ACECQA Newsletter Issue 5 2023
Welcome to our May newsletter and the latest news to support your professional practice within the National Quality Framework (NQF).
Each year, my admiration for the creators of the NQF continues to grow. The essential elements of the NQF – the National Law and Regulations, the National Quality Standard, the independent assessment and rating of every service, and the approved learning frameworks which focus on outcomes – work as a seamless system built on the commitment by regulators and services to strive for the highest quality of education and care for young children and young people.
This seamless system where all elements are connected and important is enduring. It is enduring because it is informed by international research evidence of quality, expert experience in children’s development and learning, and a deep respect for Australia’s First Nations and our multicultural communities. The principle of continuous improvement is a shared commitment for all of us in our various roles.
This month, we continue to provide updates to the NQF and resources to help teachers, educators, providers and families in their safe care and support of children’s development.
We also highlight some upcoming special events and days that you may wish to celebrate.
The theme for this year’s National Reconciliation Week, Be a Voice for Generations, encourages us to use our power, words and actions to create a better and more just Australia. The United Nations Global Day of Parents is a time to acknowledge the critical role of parents in the rearing of, and primary responsibility for, children’s nurturing and protection, and as their child’s first teachers. As teachers and educators, we work closely with parents, carers and community groups so that each and every child can grow to their full potential in a culturally safe and inclusive environment in an atmosphere of security, happiness, love and understanding.
Also, in the spirit of continuous improvement, we have been asked by the nine governments of Australia to review the staffing and qualifications requirements of the NQF. This is one of the actions under the 10 year National Workforce Strategy and is underpinned by the strong evidence that well qualified, experienced and consistent teachers and educators are at the heart of children’s sense of belonging, safety, skills development and joy of learning.
Further details about special events, updates and how you can be involved are provided below. As always, in the spirit of professional practice, please share with colleagues and families if you find our articles of interest.
As we hope you know, in October 2021, Education Ministers approved the publication of Shaping Our Future: The National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy (2022-2031) to support the recruitment, retention, sustainability and quality of the sector workforce.
One of the 21 national actions commits to a comprehensive review of the current NQF staffing and qualification regulations to improve consistency, support quality, and reduce complexity, with a focus on the requirements for early childhood teachers, outside school hours care educators, and expiring transitional staffing provisions. We have been commissioned to undertake this review on behalf of all governments.
Throughout May, June and July, all interested parties will have the opportunity to share their views by completing the online survey. You can also register for a public consultation webinar to learn more about the goals of the review and discuss the regulations under consideration.
The results of this consultation will inform the development of options for governments to consider at the end of the year. More information about this important review is available on the ACECQA website: http://www.acecqa.gov.au/review-nqf-staffing-and-qualification-reg
The principles of equity, inclusion and diversity underpin the National Quality Framework (NQF) and are embedded throughout the National Quality Standard (NQS) and the approved learning frameworks. The NQF promotes inclusive programs, practices and policies that recognise each child’s capacity and right to succeed within diverse circumstances, cultural backgrounds and abilities.
The principle of equity, inclusion and diversity has been a key part of the NQF since it was introduced in 2012. The recent refresh of the approved learning frameworks highlights the significance of inclusion and the principle of High expectations and equity has been re-named as Equity, inclusion and high expectations to be explicit about inclusive practice for every child’s development and learning.
Inclusive practice requires educators to hold high expectations for the learning and development of each child and to support progress in meaningful ways. When teachers and educators engage in critical reflection, challenge practices that contribute to inequality or discrimination, and make curriculum decisions that promote genuine participation and inclusion, they champion children to:
- be confident and involved learners
- have a strong sense of wellbeing
- have a strong sense of identity
- connect with and contribute to their world
- be effective communicators.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) is a law that protects Australians from discrimination based on disability. It recognises that every child has the right to access, fully participate and be included in all aspects of community life, including in children’s education and care services.
We have developed a suite of resources to support providers and their staff to understand and implement their obligations under the DDA. Further resources such as a team meeting package and recruitment and induction package will soon be released. For more information, please visit the full set of resources on the ACECQA website.
National Reconciliation Week from 27 May to 3 June provides an opportunity to reflect on, and embed, genuine and authentic practices and build meaningful, mutually beneficial and sustained partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and agencies.
Reconciliation Australia’s Narragunnawali website has many useful resources to support learning about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore educational practices that contribute to reconciliation in Australia. Reconciliation Australia encourages us to pause and listen to the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to be a voice for action by connecting with local Traditional Custodians and First Nations groups to find out what issues each community should stand with to amplify their voices.
The safety, health and well-being of children are of paramount importance in every approved service and the foundation for development and learning.
For services located in multi-storey buildings, the risks associated with emergency evacuation are increased as young children typically need to rely on the preparedness, knowledge and ability of staff to ensure their safe exit from such buildings in emergency situations. It is critical that teachers, educators and service staff are supported in their roles by effective building safety features and emergency response equipment so the safety of children and staff is guaranteed in every situation.
ACECQA has led a joint working group on behalf of relevant State and Australian Governments working with Regulatory Authorities and the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) for a number of years to identify and develop additional safeguards to ensure relevant systems work together to protect and promote young children’s safety.
This work and the ongoing collaborative partnership with the ABCB have resulted in achieving amendments to the National Construction Code (NCC) and the National Quality Framework (NQF).
The NCC 2022 amendments commenced on 1 May and the 2019 NQF Review changes are due to come into effect later in 2023, with updates being provided through our newsletters, website and social media channels as well as on the 2019 NQF Review website.
Education Ministers have endorsed a Joint NCC and NQF Statement to explain respective roles and functions and how these key changes are complementary.
The proportion of children’s education and care services rated Meeting National Quality Standard (NQS) or above remains at 89%, according to our latest quarterly NQF Snapshot.
There has been a consistent rise in the proportion of services rated Meeting NQS and above since quality ratings were first published – from 56% in 2013 to 89% today. The Snapshot shows there are more than 17,000 services approved under the National Quality Framework (NQF). There has been consistent growth each year in the number of approved services including a 2.3 percentage point increase in the past 12 months.
Additional figures providing more detailed analysis continue to be added to the Online Snapshot, including geographic representations of the proportion of staffing and physical environment waivers across the country.
In early 2024, all services will be required to implement Version 2.0 of the approved learning frameworks*:
- Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF V2.0)
- My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia (MTOP V2.0)
To help teachers and educators become familiar with Version 2.0 of the frameworks, services may wish to consider reviewing their service philosophy.
The contemporary changes provide an opportunity to stop, reflect and consider ‘what we do and why we do it’. As with all transits, this year is a time for services to review how their programs, practices and partnerships meet the evolving needs of children and families, educators and the wider community. This involves families, children, teachers, educators and community stakeholders to be included in the service philosophy and to ensure the contemporary research and terminology from the refreshed frameworks are reflected within service practice.
Service leaders may find the revision process highlighted within the Reviewing Your Service Philosophy information sheet helpful.
We are continuing to develop further resources to support the transition to and implementation of EYLF and MTOP Version 2.0. Published resources include a video, posters, information sheets and interactive maps. Services may like to distribute these resources to relevant stakeholders for consideration before hosting discussions to consider how their service philosophy reflects the contemporary updates made to the frameworks.
*The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework will continue to remain an approved learning framework under the NQF
Respecting and embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and promoting Reconciliation in practice
Bribie Island Community Kindergarten has recently been awarded the Excellent rating for the fourth time. This is the first time a service has achieved the Excellent rating four times.
This service works tirelessly to build partnerships, respect and understanding of the Traditional Owners of the land their service is located on, the Joondoburri people. Bribie Island Community Kindergarten is recognised for its commitment to respect, reflect and celebrate culture and diversity, including place of origin and respectfully maintain strong collaborative partnerships with their local Aboriginal community.
For several years, this kindergarten has advocated for the construction and maintenance of Joondoburri Walk, situated on a local reserve to educate and encourage the local community to learn from and amplify the voices of the Joondoburri people.
The service applied for, and received, a second Indigenous Languages Grant from the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships. The service used the grant to:
- Create a second sign in the Gabi Gabi language featuring the artwork of a traditional owner, which was installed on the Joondoburri Walk. Before installation, the service sought feedback and modification requests on the proposed artwork from a local Elder.
- Publish ‘The Joondoburri Walk’, a book comprising First Nations historical knowledge and the related artwork of children and students from across the Bribie Island community regarding 28 plant species in the local area.
These are a few examples of how this service respects and embeds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and promotes reconciliation in their everyday practice, which is a key focus of the refreshed approved learning frameworks.
The Education and Care Services National Regulations set the fees for children’s education and care services under the National Quality Framework and these fees are indexed annually. Most fees are collected by state and territory regulatory authorities and help administer the NQF. They fall into two categories:
- the annual service fee, which applies to all approved services
- transaction fees, which are individual fees that apply to specific transactions.
Annual fee invoices for the 2023-24 financial year will be issued by email by 1 June.
Please use the National Quality Agenda IT System to check and update the contact email address that is recorded for your provider. The fee is payable in full for all service approvals held by the provider regardless of any subsequent transfers, suspensions or closures.
As we advised last month, Education Ministers agreed to changes to the National Quality Framework based on findings from the 2019 NQF Review and new resources were published in April to support providers and staff to understand and implement these changes.
The second round of approved regulatory changes, coming into effect for the majority of jurisdictions* from 1 July 2023, will:
- Assist in addressing workforce challenges by providing flexibility for services when replacing educators during short term absences and resignations.
- Improve oversight of providers by regulatory authorities by expanding the definition of ‘person with management or control’ of the service to better capture persons exercising significant influence over the operation of services, and closer alignment between the Education and Care Services National Law and the Family Assistance Law on matters relating to the ‘fitness and propriety’ of service providers.
- Amend documentation requirements for OSHC providers in Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria who will now be required to keep ‘program level’ documentation about the educational program, rather than documentation at the ‘individual child level’.
- Provide flexibility to FDC services that have been operating for at least 12 months, by allowing some adjustments when calculating family day care coordinator to educator ratios. This change will assist in addressing workforce challenges within the FDC sector.
- Improve the provision of quality education and care by ensuring all FDC educators hold at least an approved certificate III level qualification prior to commencing their role. Existing educators will have a period of up to 12 months to complete their qualifications (not applicable in South Australia where this requirement is already in place).
- For the first time** since the introduction of the NQF in 2012, moderately increase several prescribed fees as well as introduce a new category to differentiate fees applied to ‘large’ and ‘very large’ services.
- Increase the incentive and reduce administrative burden for services applying for the Excellent Rating by extending the period of approval from three to five years.
- Implement a cut-off date for the original national Approved Learning Frameworks in early 2024, at which point services will be required*** to use the new versions of the national Approved Learning Frameworks.
A third and final round of regulatory and legislative changes will come into effect later in 2023.
All decisions made by Education Ministers from the 2019 NQF review are published on the nqfreview.com.au website. The 2019 NQF Review website provides the Decision Regulatory Impact Statement (DRIS) and the comprehensive FAQs on all of the incoming changes to the National Law and Regulations.
(*Please note: some regulatory changes may be delayed for services in Western Australia. Contact your Regulatory Authority for further information)
(**Except for annual consumer price index increases)
(***The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework will continue to remain an approved learning framework under the NQF)
An updated version of the Guide to the National Quality Framework (NQF) will be published on 1 July 2023. We will also continue to update it throughout 2023 to reflect the agreed changes from the 2019 NQF Review.
From 10 July, there will be changes to the way Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is calculated. Services can help families understand what the changes mean for them, by:
- directing families to the CCS calculator at StartingBlocks.gov.au to find out what their future rates may be
- printing and displaying a poster and fact sheet at your service
- sharing social media with your families using this kit
- telling your families when the CCS changes will take effect with regard to your service’s billing practices.
Find detailed information about what’s changing for providers that administer CCS on the Australian Government Department of Education website.
StartingBlocks.gov.au is the national government one-stop-shop for families. Our free family focused website aims to help parents and carers choose a quality children's education and care service by providing tools and information including:
- fees, vacancy and quality ratings in the Find Child Care tool
- children’s developmental milestones in fact sheets
- estimates of their out of pocket costs in the Child Care Subsidy Calculator.
The website also has resources to help parents and carers to understand the critical role that educators play in their child’s education and development through service policies, programs and practices.
With winter coming, the following resources may be of interest to families:
Hygiene at education and care services - provides information to families about how educators and service leaders support children to develop lifelong positive hygiene habits and reduce the risk of cross infection.
Hygiene at home – provides some simple hygiene practices that families can follow to maintain a hygienic environment at home.