ACECQA Newsletter Issue 5 2020
Welcome to our May Newsletter, coming to you during National Reconciliation Week 2020. This year’s theme #InThisTogether reflects our adaptability, resilience and, most importantly, our connectedness through relationships.
We have been meeting regularly with governments, regulatory authorities, peak bodies, higher education institutions and service providers to understand the impact of the health crisis on the sector and identify appropriate supports we can provide for educators, children and their families.
As you would expect, each community and local service has had its own challenges, but what is common right across Australia is the commitment to providing safe quality education and care – for children, educators and staff.
While we continue to deliver all our functions, we are reflecting on our performance and, as you do, planning for the rest of the year – when and how each state and territory will return to business as usual, how future NQF Snapshots will be of most value, what can be enhanced and what needs to be improved.
What we have seen across society is the universal recognition of early education and care as an essential service. Within the sector, there is a collective and united drive by all stakeholders to balance financial sustainability with the goal of continuous quality improvement. This means great leadership is more important than ever. This is evident in the continued support of educators through open communication and professional development – working as teams to implement new levels of safe procedures and taking additional steps for staff health and wellbeing.
For your interest, our research report on quality improvement, while developed pre COVID-19, is an interesting study in what differentiates ‘exceeding’ services from ‘meeting’ services.
Finally, the following articles are intended to help you stay connected. Wherever you work, a sincere thank you for your amazing role in keeping children active, well and flourishing.
We recognise and respect that families and the sector need timely information and resources during this health crisis. We are prioritising our communications to best support you with reliable and accurate information.
You can find the latest information on COVID-19 on the ACECQA COVID-19 webpage, including news, government updates and resources to support educator wellbeing.
For families, our StartingBlocks.gov.au COVID-19 webpage has information that will help them continue their child’s learning journey at home.
We have also worked with the Australian Government to set up a national toll free helpline to assist families to find an education and care service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
27 May – 3 June 2020
A guiding principle of the National Quality Framework (NQF) is that Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are valued. This year’s National Reconciliation Week (NRW) theme, In this together will resonate with educators, service leaders and staff in early education and care services. Each day, through our work with children, families and communities, we are building a respect and valuing of Australia as a diverse nation and an ancient land that has been cared for by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for many thousands of years.
#InThisTogether reflects our adaptability, resilience and, most importantly, our connectedness through relationships. Reconciliation, like relationships, requires a commitment to reflecting upon our role and maintaining our understanding of what we can do to contribute to building a more tolerant and just society and sustainable environment to support children, families, colleagues and the local and broader community to understand, respect and value diversity.
Why do we have National Reconciliation Week?
NRW started in 1993, the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In 1996, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation launched Australia’s first NRW as an opportunity for educators, children and families to celebrate past and ongoing contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to Australian society.
What role can services play in reconciliation?
While your NRW plans and experiences may be different this year, this week remains an opportunity to review, reflect and recognise your service’s progress on its journey of reconciliation. As a team, it may be timely to:
- reflect on what progress your service has already made in its reconciliation journey and how you and your colleagues can continue to build genuine partnerships and relationships with people, places (country) and organisations
- document your service reconciliation goals, challenges, and achievements, as well as the work-in-progress within your Quality Improvement Plan, Self-assessment Tool or your Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). If your service does not have a RAP, consider visiting Reconciliation Australia’s Narragunnawali program for support to develop a RAP that is unique for your service
- consider how you use and develop your plans, actions and relationships to maintain your service’s commitment to reconciliation.
Extending your service’s commitment to reconciliation beyond NRW will make your conversations and explorations meaningful, ongoing and embedded so that:
‘Together, we can foster a sense of belonging
Together, we can create and access culturally safe spaces and places
Together, we can learn from the past as we forge the road ahead
Together, we can nurture and care for Country
Together, we can walk the path of reconciliation.’
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been significant for our communities, with early childhood service providers doing their best to support children, families and staff under challenging and changeable operating conditions.
Understandably, most services are unable to support student placements at this time and higher education institutes are unable to facilitate scheduled placements. This has had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on final year pre-service early childhood teachers (ECTs).
In recognition of these extraordinary circumstances and to support final year students to complete their degrees, the ACECQA Board has modified the supervised professional experience requirements as follows.
Supervised professional experience requirements for final year students in 2020
- Undergraduate ECT programs must include at least 30 days of supervised professional experience in early childhood settings, including a minimum of 10 days with children aged birth to under 3 years old (0 – 35 months).
- Postgraduate ECT programs must include at least 20 days of supervised professional experience in early childhood settings, including a minimum of 10 days with children aged birth to under 3 years old (0 – 35 months).
This decision is similar to modifications being implemented by many state and territory teacher regulatory authorities.
It is important that pre-service ECTs still fulfil all required course outcomes, including any state and territory teacher regulatory authority and skilled migration requirements relating to supervised professional experience days. We expect higher education institutes to facilitate placements for pre-service ECTs where and when possible and appropriate.
The impact of the global pandemic in Australia, as well as the associated restrictions resulting from it, have varied over time and across the country, and this may well continue to be the case.
If traditional placements are not possible, we expect higher education institutes to conduct other meaningful forms of technology and scenario based assessment, such as telepresence, simulations and work-integrated placements.
Supervised professional experience remains a vital component of initial teacher education, allowing pre-service teachers to develop and demonstrate their skills in a real life education and care environment.
In its deliberations, the ACECQA Board focused on achieving a balance between a practical and pragmatic response to a public health emergency without unduly compromising quality standards.
Promoting continuous improvement in the provision of quality education and care services is one of the primary objectives of the NQF.
To help understand how service providers can drive quality improvement, we recently commissioned research from Macquarie University, in partnership with Queensland University of Technology and Edith Cowan University.
The quality improvement research project focused on long day care services that had improved their overall quality rating, with a particular focus on improvement in Quality Area 1 – Educational program and practice and Quality Area 7 – Governance and leadership.
The study was undertaken in three phases and found genuine and sustained quality improvement is the result of the collaborative effort of service leaders, educational leaders, educators and approved providers. It identified five priority areas to support and sustain quality improvement:
- Role of the approved provider and organisational support
- Service leadership – including leading the service philosophy and creating a supportive workplace
- Role of the educational leader
- Role of individual educators
- National Quality Standard (NQS) assessment and rating tools – including the Quality Improvement Plan and assessment and rating process.
The research report has been published alongside an information sheet which includes practical ideas for providers, service leaders, educational leaders and educators to support continuous quality improvement.
Our latest quarterly National Quality Framework Snapshot finds the proportion of services rated Meeting National Quality Standard (NQS) or above has remained steady at 80% since December 2019.
As at 31 March 2020, 30% of services were rated Exceeding NQS and 42 services received the Excellent rating – the highest rating a service can achieve. The quality of education and care services also continues to improve as almost two thirds (65%) of services previously rated Working Towards NQS improved their overall quality rating after reassessment.
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.
Note: The majority of data in this Snapshot covers the period prior to the escalation of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Australia.
On 2 April 2020, Education Ministers announced four critical areas for time-limited regulatory action, including the suspension of assessment and ratings.
Other changes include waiving fees and charges for COVID19-related applications, fast-tracking qualification waiver applications, and making rapid operational adjustments as required. State and territory regulatory authorities will continue to apply child health, safety and wellbeing as the primary considerations in regulatory decisions.
Education Council agreed to South Australian jurisdiction-specific amendments to the Education and Care Services National Regulations.
What are the changes?
The changes enable new educators without an approved qualification working at a centre-based service (that educates and cares for children preschool age or under) to be counted as a certificate III qualified educator for the purposes of educator-to-child ratios for a 3 month probationary period.
The changes also allow a 1:11 educator to child ratio in all South Australian centre-based services for children over 36 months of up age, up to and including preschool age.
Please note: There will be no change for South Australian government provided preschools. Providers across the sector can maintain existing requirements through service policy and operational decisions.
Confirmation of the commencement date will be communicated in next month’s ACECQA newsletter.
For further information contact the Education Standards Board at [email protected]