ACECQA Newsletter Issue 10 2023
This month has been a busy time for service providers, service leaders, teachers and educators implementing the recent, and important, changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF),. It is also an exciting time to celebrate the dedication and commitment of our sector, as we reach an important benchmark with 90% of services now holding a quality rating of Meeting National Quality Standard (NQS) or above.
In last month’s edition, we explored the objective of the National Quality Framework (NQF) that relates to the health, safety and wellbeing of children. We know there is no greater priority for families, providers, ACECQA and all Governments than ensuring all services are providing safe, high-quality environments where children can thrive.
An important guiding principle of the NQF, which supports children to thrive, focuses on viewing children are successful, competent and capable learners. This view of children is reflected throughout the NQF, and particularly the approved learning frameworks. Children and young people being confident and involved learners, is identified as an important outcome in the refreshed Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (V2.0) and My Time our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia (V2.0).
This positive and empowering view of children shapes curriculum decision making for educators and service leaders (as outlined in NQS element 1.1.1 Approved learning framework) and empowers children’s agency allowing them to make choices and decisions that influence events and their world (NQS element 1.2.3 Child directed learning).
There has been much discussion in the international early education community about Australia’s approved learning frameworks. This recognition places Australia as leaders in this space, not only with the refreshed frameworks, but also the dedicated service leaders, teachers and educators who bring them to life in their settings for children and families.
In this month’s edition, we focus on the rich array of resources available to support you and your team in understanding and embedding the enhancements to the approved learning frameworks in the lead up to implementation in February 2024. Using team meetings to unpack concepts, review new definitions, ask questions, seek clarifications, and discuss practice that reflects the enhancements, is a positive way to manage change and support implementation.
If you or your team are looking for some inspiration, it is always motivating to go back to the Vision in the frameworks, which states:
All children (and young people) engage in learning (through play and leisure) that promotes confident and creative individuals and successful lifelong learners. All children (and young people) are active and informed members of their communities with knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives.
The additional text in the brackets is included in My Time Our Place.
In our sector, there is much to celebrate relating to building knowledge of, and embedding, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives. It is a positive reflection that there are so many early childhood and school age care services commended or selected by judges as finalists in the upcoming Nurragunnawali celebrations. Our sector should also be proud that, of those schools and early learning services registered to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) on the Narragunnawali platform more than 70% are early learning services.
This year we are also celebrating 10 years of awarding the Excellent rating, in this edition we have included information about the range of clear and concise resources on our website to assist service leaders considering applying.
And finally, November 13 is World Kindness Day, a day to think of others and spread kindness. This year, why not take a moment out of your busy schedule, to acknowledge the contribution of your colleagues and reflect on your significant individual and team achievements.
If you find our articles of interest, please share them with colleagues and families, and don’t forget to look out for our latest Snapshot to be released in the next few days.
ACECQA National Education Leader
As the national authority responsible for working with governments to administer the National Quality Framework (NQF), we provide freely available guidance and resources to support professional development within the education and care sector to improve outcomes for children.
Available on the ACECQA website, the Guide to the NQF and the refreshed national approved learning frameworks are popular and essential free resources for educators and service leaders to support successful delivery of NQS Quality Area 1 in services across Australia.
Section 3 of the Guide to the NQF unpacks each NQS quality area and provides examples of what may be observed, discussed and sighted in the assessment and rating process. Section 4 provides guidance on the requirements for operating an education and care service in relation to each quality area. Many services also find the glossary in Section 7 useful to unpack key terms with their team to support a shared understanding of the NQF.
During 2023 we have updated the Guide to the NQF to reflect the outcomes of the 2019 NQF Review including legislative changes, most recently the 1 October 2023 changes.
In July 2023 we also introduced a new online version, including an interactive PDF version, of the Guide to the NQF, featuring a search tool and enhanced navigation, making it easier to use as a key reference tool.
We have also published a series of fact sheets covering the key updates in the refreshed national approved learning frameworks. These resources are useful to assist approved providers and their services in familiarising themselves with the updated national learning frameworks and adjusting relevant aspects of their educational program and practice where needed.
The NQF is a dynamic and shared quality framework, and in line with the principle of continuous quality improvement, adapts to new evidence and emerging trends. ACECQA works with expert organisations, researchers, peak bodies, higher education specialists, providers and government agencies to bring you the latest resources and information. This supports all education and care professionals to deliver high quality education and care that is best suited to the children, their families and communities.
Information about Education Ministers’ decisions following the 2019 NQF Review is available on the nqfreview.com.au website, including the Decision Regulatory Impact Statement (DRIS) and the changes to the Education and Care Services National Law (National Law) and Education and Care Services National Regulations (National Regulations).
To help providers and their services understand and implement NQF changes throughout 2023, the changes have commenced incrementally.
On 1 October 2023 the third round of changes for the majority of jurisdictions commenced* and we recently published a summary of the 2023 NQF changes with links to key legislation and supporting resources on the ACECQA website at NQF changes overview.
The NQF changes that started from 1 October 2023 aim to:
- improve the safety and wellbeing of children
- amend requirements for the FDC sector to strengthen regulatory oversight and safety
- improve the provision of NQF information to families.
Additionally, from 1 October 2023* bassinets are prohibited from education and care service premises while children are being educated and cared for. Further information about this change can be found here.
*The implementation of this round of regulatory changes is delayed for services in Western Australia. Contact your regulatory authority for further information.
Our family focused website StartingBlocks.gov.au supports parents and families through the different education and care stages for their child, delivering trusted information about the NQF and NQS and the quality educational programs and environments of all service types.
As we all know, the NQF respects children’s rights, voices and agency and recognises parents’ important role and as the decision-makers on what is best for their children.
Our collaborative work as children’s education and care professionals includes supporting parents’ understanding of the NQF and NQS, and the popular free resources available on StartingBlocks.gov.au are used by educators to support their conversations with families and shared by services in their regular communications with their families and colleagues.
StartingBlocks.gov.au helps parents choose the right education and care service for their child’s unique needs with informed confidence. It is the ‘one-stop-shop’ for families, the one free national government website displaying all approved services, quality ratings, fees, vacancies and inclusions, and the information is updated daily.
It is also important for families to know how to find services to meet their child’s unique needs. Along with the overall service NQS quality rating, the ratings for each of the seven quality areas are also displayed on StartingBlocks.gov.au service information pages, so that parents can see how these priorities are being delivered.
This year we have started to display more information about large providers and service fees on StartingBlocks.gov.au, providing greater transparency to inform families’ decision making. We are also working on the website over the summer to refresh the design and enhance key tools and features for optimal usability and will be adding further features during 2024. We are doing this to make it even better for families in the future, as part of our ongoing commitment to continuous improvement to support their decision making and every child’s best start in life.
High quality children’s education and care sets the foundations for lifelong learning, wellbeing and development and the National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy (2022-2031) has been developed to support the recruitment, retention, sustainability and quality of the sector workforce.
The ten-year timeframe for the strategy recognises the complexity of the workforce challenges faced by the sector and provides a call to action for all stakeholders to work towards ambitious goals.
Implementing the strategy is a collective responsibility. The Shaping Our Future: Implementation and Evaluation Plan was published in September 2022, along with a summary of workforce related initiatives.
In July 2023 we published an online dashboard that tracks progress against the 21 nationally agreed actions and includes complementary initiatives that support the six focus areas of the national workforce strategy.
To complement the strategy, we have also published an online workforce snapshot that brings together a range of different data sets to provide a sector workforce profile.
In November 2023 we will be engaging with key stakeholders regarding this important work by hosting a national workforce forum to consider progress to date, priorities and next steps.
Review of NQF staffing and qualifications regulations
One of the 21 actions within Shaping Our Future commits to a comprehensive review of the current NQF staffing and qualification regulations to improve consistency, support quality, and reduce complexity.
ACECQA is undertaking this work on behalf of all governments and throughout May, June and July 2023 we heard your perspectives on the existing NQF staffing and qualification regulations.
Over 5000 people provided feedback via the online survey between 1 May and 4 August 2023 and over 900 people attended our online consultation webinars. You can watch the webinar or download the Public Webinar - Review of NQF qualifications and staffing presentation.
Thank you for your feedback, it is important and will help to inform options for governments to consider at the end of this year.
We look forward to sharing more updates about the national workforce strategy in future editions.
Contributed by Zora Marko and Catharine Hydon
At first glance, road safety education for young children may not seem a likely candidate for an educator's led research. Isn't it just about teaching children to safely cross the road or hold their parent's hand when navigating the car park?
Yes, absolutely, but as well as teaching children and their families essential road safety behaviours, the Starting Out Safely Road Safety Education Inquiry Project wanted to do more. This project was a joint venture with Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) and VIC Roads and involved thirty early childhood education and care services in Victoria. In collaboration with small groups of creative educators who recognised real road safety issues in their immediate neighbourhood and the potential of children to be active citizens who change communities for the better, the services undertook four 8-month inquiry projects starting in 2019. In this fourth year, the team of educator researchers are preparing to share the road safety projects they have developed with stories of car parks, speed signs, visits from the mayor, caterpillars, dogs and the art of pedagogical risk in pursuit of safer communities.
In recent research, efforts to understand children's standpoints and treat them as knowledgeable actors in the community suggest that children come to understand citizenship in the rich and varying social and political contexts of their everyday lives. If children are positioned as partners in building safe, humane, and responsive communities and not merely as vulnerable dependents and objects of concern, they have the potential to strengthen communities. (Smith 2010 p6 as quoted in Phillips et al., 2020)
Inspired by these words in Young Children's Community Building in Action the Starting Out Safely Road Safety Education Inquiry Project invited educators alongside the children, families and educators they worked with to identify local road safety issues – a busy car park shared with a local school, inconsistent child restraint use, busy local roads preventing children from getting out and about, the speed of traffic passing the centre.
In the midst of ongoing challenges for the education and care sector, the project's participants have shown passion, commitment, and exemplary practice in the design and implementation of road safety education curriculums that recognise children as active agents in their own and others' safety. They have consistently reported their pride in what they have achieved as they shift their own and the community's perception of children as active agents in respectful citizenship.
Phillips, L. G., Ritchie, J., Dynevor, L., Lambert, J., & Moroney, K. (2020). Young Children's Community Building in Action Embodied, Emplaced and Relational Citizenship. Routledge.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is an independent statutory body which sets the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Various authorities are responsible for managing compliance with the Food Standards Code, including state-based health departments, food authorities, and local government.
As well as complying with the Education and Care Services National Regulations in relation to safe food practices, education and care providers in Australia are required1 to comply with the relevant sections of the Food Standards Code and should refer to it when developing policies and procedures relating to food.
On 8 December 2023, a change to the Food Standards Code will take effect which is applicable to some businesses and facilities which serve food, including education and care providers.
The changes relate to the level of training and certification required for individuals who oversee food preparation, serving, and storage, and those who handle a number of prescribed food items. There will also be a requirement to “substantiate,” i.e., provide evidence, that certain activities relating to food are carried out in a way that meets requirements.
It is important to note that there will be no changes to the Education and Care Services National Law, National Regulations, or the National Quality Standard. Providers will continue to be required to comply with the National Quality Framework, as well as the updated Food Standards Code.
More detailed information is available from FSANZ:
Guidance on the new Standard 3.2.2A Food Safety Management Tools
FSANZ Factsheets on the new Standard 3.2.2A:
Food safety management – Training and supervisors
1Food Act 2003 (NSW), Food Act 2006 (QLD), Food Act 2001 (ACT), Food Act 1984 (Vic), Food Act 2004 (NT), Food Act 2008 (WA), Food ACT 2003 (Tas), Food Act 2001 (SA)
The National Quality Standard emphasises the importance of professional learning and the development of educators and staff to enhance outcomes for children and families.
Educator practice is key to high quality education and care, and ensuring educators can access effective professional development is crucial for continuing to build on their practice and support children’s learning. Evidence for Learning, 2023
Evidence for Learning has released free supporting materials on effective professional development for the education and care sector.
- Guide to Effective Professional Development in Early Childhood Education
- Professional development conversation cycle.
These comprehensive resources may be used by educators and staff who are facilitating professional development conversations. Key elements of the support materials include managing cognitive load, presenting information, arranging support, providing prompts and promoting action planning. They also reference the NQF, NQS and the approved learning frameworks.
The professional development conversation cycle has a five step approach to engaging educators and staff in high quality professional conversations. These include:
1. Prepare, reflect and plan
2. Build knowledge and motivate
3. Identify ways to develop
4. Plan opportunities to embed and review
Source: Evidence for Learning, 2023
This year marks 10 years of awarding the Excellent rating, recognising the outstanding education and care practices across Australia.
In August 2013, Swallowcliffe Preschool in South Australia was the first education and care service in Australia to be awarded the Excellent rating. This service was recognized for their commitment to collaborative partnerships and supporting an integrated approach to children’s learning and development.
In October 2023, 349services have applied for the Excellent rating over the last ten years and 146 have been successful in achieving the Excellent rating.
One service, Bribie Island Community Kindergarten (BICK), was awarded their fourth Excellent rating in April 2023, holding this consecutively since February 2014. BICK has shown exceptional practice that has evolved over time, demonstrating unique, inspiring and innovative programs, partnerships and practices that are directly relevant to the context of their service.
For services to be eligible to apply for the Excellent rating, they must have achieved and maintain an Exceeding NQS rating in all seven quality areas.
To support services in the application process, we have published
- a suite of resources to support services in understanding the eligibility and criteria and writing their applications. This includes the Excellent rating application and reapplication guidelines, a participant’s handbook and coming soon is a series of micro eLearning modules to assist you in each stage of the application process.
- a new information sheet to support services in understanding what information is required and how each program, practice or partnership is translated into a clear evidence statement. An exceptional practice framework is included in the information sheet to assist you in telling your story.
Services developing applications are encouraged to ensure each evidence statement includes:
- identifying the why behind your new or evolved practice, program, or partnership (p/p/p)
- specifically detailing what p/p/p has been implemented, including times and dates
- including who was involved and for what reason
- clearly identifying how it has improved outcomes for children, families, educators and/or local and wider communities.
For more information about applying for the Excellent rating, please contact our Quality Programs and Practice Team at [email protected].
We continue our series of Exceeding NQS articles moving to Theme 2 – Practice is informed by critical reflection.
Let’s start by considering critical reflection. Critical reflection involves a deep level of regular and ongoing analysis, questioning and thinking that goes beyond evaluation and review. Critical reflection is continually thinking about, questioning, analysing and re-evaluating practice to ensure that quality outcomes are being achieved or to identify where further improvements could be made. Critical reflection should be the driver behind continuous improvement which then brings about the second part of this theme - “informs service operations”.
Educators and staff should be considering the theoretical perspectives underpinning their actions and decision-making, drawing on various sources of knowledge and research evidence. As part of their critical reflection, services are encouraged to evaluate the research, new ideas and practices to assess if they suit the service’s context and align with the approved learning framework and the wider philosophy of the service. This would inform and influence the decision to continue with a practice or move towards informing a change in service operations.
How does an authorised officer determine if critical reflection has informed practice at an exceeding level?
Often critical reflection at an exceeding level becomes apparent through discussions between the authorised officer and the service. In listening to the service explain a current practice, project or change to a service process, the authorised officer would begin to unpack the service’s explanation of the processes involved. The authorised officer may then seek further evidence through observations, more questions or documentation reflective of the practice that has been identified and the specific service context.
Additionally, authorised officers will refer to the questions on page 97 of the Guide to the National Quality Framework (NQF) to assist in determining if the specific practice(s) are reflective of this Exceeding theme.
To further support your service in understanding how critical reflection informs practice at an exceeding level for each standard, you may wish to consider:
- Are we reflecting on practices within this standard?
- Is this reflection “critical”?
Critical reflection may be evident when:
- there has been discussion amongst the team, sharing diverse views and opinions
- outside perspectives such as theorists, current research or recommendations have been sought
- social sustainability of practices has been considered by asking if they are fair, just and equitable
- different approaches have been trialled or hypothesized to find the right fit for the service
- challenges, complaints or feedback have been reflected on and used to work though solutions
- key concepts and patterns in practice have been identified to seek ways for continual improvement
- examples of a change in practices or practices remaining the same can be explained
- an authorised officer can see or review changes as an observation, further discussions or documentation.
At the exceeding level, critical reflection supports a culture of ongoing self-assessment. The service educators and staff should be active participants in the service’s reflection processes and as a result understand the reason behind current practice and any change to the service’s approach.
Our information sheet on New Guidance on Determining Exceeding NQS for Standards is a helpful resource which clarifies the difference between Meeting NQS and Exceeding NQS levels.
For more information about Exceeding themes, visit the ACECQA website to read the Exceeding the NQS case studies. They offer practical and illustrative examples of what high quality practice may look like for each standard in a variety of settings.
Continuous improvement of the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS) is important to ACECQA, and so we would like to hear from our users regarding their experience of the system through the annual NQA ITS satisfaction survey.
The survey focuses on system usability, effectiveness of system guidance, and the quality of the support offered by our IT service desk. This year, we would also like to hear from users who may have experienced the ‘Joined-up’ provider and/or service application process, which was launched on 1 July 2023.
If you are a registered user of the NQA ITS, you should by now have received a link via email to complete the survey. If you are a registered user and have not received your survey link, please contact us at [email protected].
We would appreciate getting your views through the survey, which will be open until Friday, 1 December 2023.
Resources to share with families at your service
Some useful resources to share with families from the StartingBlocks.gov.au website include:
Factsheet: How can you help your child settle into an education and care service?
These suggestions may help new families support their child during the settling in period.
Factsheet: Choosing quality outside school hours care for your child
This factsheet highlights the practices that are most important in quality OSHC services, and may be useful for families transitioning to school next year.
Follow StartingBlocks.gov.au on Facebook
Follow StartingBlocks.gov.au on Instagram
How to update service information on StartingBlocks.gov.au
Service fees, vacancies and inclusions can be updated via the Provider Entry Point (PEP) or your third-party software.
Keep your service information updated on the NQA IT System as usual.
For enquiries relating to StartingBlocks.gov.au, please contact us.
- 8-14 November - National Recycling Week
- 11 November - Remembrance Day
- 13 November – World Kindness Day
- 20 Nov - Universal Children’s Day
- 16 Nov - International Day of Tolerance
- 24 Nov - National Fairy Bread Day - Fundraiser for Pyjama Foundation