ACECQA Newsletter Issue 6 2023
In last month’s newsletter, I mentioned that the National Quality Framework (NQF) continues to be an impressive, internationally recognised framework for establishing the components of quality. Each part of the Framework (Act, Regulations, Quality Standard, Independent Assessment and Rating, and the Approved Learning Frameworks) is important: they work together to realise the aspiration of continuous quality improvement and the other five objectives which can only be achieved with the collective will of governments, regulators, providers, teachers, educators, support staff and families.
This month, we take a closer look at the Excellent rating by sharing some success stories. The rating is a very high bar to achieve and, over the years, this bar continues to rise as individual services show how remarkable they can be in responding with exceptional innovation the ever changing needs of their children and families. The NQF’s National Quality Standard and the independent assessment and rating system have proven that every type of service in every community can achieve the highest rating. Across Australia, there are 35 services currently rated Excellent and these include all service types (long day care, preschools/kindergarten, out of school hours care and family day care). When looking at the SEIFA ranking of the services rated as Excellent, 29% are located in SIEFA ranking one area, which are considered the most disadvantaged areas.
Another component of the NQF is the Regulatory system (Law and Regulations). Our articles include changes that will come into effect in July as a result of the 2019 NQF Review. This Review was undertaken as part of the commitment to continuous improvement and reducing regulatory and administrative burden on services.
For the latter, we discuss documentation which is regularly mentioned when we undertake surveys of perceptions of unnecessary ‘red tape’ with service staff. Interestingly, we have heard that there may be misunderstandings about what is required by legislation and the National Quality Standard when it comes to documentation. For example, did you know that the National Regulations do not prescribe the details? It is up to the professional judgement of teachers and educators to determine the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of documentation to meet the unique needs and record the learning journeys of children. This professional judgment is guided by the service’s vision, philosophy, policies, practices, expectations and context.
This month, we highlight events happening in July including NAIDOC Week and National Out of School Hour Care Educators Day.
NAIDOC Week is a precious time in which we acknowledge the amazing culture, history and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. For our OSHC services, Educators Day is an opportunity to think about the valuable role of educators: they ensure children and young people have safe, interesting and supportive programs before and after school, and often in vacation time as well.
If you find our articles and stories informative, interesting or of value, please share with your teams and families.
A commitment to continuous quality improvement is central to ensuring evidence informed and contemporary professional practice in the children’s education and care sector. Regular reviews by the nine Australian governments help the NQF to stay current, to support better practice in regulatory oversight and for quality improvement in approved services. To this end, Commonwealth, state and territory Education Ministers approved changes to the NQF following the 2019 NQF Review.
To help providers and their staff to understand these changes and implement them in a timely way, we regularly update nqfreview.com.au to share information about the issues considered, decisions made following consultation and timing for changes.
We appreciate your feedback via email to [email protected] on our information and guidance resources to ensure we are supporting quality practice and meeting your needs as children’s education and care professionals – particularly our information sheets and the Guide to the NQF.
The Excellent rating is the highest rating an education and care service can achieve under the NQF. Services rated Exceeding in all seven quality areas of the National Quality Standard can apply for the Excellent rating.
The awarding of the Excellent rating shows that a service is embracing continuous quality improvement and exceptional practice to improve outcomes for children and families at the highest level. It also recognises providers who support their staff as champions of quality improvement and innovative leaders who contribute to raising the bar on what can be achieved for children attending education and care services.
From 1 July 2023, the award period of an Excellent rated service will be extended from three to five calendar years. This extension will come into effect in Western Australia at a later date. If a service applies and is successful with their Excellent rating application, on or after 1 July 2023, they will be awarded the Excellent rating for a five-year period.
If a service was awarded an Excellent rating prior to 1 July 2023, their Excellent rated award and expiry period remains at three years.
If a service is unsuccessful with their Excellent rating application, they will be eligible to apply in three years if the service is rated Exceeding NQS in all seven quality areas (unless the National Authority determines otherwise). More information on the Excellent rating and the list of current Excellent rated services is available on the Excellent rating webpage.
Fundamental to high quality education programs is the way teachers and educators manage the cycle of observing, analysing, assessing, planning, reflecting on and evaluating children’s educational and developmental journeys.
Of course, documenting these journeys requires an understanding of children’s strengths, ideas, abilities and interests so that progress across their learning outcomes can be monitored and progressed through the use of reflective journals, photographs, videos, children’s work, portfolios, narratives, floor books or learning stories.
The approved learning frameworks have been refreshed to include additional guidance on assessments. ‘Assessment’ refers to the gathering of information about children’s learning, development and wellbeing, undertaken over time using a range of strategies. Educators use three broad types of assessments:
- Assessment for children’s learning, also known as formative assessment
- Assessment of children’s learning, also known as summative assessment
- Assessment as learning to facilitate children’s awareness, contributions, and appreciations of their own learning.
Each service may take a different approach to assessment, informed by the unique context of their children, families and communities.
Frequency and format for documentation/observations of learning
Recognising the uniqueness of each service, teachers and educators are empowered to explore a range of styles and methods to determine what works best for their children, families, peers and community. This approach recognises the professionalism of teachers and educators to focus on meaningful, purposeful, sustainable documentation that supports quality outcomes for children/young people and their families.
For children preschool age and under, the National Regulations require services to document assessments of the child’s developmental needs, interests, experiences and participation in the educational program. The frequency of documentation is not mentioned as this will be determined by the needs of your service. This requirement also relates to preschool age children attending OSHC services.
A key thing to remember is that it is not the amount of documentation you have, or how immaculately or colourfully the information is presented, it is about the relevance to the service context and its capacity to inform effective planning for children’s/young people’s learning, development and wellbeing.
It is also worth reflecting on the use of digital documentation, such as taking photographs and videos. There is the potential that taking excessive photographs or videos may consume teachers’ and educators’ time and detract from quality educator-child interactions – the teaching moments which enrich and extend children’s learning and skills development. Consider the reason why photos are taken: Is it to document the child’s development or is it a perception that families need multiple images of their child? Meaningful photographs and videos that make learning visible are of far greater value than an overabundance of daily content.
There are no mandated recipes or templates for documentation and for good reason. While templates may be helpful in organising information, the risk is that they can be limiting or sometimes cause unnecessary administrative burden. It is important to review and reflect on what we are documenting and why.
The power of documentation and its contribution to quality
Many theorists and educational approaches recognise and promote the value of documentation. For example, the Reggio Emilia approach values the important role pedagogical documentation plays in recording and documenting children’s actions and words in order to listen to, and come to better know, the child and so develop new ways of relating to them and to co-construct curricular experiences with them.
As well, the NQF values the importance of documentation in promoting and extending children’s learning and development. Documenting and reflecting equips teachers and educators to develop a quality educational program that reflects the unique interests, skills and abilities of children. Sharing documentation with families and the service community promotes valuable opportunities for engagement with families and opportunities to build collaborative partnerships.
Children can and should contribute to the documentation process. This is vital for a child-centred approach to pedagogy and practice and ensures children’s voices are reflected in all aspects of service operation.
If approaches to documentation are not supportive or are unsustainable, it might be time to reflect and look for strategies to streamline and focus documentation, particularly if any of the following do not accurately describe your documentation:
- the process of documenting your practice and the children’s responses helps you to explore your own teaching, to inform professional dialogue and to generate questions and inquiry about the children and their learning.
- it aims to make children’s learning, skills, strategies, processes and understandings visible, foregrounding their learning processes for knowledge construction rather than the context and activities.
- it supports children and families in interpreting, reflecting and evaluating on the purpose of the program, including co-constructing an understanding of their own learning and experiences (*V Hargraves, 2020).
These points and the following questions may be useful to reflect on at your next team meeting:
- How are children involved in documenting their own wellbeing, development and learning?
- How can children contribute to the development of the program of the service?
NQF changes for OSHC documentation
From 1 July 2023, Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) services educating and caring for school age children in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria will align to the same regulatory documentation requirements as services in the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Queensland. In these jurisdictions, the focus is program level documentation which is appropriate for school age children/young people.
For Western Australia, please check the legislation for the commencement date.
To meet these requirements, the approved provider must ensure that evidence about the development of the educational program for a child/young person over preschool age is documented. This can be reflected by documenting how and why the educational program has been developed to support all participants in the program.
When deciding what to document, it is important to consider your service context, service philosophy and the requirements of the NQF (Education and Care Services National Regulations, the National Quality Standard and the approved learning frameworks). The NQF empowers educators and service leaders to recognise the context of the service and to implement documentation strategies that are meaningful and relevant for the children/young people attending the service. The regulatory requirements for educational program documentation can be found in Part 4.1 of the Education and Care Services National Regulations. The National Regulations require that the program contributes to the outcomes within the approved learning frameworks, taking into account:
- the period of time the child is being educated and cared for,
- how the documentation will be used and understood by educators and
- how the documentation will be understood by, and available, to families.
You may find these information resources helpful:
- Documentation – what, why and how – ACECQA
- ACECQA helps unlock the door on documentation – ACECQA
- Documentation – ACECQA
- Documentation – Are we there yet? – ACECQA
- Digital documentation for families – quality or quantity? – ACECQA
- Quest 4 Quality documentation game – ACECQA
- Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF) V2.0 2022
- My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia V2.0 2022
- Information sheet – Documenting programs for school age services – ACECQA
*Hargraves, V (2020), The Reggio Emilia approach, accessed https://theeducationhub.org.nz/the-reggio-emilia-approach/
We have published our ninth occasional paper, analysing serious incidents relating to injury, trauma, or illness.
Supporting children’s safety, health and wellbeing is the first and most important objective of the National Quality Framework and is the basis upon which to achieve the other objectives including supporting children’s educational and developmental growth.
The paper highlights the trends in notifications of serious incidents resulting in injury, trauma or illness in children’s education and care services during a two-year period. It identifies the volume, characteristics and causes of these incidents, including the times and locations they are more likely to happen. It also offers practical strategies to support providers and educators to prevent and reduce such incidents.
Providers, teachers and educators can also refer to our recently published information sheet on managing and responding to injury, trauma, and illness incidents.
All nine of our occasional papers are available on our website.
As you know, the ECE sector is experiencing a serious shortage of staff, and governments and the sector are collaborating to seek solutions to this issue. A research team from Macquarie University have been contracted under the terms of the National Workforce Strategy to investigate how rates of pay and employment conditions and benefits impact the recruitment and retention of ECE staff.
This survey gives you the opportunity to let us know what needs to be improved in order to solve this workforce crisis. Your responses will directly inform Government ECE policy and industrial relations reform as well as workforce initiatives planned by large and small ECE employers. By completing the survey, you can enter a draw for one of ten $300 gift vouchers.
The survey asks about your current employment conditions, your job attitudes, and which employment conditions and benefits are the most desirable. It should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete. Please follow the link below to have your say!
Did you know that an approved provider must notify the regulatory authority of any appointment or removal of a person with management or control (PMC)? Under section 173 of the Education and Care Services National Law (National Law) and Regulation 174 of the Education and Care Services National Regulations, an approved provider must notify the regulatory authority within 14 days of the change.
This requirement is not new but is worth being aware of before the expanded definition of a PMC under the National Law comes into effect on 1 July 2023*.
If a person becomes a PMC when the expanded definition comes into effect, they are taken to be appointed as a PMC on 1 July 2023. Then, the approved provider must notify their regulatory authority of the appointment of that PMC within the 14-day period, i.e. by 15 July 2023.
Approved providers do not need to submit additional notifications for PMCs who were already notified to the regulatory authority before 1 July 2023.
An approved provider can be fined up to $20,000 for failing to notify the regulatory authority about changes to its PMCs.
We have published these information sheets about the expanded definition of a PMC under the National Law:
- Identifying persons with management or control of a service from 1 July 2023 – Existing Providers
- Identifying persons with management or control of a service from 1 July 2023 – Prospective providers
How to notify a regulatory authority of changes to PMCs
To notify a regulatory authority of any appointment or removal of a PMC, the approved provider should submit the PA08 Notification of change about an approved provider form through the NQA ITS.
Each identified PMC should then complete a PA02 Declaration of fitness and propriety form and provide the relevant supporting documentation. This includes any person who becomes a PMC under the new definition, from 1 July 2023.
If an existing PMC is no longer fit and proper for any reason, the approved provider must notify their regulatory authority within seven days.
What happens next?
The regulatory authority will assess a PMC’s fitness and propriety, including their knowledge of the NQF, using a risk-based approach.
In addition to the documentation submitted with the notification, the regulatory authority may also gather further information by interview, written assessment, or both.
The regulatory authority can reassess a person’s fitness and propriety at any time.
A set of new eLearning modules will be released soon to further support PMCs to understand their roles and responsibilities.
The modules will provide information about obligations under the National Law and the Australian Government's Family Assistance Law, and will be available before the simplified provider and service application process launches in July.
Existing resources you may find helpful include:
- NQF professional development eLearning modules
- ACECQA's Opening a new service webpage
- the Guide to the NQF (to be updated on 1 July)
You can also contact your regulatory authority for more information.
*Please check the legislation for implementation dates in Western Australia.
Carrum Family and Children’s Centre (CFCC) was awarded the Excellent rating on 2 June 2023. The Victorian based service was recognised for its partnerships, positive workforce culture and innovative practices that promote quality outcomes for children’s learning and growth.
One particular example of CFCC’s exceptional and innovative practice is its nutrition initiatives developed in response to the assessed needs and interests of its children and families including:
- CFCC has two full time chefs and a kitchen coordinator who work across all three of its approved provider’s services. In 2019, a kitchen supervisor role was established after CFCC advocated for extensive consultation from the chefs and team members to identify operational needs of all services. In 2023, the kitchen supervisor position was superseded by the kitchen coordinator role after a consultation period to identify tasks that supported the leadership of the kitchen teams across the three services. The position supports CFCC to provide nutritional menus, to support families with diverse needs, allergies and dietary requirements and to implement the Stephanie Alexander Garden Project.
- In 2022 in collaboration with its local Community Health Services, the Veggie Heroes Project was established in response to Australian Bureau of Statistics data highlighting that 8.5 per cent of children ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables in 2020–2021. As part of the team making vegetables into a ‘hero’, the kitchen team developed a healthy food focused activity space with books and learning experiences such as vegetable bingo, spot the veggie, food sorting activities and mystery box food guessing games.
- Each month, a kitchen newsletter is sent to families that shares the service’s curriculum, including tips and tricks for making vegetables ‘heroes’ at home too. Each menu cycle is shared with the families, alongside each recipe for families to be inspired to make nutritious meals at home. Throughout the year, the service will collect recipes from its families and staff and will include them into its menu cycles. All the recipes are collated and shared with families both online and in a physical book.
NAIDOC week occurs annually in the first week of July and provides an opportunity for all Australians to learn about, and to reflect on, the history, culture, and achievements of our First Nations people.
We recognise and celebrate the important role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples play in the education and care of children.
In recognition of this vital role, the approved learning frameworks have been strengthened to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives within the vision, principles, practices and learning outcomes. Strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, cultures and perspectives throughout the approved learning frameworks reflects the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration.
The addition of a new principle named Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, and key language changes including the shift from cultural competence to cultural responsiveness, are key changes to the frameworks. The renaming of the practice to cultural responsiveness reflects a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity and demonstrates a commitment to embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in all areas of professional practice.
This year’s NAIDOC week theme is For Our Elders. Aligning with these changes to the learning frameworks, this week provides an opportunity to explore and celebrate the important role Elders have in guiding our children, families and communities.
National Out of School Hour Care Educators Day is celebrated on the last Wednesday of July each year, so is coming up soon on Wednesday 26 July 2023. This year’s theme At the Heart of the Community presents an opportunity to recognise the critical role outside school hours care (OSHC) educators play in the lives of children, young people, families and communities. It is a time for the sector to celebrate the positive impact that educators and service leaders have on the safety, socialisation, skills development and wellbeing of children and young people.
We recognise and value the significant contribution of out of school hours care educators and service leaders. In celebration of National Out of School Hours Care Educators Day, we’re highlighting some Excellent rated services and showcasing examples of their outstanding practices.
Forrest Out of School Hours Care
Forrest Out of School Hours Care was re-awarded the Excellent rating in 2021 after being first awarded the rating in 2019. The Canberra based OSHC service has been recognised for its collaborative partnerships with professional, community and research organisations, as well as the inclusive partnerships they build with children, young people, and families. The service also demonstrated a positive workplace culture and a sustained commitment to the professional development of their educators.
Some examples of their exceptional practices include:
- working in partnership with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Down Syndrome Association and Workways Employment Agency to create a pathway for educators with varying abilities to be employed in high quality school age care services.
- continuing a partnership with Forrest Public School, including the school’s Culture Club. Extensions to the goals of this partnership included collaborating with the school to design and establish the Winanggaay Garden, which was officially opened during Reconciliation Week in 2021.
- establishing and continuing to be an active leader in the Outside School Hours Care Community of Practice network for services managed by Parents and Citizens groups in the ACT.
Peak Sports and Learning TIGS
Peak Sports and Learning TIGS was awarded the Excellent rating in 2021. This OSHC service was recognised for its ongoing commitment to children that respects and celebrates culture and diversity. Peak Sports and Learning TIGS also demonstrated practice and environments that were dedicated to enhancing children’s learning and growth.
Some examples of their exceptional practices at the service include:
- developing collaborative partnerships with professionals and research organisations to improve children’s health and wellbeing by reflecting on evidence-based research and increasing children’s engagement in physical activity through intentional programs. Notably, the service has partnered with the University of Wollongong to participate in studies such as the ‘Healthy eating and physical activity environments in out-of-school hours’ and trialling the NSW Heart Foundation’s Eat Smart Play Smart (ESPS) App.
- implementing initiatives and programs in response to children’s needs, capabilities and strengths such as the Growth Mindset Program (GMP), encouraging children to employ a ‘growth mindset’ to foster love of learning, resilience and accomplishment and embedding the GMP in everyday practice and environments. The service acknowledges this initiative provides support for children in managing academic expectations through setting achievable goals and identifying appropriate strategies to meet them.
You can find out more about these Excellent rated OSHC services on our website:
Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is changing
Child Care Subsidy is increasing from July 2023, which means children's education and care will be more affordable for most families. It also means more families will be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy.
From 10 July:
- the family income limit to get CCS is increasing to $530,000
- the maximum amount of CCS is increasing from 85% to 90%
- families earning $80,000 or less will get 90% subsidy
- families earning over $80,000 and under $530,000 will get a subsidy that tapers down from 90% depending on their income, the subsidy will go down 1% for each $5,000 earned
- families earning below $362,408 with more than one child aged 5 years or under in care can still get a higher rate for their second and younger children.
- families can use the CCS Calculator at StartingBlocks.gov.au to find out what their future rates may be.
How to update service information on StartingBlocks.gov.au
Service fees, vacancies and inclusions can be updated via the Provider Entry Point (PEP) or your third-party software.
Keep your service information updated on the NQA IT System as usual.
For enquiries relating to StartingBlocks.gov.au, please contact us.
Resources to share with families at your service
Some useful resources to share with families from the StartingBlocks.gov.au website include:
Factsheet – Programs for children
Information on how quality programs are planned for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and school age children.
Factsheet – Brain development in children
The quality of a child’s earliest environments and the availability of appropriate experiences at the right stages of development are crucial to brain development and the foundation for learning later in life.