ACECQA Newsletter Issue 11 2016

2016 Helping families understand quality image

Helping families understand quality 

This month on We Hear You, Jessica Annerley, Chief Executive Officer of Bruce Ridge Early Childhood Centre and Preschool talks about helping families understand the National Quality Standard, and building support for quality education and care.

More than 70% of services rated at Meeting NQS or higher

NQF Snapshot Q3 2016 image

The latest NQF Snapshot reports on children’s education and care services operating under the National Quality Framework (NQF). It provides information and analysis on the profile of our sector, progress of assessment and rating, quality rating of services and waivers held by services.

As at 30 September 2016, there were 15,429 children’s education and care services approved to operate under the NQF, of which 83% had a quality rating.

Seventy-one per cent of rated services had a rating of Meeting or Exceeding National Quality Standard (NQS) and quality improvement continues across the sector. Of the 1332 reassessments undertaken to date, 63% resulted in an improved overall quality rating. Of the 34% of reassessments that did not result in an improved overall quality rating, 55% resulted in improved performance against the elements of the NQS.

The range of data included in the Snapshot also continues to expand, with new graphs providing additional detail about services rated Working Towards NQS and about the proportion of services with a waiver by remoteness classification in the interactive online version.

This Snapshot is the 15th report on the NQF and both the PDF and online versions of the Snapshot are available on the ACECQA website.   

Is technology changing or challenging the way we think? 

2016 Is technology changing or challenging the way we think? image

Children use information and communication technologies to access information, investigate ideas and represent their thinking. (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 44; Framework for School Age Care, p. 40)

There is no denying technology is a part of children’s lives and identities as learners. We can build on children’s current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests through the use of technology (National Quality Standard [NQS] Element 1.1.2).

Technology can be used to engage children in topics of interest where learning will be scaffolded to encourage and support investigation and further exploration. It has the potential to build on their critical thinking skills.

The use of technology in education and care services can depend on the philosophical importance placed on technology in children’s lives. Educators can reflect on their:

  • beliefs about play-based learning and active play
  • attitudes towards the educational value of technology in the early years
  • confidence with using technology.

At the recent Early Childhood Australia (ECA) National Conference, Dr Chip Donohue (Dean of Distance Learning and Continuing Education, Erikson Institute Chicago) reminded education and care professionals of the important role they play as ‘media mentors’. As ‘media mentors’, he explained, we need to build competence and confidence to guide children and families in the use of technology while fostering our own skills. Dr Donohue further encouraged early childhood professionals to reflect on how digital tools have become integrated into the lives of children, families and educators.

In encouraging people to consider what it means for children to be growing up digital, Dr Donohue emphasised that digital screens can be seen as ‘windows, mirrors or magnifying glasses’ – tools that can be used with the intention to spur children, families and educators to view something beyond, reflect interests and explore the world. In this way, technology can be used to support and build relationships, and foster critical thinking. It is not separate from our play-based approach to children’s learning; it should enhance the learning environment.

As Heike Schneider (from the Little Scientists initiative) reminds us, age-appropriate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education incorporates a play-based approach to the use of technology with children. Technology can be a way for educators and children to reflect and extend on their interests, as well as a way to explore the wider community.

It is important to reflect on how we are consciously maximising ‘teachable moments’ to scaffold children’s learning and development with technology (NQS Element 1.2.2). This allows children to be active citizens and participate in their learning community. Through this, children can become leaders, and co-learning can be fostered. A balance of play and technology used as part of intentional teaching practice will prepare children to be lifelong, competent and involved learners.

Questions for further reflection:

  • How do you view the use of technology in an education and care setting?
  • Are service policies reflective of the potential and limitations of digital technologies in education and care environments?
  • Are educators reflective around the context in which digital technology is used? What content or app is being used, how and why?

Further reading and resources

Gowrie NSW – STEM podcast

Early Childhood Australia – Digital business kit

Natural Start Alliance – Engaging children in STEM

Victorian Department of Education and Training – Taking Small BYTES Card Deck

Planning ahead with Starting Blocks

2016 Planning ahead with StartingBlocks image

For first-time families, it is hard to know when to start considering and planning for their baby’s first step into early childhood education and care.

Starting Blocks, ACECQA’s family focused website, in association with Playgroup NSW, has developed a fun infographic to help new families prepare for their child’s learning journey. 

This illustrated journey places strong emphasis on play-based learning and encourages families to consider their local playgroup. Playing games, singing, talking and laughing together at home and at playgroup is a special time that helps create a unique bond and encourages children to learn, use their imagination and develop a variety of skills.

The full infographic is available to download on the Starting Blocks website and will serve as a handy tool for prospective families visiting your service.

2016 is drawing to a close, let's celebrate

2016 is drawing to a close, let's celebrate image

This time of year is an ideal opportunity to reflect on the year coming to an end and all the opportunities and excitement a New Year brings. It is also a time when our attention turns to recognising and celebrating achievements and planning social occasions, such as Christmas celebrations, activities and events.

When thinking about authentically including religious, cultural and/or community activities, experiences and events within the learning environment, it is important to consider the diversity within the group of children, families and educators at the service, as well as the communities in which the service is located. Another consideration is the learning opportunities such experiences offer for children. For example, planning open-ended activities and experiences has the potential to support children to be involved learners and further develop their creativity and problem solving skills.

In thinking about and planning for celebrations such as Christmas, educators also need to ensure they are respectful of the cultures, beliefs and values of the children, their families and the educators at the service. Anne Stonehouse’s Celebrations, holidays and special occasions resource sheet has tips to ensure ‘special occasions are celebrated in ways that recognise, respect and strengthen children’s appreciation of diversity and difference’. For many children, families and educators, Christmas is an important celebration in the calendar. However, as Anne notes:

While it is important to acknowledge holidays in a children’s service, there are a number of issues to be aware of. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays. Christmas and Easter, for example, have their origins in Christianity and are not universally observed. Some families may acknowledge the secular aspects of Christmas, and are happy for their child to participate in the celebrations in the service. It is crucial to know families’ views, respect them and avoid either a child participating in something the family objects to, or creating a situation in which a child is singled out or left out.

Extending this thinking to the ways we authentically embed culture in our environments, practices and programs, the Early Years Learning Framework (p. 16) and the Framework for School Age Care (p. 15) describe cultural competence as being ‘much more than awareness of cultural differences. It is the ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures’.

The Cultural Connections Booklet provides a framework to support further reflection around the celebrations that are relevant for the children, families and community of your service. This allows us to have more meaningful, engaging and child focused events and activities that are based on children’s individual identity, culture, capabilities, agency and family traditions, making our practice less tokenistic and more authentic.

Valuing families’ decisions about their child’s learning and wellbeing underpins our principles and practices. When we are active partners working together with the children and families, we can embed different cultural perspective in our services. This fosters a deeper sense of belonging and allows for more meaningful participation; everyone has an opportunity to actively contribute to the process and children feel a sense of connectedness to their learning.

Strategies to embed meaningful cultural competence in your service might include:

  • Developing a resource kit, drawing on resources (such as professional journals) and agencies (such as the relevant Inclusion Support Programme provider) that can assist in building your knowledge and skills.
  • Involving children in the planning and evaluation of celebrations that are important in your service, and to them. This allows for a deeper sense of agency and belonging.
  • Thinking about maximising learning opportunities for children. For example, does encouraging children to practice their observation and drawing skills by drawing a Christmas tree enhance their learning more than just colouring an adult representation?
  • Involving families, educators, other staff and your community in discussions about what celebrations are important to them and how you could include them in your service in respectful and meaningful ways.
  • Reviewing and reflecting on your current policies and philosophy. Do they mirror your service’s beliefs, goals and responsibilities around inclusion and cultural competence?

As an end of year treat, take some time to reflect on how you can celebrate Christmas in meaningful ways. Consider how celebrations can tie into acknowledging progress in your Quality Improvement Plan, sharing children’s learning and valuing each team member’s contributions to the service throughout the year. Drawing on the reflective questions in the approved learning frameworks is a great place start to your critical reflection. For example, as a team reflect on the questions to broaden your approach or lens in relation to the different ways children, families and educators experience Christmas activities and celebrations:

Who is advantaged when I work in this way? Who is disadvantaged? (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 13 / Framework for School Age Care, p. 12)

Other questions you might like to consider:

  • How is cultural competence embedded in your service and reflected in your philosophy? What does it look and feel like?
  • What celebrations are important for the families in your service?

Further reading and resources

National Quality Standard Professional Learning Program – Becoming culturally competent – Ideas that support practice

My Time, Our Place – Cultural competence – in action

Community Child Care Victoria – Exploring Celebrations in Children’s Services

Child Australia – Cultural Connections Booklet

How do you know if you're qualified? 

How do you know if you're qualified? image

We have received a number of enquiries lately from both services and individuals about the process of assessing qualifications, particularly overseas qualifications.

ACECQA has a number of tools that can help determine if an individual’s qualifications are recognised under the National Law.

The Qualifications page on the ACECQA website provides information about the different qualification levels, the difference between approved and former approved qualifications and transitional/savings provisions. 

The Qualifications List is a comprehensive and searchable list of approved (and former approved) early childhood teaching, diploma and certificate III level qualifications. The list features details of the qualification level, awarding institution and approval dates of qualifications. The list is updated regularly and there are now several overseas qualifications approved allowing educators to work in all states and territories.

The Qualifications Checker guides individuals through a series of questions to confirm if they are a qualified educator and takes only a few minutes to complete. It provides advice on evidence required to demonstrate if an individual is qualified. 

There is no need to apply to ACECQA if you already hold a recognised qualification. If you are an educator with a qualification that does not appear on the Qualifications List or Qualifications Checker, you can apply to ACECQA for individual assessment of your qualification.

NQA ITS changes are coming 

2016 NQA ITS changes are coming image

Next month, the way you report serious incidents via the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS) is changing to support better information capture. On Friday 2 December drop down menus will be introduced to the SI01 Notification of serious incident form to compliment the current open field text boxes.

To support services in gathering information about incidents prior to completing the serious incident notification, the Incident, injury, trauma and illness record has been updated. For those unable to submit the notification through the NQA ITS, the paper-based SI01 form will be redesigned to align with the online changes. All approved providers will receive an email outlining form changes.

If you have any questions, please contact the ACECQA Enquiries team.

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