ACECQA Newsletter Issue 2 2022

Educator instructing 2 children

 

CEO foreword

Welcome to our February Newsletter in which we share the latest update on the review of the Approved Learning Frameworks, our newly enhanced StartingBlocks.gov.au website, new resources for in-nature play and positive data from our latest NQF Snapshot report.  

In this edition, we also have interesting stories about how Excellent rated services recognise and support the professional status (and retention) of their educators. 

During development of the National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy, professional recognition of the role of teachers and educators needed to be improved to help address workforce shortages in the sector. Four exceptional services show how they have attracted, supported to become, and retained high calibre staff.

Unsurprisingly, common characteristics of high quality services include a commitment to attracting, nurturing and developing the skills and experience of their teaching workforce, and in turn, strengthening their professional knowledge and autonomous decision making. 

In sharing these stories, updates and resources we hope to guide and inspire you and your service leaders to continue your professional learning and passion for children’s optimal development, well being and education.   

Gabrielle Sinclair

ACECQA CEO


New resources to support in-nature play

In nature play factsheet with children walking in bush

In-nature programs can take place in a variety of natural environments, such as at your local park/reserve, at the beach, a lake, or in the bush. Each place will offer unique learning experiences for children and can also pose its own planning challenges and considerations. 

We have developed two new resources to support your development of an in-nature program:

QA1 The legislative requirements of an in-nature program
Provides information to support approved providers, nominated supervisors, coordinators, educators and teachers when considering an in-nature program in their children’s education and care service as part of the National Quality Framework.

QA1 The how and why of in-nature programs
Shares practical considerations when considering or developing an in-nature program, including how it reflects the unique context of your service, children, families and community.


Children’s health and safety

Educator and children outdoors in rain

The past two years have put a spotlight on our health and safety and challenged our ability to respond effectively to rapidly changing health and safety circumstances.

The commitment and resilience demonstrated by Australian educators, teachers and service providers has been crucial in maintaining and supporting the important education and care of children.

The circumstances we are living in demonstrate the importance of Quality Area 2 of the National Quality Standard (NQS): Children’s Health and Safety. By necessity, illness management and hygiene practices which are key components of Element 2.1.1: Health practices and procedures have had to be reviewed in the light of government advice and changing levels of risk in each community.  

Effective illness management requires policies and procedures to be well understood and correctly followed. During the pandemic, this has not been an easy task with many policies and procedures being  dynamic, requiring ongoing review in response to the rapidly evolving public health advice and updated immunisation requirements. 

Reflecting on high quality practice, how is your service embedding policies and procedures and how are changes undertaken and communicated with your staff and families?

Embedded policies and procedures

  • Embedded policies and procedures are evident in the everyday practice and decisions of teachers and educators: they are well known and their context and objectives are understood by all staff and families. 
  • When updates or clarifications are needed, these are done collaboratively and communicated widely, providing a consistent approach and background for why changes were needed and how roles and responsibilities of stakeholders may have been affected. The shared understanding of the ‘why, how, when and who’ guides continuous improvement, supports professional practice and enables smooth implementation. 

Supporting the professional practice of educators

The 'Rated Excellent by ACECQA' Logo

Our education and care services continue to find innovative ways to support the development of educators in their professional practice. All professions commit to ongoing in-service learning after the initial pre-service training and this is, in fact, one of the criteria for ‘professional practice’. For early education and care, this commitment to and investment in professional development has tangible benefits for educators, children and service quality.

In high quality services, approved providers and service leaders recognise that effective professional development aligns the unique interests, skills and aspirations of educators with the assessed needs and interests of children and families. In this way, investment in staff professional development delivers improved practice and service capabilities.

Employer investment in training is also critical to creating effective workforce conditions that attract and retain employees. For the early education and care profession, this investment has a significant return in relation to educators being valued and supported in their complex roles and, in turn, long and close relationships with children and families are enabled. 

The following examples highlight how four Excellent rated services’ unique approaches are supporting their educators in professional practice and identity. 

  • Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool uses a distributed Pedagogical Leadership Model (PLM)
    This includes the roles of educational leader, Behaviour and Development Specialist (BDS), Workplace Health and Safety Officer and Reconciliation Action Plan Champion. The educators filling these leadership roles work collaboratively to ensure that the educational program and educator practice is in line with the service philosophy, the NQF and best practice based on research.  
  • Forrest Out Of School Hours Care established a comprehensive induction and orientation process in 2021
    This was developed in response to the changing needs of educators for health related reasons and the employment of several new educators. Changes to the induction program included implementing two 3-hour long professional development sessions to replace written sections of the handbook. This captured the diverse learning styles of educators and gives the service another way to share their expectations and approach to practice. 
  • Bellambi Point Community Preschool has improved positive interactions between educators and children
    Its approved provider developed and implemented an organisational strategy targeting positive interactions. The first step was a Supporting and Guiding Children’s Behaviour survey to gather data on each educator’s knowledge, skills and perceptions regarding supporting and guiding children’s behaviour. The survey results were used to develop a comprehensive professional learning plan, at an organisational and service level. Each educator at the service then completed self-paced online professional learning opportunities on various topics over 12 months. 
  • Choices Family Day Care holds regular staff and educator Yarning Circle meetings based on the Aboriginal 8 Ways of Learning
    Educators come together to share stories and exceptional practice and to mentor their peers. Coordinators and service leaders are aware that their educators may feel isolated working at home, so each yarning circle focuses on ensuring that all educators feel supported, included and heard. To commence these meetings, an educator will share practice and facilitate conversation to encourage everyone to feel safe and secure to share their knowledge and practice. These meetings are held in the hosting educator’s local community to support their work in rural and remote Queensland. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, these sessions have been adapted to occur virtually.

As we begin 2022, we encourage you to reflect on the ways your service supports the professional practice of your education and care professionals. The Guide to the NQF provides a range of reflective questions after each Standard that you may find useful for this.  


StartingBlocks.gov.au – new features are here

Boy outside at easel

New features are available on our StartingBlocks.gov.au website. Families can:

  • find local services and view their vacancies, costs, quality ratings and inclusions
  • compare services side-by-side
  • estimate their out-of-pocket costs using our new Fees Estimator
  • get information and advice about education, children’s development, and parenting.

 Having this information in one place helps parents choose the best early childhood education and care for their family.

What has changed for providers and services? 

Your service fees, vacancies, quality ratings and inclusions will now be published on StartingBlocks.gov.au.

Please update your communication products with this information and replace old phone numbers like the My Child Hotline and Child Care Access Hotline with links to StartingBlocks.gov.au.

All enquiries relating to StartingBlocks.gov.au should be directed to the Contact Us page

The way you report your fees and information as required by Family Assistance Law has not changed. You must still report through the Provider Entry Point (PEP) or your third-party software.

When reporting fees, you must report:

  • current hourly or session fees before Child Care Subsidy, discounts or reductions. If your service has a range of fees (for example, per educator or age group), you can report a typical or average fee.
  • any changes to fees (within 14 days of the change).
  • If you need help, see the task card on reporting fees in the PEP or contact your third-party software provider.

See the new features, including the new Fees Estimator on the StartingBlocks.gov.au website.


87% of children’s education and care services now meeting or exceeding standards 

Child looking at rock with magnifying glass and text 'research' over image

Our latest quarterly NQF Snapshot finds 87% of services are rated Meeting National Quality Standard (NQS) or above – the highest proportion since quality ratings began in 2012.

The NQF Snapshot and interactive Online Snapshot summarise quality rating results and other information about education and care services operating under the National Quality Framework (NQF), including temporary service closures related to the impact of COVID-19.

Our sector has made enormous progress in the past 10 years. The proportion of services rated Meeting NQS and above has risen remarkably – from 56% in 2013 to 87% today. This progress is driven by the efforts of the thousands of service providers, teachers and educators who have improved their programs and practices over the past decade and achieved higher quality ratings.

More than two-thirds (67%) of services rated Working Towards NQS improved their overall quality rating at reassessment, demonstrating the continuous improvement in service quality the NQF intends to foster is taking place.


Stage 3 of the ALFs Update is underway 

Two children playing together

Stage 3 of the 2021 Approved Learning Frameworks Update project has commenced. This stage involves piloting potential areas for updating the Approved Learning Frameworks (ALFs) in 16 services across Australia.

From January to March 2022, a group of service providers and practitioners that has been involved across the course of the project is piloting potential updates to the ALFs.

The pilot sites cover all service types and jurisdictions, and a diversity of locations, contexts, and service providers.

Throughout the pilot, participants will provide feedback to the Consortia (see below for background) on the suitability of the potential updates, and insights on any implementation opportunities or challenges.

The Literature Review and Discussion Paper developed in Stage 1 and 2 and stakeholder feedback highlighted the strengths of the current ALFs and informed recommended areas for improvement. Drawing together all sources, 20 potential areas for amendments to the ALFs are being piloted in Stage 3.

The updates intend to strengthen the connection between the ALFs and National Quality Standard in areas such as transitions, sustainability, theoretical approaches, critical reflection, the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of being, knowing and doing, and inclusion.

Opportunities identified through the project to improve the ALFs include: 

  • Strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives throughout the frameworks including the vision, principles, practices and outcomes
  • Strengthening the link between the vision and planning cycle
  • Strengthening the principle of ongoing learning and reflective practice
  • Introducing a new principle promoting collaborative leadership
  • Introducing a new sustainability principle
  • Strengthening the principle of high expectations and equity
  • Updating the principle of secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships to include relational pedagogy
  • Strengthening partnerships to include other professionals
  • Clarifying the meaning of holistic approaches
  • Strengthening the connection between play-based learning and intentionality 
  • Replacing cultural competence with cultural responsiveness 
  • Aligning assessment and evaluation for leaning development and wellbeing
  • Expanding and strengthening guidance around Learning Outcomes 

The Consortia’s findings and the feedback from the pilots will inform recommendations to Education Ministers in mid 2022. It is expected that any updates to the ALFs would be implemented during 2023.  

About the project

A national Consortia led by a partnership between Macquarie University, Queensland University of Technology and Edith Cowan University was engaged by ACECQA, on behalf of all governments, to deliver the 2021 National Quality Framework (NQF) Approved Learning Frameworks (ALFs) Update project.

As these frameworks have been in use for close to a decade, the purpose of this update is to ensure they continue to reflect contemporary developments in practice and knowledge, while supporting all educators to promote the wellbeing, learning and development of each child.

The project commenced in April 2021 and is being delivered over three stages.

To read more about the project please visit the Approved Learning Frameworks Update website.

The Terms of Reference for the project are available on the website.


Higher Child Care Subsidy is coming soon

Changes to child care subsidy words on blue background

From 7 March 2022, families with more than one child aged 5 or under in care will get a higher subsidy for their second child and younger children.

Families may be eligible if they:

  • earn less than $354,305
  • have more than one child aged 5 or under in child care.

Child care providers don’t need to do anything to help families get the higher rate. But you can help families understand what’s changing.

Find information and resources on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s website.


Strengthening checks for new provider and service approval applications

Innovation newsletter tile

When new service providers seek an approval, or existing providers seek to expand, regulatory authorities play an important role in promoting NQF objectives by assessing their suitability.

The assessment includes requiring applicants to demonstrate the suitability, knowledge, and capability required to comply with the Education and Care Services National Law and National Regulations. The purpose is to promote the safety, health and wellbeing of children, and improve children’s educational outcomes when they attend an education and care service.

From March 2022, state and territory regulatory authorities will have a nationally consistent and rigorous way of requiring applicants to complete an assessment. This new online, multiple choice assessment is an opportunity for provider personnel to demonstrate their knowledge of the National Law and National Regulations, and the responsibilities and obligations of an approved provider.  

The new online assessment is another step by state and territory regulatory authorities and ACECQA to protect the interests of children and families, and help the sector maintain its reputation for providers who are committed to quality outcomes for children. The new online assessment will also streamline applications through its use of new technologies.

For more information about the assessment of applications, please contact the regulatory authority in your state or territory.


Information to share with families at your service

Share these useful StartingBlocks.gov.au resources with your families and communities:

The importance of play in children’s learning and development
How can you help your child settle into an education and care service?