ACECQA Newsletter Issue 3 2021
Welcome to our March edition. Because we all want children to have the best experiences in early childhood education and care services, we are focusing on two services that we have awarded the highest quality Excellent rating and on how services actively build and deliver welcoming and flourishing environments for every child.
Exceptional practice is everyone’s goal but not easy to achieve. Having considered applications for the Excellent rating over the last four years, I am impressed by the truly creative ways in which services evolve for the changing needs of their children and families. There are no lists of ‘must dos’ because each service awarded Excellent is unique in how they did it. What Excellent rated services have in common is their dedication in understanding each child’s and family’s needs and interests; how the leadership team inspired and enabled all staff to collaborate, innovate and lead; and how they systematically planned, measured impact and adapted programs, processes and practices to become more effective.
Not surprisingly, international research in ECEC services around the world regularly points to the relationship with parents as an essential component of quality provision, and nicely summarised in the European Early Childhood Research Journal: “Parental involvement and the important potential for settings to build relationships of mutual exchange, connectedness and solidarity” (Vol 28, No 3, June 2020).
This month, we also invite you to access and give your views and perspectives on two national reviews, the 2019 NQF Review and the upcoming consultation paper for a national workforce strategy. Even if you don’t wish to participate, they are worth reading as a way to keep up to date with proposals for future change.
Finally, here at ACECQA, we actively listen to providers, educators, peak bodies and associations, and families so that we can improve our programs and services. Our new educator-to-child ratio calculator was developed with regulatory authorities in response to requests for help from services and our operational activity report gives some insight into a small part of what we do.
I hope you enjoy reading the following articles.
The National Quality Framework (NQF) recognises all children’s capacity and right to succeed regardless of their circumstances, cultural background, strengths and abilities. Inclusion is acknowledged as an approach where diversity is celebrated.
Viewing children as capable, competent and successful learners and having high expectations for the learning and development of all children supports inclusive practices. As does recognising that every child treads an individual learning path and will progress in different and equally meaningful ways.
The Guide to the NQF (p. 10) promotes the importance of recognising each child’s experience of learning and development. This assists educators to implement responsive, equitable, individualised opportunities and identify additional support required to address any barriers to success.
It may be timely to think about how a culture of respect, equity and fairness is evidenced and promoted at your service.
While the NQF requires that a statement of philosophy be used to guide all aspects of the service's operations, many educators and teachers find it helpful to also articulate their personal philosophy. A personal philosophy can help guide your approach to creating respectful, equitable and fair programs and experiences for each child. It is important to think about how your philosophy aligns, or is shaped by, the philosophy of the service, in particular, the service’s stated approach and commitment to:
- valuing diversity, equity and inclusive practice
- guiding children’s learning through play and leisure
- collaborating and forming partnerships with each child and their family.
The approved learning frameworks acknowledge that genuine partnerships, which include shared decision-making with families, support consistency between children’s experiences at home and the service. This has the potential to positively enhance children’s learning, wellbeing and inclusion (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 12; Framework for School Age Care, p. 10). It is also recognised that learning through play provides the opportunity for teachers and educators to:
- promote and model positive ways to relate to others
- actively support the inclusion of all children
- help children to recognise when play is unfair
- offer constructive ways to build a caring, fair and inclusive learning community
- nurture children’s optimism, happiness and sense of fun.
Goodstart Early Learning Tuggerah, recently awarded Excellent by ACECQA, demonstrates equity, inclusive practice and diversity in many ways. Their thoughtful and planned approach to welcoming a child with diverse medical needs into their care is a notable example. The teachers and educators didn’t hesitate when contacted by the child’s family. They put into practice their philosophy that every child is welcome and deserving of high quality early learning.
The team began professional development to learn about the child’s specific medical needs. They developed meaningful and collaborative partnerships with the family and health practitioners, and they implemented play programs and experiences for every child at the service to build each child’s capacity to understand, respect and play safely with the child. It was this approach that allowed the child to thrive, learn and successfully transition to school.
To continue learning individually or as a team about equity, inclusion and diversity, some questions to consider include:
- What research or resources have shaped your service’s approach to equity and inclusion?
- How is the service’s commitment to equity and inclusion reflected in the statement of philosophy?
- What strategies do you use to ensure your practice is not influenced by stereotypical, biased or inequitable views?
- What is your approach to acknowledging children’s complex relationships and sensitively intervening in ways that promote social inclusion?
- How does the service team reflect together to consider the social justice and equity implications of:
- educators’ approaches to facilitating active and collaborative learning opportunities and behaviour guidance?
- design choices to ensure that the play environment supports the rights of, and equitable participation for, every child at the service?
- strategies used to meaningfully engage families?
There are many different and effective strategies that teachers and educators can use to ensure that all children have opportunities to experience inclusive and equitable quality education and care.
Recognising and valuing diversity is an effective way to support each child’s developing sense of self-worth and their access and participation in everyday events, routines and play experiences.
A fundamental feature of the National Quality Framework (NQF) is improved educator-to-child ratios and qualification requirements. Sufficient numbers of appropriately qualified educators enable the delivery of quality education and care programs, which respond to and promote children’s learning and development.
The required educator-to-child ratios for education and care services are set out in the National Regulations, including requirements for early childhood teachers (ECTs).
ACECQA, working with all state and territory regulatory authorities, has now developed an online calculator to help simplify calculations across centre-based services.
What does the calculator do?
The new online tool calculates the minimum number of educators a centre-based service must have based on a given number of children at any point in time and the age mix.
It also calculates requirements for ECTs.
- to be counted in the required educator-to-child ratio, educators 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 those 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 maintained at all times.
- 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 under the NQF
- See Part 4.4 ‘Staffing Arrangements’ in the National Regulations
- Refer to Operational Requirements > Staffing Arrangements in the Guide to the NQF
- Go to the Educator-to-child ratios and the Qualification requirements ACECQA webpages, including information to assist Family Day Care services.
Our sector continues to experience persistent and increasingly pressing issues with the attraction, supply and retention of qualified educators and, in particular, early childhood teachers. While significant investment has been and is being made by governments in various ways, the challenges are complex and a coordinated, collaborative, Australia-wide approach is needed to provide long-term solutions.
In December 2019, Education Ministers endorsed the development of a new National Workforce Strategy which will be co-created and co-owned by the major groups in the sector and the nine governments. We are coordinating the co-development process which involves governments, employers, unions, universities, training providers, peak bodies and associations.
In the coming months, we will be seeking your views and advice about what actions need to be taken to improve workforce attraction, supply, retention and quality over the next decade. Subscribe to the ACECQA newsletter or follow us to stay informed about upcoming consultation activities.
The nine governments of Australia are seeking your feedback on the 2019 National Quality Framework (NQF) Review Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (CRIS).
The 2019 NQF Review aims to ensure that the regulatory system remains current and continues to lift quality in education and care. This is an opportunity for families, educators, providers of education and care services, and the broader community to have their say about the risks, benefits and costs of proposed changes to the NQF.
Provide feedback on the CRIS by:
- Completing an online survey or making a written submission
- Registering to attend an information session to learn about the CRIS and how you’ll be able to have your say. Governments across Australia will be running these online and/or through COVID-safe events.
Following this consultation process, governments will develop a final set of recommendations in a Decision Regulation Impact Statement (DRIS).
For more information, please visit the NQF review website.
Information from the Australian Government
Families who got Child Care Subsidy (CCS) for the 2018–19 financial year must confirm their income by 31 March 2021. The deadline was extended from 30 June 2020 to 31 March 2021 to provide families more time due to COVID-19.
If families don’t confirm their income by 31 March 2021, they will lose their CCS. This means providers will need to charge families full fees for any child care they use.
Services Australia will be able to start a family’s CCS again but only after they have confirmed their income. This means families may miss out on CCS they may have otherwise got.
If families still haven’t confirmed their income by 30 June 2021 they will need to pay back all the CCS they got for 2018–19. Families will no longer be eligible for CCS from 12 July 2021. Providers will need to direct families to make a new claim if they wish to get a reduced fee again.
Families can claim CCS entitlements again once they have confirmed their income and they have either:
- repaid any current or previous CCS or Child Care Benefit debt, or
- entered into a repayment arrangement.
How do families confirm their income?
To confirm their income, families need to:
- lodge their tax return, or
- tell Services Australia they don’t need to lodge a tax return. Families can do this using their Centrelink online account through myGov or the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app.
If a parent separates from their partner Services Australia will also need their ex-partner's income.
If a parent is concerned that their ex-partner/s won’t lodge their tax return by the deadline they should call the Families line.
There’s more information for providers on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s website.
Providers should direct families to Services Australia for more information.
As part of our ongoing commitment to openness and transparency, we make information publicly available about a number of our operational functions. Looking at the volume of some of our work to date, as at 31 December 2020, we have received:
- 266 Excellent rating applications, with 40 services currently rated as Excellent
- 75 second tier review applications
- more than 10,000 qualification assessment applications from individuals
- more than 200 qualification assessment applications from organisations
- 219 skilled migration assessment applications for the Child Care Centre Manager and Child Care Worker (Group Leaders only) occupations
- 862 provisional skills assessments for the Child Care Centre Manager occupation.
We publish detailed operational activity data (including applications by month, location and outcome) each quarter.
The Upper Hunter Valley based service’s exceptional approach to collaborative partnerships with professional, community and research organisations was one of the reasons it was awarded this rating.
Service Director Kirsty Hails shares the importance of partnerships:
‘Our Yellow Cottage philosophy is a connecting pathway and we live those connections every day in our practices. It is who we are, our partnerships with our children, families and the community have taken us on a journey to developing flourishing learners in our staff and children thanks to our introduction to strength based wellbeing practices.
Our partnership with local charity group Where there’s a Will, has opened the door to the most incredible growth for our educators, families and children. Together we have taken the journey to understanding how positive psychology practices can influence our wellbeing and how a strength based approach can be implemented into early childhood.’
As a leader in the sector, the service develops and inspires the practice of educators locally and nationally, school representatives and community members through:
- providing phone, email and face-to-face support to over 30 children’s education and care services in the Upper Hunter region on strength-based experiences and supporting children’s wellbeing
- presenting at a local Positive Education Schools Association meeting, Upper Hunter Schools Visible Wellbeing Showcase, Upper Hunter Appreciative Inquiry Summits and Scone Grammar School Appreciative Inquiry Summits to share its inspiring wellbeing and strengths-based practices
- advising on early years educational theorists and approaches, the use of the approved Early Years Learning Framework and the inclusion of children’s voices and ideas in wellbeing resources and training promoted by Where there’s a Will.
Key ways in which this support may be demonstrated are:
- maintaining a good relationship with the service’s staff and the director to continue the two-way communication
- talking to staff about their child’s interests to see how they can be included in their day
- asking about their child’s progress against developmental milestones and working with staff to strengthen learning and developmental opportunities, both at the service and at home
- letting staff know about things that are happening or have happened at home, for example the arrival of a new baby or changes in living arrangements.
Services can share these resources with their families and communities to help them be part of their child’s successful development and learning journey.