. For questions or enquiries about applying for a first tier review, please contact your regulatory authority.  

Annual fees

Under the National Law providers are required to pay an annual fee for each service approval that they hold. Annual fee invoices will be issued by email at the end of May. The invoice will be sent to the provider’s contact email address held by your regulatory authority. 
 
You can update your contact email address by submitting a ‘Notification of Change of Information about an Approved Provider’ online using the NQA ITS
 
Fees for the 2015-16 financial year are payable in full for all service approvals held by the provider regardless of any subsequent transfers or closures.
If you have any questions, please contact your regulatory authority

Victorian registration for early childhood teachers 

From 30 September 2015 all qualified early childhood teachers employed in Victorian education and care services will need to be registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching. Further information about registration as an early childhood teacher, including frequently asked questions, is available on the Institute’s website
 
You can also submit an ‘intent to register’ form to receive regular email updates.

Am I a qualified early childhood teacher?

When applying to the Victorian Institute of Teaching, you will need to provide evidence that you are a qualified early childhood teacher. 
 
For Victorian ECT registration purposes, you are a qualified early childhood teacher if you are an approved ECT under the NQF. This includes if:
 
ACECQA’s website includes lots of information and guidance to help you work out whether you are recognised as an approved ECT under the NQF. 

Getting started online with the NQA IT System 

Need some help navigating the National Quality Agenda IT (NQA IT) System? ACECQA has a new brochure to get providers and services started. The resource includes instructions on how to register an account, set up a password, link your account to your provider, submit forms and manage other users. 
 
Download and print the Getting Started Online brochure from the ACECQA website.
 
A number of improvements have also been made to the system, making it easier to change contact details for your provider, service or nominated supervisor. Plus, providers can now use the NQA IT System to attach extra supporting documentation to forms they have already submitted.
 
You can login to the NQA IT System and view the supporting video resources via the ACECQA website.

Review of the National Partnership Agreement update

The Review of the National Partnership Agreement on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care has found the NQF is generally supported by the sector, families and the community.
 
More than 1700 people attended 58 face to face consultation sessions around the country in late 2014 to give feedback on proposed options for changes to the NQF. These were outlined in a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS).
 
The community provided 113 written submissions, 106 online comments and 670 survey responses to the Consultation RIS.
 
The sector was receptive to some of the proposed changes, especially those that sought to remove unnecessary or ineffective administrative and regulatory burden, such as the removal of the supervisor certificate requirements.
 
The non-confidential written submissions are available to view on the NQF Consultation RIS website.
 
The Australian Government and state and territory governments acknowledge the contribution the sector, families and the community have made to the Review and their feedback is being considered in preparing the final recommendations. 
 
Feedback from the sector on the NQF will help governments in making decisions about what changes may be made in 2016 and beyond. The final decisions will be available once agreed by all Ministers.

Register for NSW national workshops

Places are still available for our regional workshops in Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Wollongong and Newcastle.
 
ACECQA’s national workshops on Quality Area 1 are practical, hands-on sessions where educators assess their practices and share ideas about quality improvement.
 
The sessions are led by ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone, in partnership with the NSW regulatory authority and Professional Support Co-ordinator.
 
The workshops are open to all educators but may be particularly useful for those at services with a rating of Working towards NQS, and for services that have not yet been rated.
 
Visit our Events page for further information. Details for the Queensland workshops will be available shortly. 

Tickets on sale for the Australian Family Early Education and Care Awards Gala

Join ACECQA and guests from all areas of the early education and care sector in a night of entertainment and celebration. The 2015 Early Education and Care Awards Gala will be held in Sydney in June. For more details and to purchase tickets visit the Australian Family Network website