Taking parents along for the NQF journey

This month we are featuring a guest post by Emma King, CEO of Kindergarten Parents Victoria (KPV). In this post, Emma discusses the unique circumstances KPV faced to support both early childhood professionals and parent volunteers to implement the NQF. The article examines how this peak organisation is working with more than 200,000 children and their families, to keep them informed of changes under the NQF.

The implementation of the National Quality Framework at the start of this year was a great cause for celebration in the early childhood education and care community. The new framework, by putting quality at the centre of everything we do, is a long overdue recognition of the role our early childhood educators play in setting children up for lifelong learning. It recognises that quality early childhood education and care is a game-changer - that it can help children overcome disadvantage and consolidate the positives.

At Kindergarten Parents Victoria, we are enthusiastic advocates for the NQF, which we believe sets Australia on a path to delivering the highest quality early childhood education and care services. Parents are passionate about the quality of their child’s education.  In Victoria, this passion is demonstrated by our unique early childhood management models, where kindergartens are run primarily by volunteer parent committees or Kindergarten Cluster Managers. Close to 50 per cent all kindergartens in Victoria are run by independent standalone kindergartens and managed by volunteer parent committees.

These parents are responsible for the complete operations of their services, from establishing the philosophy and values of the service to appointing staff and directors and making all financial decisions. Parents volunteer to take on these roles because they understand the value of a quality early childhood education.  The majority also understand that the NQF will help create a better early childhood education system for their children.  However, there is some anxiety about the NQF and what it will mean for the ongoing management of kindergartens. While many of the parents on kindergarten committees are well educated, enthusiastic and accomplished in many areas of professional and community life, they are rarely professional early childhood educators.

The majority of Kindergarten Cluster Managers are Not for Profit organisations or run by local government and are driven by a strong sense of community and collaboration.  While the engagement of parents may vary, they also play an important role within this early childhood management model. The National Quality Framework – with a new national law, regulations and National Quality Standards (which in itself contains seven quality areas, 18 standards and 58 elements), a new assessment and ratings system, regulatory authorities for each state and territory and the establishment of ACECQA – can seem overwhelming to someone from outside the sector. At KPV, our advisory team takes more than 13,000 calls annually from members about kindergarten management and governance issues. 

In the past 18 months or so those calls have increasingly been about the NQF, and this has intensified recently with the start of the assessment and ratings process. At KPV, there has been strong demand from members for our NQF information sessions and workshops. Our PolicyWorks Manual – NQF, which helps services develop policies to meet the requirements of the NQF – has also been extremely popular. We were also fortunate to receive funding in the recent Victorian state budget to continue to support services to comply with the NQF.

But this support is needed not only by our standalone parent committees, but also by our cluster managers who need help and advice and about how to best engage their parent communities as part of the NQF process. There are some great sources of information on the NQF. At our recent Early Childhood Education Conference – Together We Grow, esteemed educator Bridie Raban urged the assembled crowd of early childhood professionals to treat the ACECQA website as their ‘Bible’. 

However, there is also a need for practical on-the-ground support for services, particularly those managed by a volunteer parent committee of management. At KPV, we are excited about the many opportunities presented by the NQF and our role in supporting parents and services and enabling them to make the most of the quality reforms.  Because regardless of how a service is managed, it is vital that parents are part of the NQF journey.

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