ACECQA Newsletter Issue 1 2020

Two children and an Educator looking at a potted tree together

 

ACECQA CEO Foreword

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2020 and a new year for our nearly 17,000 services and more than 1.7 million children attending an approved service.

With the catastrophic events of the last few months, our thoughts are with the staff, children and families of fire affected communities. Governments at the federal, state and local levels have been meeting with peak bodies and stakeholders to understand how to best support services and families affected by the bush fires. In this newsletter, we have the latest news about this support.

Through this distressing time, the wellbeing of children and adults has been very much a subject of concern and increased public investment. 

The safety, health and wellbeing of children is paramount as the first objective of the National Quality Framework, and always a priority. We also know through world-wide studies that teachers and educators are at their best and most effective (what we call ‘process quality’) when their workplace is supporting their wellbeing as well as their professional practice. High quality services attract and retain committed and capable staff when they provide a positive culture and recognise and respect experience and diversity of skills. Actively encouraging and enabling in-service professional development are part of every provider’s leadership role and an acknowledgment that children thrive in services with happy, experienced and consistent staff.    

It is timely that the Productivity Commission is conducting an inquiry into improving mental health in Australia. In particular, the Commission is looking into improving mental health to support economic participation and enhancing productivity and economic growth. ACECQA made a submission in response to the Commission’s draft report, with a focus on the important role that children’s education and care services and educators perform, and can continue to support children’s social and emotional development.

An exciting project we are undertaking in 2020 is an exploration into the terminology used within the sector and by families. We think 2020 is the time to assess how terminology can support a stronger discourse about the importance of early learning and Outside School Hours Care, and the professional status of teachers and educators in Australia.

It is also clear from some comments on recent social media that we need to do more communication about the different roles of Regulatory Authorities and ACECQA. Despite nine years of the National Quality Framework (NQF), there remains confusion about who does what.  

ACECQA is an independent national authority reporting to the nine Ministers on the Education Council.  Our role includes the assessment of individual and organisation qualifications, awarding the Excellent rating, training Authorised Officers on assessment and rating, undertaking second tier reviews of quality ratings, and monitoring the administration of the NQF through the publication of resources and reports based on national data. You can find out more about quality improvements in the sector in our Annual Performance Report. Regulatory Authorities undertake other functions including assessment and rating of services, approvals, waivers and compliance monitoring.

At this time of the year, services are welcoming their children many of whom will be attending early learning for the first time.  We hope you will share StartingBlocks.gov.au with parents and families.  It is our website for families and is full of free evidenced-based and reliable information.

Our Newsletter is published 12 times each year and, in 2020, we will be adding some new monthly features:

  • Research - a look at interesting, high quality research covering what’s new and what’s relevant to developments in the sector
  • Innovation – examples of exceptional practice, developments in technology and ways to boost innovation in your service
  • StartingBlocks.gov.au – what’s new on our website for families and relevant resources to share

Support for bushfire-declared communities from the Australian Government

Three children holding hands

On 17 January 2020, the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, announced a range of measures to support families in bushfire-declared communities. This includes additional mental health support and additional support for early childhood education and care.

On 15 January 2020, the Prime Minister also announced that families will receive an extra $400 for each child aged under 16 that is eligible for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.
 
For more information on these new assistance measures visit: education.gov.au/support-bushfire-affected-communities.

Updated emergency and natural disasters assistance webpage

The Australian Department of Education recently launched an emergency and natural disasters assistance webpage. The Department will continue to add further information and resources as it becomes available.

The emergency and natural disasters assistance webpage includes useful information and links on relevant topics, including:

  • what is a local emergency
  • assistance for providers and services
  • reporting requirements and additional absences
  • mental health support
  • air quality
  • service closures, and
  • assistance for families

Guide to the NQF update

Paints and water tub with paintbrushes

As previously advised in the ACECQA Newsletter, this year the National Regulations have brought in new staffing requirements.

The provision of the National Regulations that requires centre-based services to have a second early childhood teacher (ECT), or another ‘suitably qualified person in attendance when 60 or more children preschool age or under are being educated and cared for on any given day is now in effect.  This requirement (see Regulations 133 and 134) applies in all states and territories except NSW, as it already has stronger minimum requirements for ECTs (refer to regulation 272).  This table lists all the changes to the National Regulations in a print-friendly PDF.

Minor changes to the National Regulations ensure Regulations 133 and 134 operate as intended, as well as extend a number of transitional workforce provisions to address the ongoing challenges faced by the children’s education and care sector in building a highly skilled workforce, particularly in rural and remote areas.

We've updated the Guide to the National Quality Framework (NQF) for these and other minor changes. 

The consolidated National Regulations are now available online.

We value your feedback and if you have any questions please email enquiries@acecqa.gov.au.


Professional development, let the journey continue!

Three female educators looking at a file together

As services begin the New Year and welcome children and families for 2020, we understand it is also an important time to plan for the professional development of service staff for the year.

When teachers, educators and other service staff are provided with opportunities to improve their knowledge, strengths, capabilities and skills, it encourages and contributes to quality education and care practices delivered to children and families. Engaging and relevant professional development opportunities have the potential to motivate individuals and teams to learn and develop as professionals.

The importance of creating and reviewing performance and development plans for staff is reflected in the National Quality Standard (NQS). Quality Area 7 focuses on the governance and leadership practices that support the operation of a quality education and care service, which build and promote a positive organisational culture and professional learning community. Element 7.2.3 of the NQS requires educators', co-ordinators' and staff members’ performance to be regularly evaluated and individual plans in place to support learning and development.

When developing or reviewing performance plans, you may like to consider the opportunities this presents to:

  • develop professional knowledge, skills and practices
  • support creativity, imagination, innovation and continuous quality improvement
  • help build an understanding of the influence of theories and beliefs on practice and,
  • support team members to stay informed of current policies, practice and thinking (for example changes occurring through recognised authorities, such as Red Nose).

Keeping in mind the many different ways people learn best, we have a range of free interactive resources, including our Quest for Quality series and Kahoot! Quizzes, and videos that you can use or watch individually or as a team. We’ve also created Information Sheets and Quality Area Introductions to guide teams through their professional development of the seven NQS quality areas.

A fun and engaging way to encourage professional development and build knowledge on various aspects of the NQS is by using our Quest for Quality cards at team meetings. Challenge the team to an activity, discussion or scenario at your next team meeting! For example, it may be timely to discuss:

Image of quality area 7 discussion point card

To stay up to date on emerging trends and issues to guide the continuous quality practices of staff, sign up for our monthly ACECQA newsletter and hear from National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone, on our We Hear You Blog.


NQF Annual Performance Report 2019

Cover of Annual Performance Report 2019

We have released our third NQF Annual Performance Report.

With around one million families accessing almost 16,000 services, children’s education and care is a vital and growing part of Australia’s education sector.

Examples of quality improvement highlighted in this year’s report include:

  • More services are meeting or exceeding the National Quality Standard (NQS) than ever before – 79% in 2019, compared to 56% in 2013
  • Educational program and practice, the most challenging area assessed under the NQS, has improved across all service types
  • Services in the most disadvantaged areas have improved in their assessment and rating results, meaning children in most need are benefitting from increased quality.

The report also examines the ongoing challenges of:

  • raising public awareness and understanding of service quality ratings
  • attracting and retaining a highly skilled workforce.

Along with the report, you can access supporting resources, including an introductory video, slide pack and interactive content.


New resources from Starting Blocks

Mother cradling baby

A child’s learning milestones are an exciting part of their growth and development, however the changes involved can be a challenge for families who need to support and prepare them along the way.

Starting Blocks’ fact sheets are a great resource to share with the families to help them support their child as they transition between developmental stages and learning environments.

  • How can you help your child settle into early learning and education?  – Starting education and care is often a child's first experience outside of their family environment. It can be an emotional time for everyone involved. This fact sheet offers tips on how families can support their child to look forward to and enjoy their new experience
  • Transition to school – Starting school is a major event in the lives of children and their families. Preparing children for this change sets them up for future learning and development especially if children have not had experience in an early education and care service. This fact sheet offers tips on how to support children in their transition to school.