ACECQA Newsletter Issue 11 2021

Educators and children pointing at tree branch

 

CEO foreword

With less than a month until the holiday season starts, this is a very busy time for you and your families.  It is also that time of the year when children are preparing for their next big adventure – moving to a new environment (starting at the service, changing rooms or moving to school) in the new year or, with Australia’s highly mobile population, moving to an entirely new community. As teachers and educators, we prepare children for each new stage by building their sense of identity and resilience, their connection and contribution to the world, their sense of wellbeing, their confidence in themselves as learners and their ability to communicate in a rapidly evolving world (Belonging, Being and Becoming).  

As we all know, underpinning this preparation and skills development is the critical importance of language. Children are born predisposed to the language of their family and, from birth, they learn non-verbal and verbal language rapidly, aided by eye contact and a close bond with their parents, care givers and educators. It is this language development that lays the foundation for children’s ability to make friends and connections, to have agency and to excel across physical, social, emotional, cognitive and moral domains.  

This month, we have a variety of articles touching on children’s health and wellbeing, your complex role as an effective and well-informed teacher/educator in a very essential sector of education and the work we are doing to support your professional identity and practice.  For example, just as language skills are critical for children’s holistic development, the language we use as a society is a critical reflection of public values and views. During the development of the National Workforce Strategy, it became clear that we need to do some straight talking about the early childhood education and care profession, and one key way is to change the language we see in everyday use. A high regard for teachers and educators delivering early education and outside school hours care is underpinned by the way we describe these roles: the language of ‘early education’ and 'child and young person’s development’.  We hope this article inspires your own strategies for helping families and communities truly understand what you do for their children.

On 3 December, it is International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) and we acknowledge the work of our services, teachers and educators in promoting the wellbeing and inclusion of each child.  Early next year, we will release new resources about the obligations services and their staff have under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

As always, please share articles you find interesting within your network and a reminder that we welcome any stories or ideas for high quality practice that can be used in future case studies.  In the meantime, happy preparations for the end of the year.  

Gabrielle Sinclair
ACECQA CEO


The way we are changing our language

Educators talking in office while wearing face masks

We’ve recently published Shaping our Future: A ten-year strategy to ensure a sustainable, high-quality children’s education and care workforce 2022–2031. 

This important national conversation begins with a reminder that the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration opens with a simple, powerful statement – ‘Education has the power to transform lives’. 

It also recognises the importance of the words we use to describe this powerful work: the terminology. 

There are 21 actions listed in Shaping our Future, and people who completed consultation surveys ranked their importance. The action they ranked third most important was:

FA1-5 Agree and consistently use contemporary terminology to describe the children’s education and care sector, and its workforce

It recognises that:

  • Broader community understanding and value of children’s education and care impacts the professional identity of the workforce 
  • Terms such as ‘childcare’ and ‘childminding’ reinforce outdated views about the role of early learning and diminish the professional worth of educators and teachers

It also identifies what needs to be done:

Agree and adopt contemporary, unified language to describe the children’s education and care sector 

  • Language to be considered includes ‘teachers and educators’, as well as deciding upon ‘children’s education and care’, ‘early learning and care’ or ‘early childhood education and care’. 
  • The agreed language will be used in all future national communications campaigns, government programs and projects.

We’re already taking steps to act on this, on our family focused StartingBlocks.gov.au. Families often use ‘child care’ to search the internet for services. This search takes them to our StartingBlocks.gov.au Find Child Care tool but once they arrive, we welcome them to ‘Your first step into early childhood education & care’. 

It may take a while before we see the language of “child care” change in Australia but it is important that we work together to educate, and communicate with, our communities and the public about what approved services actually provide.  It’s a great topic for your own team meetings and a conversation starter for your families.
 


Supporting children’s wellbeing and mental health

Girl in front of trees with words The National Children's Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy

The mental health and wellbeing of children is an important focus for everyone working in and supporting children’s education and care services. The challenges of natural disasters, the pandemic and associated lockdowns affect children in various ways. 

Australian children’s education and care providers and their services continue to demonstrate that they are committed to promoting the health and wellbeing of children. The ways they do this are both unique and exceptional and we’d like to share three examples with you. 

  • Bermagui Preschool, on the South Coast of NSW, has developed the Bermagui Preschool Mental Health and Wellbeing Program. The program focuses on recovery and aims to build on the service and local communities’ resilience, healing and capacity building. It offers comfort, reassurance, assistance and ongoing connection with children and adults. 
  • Clarendon Children’s Centre Co-Op, in South Melbourne in Victoria, supports the wellbeing of all staff by creating a sheltered garden space known as The Nest where educators can relax and recharge during their breaks. They also subscribe to an Employee Assistance Program and employ a Wellbeing, Inclusion and Diversity leader who plans and coordinates wellbeing activities. These support the service provider’s commitment to recognising and celebrating diversity and the creation of safe places for each child and all members of the community. 
  • Peak Sports and Learning TIGS, in Wollongong in NSW, has embedded safe and smart behaviours that promote children’s safety and wellbeing. The Peak 6 centre philosophies guide educators to plan intentional activities that inform children about their rights to a safe environment. They also empower and build children’s confidence and learning to be the best person they can be. The Peak 6 includes: 
    • We respect each other
    • We try our best
    • We are a team
    • We learn from mistakes
    • We create
    • We celebrate each other’s success. 

These child-centred, strength-based programs enable each child to develop strong relationships that support their mental health and wellbeing. We also encourage you to reflect on your own unique practices that support the mental health and wellbeing of children in your service community. 

You can find out more about how you can support the mental health and wellbeing of children in the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy


New professional development course - Developing a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP)

Yellow landing screen for elearning course

Promoting continuous improvement in the provision of quality children’s education and care is a primary objective of the National Quality Framework (NQF). Preparing, maintaining and reviewing your service’s Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) is a crucial part of this process, and is a requirement under the Education and Care Services National Regulations (the National Regulations).

To support children’s education and care service teams to self-assess their performance in delivering quality children’s education and care, and to plan future improvements, we have developed a new interactive free online professional development course on Developing a Quality Improvement Plan

The online course features a series of three eLearning modules:

Module 1: explores how the NQF and the National Quality Standard (NQS) provide a national approach to quality improvement for children’s education and care services. The module also examines self-assessment as an important first step in an effective cycle of continuous quality improvement.  

Module 2: takes an in-depth look at Quality Improvement Plans (QIPs) including: their purpose, the relevant and associated legislative requirements, what information your QIP needs to include and tips for developing and implementing your QIP. 

Module 3: ties the information explored in the first two modules together and explores ways to use self-assessment and quality improvement planning to support continuous quality improvement. The module includes useful information on planning your approach, undertaking the self-assessment process and maintaining your QIP.  

A workbook, incorporating useful tips, reflective questions and activities, accompanies the eLearning modules. 

Collectively, the resources aim to build professional confidence, capacity and knowledge in developing, reviewing and maintaining self-assessment and quality improvement planning processes. They can be used by individuals, to support learning plans and professional goals (element 7.2.3) or collectively as a team or learning community to support shared knowledge building and professional collaboration (element 4.2.1). 

Visit our website for more information on quality improvement planning and to access ACECQA’s Self-Assessment Tool and optional QIP template


Connecting with families during COVID-19

Two educators talking while outside, one wearing hi-vis vest

Our latest blog post explores how you can adapt your strategies to connect with families during COVID-19 and contains some suggested practices to support you during this time.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been reminded how valuable connection to community is to a sense of wellbeing, for children, families, and educators. 

In a recent We Hear You Blog post How have COVID-19 restrictions shaped your service’s community engagement? we spoke about why connection is important, and how COVID-19 barriers to community engagement can be meaningfully addressed. 

It’s equally as important to consider how your program and quality practices can be extended to reach children and families who are not attending your service or are having minimal contact, so that they feel connected and supported.

Read the full blog post: Connecting with families during Covid-19.


35th NQF Snapshot report shows sustained improvement in children’s education and care quality

Our 35th NQF Snapshot report, released on 4 November 2021, shows clear evidence that the continuous improvement in service quality the NQF intends to foster is taking place.

The proportion of services rated Meeting National Quality Standard (NQS) or above has risen markedly since the NQF was introduced, from 56% in 2013, to 69% in 2016, to 86% today. More than two-thirds of services rated Working Towards NQS (67%) improved their overall quality rating at reassessment.

A significant amount of regulatory work occurs outside of quality assessment and rating. The report shows state and territory regulatory authorities have undertaken more than three times as many other types of visits as assessment and rating visits since 2017.

Other types of visits include education campaigns, checking and monitoring compliance with the requirements of the NQF, investigating complaints and responding to events such as serious incidents or changes of service ownership.

The NQF Snapshot report and interactive NQF Online Snapshot include data about temporary service closures related to the impact of COVID-19 and other aspects of service regulation, such as staffing waivers.
 


Exceeding NQS case studies

Hand holding lightbulb with text below displaying the word innovation

We’ve released 15 new case studies on our Exceeding the NQS webpage. We’ve developed these in collaboration with state and territory regulatory authorities, building on the Exceeding NQS guidance released in September 2020. They offer operational examples of what high quality practice may look like in outside school hours care, family day care, and centre-based prior-to-school services. 

We’re sharing an extract from one of the case studies, with examples of high quality practice in the physical environment (Standard 3.2) in a centre-based prior-to-school service:

This purpose-built, community managed preschool/kindergarten is located in a regional town. The service team is committed to caring for the environment and to sustainable practice and this is reflected in their service philosophy, the educational program and daily practice. The service was built to face north, to take advantage of sunlight for heat and light. It uses solar panels and an Envirocycle system for the management of waste water. Rainwater tanks are used to water the well-established vegetable garden and the new flower garden, as well as being used for outdoor play and learning experiences. There is also a coop for chickens and ducks, which provides children and families with a plentiful supply of eggs and is a source of fun, excitement and learning for children throughout the day. Read the full case study

We’ll continue developing more case studies and want to make sure they are as informative and useful as possible. If you have feedback email us at casestudyfeedback@acecqa.gov.au.


Helping families find quality children’s education and care services across Australia

Our family focused website StartingBlocks.gov.au is where to find information for families about the quality standards services must meet under the National Quality Standard (NQS). 

Many families arrive on the website’s popular Find Child Care when searching for a service. We provide trusted information free of charge and all 16,500+ NQF approved children’s education and care services are there, most with NQS quality ratings.

From there, families can explore the rest of the StartingBlocks.gov.au website to find information and resources and learn about the different terms used for children’s education and care service types in Australia.

From 7 February 2022 StartingBlocks.gov.au/find-child-care will also be publishing service fees, vacancies, and inclusions. 

Encourage your families to visit StartingBlocks.gov.au now to find out about quality children’s education and care. Conversations with your families will also help build their understanding of your important work and profession.
 


Don't miss the chance to have your say on the NQA IT System

Two educators at table looking at tablets

The satisfaction survey for the NQA IT System closes on Tuesday 30 November 2021, so there is still time to provide your feedback. If you’ve received the email invitation and are yet to complete the survey, please do - we’d love to hear from you.

If you are a registered user and have not received your survey link, please email us at nqaits@acecqa.gov.au.