ACECQA Newsletter Issue 11 2019

Two children outside wearing hats and playing with kitchen toys


The importance of knowledgeable and experienced educators and teachers in providing high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) services is well understood in the ECEC sector. The qualifications of educators and teachers together with their close relationships with families and the attachments they form with children are essential components of structural and process quality.

Sadly, this understanding is not universal in Australian society.  We have a way to go yet before we see a widespread acknowledgement of the first five to eight years as the most critical stage for a child’s social, emotional, physical, language and cognitive development. This extends to the public’s understanding of the critical role of our educators and teachers beyond the idea of babysitting or ‘child care’ to the profession of early learning and education. 

To this end, welcome to our penultimate edition for 2019 and the articles we have included for you on relationships, the challenges the sector is facing in building a resilient and high quality workforce, and some resources to help when you are talking with your families about your service and the National Quality Standard.

Please share with your colleagues and friends if you find them interesting.

Relationships matter

Educator and children in outdoor play space

 “Relationships engage children in the human community in ways that help them define who they are, what they can become, and how and why they are important to people.” (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004, p.1)

From birth, children grow, develop and learn in an environment of relationships. The quality and stability of these relationships lays the foundation for a child’s brain architecture, their social, emotional, intellectual and behavioural development, and their future health, wellbeing and success. 

Emotionally warm, consistent and responsive relationships provide children with the best building blocks for life. These begin with the attachment relationship between an infant and their primary carer(s). The quality of this attachment relationship during a baby’s first few months can be a source of resilience or potentially future risk as it provides a model for subsequent relationships, including how to communicate emotions, trust others and develop empathy and compassion (NHMRC, 2017, p.2).

Secure attachment and positive outcomes are promoted when the primary carer is sensitive, responsive and affectionate, and provides safety, predictability, encouragement and emotional comfort to the infant. Conversely, insecure or disorganised attachment is a risk factor for poor childhood and adult outcomes.

Reliable and responsive back and forth, or ‘serve and return’, interactions between a primary carer and child underpin secure attachment and are influential in the ongoing building of a child’s brain architecture. These dynamic interactions and experiences shape and connect brain circuitry, and build the cognitive and emotional skills that children need in life. A strong emotional foundation is particularly important to identify and understand one’s own feelings, read and comprehend emotional states in others, manage strong emotions, regulate behaviour, develop empathy for others, and establish and sustain successful relationships throughout life.

Children need relationships that consistently engage in serve and return interactions. These begin in the home, but extend to educators as children’s social environment broadens. Establishing a stable, supportive and caring relationship with an adult can help protect against adversity and promotes resilience.

As you know, Quality Area 5 of the National Quality Standard promotes these interactions and relationships and there are many resources available to support educators and service leaders to develop and maintain respectful, nurturing, empowering relationships with children.

Further reading and resources:

ACECQA - Quality Area 5 resources

ACECQA - Relationships with children

Beyondblue - Building resilience in children aged 0-12: A practice guide

Center on the Developing Child - ‘Serve and return’ resources

CoLab - Risk and protective factors in early childhood: An ecological perspective

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child - Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships

NHMRC - Report on the Evidence: Promoting social and emotional development and wellbeing

Workforce challenges

Two women viewing document

Consultations with the children’s education and care sector over recent years have identified that there are persistent issues with the attraction, supply and retention of educators and early childhood teachers (ECTs). There is also a need to effectively balance an ongoing focus on workforce quality through pre-service qualifications and in service professional development while meeting the increasing demand for educators and teachers in our fast growing sector.

Conservative estimates predict the sector will require around 39,000 additional educators, including 9,000 additional ECTs, by 2023. This represents a 20% increase for the workforce over five years.

While many employers have their own workplace strategies including high quality induction and mentoring programs, and several jurisdictions have initiated strategies to address local challenges, the issue of workforce supply and quality continues to be a national challenge.

Noting this, Michael Petrie, ACECQA’s General Manager, Strategy, Communications and Consistency, says it’s important to acknowledge that “all stakeholders – employers, higher and vocational education and training institutes, national, state and territory regulatory bodies and authorities, educators, teachers and governments – have a role to play in advancing the goal of a sustainable highly skilled workforce”. 

One of the key aspects in building a sustainable highly skilled workforce involves raising community perceptions of the profession, the critical importance of early learning, and the value of workforce diversity and great leadership.

“As the national authority, we’re committed to helping parents and communities recognise the importance and value of quality early learning for children, and the professionals delivering this, to drive a sustainable workforce into the future”, said Mr Petrie. 

“There is a clear link between the education and care sector’s ability to attract high quality educators and teachers, and broader community perceptions of the sector and its value”.

Over the next 12 months, ACECQA will continue its work with governments and sector stakeholders to progress strategies for creating a sustainable workforce for the long term.

Reflections from an ECT at ACECQA

Educator and two young children painting together

Through the 2019 Early Career Initiative, ACECQA supports recently qualified or final year ECTs to learn about the National Quality Framework and the role of ACECQA. Through this initiative, participants develop resources and information to support all early career educators and teachers in their important roles.  

Recently this year’s two participants completed their time working with the Educational Leadership Group in ACECQA, so we asked one of them, Jen Boddy, to reflect on her experience at ACECQA.

“During my time at ACECQA I have developed a much deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the National Quality Framework and its practical implementation. I have also gained a stronger knowledge of the supporting materials available through ACECQA and these understandings will be invaluable to my service as we examine and seek to improve our practice.

I have gained a significantly greater understanding of the breadth of ACECQA’s work in supporting the Australian education and care sector for the improvement of outcomes for all children. Such a diverse and complex sector requires a multifaceted approach which involves extensive thought, planning and consultation with peak bodies, large providers, prominent researchers and both national and international authorities.

The project work we have undertaken has also reinforced the foundational role of service and personal philosophy in guiding policy and practice. This has a significant impact on my role as an ECT particularly with regards to mentoring and inducting new educators into the profession. When services and educators ground their practice in a strong, contextually based philosophy this guides critical reflection, supports educator wellbeing and in turn leads to improved outcomes for all children and families”.

Latest NQF Snapshot

Girl in apron arranging flower in vase

In the latest quarterly National Quality Framework Snapshot released on 7 November 2019, ACECQA announced approximately 8 out of 10 (79%) children’s education and care services are rated Meeting NQS or above, with 3 out of 10 (30%) rated Exceeding NQS.

The Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations govern the essential standards and requirements that all providers of approved services must meet in order to operate a service that ensures the safety, health and wellbeing of children. Once these threshold requirements are in place, the service is approved to open on the basis that it will strive for continuous quality improvement and improve the educational and developmental outcomes for children.

Once a service has been operating for a minimum period, it will be assessed and rated by a state or territory authority using the National Quality Standard (NQS). The NQS covers seven areas which are critical to the delivery of high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC).

For a service to be rated Meeting NQS, all elements across each of the seven quality areas must be met. This means that a service may be rated Working Towards NQS based on not meeting a single element or not meeting all elements. Roughly a third of services are rated Working Towards NQS based on not meeting three or fewer elements of quality.

As detailed in the NQF Snapshot, a rating of Working Towards NQS indicates that a service provides a safe education and care program, but there are one or more areas identified for improvement.

A revised, streamlined version of the NQS, which also introduced a new approach to calculating the Exceeding NQS rating, commenced on 1 February 2018. Since then, more than a third of services have been assessed against the challenging bar set by the 2018 NQS.

An objective of the National Quality Framework is to promote continuous quality improvement. With more than 9000 reassessments undertaken, there is increasingly strong evidence that the sector has embraced and embodied this goal. Around two thirds of services rated Working Towards NQS improve their quality rating following a reassessment. Furthermore, the proportion of services rated Meeting NQS or above has increased each and every year.

ACECQA becomes a migration assessing authority

Childrens artwork of flags

On 16 November 2019, ACECQA became the assessing authority for two occupations currently included on the skilled occupation list:

This is a result of updates made to the Migration Instrument 2019 on 29 October 2019.

Full details, including the application form and assessment requirements, are available on our website.

For further information, please contact

‘Meeting the NQS’ resources

Hand holding card with Meeting NQS logo on

Two new videos have been developed by ACECQA featuring service leaders’ shared experiences of important and sometimes challenging aspects of the NQS: critical reflection (1.3.2) and continuous improvement (7.2.1).

In the first video, service leaders explore the meaning of critical reflection, and share examples of practice and advice on how critical reflection can be embedded in service practice.

The second video speaks with service leaders who have successfully included continuous quality improvement as part of their daily practice. It includes insights on effective team collaboration and how to develop a Quality Improvement Plan.

Find out more about these resources on the Meeting the NQS page

New resources from Starting Blocks

Mother cradling baby

This month, two new resources have been added to ACECQA’s family focused website, Starting Blocks.

One of the resources will help your families to understand the National Quality Standard (NQS) quality areas and how they impact children in early learning settings.

The second resource provides an insight into what to look for when choosing a service for babies.

To access these resources and other information and tips to share with families, visit the Starting Blocks website.

NQA ITS satisfaction survey

Four people sitting round table with laptops

ACECQA strives to continually improve the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS) and its usability and so this month we’re inviting feedback from users through the NQA ITS satisfaction survey.  

The annual survey focuses on usability and the quality of the support offered by our IT service desk.

If you are a registered user of the NQA ITS, you should have received a link to complete the survey via emailIf you are a user and have not received your survey link, please contact

We would appreciate getting your views through the survey. 

Please note that the last day for completing the survey is Friday 13 December 2019.

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