ACECQA Newsletter Issue 2 2020

Educator and child playing guitar

 

CEO foreword

Welcome to the second edition of our newsletter. 

Our purpose as the National Authority under the National Quality Framework (NQF) is to work with regulatory authorities and service providers to achieve the six objectives of the National Law.

We do this in many ways and, in this edition, our focus is on: giving up to date information to services operating in bushfire affected communities; reflecting on practice under Quality Area 6; and shining a spotlight on initiatives of high quality services.

We are also required to report on the performance of the NQF including the monitoring of service quality. 

We are pleased to share the latest data about the continuous quality improvement journey.  This information clearly shows that the NQF is working as intended with acknowledgement to all services and regulatory authorities.  We also include a continuous quality improvement story in the form of an innovative program initiated by a South Australian Excellent-rated service

Despite a long history of providing children’s education and care services in Australia, the public awareness of early learning and child development in the early years remains basic. This month, we are delighted to give you a preview of one of our new quality early learning videos for families. The videos were developed, with the generous support of several Excellent rated services and their families, to increase family and community knowledge about the impact of quality early learning for children’s development.  We hope you enjoy this preview and, if you have a chance, please share with your families and community connections.


Support for bushfire-declared communities from the Australian Government
Fire warning sign

Updated emergency and natural disasters assistance webpage

The Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s emergency and natural disaster assistance webpage continues to be updated with information and resources as they become available. Mental health support resources, including Beyond Blue’s Be You initiative and Emerging Minds’ Educators resource pack: Supporting children after bushfires, were recently added to the page.

Funding available for drought and bushfire affected services

To support recovery efforts for drought and bushfire affected communities, the Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) Special Circumstances program supports services affected by natural disasters, or unforeseen circumstances or viability issues that risk closure and consequential market failure for the community.

This program includes $5 million for services affected by bushfire and a further $5 million for services in drought affected areas.

Services may seek funds for a range of activities, for example establishing temporary child care premises, temporarily meeting operational costs and addressing health and safety requirements.

For more information and to apply, visit the CCCF Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity webpage.

Stay in the loop

For up-to-date information on emergency and natural disaster assistance from the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment, as well as other important information, subscribe to the early childhood education and care email newsletter.


Who’s who and what can we do?

Educator talking with parent outside

Community partnerships based on consultation and collaboration contribute to children’s inclusion, learning and wellbeing (p248 Guide to the National Quality Framework).

What lasting impact can we have on the way children, families and community connect?

Quality Area 6 of the National Quality Standard (NQS): Collaborative partnerships with families and communities focuses on creating supportive, respectful relationships with families and communities. It recognises these as fundamental to achieving quality outcomes for children.

We know that establishing and maintaining authentic connections can help services build relationships with, and between, their children, families and community.

If you map your service’s existing connections and partnerships, which individuals, groups and organisations would be listed?  Are there gaps? Who is missing? How might you and your service community plan to make these connections and partnerships happen? 

Aligning with Outcomes 1 and 2 of the approved learning frameworks, Children have a strong sense of identity and Children are connected with and contribute to their world, building strong connections can result in many positive outcomes for children, families, educators and service leaders.

For example, opportunities exist to use these connections to enrich and inform the programs delivered, educator practices and service policies, as well as to support children to respect and value diversity and be active citizens in their community.

We have seen many examples of strategies used to identify, prioritise and build strong connections. For example, one service invited families to be part of a community focus group to identify issues in the local community of importance to the children and families (such as creating a useable path through a nearby park for prams and people with disabilities). Collaboratively, the group was able to identify some options for raising and resolving the issue.

Another service was contacted by the local council to contribute to the renovation of a community playground. Children drew and shared with council their ideas for the playground in the initial stages of the redevelopment. The children’s ideas informed the planning, designing and building of an inclusive skate park for young children and people with disabilities. The design included a flat wide path surrounding the skate bowl and a smaller area for beginners. Children also submitted a report to council promoting the inclusion of a bike path, which was accepted as part of a future redevelopment plan.

If you are in the early stages of developing community connections, you might like to consider: 


Research

80% of education and care services rated Meeting NQS or above

Two children playing outside

For the first time, 80% of education and care services are Meeting or Exceeding National Quality Standard (NQS). This significant milestone was highlighted in our NQF Snapshot Q4 2019.

The proportion of services rated Meeting NQS or above has risen steadily from 56% in 2013, to 69% in 2016, to 80% at the end of 2019.

As at 31 December 2019, 30% of services are rated Exceeding NQS and 45 services hold the Excellent rating – the highest rating a service can achieve.

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. Many services rated Working Towards NQS are close to being rated Meeting NQS. 40% of services rated Working Towards NQS receive that rating due to not meeting one or two of the seven quality areas of the NQS.

Our NQF Snapshot provides analysis and information on the profile of the education and care sector, the quality ratings of services, and the distribution of ratings by service type, provider management type and geographic location.


Innovation

Two girls writing in a book together

This new section of our newsletter will explore innovative practice and innovation in the sector. This month, we are exploring engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).

Exploring STEM and STEAM

Innovation is part of the continuous improvement journey, bringing fresh perspectives and original thinking to issues. Innovation is essential in a rapidly changing world and provides children with new ways to develop knowledge, skills, dispositions and capabilities supporting their capacity to thrive, and be life-long learners and innovators themselves.

Hands-on STEM/STEAM-based experiences are recognised for their potential to promote children’s creativity, inquiry, iteration, persistence and problem-solving capacity. Young children are naturally curious and STEM/STEAM learning is consistent within the holistic, play-based approach of the approved learning frameworks. The successful Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) initiative for children in preschool, and Little Scientists are great examples of STEM concepts and practices in action.

Jescott Montessori Preschool, an Excellent-rated service in South Australia, provides an example of a collaborative STEAM program in practice.  Families were interested in the STEAM programs being offered in their local primary schools, and spoke to the educators about what they could do to introduce it to their children. The service collaborated with families to introduce a project called Full STEAM Ahead. The project included professional conversations, family involvement in planning activities and seeking donations of recycled products for projects. Families also volunteered in the classroom to demonstrate applications and to assist with the construction of in-depth projects. The service supported their families’ interest in STEAM by:

  • creating an experiment and resource guide to inspire and empower its families to conduct STEAM experiences at home. It includes simple steps and common ingredients found within the home.
  • providing a STEAM DVD to each family. The DVD, made collaboratively with children for families, is a celebration of the service’s STEAM practices and includes examples of children’s learning during the project.

This project was recognised as one of the many exceptional practices identified in the process of awarding Jescott Montessori Preschool the Excellent Rating – the highest rating a service can receive. Find out more about their Excellent Rating.


Starting Blocks

Educator and child playing guitar

Quality early learning videos

StartingBlocks.gov.au is launching an exciting new national video campaign for families about the importance and benefits of early childhood education and quality early learning.

Featuring the authentic and diverse voices and contributions of children, families, teachers and educators, these engaging videos will highlight unique and inspiring experiences, the development of supportive relationships, and the opportunities for children’s learning and development that are unique to quality early learning services and settings.

These videos are ideal resources for conversations about quality early learning, development of children’s skills, relationships with parents and families, and your role as a professional educator.

The videos will be released over the next few months so please keep an eye on ACECQA’s family-focused brand StartingBlocks.gov.au!