ACECQA Newsletter Issue 7 2022

Child climbs on horizontal ladder

 

CEO foreword 

Welcome to our July newsletter and the articles, resources and news updates that are included to promote and foster continuous quality improvement in approved education and care services. We understand how overwhelming too much information can be so we focus on current issues and topics that may be of interest to you as a provider, an educational leader, teacher, educator or co-ordinator.

This month, we continue reflections on the benefits of active play and physical movement for optimal skill development and wellbeing.

‘Creativity’ has become one of the most valuable attributes for this century and fostering creative ability in children is an essential role of effective teachers and educators. Many contemporary studies have shown that the physical environment influences creativity and, as such, it is important to understand how learning environments can be designed and used to create conditions for creativity – meaning making, problem solving, risk taking, imagination and resilience. There is evidence that shows the creative process does not take place ‘in the mind’ but played out in the physical and social world in environments where possibilities are ‘open-ended’ (wide variety of affordances). So opportunities, including in the natural environment, for playful and exploratory contexts where children can engage with resources, ask questions, collaborate and be supported in discovering and creating something new are vital. Our article on outdoor play and the special resources from Playground Ideas may be of interest.   

Other interesting and innovative ideas are also shared including our article showcasing a service that has been awarded the Excellent rating for the third time. To be awarded the Excellent rating, services must demonstrate commitment to continuous improvement and sustained exceptional practice. To be re-awarded the rating, services must go further in evidencing how exceptional programs, practices and policies have been adapted to address the changing needs and interests of their children, families and communities. Of particular interest is the service’s innovative program to build children’s skills in managing first aid situations. Similar first aid training programs developed for children overseas have shown a reduction in serious accidents as children identify and capably manage their own risks.

August is another very busy month with a number of interesting events including National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day and National Science Week. We are pleased to share free, high quality resources from reputable organisations to help you and your teams to plan for, and celebrate, these special events with your children, families and communities.

We hope our articles inspire and help you in your essential role for children’s development and education.

Gabrielle Sinclair

ACECQA CEO


child rides bike

Supporting active play through innovative outdoor environments 

Outdoor learning environments provide children with rich opportunities to explore, discover and appreciate their natural world. They enable children to be active, to strengthen fine and fundamental motor skills, test physical limits, problem solve and get messy.

Emerging global evidence suggests that environmental factors—such as space, playground design, access to natural environments and availability of appropriate  equipment and resources—influence children’s levels of physical activity and opportunities for challenging, active play. Importantly, quality outdoor learning environments, coupled with quality levels of engagement and interaction between educators and children, have the potential to promote children’s motivation, confidence and competence in being physically active. These establish behaviours that promote health, confidence and wellbeing and, in turn, influence children’s learning and development.

Many services use their local bush and beach outdoor environments to extend children’s learning and development, and to foster an appreciation and care of the natural environment. For example, Excellent rated service, Bribie Island Community Kindergarten is committed to caring for and learning on Country of the Gubbi Gubbi and Joondoburri People. Each week the children are invited to choose whether they would like to experience a bush, beach or combined program to explore and to build their knowledge and cultural connection with local Aboriginal sites. 

Bribie Island Community Kindergarten acknowledges and pays its respect to the Joondoburri People of Gubbi Gubbi Nation, the traditional custodians of the land on which the kindergarten is placed. The service honours the Gubbi Gubbi and Joondoburri People as the first people who lovingly cared for the land and pays respects to elders past, present and emerging.

Intentionality in the provision of outdoor environments and the opportunities they provide for children’s active engagement in physical activity, is important. Data compiled for the 2022 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People has found only a quarter of Australian children and young people were meeting national guidelines for their age, resulting in a D-grade for overall physical activity. Additionally, grades in the 2022 report card signify a general lack of improvement in Australia’s physical activity benchmarks since the Report Card initiative began in 2014. With physical activity a key building block for a healthy life, the report card provides a catalyst for education and care services to commit to the right of children to active play. Further, it should create momentum and inspire professional conversations, foster critical inquiry and elicit action to improve children’s physical health and wellbeing outcomes.

We know that quality outdoor learning environments matter. The way that environments are designed, equipped and organised determine space and resource use and the level of children’s engagement, social interactions and positive experience. Children are more likely to enjoy and engage in environments that are flexible, where equipment is open-ended,  can function in multiple ways and be part of children’s imagination, and where active play and appropriate risk taking is supported. With the physical environment directly effecting the quality and quantity of children’s active play, education and care services therefore have an important role in planning innovative spaces and scaffolding experiences. 

The design of quality active play environments can creatively use existing space, materials and resources. Playground Ideas, an Australian non-profit organisation, provides free access to over 150 do-it-yourself playground designs made from local, low cost and recycled materials as well as training and support via ‘how to’ guides. They may inspire action to innovate and also spark thinking about the incorporation of sustainable and environmentally responsible resources in playground design.


Educators look at folder and discuss

The Quality Support Program

The Quality Support Program was established in 2018 in partnership with the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education to support continuous quality improvement for services rated Working Towards NQS.

The Quality Support Program has successfully supported more than 600 services who volunteered to join the Program to improve their quality rating for more than 33,700 children.

The results have been impressive. Participating centre-based services were three times more likely to achieve Meeting NQS or above than no-participating services, with 97 per cent of centre-based services improving in the number of NQS elements met, averaging an increase in 11 elements met.

Additionally, the Program’s proven effective and high quality resources are freely available to all services throughout Australia.

Feedback from services most recently participating in the QSP included comments such as:

“We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in the program. It really opened our mind and thought process to how we already include things we thought we didn't. Morale has certainly been lifted within the service and a clear path established.”

“I am absolutely blown away with the clarity and ease this Quality Support Program has given to me. At a first glance when extending my duties at [our service] it was quite daunting looking through all the procedures, policies, regulations, framework, etc. However now to be guided throughout the above mentioned, we can take step by step and reflect on what we are currently achieving and being able to document the children's experiences and the learning outcomes that they correspond with. Cannot recommend this program enough.”


Dual Program Pathways

Building on the success of the Quality Support Program, the Dual Program Pathways has been introduced for eligible services in NSW rated as Working Towards NQS or with identified compliance support needs.

A continuation of the NSW Department of Education commitment to high quality ECEC services, the Dual Program Pathways is delivered by ACECQA in two streams:

  • The Quality Support Pathway is a 14-week program supporting eligible NSW services. We work alongside service leaders to support the service to meet or exceed the NQS and we are seeking expressions of interest from services that wish to participate.
     
  • The Compliance Support Pathway is a six-week program supporting eligible NSW services with identified compliance support needs. This pathway is by direct referral by the NSW Department of Education only.

For more information about the new Dual Program Pathways or to express interest in participating in the Quality Support Pathway, visit the ACECQA website.


Milton Lodge children and educators

Milford Lodge achieves Excellent rating

Milford Lodge Child Care Centre has been re-awarded the Excellent rating. This is the third time the Sunshine Coast-based service has achieved the rating, now holding it continuously since June 2016.

The long day care service has been recognised for its collaborative partnerships with community and professional organisations, and its innovative education programs. Exceptional programs introduced at Milford Lodge Child Care Centre (MLCCC) include theoretical and practical first aid training for children; an ongoing student trainee program; and an intergenerational program involving local community members.

The service’s first aid training involves children role playing situations that require calling an ambulance, giving the correct location and treating snake bites.

MLCCC has connected with an in-home care client who is a retired preschool teacher. The client plans, facilitates and reviews art and craft experiences for the children at MLCCC as well as for fellow in-home care clients.

The service also regularly supports higher education learning through its student trainee program in which students attend the service once a week while completing their studies. Students are able to build confidence, skills and relationships to become a valuable member of the team. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the school-based trainees and vocational students provided invaluable support to the service team.

Read more about Milford Lodge Child Care Centre’s Excellent rating on the ACECQA website.


'love your teeth' Dental Health Week logo

Dental Health Week

Despite being largely preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood illness in Australia. Dental health statistics show that one in four children aged five to 10 have untreated decay in their baby teeth.

Dental Health Week runs from Monday 1 to Sunday 7 August and is a great time to ‘brush up’ on oral hygiene knowledge and practices.

The Australian Dental Association has put together a 2022 Dental Health Week Resource Kit and 2022 Dental Health Week Indigenous Artwork pack, which includes posters, graphics, colouring-ins and a slideshow presentation explaining the four steps for good oral health.

You can also access a free early childhood e-book, Guardians of the Gums, on the Australian Dental Association’s teeth.org.au website.


National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day logo

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day is on 4 August and is an opportunity to show support and learn about the crucial role that culture, family and community play in the lives of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child.

Children’s Day was established in 1988 to celebrate and grow the confidence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The day was also used to communally celebrate the birthdays of children in the Stolen Generations, who were taken from their families without knowing their birthday.

This year’s theme is ‘My Dreaming, My Future’ and asks children what Dreaming means to them, how they interpret Dreaming in their lives and identity, and hearing their aspirations for the future.

For more information, posters, activities and videos, visit the Children’s Day website.


child with magnifying glass

National Science Week 

There are lots of ways to get involved in National Science Week, held from Saturday 13 to Sunday 21 August. National Science Week is a collection of events that, together, make up one of Australia’s largest festivals.

Young children are naturally inquisitive and science education plays an important role in helping them to analyse, problem solve and understand the world around them.

The 2022 National Science Week schools theme is ‘Glass: more than meets the eye’ and is the focus of a teacher resource book that includes scientific activities for all age levels.

Find an event to join or register your own event on the Science Week website.


Young child plays outdoors

StartingBlocks.gov.au digital campaign

Across July and August, we’re rolling out a digital campaign to communicate and engage with families and communities. The campaign raises awareness of the StartingBlocks.gov.au website and the benefits of quality early learning.

Our family-focused Startingblocks.gov.au website provides resources that explain the NQF and NQS in plain English for families. Many teachers, educators and approved providers are using these resources to support their conversations with the families about their roles and their services.

The high-quality, engaging campaign is running across our digital and social channels, creating interest in StartingBlocks.gov.au and driving traffic to the Find Child Care tool on our website.

To check out the campaign, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or like us on Instagram.


Children sit around table with educator

COVID-19 support extended for ECEC

The Australian Government Department of Education has announced an extension to COVID-19 support measures for the early childhood education and care sector until 30 June 2023:

  • Families will get 52 allowable absences for the 2022-23 financial year. These absences will be applied automatically in the Child Care Subsidy System. Families do not need to take action.
  • Families can use evidence of a positive COVID-19 test from a government agency to access additional absences. Additional absences are only available after a child has used their 52 allowable absences.
  • CCS may be paid for absences that occur in the seven days before a child’s first day of care, or after their last day of care, if the child or a member of their immediate household must isolate with COVID-19. This is known as the absences before and after care rule.
  • Services may waive the gap fee if a child is unable to attend care for one of three reasons:
    • the child, or a member of their immediate household, must isolate with COVID-19
    • the child is at a higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19
    • the service, or a room at the service, is closed due to COVID-19.

 Waiving the gap fee is a business decision and is up to individual services. It is not mandatory.

Read more about COVID-19 support on the Department of Education website.


child washing hands

StartingBlocks.gov.au: Practising good hygiene

Well before COVID, practising good hygiene at services has always been fundamental to reducing the spread of infection and helping children to form positive lifelong hygiene habits.

As important role models, teachers and educators, you can support and reinforce hygiene habits throughout the entire program of play, as well as at mealtimes and toileting.

It’s also important that your service has appropriate policies and procedures for dealing with infectious diseases, to help protect staff, children, families and the wider community.

For more information on hygiene at education and care services, including strategies you can use to maintain and improve practices, read the article on StartingBlocks.gov.au.

Guidance setting out the main components to be included in your ‘dealing with infectious diseases’ policies and procedures can also be found on the ACECQA website.