ACECQA Newsletter Issue 5 2021
Welcome to our May edition with this month’s focus on our shared journey of quality improvement. It is ‘shared’ because we too strive to improve our programs, resources and services, learning about your needs through, for example, our meetings with peak bodies and associations, questions to our Enquiries service, advice through surveys, and in applications for second tier reviews and the Excellent rating.
When I speak with providers, teachers and educators, I am always impressed by their commitment to giving children the best possible experience at the service and, through their families, continuity of learning in the home. While commitment to children’s and students’ learning may be common across the education sector, Early Childhood Education and Care is notable for its dedication to national continuous improvement (independently rated and transparently publicised).
It is this strong dedication that attracts and inspires people to search for information, to connect with the latest research, to participate in team and network opportunities, to generously share skills and experiences, and to become active members of peak bodies/professional associations.
Unsurprisingly, evidence about quality practice places the teacher and educator as an essential element for a child’s development in all domains, with four critical ‘characteristics’: qualifications, consistency, relationship with the family/community, and relationship/interaction with the child.
We will expand on these characteristics over the next few months, beginning this month with a great story about how teachers and educators worked with their families and community to create an exceptional service for their children. This newsletter is designed to support your quality journey with up to date sector information and the latest research, and to support deep and reflective conversations in your teams and networks. Please share with others if you find the following articles helpful.
Thank you to all who have already engaged with this month’s consultation on a new national workforce strategy for the children’s education and care sector.
This national workforce strategy will improve the supply and retention of educators and teachers in all service types and so diverse perspectives and ideas are important. The online feedback survey is closing on Monday 31 May so please take time to comment.
For more detail, and to read the consultation document and complete the online survey, visit the National Workforce Strategy webpage.
Inherent in the National Quality Framework (NQF) is the guiding principle that best practice is expected in the provision of education and care services. A commitment to continuous improvement underpins this principle.
The NQF does not prescribe what ‘best practice’ must look like. Drawing on a well-researched knowledge base about how children develop and the components of quality in education and care, educators and teachers are able to plan, develop and deliver programs and practices appropriate to the unique and changing needs of children and their families (Guide to the NQF, p. 11).
Creating a lively culture of professional inquiry demonstrates that the provider, leadership team, teachers and educators have committed to continuous improvement. In this setting, staff members can raise and debate issues including program quality, environment design, inclusion and equity, children’s wellbeing and working with families (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 13; Framework for School Age Care, p. 12).
Establishing and maintaining a culture of performance through ongoing reflection and self-review offers opportunities for innovation, inspires self-motivation and supports positive levels of staff satisfaction. Understanding what is expected, why, and how provides the basis for ongoing discussions about practice, how the impact is measured, and targeted planning for staff professional development.
Your ongoing self-assessment against the National Quality Standard (NQS) drives continuous improvement and is essential to providing quality outcomes for children. The ongoing cycle of self-assessment, planning and review, together with engagement with stakeholders including families, creates a culture committed to continuous improvement at the service.
Maybe consider and share these questions at your next team meeting:
- To what extent does your statement of philosophy reflect your service’s purpose, guide your practice and show a commitment to continuous improvement?
- How do your performance management processes support continuous improvement?
- How do teachers and educators demonstrate self-awareness of the theoretical perspectives that influence their pedagogy and the practice across the service?
- How do staff show that they are committed to continuous improvement to improve outcomes for every child?
The Education and Care Services National Regulations set the fees for children’s education and care services under the National Quality Framework, and these are indexed annually.
Fees fall into two categories:
- the annual service fee, which applies to all approved services
- transaction fees, which are individual fees that apply to specific transactions.
Annual fee invoices for the 2021-22 financial year will be emailed to service providers in late May/early June. You can use the National Quality Agenda IT System to check and update the contact email address that is recorded for your provider.
The fee is payable in full for all service approvals held by the provider regardless of any subsequent transfers, suspensions, or closures. All fees are collected by state and territory regulatory authorities and help administer the NQF.
Please contact your regulatory authority if you have questions or would like more information.
Australia’s reputation for high quality children’s education and care continues to grow. Our latest quarterly National Quality Framework Snapshot finds the proportion of services rated Meeting National Quality Standard (NQS) or above has increased to 85%.
The report demonstrates that ongoing quality improvement is happening across Australia. The assessment and rating system is not designed as a pass-fail system but sets a high bar for services to encourage them to continuously improve their practice. This report shows that this is happening and these improvements are delivering positive outcomes for children and families.
As at 31 March 2021, 12,925 services are rated Meeting NQS or above, with 30% rated Exceeding NQS or above. More than 12,000 quality rating reassessments have also taken place, with almost half of these being for services rated Working Towards NQS. Of these services, 67% improved their overall quality rating at their next assessment.
Our NQF Snapshot provides analysis and information on the profile of the children’s education and care sector, the quality ratings of services, and the distribution of ratings by service type, provider management type and geographic location. The Snapshot and interactive Online Snapshot also include data about temporary service closures related to the impact of COVID-19 and other aspects of service regulation.
The learning outcomes of the approved learning frameworks acknowledge that children should have opportunities to connect with, and contribute to, their world. Children’s sense of identity develops through connections with their family, community, culture and environment.
Also, the National Quality Standard (NQS) encourages respectful, supportive, collaborative relationships with families and communities. Quality Area 6 – Collaborative partnerships with families and communities focuses on educators, families and communities uniting around a shared vision for children and working together to achieve optimal outcomes for children.
Indooroopilly Montessori Children’s House (IMCH) has recently been re-awarded the Excellent rating for the second time. Among their achievements, they were recognised for their collaborative partnerships with professional, community and research organisations.
The service funds a qualified early childhood educator to work with the children of young mothers attending a local co-educational learning community centre. This initiative included fundraising to update the family room of the community centre to help young mothers feel a sense of pride in their learning environment. They also contributed to the upgrade of the community centre’s outdoor play space, used by the children and mothers, through fundraising. At the end of each year, IMCH children, families and staff donate food items and Christmas gift hampers to the young mothers and their children.
They have partnered with SolarBuddy, a registered Australian charity dedicated to educating and empowering the next generation of global citizens. This STEM-based partnership involves children:
- building small solar-powered lights, donated by families and shipped to preschool children in Timor-Leste, Africa or Papua New Guinea
- practising and improving their fine motor, problem-solving and cooperation skills as they build the solar lights
- writing letters to their overseas solar buddies, which are sent with the solar lights.
IMCH is an important advocate in promoting the children’s education and care sector, not only in Australia but globally, ensuring their positive impact reaches beyond the children and families who access their service.
Developing an understanding of how the NQF guides the ways educators and teachers work and interact with children can be valuable for parents and families.
This understanding can also help parents and families to see the importance of building and sustaining collaborative partnerships with their child’s teacher/educator to enhance their inclusion, learning and wellbeing (Standard 6.2 of the NQS).
StartingBlocks.gov.au’s factsheet explains the NQF for parents and families using plain English, making it easy to understand. Please share it with your families and communities.