ACECQA Newsletter Issue 9 2020

Children and educators sitting round floor mat

 

CEO foreword

Welcome to the Spring edition of our newsletter. 

The Australian Early Childhood Education and Care system is increasing its worldwide reputation as being a successful model of quality improvement.  Year by year, more services are achieving the quality standard (Meeting the NQS) or better, through the focus given by educators, teachers, providers and regulatory authorities on continuous quality improvement.  This month, our articles include showcasing exceptional practice in two services re-awarded the Excellent rating, helpful information about updates to the National Regulations – changes and clarifications – and new resources to support greater understanding of what Exceeding the NQS looks like in a practical way.

At ACECQA, we too are committed to improving our programs, resources and services to meet the changing needs and interests of our stakeholders.  This month, we present our Enquiries Team. While each state and territory regulatory authority is responsible for answering enquiries about their functions (approvals, monitoring, assessment and rating visits, and compliance actions), we provide a free, confidential national service to help all stakeholders to understand the National Quality Framework (NQF).  This service works with our published Guide to the NQF as a partner resource for anyone interested in educating, developing and supporting children.

Finally, we have a role, under the National Law, to raise public awareness about the value of quality education and care for all children.  To this end, I would like to congratulate Jane Bourne who has been awarded the QUT Faculty of Education Outstanding Alumni Award Winner for 2020. This is in recognition of Jane’s exceptional commitment to quality early childhood education and her achievements as an early childhood teacher, advocate for each child’s right to the best start in life and sector leader with impact.  Importantly, Jane’s award is also a public celebration and acknowledgment of early childhood education, and the professional status and vital role of our dedicated teachers and educators.  

As we mentioned in our August newsletter, public consultation on the review of children’s education and care qualifications, managed by SkillsIQ is currently underway. The deadline for submissions has been extended to 2 October 2020 so have your say today.

We hope this edition is both inspiring and helpful in strengthening your skills and knowledge in whatever role you have in the sector.


Updated Guide to the NQF out now

Paints and water tub with paintbrushes

The updated September 2020 version of the Guide to the National Quality Framework (NQF) is now available.  The Guide to the NQF supports education and care service providers and educators, authorised officers and other regulatory authority staff to understand the requirements under the NQF.  We work with all regulatory authorities to ensure the information in the Guide is contemporary and makes the requirements of the Education and Care Services National Law and National Regulations clear and relatable to every day practice.

You can access the updated Guide to the NQF on the ACECQA website along with a summary table of all guidance changes. We suggest you always view the online version to make sure you have the most up to date information.

This new edition contains guidance on:

  • National Amendment Regulations
  • the intent of, and regulators’ expectations around, Regulations 29 and 30 and the $10 million public liability insurance minimum cover requirement
  • the Exceeding National Quality Standard (NQS) rating.

National Amendment Regulations 2020

The National Amendment Regulations 2020 include:

  • new requirements for providers of services transporting children - commencing 1 October 2020
  • revised staffing provisions in South Australia  - commencing 1 September 2020

The consolidated National Regulations are now available online, and a summary table is available on our website.

Public liability insurance minimum cover requirements

The Guide to the NQF has also been updated to clarify the requirements of, and regulators' expectations around, public liability insurance minimum cover under Regulations 29 and 30. 


Exceeding the NQS guidance

Child painting at easel

ACECQA has released new Exceeding NQS guidance as part of our commitment to promote consistency, reliability and transparency in quality rating decisions. Informed by sector feedback and developed in collaboration with all state and territory regulatory authorities, the guidance and new resources include:

  • a series of case studies that offer practical and illustrative examples of high quality practice for each quality Standard
  • updates to Exceeding guidance in the Guide to the NQF. This includes translating guidance previously presented as Exceeding ‘indicators’ against each Standard into reflective questions for service leaders, educators and other staff
  • a new resource for authorised officers to help assess and rate at the Exceeding NQS level. The resource is a series of questions to help determine if all Exceeding themes are demonstrated for each quality Standard. The questions are now being used by authorised officers across Australia, and are included in the Guide to the NQF to offer further clarity and transparency for providers, service leaders and educators.

This information sheet provides a quick summary of the updated Exceeding NQS guidance and new resources.


Celebrating Excellence

Excellent rating logo

Alberton Preschool in South Australia and Balnarring Preschool in Victoria have recently been awarded the Excellent Rating for a second time. Their achievements demonstrate an ongoing and dedicated commitment to providing an exceptional level of quality education and care to their children and families.

Alberton Preschool delivers an integrated preschool and reception (first year of primary school) program for three to six year olds within the Alberton Public School site. It has shown how a service can engage in extensive partnership and research relevant to both the service and school contexts, and achieve effective learning and wellbeing outcomes for children across these contexts.

As an example, the service conducted research into transitions to school. After analysing the ‘The Nest and Beyond’ report, the service identified that some school practices, such as class group sizes and routines, did not always support children in their transition. Identified examples included:

  • year one children in mixed age groupings, with approximately 40 children from years two to seven
  • newly transitioned children from the preschool presenting with lower levels of wellbeing and involvement in the school programs and environment, compared to their time at preschool
  • school programs, practices and experiences that were typically aimed at, and suited to, older children.

Collaboration between the service and school resulted in significant changes to the approach of delivering quality education to the children. For example, the school introduced changes to:

  • classes, grouping children from years one to three together, children from years three to five together and children from years five to seven together
  • staffing arrangements, each class now has a mix of three teachers and two co-educators from the service
  • school routine and programs, introducing more active and play-based learning opportunities.

Balnarring Preschool has implemented strategies to engage in extensive partnerships with First Peoples and community members that benefit children, families, local First Peoples and the wider community.  To honour and celebrate Australia’s First Peoples, the service established the Womindjeka Balnarring Ngargee Community Festival. The Festival is facilitated by the service in collaboration with community volunteers including First Peoples. It is financially supported by the service’s publishing and illustration rights on storybooks written by N’Arwee’t Carolyn, a local First Person. The service has published two books which are illustrated by children from the service.

The restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic challenged the service to deliver its program to children staying at home and those attending the service during two lockdown periods. After reflective discussions and conducting surveys with families, initiatives that support each child’s ongoing learning and development have been implemented, including:

  • Kinder on the Bench
    • Children planted bulbs for every family as a way to connect and belong during the first lockdown period.
    • Open-ended materials and resources are regularly provided: drawing equipment, clay, craft and recycled supplies.
  • Preschool packages 
    • Created to connect children with the preschool’s pedagogical practices and Living and Learning with Country Philosophy.
    • Materials and resources include many natural elements, and children and families are encouraged to play and express the vast range of emotions felt during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

An Excellent rating indicates that a service is embracing continuous quality improvement and practice which evolves over time to meet the changing needs and interests of their children and families, at the highest level. Alberton preschool and Balnarring preschool demonstrate examples of exceptional practice that are relevant to their service, children, families and community.

To find out more about the Excellent rating, eligibility and criteria visit the Excellent rating page on our website. You will also find information about all the current Excellent rated services.


Our website and online resources

Two people looking at a computer

Our website has up-to date information, guidance and resources for services and authorised officers about the NQF (and the Guide to the NQF), NQS, the Assessment and rating process and Quality improvement plans, as well as assessment and rating materials and supporting materials such as Family Day Care materials and information sheets.

At the request of the Australian Government, we are working with Education Services Australia to transfer resources from the Early Childhood Resource Hub before it is closed on 1 October 2020. This consolidation will provide improved access to a diverse range of helpful, high quality and up to date resources at www.acecqa.gov.au

You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter for information about the NQF, NQS and education and care services generally.


Our Enquiries team’s commitment to customer service 

Headphones with mic next to computer

We recognise the importance of having positive and respectful relationships with all of our valued stakeholders, whether individuals, businesses or government agencies. We are committed to honouring our Customer Service Charter by delivering quality information, fair and transparent services, genuine consultation and efficiency.

As part of our continuous improvement cycle, we monitor stakeholders’ experiences when seeking assistance and information from the team through surveys. The results help us to assess our performance over time, and identify any areas that could be improved for the sector, teachers, educators, families and other stakeholders. We also use what we hear to inform updates to our resources and website, especially our FAQs.

The most recent survey results showed mostly positive feedback about the level of knowledge and the friendliness of staff, with eighty-seven (87) per cent of respondents saying that the Team resolved their enquiries. Our team provides information about the National Law and Regulations, including answering questions about qualifications and ratio requirements, and directing customers’ attention to useful resources

For our customers, the team is often their first point of contact with us and we help around 30,000 people each year.  

The Enquiries Team can be contacted on 1300 422 327 or email enquiries@acecqa.gov.au


Innovation

Evidence for Learning (E4L) - Early Childhood Education Toolkit

Child writing

Evidence for Learning (E4L) has created a new innovative Early Childhood Education Toolkit. The Toolkit is designed to support teachers, educators and service leaders who are making evidence-informed decisions about how to improve quality outcomes for children, especially for those children who are vulnerable or experiencing disadvantage.

The Toolkit summarises research on innovative approaches relevant to early childhood education and care, aimed to give children the best chance of success in learning and development. The approaches are framed around:

  1. Communication and language approaches
  2. Digital technology
  3. Earlier starting age
  4. Early literacy approaches
  5. Early numeracy approaches
  6. Extra hours
  7. Parental engagement
  8. Physical development approaches
  9. Physical environment
  10. Play-based learning
  11. Self-regulation strategies
  12. Social and emotional learning strategies.

The Toolkit collates Australian and international research, and presents a range of educational interventions, summarised in terms of:

  • the average months’ worth of learning progress - is an estimate in terms of the additional months' progress you can expect children to make as a result of implementing an approach when compared to similar children who did not receive the approach
  • the strength of the evidence – viewed as a padlock, this rating is overall estimate of the robustness of the evidence based on the quantity of evidence available, the outcomes measured in the studies, the methodological quality of the available evidence, the consistency of impact estimates across the reviews and the meta-analyses that have been synthesised
  • the cost - based on the approximate cost of implementing the approach. The estimates commonly include the cost of additional resources, training or professional development or the cost of activities for children

The Australasian research summaries for the 12 approaches in the Early Childhood Education Toolkit were produced in collaboration with Telethon Kids.


Research

NQF online snapshots webpage

Interactive reporting on our website

Did you know many of our major research releases now include interactive content?

  • NQF Snapshot provides information and analysis of the sector, and quality ratings of services, including by type of service and provider

  • NQF Annual Performance Report examines how the NQF is achieving its objectives and how service quality has risen since its introduction
  • Operational Activity Report includes information about some of our functions including Qualification assessment, Excellent rating and Second tier review applications

More information is available on our research and reports webpage.


Starting Blocks

Child and educator in outdoor space

Supporting children’s positive behaviour

There are many factors that contribute to children’s behaviour. Programs and routines, equipment and resources, the physical environment, interactions between children and between adults, how they rest and sleep, nutrition and medical conditions all affect a young child’s behaviour. Of course significant events such as changes at home, the birth of a sibling or moving house may also have an effect.

Consistency in the behaviour guidance strategies used at the service and at home help children’s learning and development. Share this factsheet from Starting Blocks.gov.au to help families understand the importance of routines, close relationships with caregivers and consistency of practice at services and at home.


Advice from the Australian Government

Basket of art materials

Support during COVID-19

The Australian Government introduced the $1.9 billion Relief Package in April 2020 to ensure services remained viable and open so essential workers could still go to work and vulnerable children could continue to access education and care.

When the Relief Package ended with the reintroduction of Child Care Subsidy (CCS) on 13 July, transition measures were brought in to support the sector.

Extensive consultation with the sector throughout the Relief Package indicated JobKeeper Payments were not landing equitably across the sector and its various business models. To replace JobKeeper, the Australian Government introduced a Transition Payment based on pre- COVID-19 revenue.

More than 97 per cent of CCS approved providers signed up to receive the 25 per cent Transition Payment. Paid from 13 July until 27 September, the Transition Payment will deliver an estimated $708 million to providers.

The Australian Government also introduced measures to help families and educators to return to the fuller settings of the CCS. This included easing the activity test. There has also been a freeze on fee increases.

An Employment Guarantee was part of the conditions of receiving the Transition Payment.

On 5 August 2020, the Minister for Education Dan Tehan announced measures for services in Victoria with specific needs because of Stage 3 and 4 restrictions:

  • Services in Melbourne received an increased Transition Payment, of 30 per cent, for the six-week lockdown. An additional payment was available for Melbourne services that were highly dependent on allowable absences due to low attendance, and that on average received proportionally low CCS
  • In recognition of the unique challenges the Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) sector faced with the move to remote and flexible learning, services in Victoria with significantly reduced attendances received an additional 15 per cent payment
  • Victorian children were also given an extra 30 absence days, bringing their total absence count for the 2020–21 financial year to 72
  • New provisions also allowed services experiencing Stage 3 or higher restrictions to waive gap fees when a child was absent.

On 20 September, Education Minister Dan Tehan announced a $305.06 million Recovery Package that provides continued support for the sector in Victoria, specifically, and nationally, more broadly.  

This package includes:

  • 25% Recovery Payment for Victoria
  • additional 15% payment for OSHC services in Victoria
  • provisions to extend financial support if similar outbreaks occur elsewhere in the country and restrictions come into force
  • extension of the easing of the activity test until 4 April 2021, for families whose activity level has been  affected by COVID-19 able to access up to 100 hours of subsidised child care per fortnight
  • Support for services at risk of imminent closure where they meet relevant criteria.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (department) continues to consult with the sector as circumstances evolve and encourages people to stay up to date by:

Providers and services wanting further help can contact the department’s CCS Helpdesk on weekdays on 1300 667 276 or anytime by email.