ACECQA Newsletter Issue 6 2018
With the 1 February 2018 commencement of the 2018 National Quality Standard (NQS), you will have noticed a change in the focus of Quality Area 7 from Leadership and Service Management to Governance and Leadership. The aim of Quality Area 7 under the NQS is to support effective leadership and management of the service that contributes to quality environments for children’s learning and development. Well-documented policies and procedures, well-maintained records, shared values, clear direction and reflective practices enable the service to function as a learning community. This change reflects the need to consider our understanding of the governance of the service. It is also an opportunity to review existing governance structures and reflect on the roles of educators and staff within the service governance.
The NQF Snapshot, Q1 2018 shows that 1% of all approved providers have 25+ services and 17% have between two and 24 services, meaning 82% of all approved providers have a single stand-alone service. Governance for different approved provider types and sizes can be very different. For those education and care services part of a larger organisation, there may be a governance structure that includes compliance managers, regional managers, a board of directors or a Chief Executive Officer. The governance structure for stand-alone services may also look different depending on the approved provider, which may be an individual, entity or other body.
What is governance?
The Guide to the National Quality Framework (NQF) defines governance as ‘the systems in place to support effective management and operation of the service, consistent with the service’s statement of philosophy’ (p. 278).
The Governance Institute of Australia has defined governance in terms of the following four components:
1. Transparency: Being clear and unambiguous about the organisation’s structure, operations and performance, both externally and internally, and maintaining a genuine dialogue with, and providing insight to, legitimate stakeholders and the market generally.
Within a children’s education and care service, consideration should be given to identifying and thinking about the key stakeholders: children and their families, the community, as well as the educators and staff. Being transparent can be about clear communication and engaging meaningfully with each stakeholder. Providing information to families about the governance structure of the service during the enrolment process and making it a regular agenda item for staff meetings will allow staff and families to ask questions, provide feedback and be informed about those structures. Regular conversations with families and staff about day-to-day changes at the service, such as new employees, provide stakeholders with key information before these changes occur. Being informed of major changes, such as staffing, adds to this transparency and a sense of wellbeing for families, educators and staff.
2. Accountability: Ensuring that there is clarity of decision-making within the organisation, with processes in place to ensure that the right people have the right authority for the organisation to make effective and efficient decisions, with appropriate consequences for failures to follow those processes.
The NQS reflects this in Element 7.1.3 – Roles and responsibilities. Approved providers need to consider if the differing roles and responsibilities within the service’s management structure are clearly defined and understood by employees, families and the community. How do these roles and responsibilities support the effective decision making that occurs, as well as the operation of your service? Stakeholders need to first understand where they can go and who they need to speak to if a problem arises.
For Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s former Director-General, accountability means ‘being able to act when something is going wrong, through policy, legislation and advocacy, including through ombudspersons to protect citizen’s rights’. Strong accountability strategies, including the systems in place as required by Element 7.1.2 of the NQS, positively influence other aspects of service operations, with children and families’ rights respected when accountability is present. For example, when complaints or grievances are lodged, families need to feel confident that any concerns or issues they raise have been listened to and will be handled promptly and professionally. Are complaints seen as an opportunity for critical reflection and are they used to drive quality improvements? Addressing these can improve practice and assure complainants that the governance structure at the service values their feedback and input. What decision making processes exist at the service to support the idea of accountability when concerns are raised? Our information sheet about using complaints to support continuous improvement has a number of strategies you can use at your service.
3. Stewardship: Recognising that the organisation takes reasonable account of the interests of stakeholders.
Stewardship can be defined as the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving. The creation of sound governance arrangements within education and care services promotes the development of positive learning environments for each child, which in turn, upholds the best interest of all children, families and educators (the stakeholders).
Although there are legislative requirements around roles within education and care services, educators and staff, children, families, and communities are encouraged to influence collaboration and partnership. Consider the connection between governance and Quality Area 6: What does meaningfully engaging with families about their partnership with the service look like? How is collaboration with your community encouraged?
4. Integrity: Developing and maintaining a culture committed to ethical behaviour and compliance with the law.
Element 4.2.2 of the NQS states that professional standards should guide practice, interactions and relationships. Services may do this, for example, by considering the Early Childhood Australia Code of Ethics and the way professional standards relate to the governance of the service or how educators and staff know the approved provider is maintaining professional standards within the service. During staff meetings, you may review the Code of Ethics when considering your service philosophy and have it displayed for families and children.
Governance and the service philosophy
Your written statement of philosophy outlines the purpose and principles under which your service operates and guides all aspects of your service operations (Element 7.1.1). This philosophy will underpin your decisions, policies and practices and reflect the shared understanding of the many roles of the service among managers, educators, staff, children, families and the community. Have you reviewed your service philosophy recently? Now might be the ideal time to do so – use the review process to focus on your service’s governance and leadership arrangements and how they support the overall philosophy of the service.
Questions to consider
- What is the governance structure of the education and care service? How do the different roles (within the service) play a part in ensuring the ongoing operation of the service?
- Is your governance structure easily defined for your stakeholders? Is it provided to families and employees when they begin at the service?
- What does your service philosophy say about the governance arrangements at your education and care service? How are the ideas of transparency, accountability, stewardship and integrity represented in your philosophy?
Further reading and resources
Early Childhood Australia – Code of Ethics
Early Learning Association Australia – Governance and management resources
Bubup Wilam means ‘Children’s Place’ in the Woi Wurrung language.
Bubup Wilam for Early Learning is an Aboriginal Child and Family Centre in Melbourne‘s north that provides Aboriginal children, families and the community with access to an integrated range of services and programs, including early years education and health and wellbeing services.
This month on We Hear You, Bubup Wilam’s educator, Shannon McLeod, talks to us about their Connection to Country Program and the importance of Bunjil, the creator spirit for the Wurundjeri people.
More than two-thirds (67%) of services previously rated Working Towards National Quality Standard (NQS) have improved their overall rating at reassessment, according to data in the NQF Snapshot, Q1 2018.
As at 31 March 2018, 77% (11,321) of all rated services have an overall quality rating of Meeting NQS or above. Other findings include that 14,691 education and care services – 93% of all services approved to operate under the National Quality Framework – have received a quality rating. (Note: The proportion of services with a quality rating will not reach 100% at any one time as new and recently approved services may not yet be rated.)
A revised version of the NQS commenced on 1 February 2018. Previous NQF Snapshots have included analysis at the standard and element level – this analysis will be reintroduced once a sufficient number of services have been assessed and rated under the 2018 NQS to allow for meaningful comparisons.
We have produced a series of posters to reflect the 2018 National Quality Standard (NQS) and the quality areas that contribute to children’s learning, wellbeing and development.
There are individual sets tailored for centre-based services and family day care services, as well as outside school hours care services.
Each set consists of nine A3 posters: one about each of the seven quality areas, a summary NQS poster, and an introductory poster for families explaining the quality areas of the NQS and the importance of early learning and education for their child.
We encourage you to take down any outdated quality area posters that you may have on display and to replace them with these new posters. Use the posters to begin a conversation about the seven quality areas, your important role as an educator, and quality outcomes for children.
Visit the ACECQA website to purchase additional poster sets or to download the free NQS and quality area posters.
Are you looking for resources to help support the parents, carers and families at your education and care service?
Starting Blocks, ACECQA’s family focused website, is updated regularly with information, factsheets and infographics for families and educators.
The factsheets include information about the National Quality Framework, building strong links between home and education and care services, illness, nutrition and more.
Visit Starting Blocks to view the range of factsheets and share with your networks.
Annual fee invoices for the 2018-19 financial year will be issued by the end of the month via email. Use the National Quality Agenda IT System to check and update the email address that is recorded for your service.
The fee is payable in full for all service approvals held by the provider regardless of any subsequent transfers, suspensions or closures. Contact your regulatory authority for more information.