ACECQA Newsletter Issue 11 2022
Welcome to our November newsletter. This month, as we head towards the end of 2022, we focus on a few extremely important aspects of children’s optimal skills development and their learning journeys both within an approved service and as they prepare to transition into formal schooling.
With acknowledgement of the wisdom of the designers and creators of the National Quality Framework (NQF), including the National Quality Standard (NQS), all components of quality are essential and are interrelated. For example, we know that Quality Area 1 cannot be delivered to a high quality unless Quality Area 7 is met or exceeded, and effective leadership is also critical to positive workplace culture, educator retention and professional recognition (Quality Area 4). And without consistent and trusted relationships with children and partnerships with families and community services (Quality Areas 5 and 6), providers, leaders, educators and teachers cannot create partnerships and practices that respond to, and improve outcomes for, the unique needs of each child.
Of course, in line with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it is impossible to protect children’s health and foster a sense of security and readiness to learn through play (Quality Area 2) if the learning environment is not safe, creative and attractive (Quality Area 3).
We are pleased to announce that our sixth NQF Annual Performance Report is now available. Our report clearly shows the amazing commitment providers and their staff, regulatory authorities and supporting stakeholders have made to the national objectives of children’s safety, health and wellbeing, their educational and developmental outcomes and continuous quality improvement. Despite the significant challenges the sector has faced over the last few years, the percentage of services Meeting or Exceeding the NQS continues to grow, highlighting the well-deserved international reputation Australia has for quality early childhood education and care services.
In this edition, we also touch on the concept of learning through play, preparing for great transitions and connecting with the importance of Human Rights Day on 10 December.
This day commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on 10 December 1948. The right to life, freedom of movement and residence, and the pursuit of happiness has become a global goal. On this day, we celebrate the value and relevance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a great opportunity to share with families and communities the deep commitment leaders, educators and teachers in early childhood education and care services have to children’s rights, inclusive practices and respect for diverse cultures.
Please share the following articles if they are helpful or of interest to you.
‘Play’ can mean different things to different people, depending on context. Certain languages have numerous words for play and describe different types of play. Over the decades, the meaning of and what constitutes ‘learning through play’ have become unclear with pressure to replace ‘play’ with explicit instruction as the only meaningful or effective strategy to prepare children for school or the next year level in the early years of school. As though ‘play’ has only one meaning instead of it being an approach that engages young children in learning and is rich in possibilities for pedagogical approaches and effective educational practices.
The Discussion Paper: 2021 National Quality Framework Approved Learning Frameworks Update finds that we do not have an agreed understanding of, or language to describe, learning through play in Australia. Many different terms have been used including ‘age-appropriate pedagogy’ and, while our language and understandings of learning through play are diverse, a consistent factor is the understanding that physical space is important in promoting and enriching children’s opportunities to explore, initiate, make choices, collaborate and develop through active play.
For early childhood education and care professionals and parents, it is important to talk about learning through play for children’s optimal development and educational experiences; the role of teachers and educators in using a wide range of approaches and teaching practices to meet children’s needs and interests; and children’s agency to construct an understanding of the world through child-child and teacher-child interactions that are engaging, challenging and playful.
Great educators have a strong understanding of children’s interests and how the physical space and physical activities invite, facilitate and enable children’s confidence and skills development in learning through play. They provide resources within spaces that reflect, respect, respond to and extend children’s needs, interests, relationships and emerging skills. By deliberately being thoughtful and purposeful with the design of spaces, they create environments that support a rich repertoire of teaching approaches and a positive climate for learning.
Today ACECQA, in collaboration with all governments, released the sixth Annual Performance Report on the National Quality Framework (NQF). The report shows, for the first time, 88% of education and care services are rated Meeting National Quality Standard (NQS) or above.
This year marks several important milestones and achievements for the NQF, including the 10 year anniversary of this regulatory system – an internationally recognised, outcomes-based framework for the children’s education and care sector.
This year’s report focuses on children’s health and safety, educational program and practice, children from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds, workforce, and service provider perceptions of the NQF. It shows continuous improvement across all seven quality areas of the NQS.
Other highlights include the release of the National Workforce Strategy and accompanying Implementation and Evaluation Plan, which address critical and longstanding workforce issues.
International and Australian research clearly identifies the critical components needed for a quality early childhood education and care service, including highly qualified educators and teachers, and child to staff ratios that enable the creation and maintenance of close and consistent relationships; both needed as the foundation of children’s successful development and education.
The National Quality Framework establishes the minimum qualification and educator to child ratio requirements for children’s education and care services. In response to stakeholder questions, we developed the educator to child ratio calculator to help service staff calculate minimum numbers of required educators within their respective centre-based education and care settings.
What does the calculator do?
The educator to child ratio calculator is a guide to the minimum number of educators for a centre-based service based on the number of children present. It also calculates requirements for early childhood teachers (ECTs).
A few things to note when using the calculator
- An educator must be working directly with children to be counted in the educator to child ratios. Working directly with children means being physically present with the children and directly involved in providing education and care to these children and, where required, hold or be actively working towards an approved qualification.
- In addition to meeting the required educator to child ratios, adequate supervision of children must be always maintained.
- This calculator is a guide only. Results are based on the accuracy of the information entered and do not take into consideration some specific circumstances, such as a service having a staffing waiver in force.
- If you are unsure what the educator to child ratio should be at your centre-based service, you should seek guidance from your state or territory regulatory authority.
Further information on ratios and qualifications
- See Part 4.4: Staffing arrangements in the National Regulations.
- Refer to Staffing arrangements in ‘Section 4: Operational requirements’ in the Guide to the NQF.
- Go to the Educator to child ratios and the Qualification requirements pages on the ACECQA website, which also include information to assist family day care services.
The NQF Evaluation Framework was designed as a joint commitment between governments, approved providers and their staff. As such, it provides an agreed way for stakeholders and families to understand how the National Quality Framework (NQF) is meeting its objectives. It also gives stakeholders a common reference point when considering strategies for continuous quality improvement through research activities.
Our own research and evaluation activities align to one or more of the objectives of the NQF.
This month we focus on Objective 3 of the NQF: To promote continuous improvement in the provision of quality education and care services.
We continue to contribute evidence to answer key questions about this objective under the evaluation framework, including:
- The reports track performance against the National Quality Standard (NQS) and other aspects of the NQF with a focus on continuous quality improvement.
- The early childhood education and care chapter of this annual report includes performance against the NQS and other aspects of the NQF and has charted year-on-year improvements since the NQF was introduced in 2012.
- The reports provide a quarterly update of the results of quality assessment and rating against the NQS, including detailed analysis in the interactive Online Snapshot and point-in-time and time series data available to download.
- These registers provide a daily update of NQS rating results.
- This research, commissioned by ACECQA, focused on long day care services that had improved their overall quality rating. It identified practices that support quality improvement in educational program and practice and governance and leadership.
- This program is a professional learning partnership between ACECQA and the NSW Department of Education for children’s education and care services and providers. ACECQA completed evaluations of the first stages of this program.
- This occasional paper analysed the performance of services reassessed against the 2012 NQS from 2013–2017, highlighting improvements in quality ratings during that period.
- This occasional paper summarised the achievements of the first decade of the NQF including marked improvements in service quality.
Universities, research institutions, governments and other stakeholders are encouraged to contribute to the NQF evidence base by commissioning, undertaking or supporting research in line with the NQF Evaluation Framework.
You can find out more on our Research and reports page, which also provides a wide range of NQF related research and evidence.
Our latest NQF Snapshot report shows there are now more than 17,000 children’s education and care services approved under the National Quality Framework (NQF). Approved education and care services include long day care, outside school hours care and family day care services, as well as most preschools and kindergartens.
Almost nine in 10 (88%) of approved services are rated Meeting or Exceeding the National Quality Standard (NQS) – the highest proportion since quality ratings began in 2012.
In addition, more than two-thirds (68%) of services rated Working Towards NQS improved their overall quality rating at reassessment. These improvements are the result of the hard work of service providers, teachers and educators to improve their programs, policies and practices to achieve better outcomes for children.
Aside from detailed information about the quality of education and care services, the latest Snapshot and interactive Online Snapshot include data about other aspects of the NQF, such as staffing waivers.
Exceptional services – GoodStart Early Learning Clayton and Everton Park Child Care and Development Centre
Everton Park Child Care and Development Centre (EPCCDC) and Goodstart Early Learning Clayton (GELC) have recently been awarded the Excellent rating, the highest rating a service can achieve under the National Quality Framework.
EPCCDC, a Queensland-based service, has been recognised for its inclusive partnerships with children and families, positive workplace culture and organisational values, support of educators and sustained commitment to professional development, as well as practice and environments that enhance children’s learning and growth.
GELC, a Victorian based service, has been recognised for its inclusive partnerships with children and families, positive workplace culture and organisational values, support of educators and sustained commitment to professional development, as well as practice and environments that enhance children’s learning and growth.
We congratulate these two excellent rated services and share their stories at Everton Park Child Care and Development Centre has been re-awarded the Excellent rating and Goodstart Early Learning Clayton.
As the end of the year approaches, many children and families will be planning for the transitions ahead. For children, it may be transitioning to school or moving to another learning environment, room, group or educator. These transitions offer opportunities for children to meet new people, learn new skills, explore new environments and take on new and exciting challenges that support their learning and development.
As educators and service leaders, this time offers great opportunities to support children and families through this transition process. It also offers opportunities for genuine partnerships between teachers, outside school hours care coordinators, educators, service leaders and school staff in education settings to be developed and maintained. These collaborative partnerships have the potential to ensure that transitions are smooth and effective, support children through change and help them confidently continue their learning, fostering resilience and optimism.
The National Quality Standard (NQS) Element 6.2.1 recognises the importance of building these partnerships to share information, clarify responsibilities and establish effective strategies to support the continuity of learning and transitions for each child. As well, there are clear links with NQS Elements 6.2.3 (Community engagement) and 6.1.3 (Families are supported).
For children preparing to start school, these partnerships are particularly important. The transition to school is usually an important milestone for children and their families. These transitions offer exciting opportunities and sometimes challenges as well, as children make new friends, meet new teachers, and navigate different spaces and settings. This could include environments, expectations, activities, experiences and routines that vary from those the child has become familiar with.
Establishing partnerships with families and key stakeholders can assist effective planning that actively prepares children for transitions between settings and experiences. Key to a successfully planned transition processes is the sharing of information about each child’s learning, strengths, preferences and interests so that this information can support school educators and teachers to build on these foundations and maximise each child’s learning outcomes.
In many jurisdictions, with the permission of parents or carers, transition statements are shared with school staff to assist in the process of getting to know the child and drawing on the insights and understandings of individual children shared by educators in the education and care setting.
There are a number of helpful resources available including:
- Be You – Transitions as empowerment opportunities
- Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority – Successful transitions
- Reimagine Australia – Transition to School
Some useful resources to share with families from the StartingBlocks.gov.au website include:
- Factsheet – Supporting children during transitions
Tips to help families support their child if they are transitioning to a new group, room or service.
- Factsheet – Transition to school
Tips on how families can work with their early childhood education and care service to support their child’s transition to school.
Our family focused StartingBlocks.gov.au website is now the one and only national government website to help families understand quality in relation to education and care services and make the best choice for their children.
In February 2022, we launched new features on the website and started displaying service fees and vacancies data from the Services Australia-managed Child Care Finder website, as it is closing. This consolidated the important role of StartingBlocks.gov.au as the single government website for families to understand quality in the ECEC sector and identify the best service to meet their needs by providing enhanced fee, vacancy, service and quality information.
Our commissioned research continues to show that families value National Quality Standard quality ratings. Search results from the Find Child Care tool display service information showing how each service rates for each of the seven quality areas, as well as the overall service quality rating. There’s also a link to find out what the ratings mean.
Findings from user experience testing in November 2021 presented the opportunity to raise family and community awareness, understanding and perceptions of quality in children’s education and care and this information helped us to develop StartingBlocks.gov.au.
StartingBlocks.gov.au campaign materials to share with families
Our 2022 digital communications campaigns features new enhancements to StartingBlocks.gov.au.
Quality early learning videos
Our quality early learning videos continue to share stories that highlight unique and inspiring experiences, supportive relationships and opportunities for children’s learning and development that are unique to quality early learning service settings.
These videos feature the authentic and diverse voices and contributions of children, families, teachers and educators.
Social media tiles
Information suitable for publishing on websites and in newsletters
We encourage families to visit StartingBlocks.gov.au to learn more about quality practices and to find an education and care service to meet their circumstances and needs.
- The family focused Startingblocks.gov.au website provides resources that explain the NQF and NQS in plain English for families.
- Families can use the popular Startingblocks.gov.au website Find Child Care tool to search for quality services near home or work.
Poster to print and display at your service