ACECQA Newsletter Issue 6 2020

Girl plaiyng with wooden house

 

CEO foreword

Here at ACECQA, we are committed to supporting safe, quality education and care for children and helping providers to provide equally safe workplaces for educators and staff.  

During the past few months, we have been working with the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments to identify the resources and services which are most needed, and develop new ones to address the challenges faced by services operating in diverse communities.

We have worked with the nine governments of Australia to consolidate and bring you reliable and up to date sources of information. The Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) is a central source for information about the relief package and transitional arrangements:

As we continue to plan for recovery and the ‘new normal’, the high quality of education and care is our sector’s contribution to the nation’s future. Seeing children thriving in quality services confirms the underlying principle of the National Quality Framework (NQF) – quality is a collective aspiration and responsibility.

Earlier this year, we shared our quality early learning videos showcasing the success of the NQF across Australia. We are delighted to share another one in this newsletter and will continue to release others in coming months.

Quality early learning helps children to be the best they can be.

This month, we are also pleased to share stories of reflection and continuous quality improvement, links to resources that may guide you and updates about the enhancements we have made to the NQA IT System.

We have reflections from an Excellent rated service on its operational changes during the recent COVID-19 lockdown. The service’s understanding of its children and families, its leadership and focus on the continuity of children’s development and education, and the challenges of keeping connected while closed may be a source of inspiration for you.

Our latest occasional paper shares new research findings on the importance of accessing high quality experiences in early childhood for all children in every community.

We hope you find the following articles interesting. We wish you and your families the best of health and wellbeing.

Gabrielle Sinclair

ACECQA CEO


Critical reflection: recovery, vision and hope

Child looking at stone through magnifying glass

As communities start to navigate out of COVID-19 restrictions, you might be thinking about what can be learnt from this experience. Critical reflection is an everyday education and care sector tool to help think about what has happened, support the road to recovery and apply learnings to shape the future. 

Critical reflection is about examining all aspects of events and experiences from different perspectives (Early Years Learning Framework p.13, Framework for School Age Care, p.12). It is an effective tool that informs ongoing positive changes to professional practice. You might like to take some time to reflect on what has happened, and may still be happening, at your service.

Educators and service leaders have shown dedication, resilience and a commitment to continuing to deliver quality education and care to support children and their families. Individuals and teams have adapted by introducing new and strengthening current practices that protect the health, safety and wellbeing of children, families and service staff.

As a result, we have seen growing community and media acknowledgement of the importance and value of high quality education and care for children, families and Australian society.

Tell your own story

A lot has happened, often very quickly, and everyone has their own story to tell. As a team or as an individual, you might like to critically reflect on the following:

  • How has the COVID-19 crisis strengthened you or the team’s resilience and flexibility?
  • How did your service respond to the challenges of the evolving and often constant level of information and advice?
  • What has been the biggest change to your practice?
  • How did your health and hygiene practices change, and what will you take away from these changes?
  • What is your service's strategy to ensure policies and procedures are reviewed and updated to reflect new advice from reputable authorities such as federal, state and territory health departments?
  • What strategies were implemented to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone at your service?
  • What initiatives provided the greatest benefits?
  • What new practices and strategies will you continue?

Considering, celebrating and keeping track of the positive outcomes and learnings is a key part of your ongoing self-assessment or quality improvement planning cycle. Tracking how you approach and address challenges is particularly useful.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges, as well as presenting opportunities. There are stories of inspiring leadership and amazing work undertaken by educators and service leaders in the education and care sector that are important to share. Examples include delivering learning and play opportunities online, creating care packages for families, and keeping services open to support essential service workers.

Resources to support your ongoing learning 


Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package and Transition Arrangements

Child's hands with alphabet mat

The Australian Government has announced an extension of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package (Relief Package) and a plan to return to Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) payments. The announcement reflects the results of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s Four Week Review and sector-wide consultations regarding the impact of the Relief Package.

CCS and ACCS will recommence from 13 July 2020, along with a relaxed activity test for families and a new Transition Payment for providers. These arrangements mean that, from 13 July 2020, parents will return to making their co-contribution to child care fees.

Families who have had their hours of activity reduced because of COVID-19 will have access to up to 100 hours of subsidised child care per fortnight up until 4 October. To access this, families will need to update their activity levels with Services Australia. This can be done through their Centrelink online account through myGov or the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app.

In addition to CCS, the Australian Government will provide a Transition Payment to all approved providers that previously received CCS and new providers that were approved during the Relief Package period. The same arrangements will apply to privately run services, those providers operated by state, territory and local governments, and not for profit providers.

Transition Payments are 25 per cent of providers’ fee revenue or the existing hourly rate cap, whichever is lower, in the relevant reference period. This is the same reference period that has been used during the Relief Package and, for most services, will be for the period 17 February to 1 March.

Transition Payments will be made for the period 13 July 2020 to 27 September 2020. To receive the payment, services must continue to employ those employees over the transition period who were working or being paid JobKeeper at the end of the Relief Package, and cap fees to the level in the relevant reference period. 

JobKeeper will cease from 20 July 2020 for employees of a CCS-approved service and for sole traders operating a child care service and for JobKeeper eligible business participants (including sole traders) operating a child care service.

For up to date information regarding these changes, you can visit the Department of Education Skills and Employment webpage or the Early Childhood Education and Care COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions.

You can also subscribe to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s early childhood education and care email newsletter.


NQA IT System enhancements to emergency reporting

Two educators looking at a computer

We have recently enhanced the NQA IT System to allow for categorisation of health-related information for incident notifications. This includes functionality to specify COVID-19 as the reason for emergency responses in the following areas:

  • closure and re-opening of services
  • reduction of numbers as well as the attendance of additional children
  • circumstances posing a risk to the safety, health and wellbeing of children.

Functionality to categorise emergency management information for COVID-19 for waivers, suspensions and change of operating hours notifications has also been developed.

The StartingBlocks.gov.au Find Child Care Tool publishes information about services that are open and operating, while our national registers continue to display the complete national list of approved services.​


Innovation

Two children looking at laptop

Mentoring families through home learning

As the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Australia, children’s attendance at John Brotchie Nursery School dropped dramatically. The Excellent rated service quickly adapted its methods of supporting children and families by adding innovative online learning practices.

Educators and teachers developed virtual educational experiences to embed their play-based learning philosophy in each child’s home learning environment as quickly as possible. Demonstration videos were developed for families, featuring teaching strategies for parents and carers and tips and tricks for everyone. These helped families implement the experiences at home.

It was important to the educators and teachers that families and children had access to quality resources. The service created a contact-free resource exchange library to support home learning. Families chose books, toys and play equipment to borrow for their children. This encouraged and strengthened families’ and children’s home learning experiences.

Educators regularly contacted each family via phone to support their wellbeing. They asked families about their child’s learning progress and sought their views on future virtual learning experiences. Educators then provided an analysis of the child’s learning to help families extend the experience and scaffold learning and development.

By maintaining regular contact with each family, each child’s learning experiences were based on their interests, strengths and the family’s needs. 

Children were encouraged to provide educators and teachers with feedback about the program. Children asked for preschool routines and experiences to be recorded and shared. Educators and teachers recorded the morning routine, Acknowledgement of Country and book readings to the children. Children, educators, teachers and families remained connected through these online experiences.

More information about Excellent rated services and examples of exceptional and innovative practices are available on the ACECQA website.  


Research

Meeting NQS logo held in hand

Our latest occasional paper highlights variation in quality ratings across socio-economic status areas

We have published our seventh occasional paper, analysing children’s education and care service quality ratings by the socio-economic status of the area in which they are situated.

Equity, inclusion and diversity are guiding principles of the National Quality Framework. Children from more disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be developmentally vulnerable, and there is strong evidence that they receive the greatest benefits from attending high quality education and care.

The paper highlights that there are differences in the quality ratings of education and care services in high and low socio-economic status areas. Services in disadvantaged areas are slightly more likely to be rated Working Towards National Quality Standard (NQS), and notably less likely to be rated Exceeding NQS.

It also identifies that services in disadvantaged areas often find Quality Area 1 (Educational program and practice), Quality Area 4 (Staffing arrangements), and Quality Area 7 (Governance and leadership) challenging.

All seven of our occasional papers are available on our Research and Reports page.


Starting Blocks

Educator and child playing guitar

Quality early learning videos

Earlier this year, our family focused StartingBlocks.gov.au started releasing quality early learning videos for families about the importance and benefits of early childhood education and quality early learning.

The videos feature the authentic and diverse voices and contributions of children, families, teachers and educators in services across Australia. They highlight unique and inspiring experiences, the development of supportive relationships, and the opportunities for children’s learning and development that are unique to quality early learning services and settings.

We paused the release of these videos in March and focused our communications on providing COVID-19 related information and resources to help families and services. As planning for a recovery phase begins, we are also preparing to recommence broader communications, including these videos.  

StartingBlocks.gov.au has released a new video this month that shows how quality early learning and positive relationships can help children be the best they can be.

In high quality services, teachers and educators build positive and respectful relationships with children, and support them to build and maintain relationships with other children. Educators who are interested in what children do, think and feel, help to support their wellbeing, learning and development.

Visit the website to watch more videos.


More news and resources

Desk arrangement with colourful pencils

NSW Education Standards Authority’s newsletter

New information is available for early childhood teachers and sector stakeholders in NSW.

The NSW Education Standards Authority newsletter My Accreditation is available online and has useful information on:

  • working towards Proficient Teacher accreditation
  • maintaining Proficient Teacher accreditation professional development.

You can subscribe to My Accreditation on the NESA website.


QLD Health’s COVID-19 Unmasked survey

Australian researchers have begun the COVID-19 Unmasked survey to learn how the pandemic is affecting young children, their parents, carers and broader family life.

The research team includes infant and child psychologists and psychiatrists from the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health and Children’s Health Queensland, and researchers from several Australian universities. This project will help build a picture of how COVID-19 and other recent disruptive events have affected young children, their parents, and family life.

The research team is seeking caregivers of children aged 1–5 years from across Australia able to complete an anonymous online survey four times over the next year. Each survey takes about 20 minutes to complete. Participation is completely voluntary and participants can choose to stop at any time. Find out more about the study.


NSW Department of Education’s new Future EDge publication

The NSW Department of Education has released a new quarterly publication called Future EDge. It features advice and strategies from leading educators and internationally renowned researchers on ways to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. Find out more and read the first issue.