ACECQA Newsletter Issue 7 2023
Nationally and internationally, the National Quality Framework is being scrutinised as a very successful framework for how governments, services, teachers, educators and stakeholders work together to achieve continuous quality improvement for children attending early childhood education and outside school hours care. The six objectives of the National Quality Framework continue to be the driving motivation for everything we do (the why), and the six guiding principles lead the way (the how) to their achievement.
In this month’s edition, we focus on children’s safety, health and wellbeing (Objective One) with articles about safe outdoor practices and environments, the changes to the NQF coming into effect from 1 October and information about contemporary safe sleep practices from Red Nose.
We also highlight the rights and best interests of the child, the principles of equity, inclusion and diversity, the value of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and respecting and supporting the role of parents and families.
To this end, our articles acknowledge your professional role and responsibilities. We cover your obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act, a suite of easy to use information sheets for the refreshed Approved Learning Frameworks, celebrations for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day, and how to share conversations with families about children’s education and development (are those daily images of children posted to families really about sharing their learning journey?).
To reduce the regulatory and administrative burden for services (Objective Six), we are pleased to announce the new portal which simplifies the application process for provider and service approvals and strengthens the integrity of the sector.
Of course, achieving high quality and continuous improvement (Objective Three) rests on great teachers and educators who are well qualified, experienced, and consistent in their relationships with children and families. They are supported by providers and leadership teams through the service’s philosophy encouraging collaborative teams and a commitment to supportive workplace policies and professional learning, as a start. Our article about the review of qualifications and staffing regulations encourages you to consider what is important and how we manage high quality in a time of workforce pressures and challenges.
At ACECQA, we are always seeking new ways in which we can support you to work within the NQF and, in turn, to help parents and the community to understand the importance of quality and your essential role in their child’s safe development and education. If you find the articles of interest, please share with colleagues and if you have topics or ideas about future articles, please email us via [email protected].
Our National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS) is now the single portal for provider and service approval applications for both the National Law and Family Assistance Law (to administer the Child Care Subsidy).
The single portal in the NQA ITS serves two important functions. The portal reduces duplicative application processes making it easier to apply for National Law and/or Family Assistance Law provider or service approval and it strengthens integrity checks by coordinating the assessment processes of Regulatory Authorities and the Australian Government.
Some applicants may be asked to complete a National Law and/or Family Assistance Law online knowledge assessment to demonstrate their understanding of the roles and responsibilities of becoming an approved provider.
A PRODA (Provider Digital Access) - Services Australia registration is required for some applications.
A PRODA registration enables the applicant’s identity to be verified quickly and securely reducing the need to submit identity documents with every application.
A new Declaration of fitness and propriety form (PA02) is available for National Law and/or Family Assistance Law PA02_DeclarationOfFitnessAndPropriety v2.pdf (acecqa.gov.au).
To help new providers understand their obligations under the National Law and/or Family Assistance Law, new online e-learning courses are available at Opening a new service | ACECQA.
These e-learning modules will help applicants to understand their roles and responsibilities as well as providing guidance on how to apply for provider and/or service approval.
Learn more about the changes to the application process at Opening a new service | ACECQA.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day is on Friday 4 August and this year’s theme is ‘Little Voices, Loud Futures’ to raise awareness for the bright futures of children and the potential for their voices to pave a new path for Australia. To recognise the importance of embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait perspectives in education and care practice, this is a special story of innovative practice from the sector, originally published by City of Stonnington.
Princess Close Early Years, a Victorian early education and care service, recently gathered alongside Wurendjeri Elder Aunty Di and the Reconciliation Aboriginal Parties Advisory Committee to celebrate their indoor environment rooms being renamed to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land.
Wurundjeri man Elder Colin Hunter IV opened the event with a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony. As the smoke rose from the gum leaves, Colin explained to the children the purpose and tradition behind the ceremony. Key quotes from Mr Hunter’s explanation included:
- ‘The Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony is like a passport for travellers.’
- ‘After travelling long distances, people would perform the ceremonies as an introduction.’
- ‘The smoke represents water, which is relaxing and soothing to a traveller, and the ceremony represents the passport with the gum leaves.’
The City of Stonnington Deputy Mayor Cr Melina Sehr then officially announced the children’s rooms were renamed. Key quotes during this announcement included:
- ‘In renaming the rooms with indigenous words, we are acknowledging the Aboriginal connection to country and teaching our children the rich culture that we share with our First Nations people.’
- ‘We want to foster awareness, respect and understanding of the diverse land on which we live for children and families.’
Excluding the infant room, the room names were chosen to reflect local native animals in First Nation’s language. The rooms have been renamed: Bubup the Woi Wurrung word meaning baby, Marram- kangaroo, Walert – possum, Waa – crow and Bunjil – wedge-tailed eagle.
To conclude the celebration, the children led their own Acknowledgement of Country.
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 children’s education and care sector workforce. One of the 21 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. For more information about the Qualifications and Staffing review, watch the short video below.
We have been commissioned to undertake this review on behalf of all governments and, since public consultation commenced in May, we have heard from more than 3,000 education and care professionals though our online consultation survey and consultation webinars.
We know that highly skilled and experienced teachers and educators are integral to the quality of children’s educational and developmental experiences. If you have a chance, please consider adding your voice to the online survey which closes on 4 August 2023.
As we announced in January 2023, Version 2.0 of the national approved learning frameworks, Belonging, Being and Becoming: Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF V2.0) and My Time, Our Place: School Age Care Learning Framework for Australia (MTOP V2.0) reflect contemporary research and practice, providing services with a refreshed lens to reflect on their own practices.
For most services, the updated frameworks validate and support existing practices: for others, they provide an opportunity to reflect on current practice and to make improvements relevant to their service’s children, community and context.
The updates across both national frameworks comprise a mix of clarifications and expanded explanations across the principles, practices and learning outcomes of the original approved learning frameworks. There are a small number of more significant changes such as the introduction of three new principles (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives, Sustainability and Collaborative Leadership) and the strengthening of existing principles and practices.
We have developed a series of resources to support each service type in transitioning to the updated national frameworks. There are information sheets for both the EYLF V2.0 and MTOP V2.0 covering the new and refreshed principles and practices, breaking down the changes and explaining the new concepts or terminology. The information sheets provide provocations and links to resources to spark service-specific conversations and engagement with the changes.
The resources can be found on the ACECQA website.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 is a key piece of legislation which protects the rights of children with disabilities. These include the right to meaningfully participate, and be included, in education and care services on the same basis as others. The National Quality Framework (NQF) supports equity, inclusion and diversity of all children as embedded within the national approved learning frameworks (ALFs) and reflected in quality area 6 of the National Quality Standard (NQS).
Last year, we received funding from the Australian Government to create a suite of resources to support education and care services’ understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). The final set of DDA resources have now been released and include the DDA Team Meeting Package and the DDA Recruitment and Induction Package.
The Team Meeting Package can be used to unpack disability discrimination, reflect on current practice and to plan for continuous improvement. The Recruitment and Induction Package focuses on the importance of recruiting for a positive mindset and attitude to support culture of inclusion, as well as improving the accessibility of recruitment processes in your service. Together, the NQF and DDA promote inclusive programs, practices and policies that support children with disabilities and their families to access and fully participate in children’s education and care services.
You can access the DDA resources here.
We have published a new information sheet outlining guidance on providing safe, suitable outdoor learning spaces. These spaces support children to participate in active physical play and ensure children have access to nature, sunlight, fresh air and experiences unable to be achieved indoors.
Outdoor experiences are an important part of children’s healthy growth, learning, wellbeing and development. There are characteristics of the outdoor environment that offer specific health and developmental benefits to children, which are unable to be replicated in an indoor environment.
Indoor and outdoor learning spaces in children’s education and care settings should be designed to align with the objectives and guiding principles of the National Quality Framework (NQF). The information sheet provides details about the benefits of outdoor space including the use of verandas, the legislative requirements for indoor and outdoor space and information to be included in service approval applications.
For services in the ACT, in addition to ACECQA’s guidance, the ACT is seeking to formalise a jurisdiction specific definition for the outdoor environment as supported by the ACT Planning Guidelines and ACT Outdoor Guidance. This will assist providers and developers in meeting the ACT’s expectations of natural outdoor spaces that are open to the weather and align with the values of the ‘Bush Capital’.
In 2022, Education Ministers agreed to changes to the National Quality Framework based on findings from the 2019 NQF Review (the Review). The Review included extensive consultation with the sector, families and other parts of the community which informed government decisions. All decisions made by Education Ministers from the 2019 NQF Review are published on the nqfreview.com.au website. It provides the Decision Regulatory Impact Statement (DRIS) and the comprehensive FAQs on all the changes to the National Law and National Regulations.
The implementation of regulatory changes resulting from the Review is occurring in phases, with initial rounds of changes coming into effect on 1 March 2023 and 1 July 2023. A third round of regulatory changes will come into effect for the majority of jurisdictions* from 1 October 2023. The 1 October 2023 changes will:
Improve the safety and wellbeing of children by:
- Enhancing sleep and rest policies and procedures requirements, including the matters to be considered when conducting risk assessments.
- Strengthening approval processes for centre-based services and family day care venues to be located in multi-storey buildings with other occupants, by requiring additional information about the proposed premises and layout to be provided to the regulatory authority.
- Requiring providers of services operating in multi-storey buildings with other occupants to have more robust, risk-based emergency and evacuation procedures in place.
- Enhancing policies, procedures and risk assessments required for the safe arrival of children travelling between services, or between schools and services.
- Further embedding the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations into the NQF including a small number of items found to not already be addressed in the Education and Care Services National Law (ie, new obligations for volunteers and students, child protection training for family day care (FDC) coordinators, and enhanced requirements for policies and procedures on providing a child safe environment and managing complaints).
- Prescribing currency periods for first aid qualifications.
- Requiring providers of centre-based services to notify the requlatory authority of any changes to the ages of children or the nature of care offered at the service.
- Strengthening regulatory authority oversight and improved information sharing of service transfers between providers, regulators and families.
- Increasing penalties in line with CPI increases since the commencement of the NQF.
Amend requirements for the FDC sector to strengthen regulatory oversight and safety by:
- Improving the provision of information on the FDC Register to regulators, including where educators are operating under exceptional circumstances.
- Providing additional guidance on safety requirements, compliance with fencing requirements and requiring monthly inspections at FDC residences and venues that have swimming pools, water features and other potential water hazards.**
- Mandating nationally consistent requirements for safety glass used in FDC residences and venues.
- Mandating new processes for FDC educators to inform approved providers of any circumstance that may affect whether residents are fit and proper to be in the company of children, or any other circumstances arising that may pose a risk to children’s health, safety or wellbeing.
Improve the provision of NQF information to families by:
- Providing greater transparency and timeliness on when services are transferred between providers.
- Requiring the quality assessment and rating certificate to be clearly visible at every FDC residence or venue.
- Requiring providers of FDC services to display a diagram of areas of residences and venues that are assessed to be suitable for education and care.
- Enhancing consent processes for the disclosure of personal information held by approved providers.
In addition to the above regulatory changes, new and updated guidance will be provided to address other recommendations from the Review that called for more refined guidance material to support the children’s education and care sector. Information sheets are available on our website.
The Guide to the NQF will also be updated and is now available in a new online format, as well as the interactive PDF format.
All decisions made by Education Ministers from the 2019 NQF Review are published on the nqfreview.com.au website. It provides the Decision Regulatory Impact Statement (DRIS) and the comprehensive FAQs on all the changes to the National Law and National Regulations.
*The implementation of this round of regulatory changes will be delayed for services in Western Australia. Contact your regulatory authority for further information
**Jurisdiction-specific requirements apply in Tasmania and Western Australia
Education and care services across Australia are assessed and rated by their state and territory regulatory authority. During the assessment and rating process, authorised officers will analyse evidence collected during the assessment and rating visit to provide the service with a quality rating. This will include determining if the practices observed, discussed and sighted during the visit are high quality practices that reflect Exceeding the National Quality Standard (NQS).
To support a consistent understanding of Exceeding NQS, a series of articles will be shared over the coming newsletter editions to unpack this quality rating with reference to available resources to help you, your team and your service on your Exceeding journey.
But where to start?
Exceeding or high quality practices are not simply implemented - they evolve over time and should be contextual to each service. Ensuring that all practices are in line with and consistently meeting the National Quality Standard is the foundation to which high quality practices begin. An authorised officer will also ensure that all practices within each Standard are at the meeting level before moving into an analysis of high quality practice.
When beginning to unpack what Exceeding NQS may look like, services may wish to review the overarching exceeding guidance from page 93 of the Guide to the National Quality Framework (NQF). This includes detailed information on the three exceeding themes:
- Practice is embedded in service operations
- Practice is informed by critical reflection
- Practice is shaped by meaningful engagement
Included within this section is a series of questions for authorised officers to consider when reviewing evidence gathered. These questions are considered by authorised officers in their analysis of the Exceeding themes within each service and for each Standard.
These questions and further information are also available in ACECQA’s information sheet ‘Demonstrating and Assessing Exceeding National Quality Standard’.
Once your service has an understanding of each theme, the next step would be to consider your practices in relation to the whole Standard. At the beginning of each Standard is the descriptor (see image below article) which details the overall intent of the Standard which your high quality practices must support.
Further guidance in a series of reflective questions at the end of each Standard may also support service leaders, educators and staff in the critical reflection of their own practices (see image below article).
A review of these resources and a deep self-assessment of service practice will support services in determining if identified practices are above and beyond Meeting the NQS. Services should then aim to demonstrate and share with the authorised officer how their practices are high quality and support the three Exceeding themes.
There are a number of additional resources available to support you in navigating through Exceeding. These resources include:
- Our webpage on Exceeding the NQS which includes a series of case studies that offer practical and illustrative examples of what high quality practice may look like for each Standard in a variety of settings including outside school hours care, prior to school centre-based and family day care services.
- Our information sheet on New Guidance on Determining Exceeding NQS for Standards which is a helpful resource which clarifies the difference between Meeting NQS and Exceeding NQS levels.
You may choose to visit, reflect on and share the above resources with your team as an opportunity to start or continue your Exceeding journey.
ACECQA has published the Shaping Our Future online dashboard as part of our commitment to the implementation of the National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy (2022-2031).
Australian governments and sector stakeholders have collaborated to develop this ten-year strategy to ensure a sustainable, high-quality children’s education and care workforce. The strategy includes 21 nationally agreed actions to be delivered over the short (by the end of 2024), medium (by the end of 2027) or long term (by the end of 2031), grouped by six inter-related focus areas:
- Professional recognition
- Attraction and retention
- Leadership and capability
- Qualifications and career pathways
- Data and evidence.
The online dashboard has three parts to explore:
- The implementation tracker follows the progress of the 21 nationally agreed actions within the strategy.
- The complementary initiatives are a range of new and enhanced workforce related programs that align to and support the six focus areas of the strategy.
- The six focus areas of the strategy are interrelated and include overarching evaluation indicators, which are intended to measure improvement over the lifetime of the ten-year strategy. These will begin to be reported upon when the online dashboard is updated in April 2024.
Shaping Our Future and the Shaping Our Future: Implementation and Evaluation Plan are also available to download on the ACECQA website.
The National Outside School Hours Services Alliance (NOSHSA) has been funded by the Australian Government Department of Education to develop a freely accessible, relevant and practical resource suite. The topics that are the focus of the suite are:
- Complex behaviour support
- Neurodiversity affirming practice
- Trauma informed practice.
The training is delivered over three 2 hour sessions, with comprehensive supporting resources. Full details are available at https://www.noshsa.org.au/inclusionproject.
In addition, the Outside School Hours Research Hub has published eight vignettes describing the practices of OSHC educators to assist with deeper understanding and appreciation of their roles and responsibilities. The vignettes are supported by overarching questions to guide conversations that involve critical reflection.
Finally, looking overseas, last month the Scottish Government published The National Children’s Charter for School Age Childcare. The charter has been co-created with a range of school children from different areas and backgrounds across Scotland, and includes six principles that all children taking part in OSHC want to be respected:
- Kindness (how we act towards each other)
- Community (how we relate to the world outside)
- Fairness (how we make sure everyone’s included and treated fairly)
- Happiness (how we make sure everyone feels good)
- Fun (how we make sure our activities are always enjoyable and personally challenging)
- Choice (how we make sure children make their own decisions.
Talking to families about documentation
Documentation is used to make children’s learning and development visible and to support evidence in how services’ meet the National Quality Standard (NQS). This is extended to the educational program as it presents the opportunity for services to highlight how they are using the program to contribute to children’s learning in ways that are meaningful and authentic for each child. Educators may reflect upon how they engage children in the program through supporting their unique interests, abilities and needs.
When thinking about how you discuss documentation with families, consider how well they understand it’s purpose and intent. This may become especially relevant when reflecting on digital documentation and how much or how often you choose to share this information with families. As educators maintain responsive and meaningful interactions with children and consider children’s dignity and rights as active citizens (NQS, QA5.1), they may think about how their use of digital devices within a child’s routines and play, ensures learning opportunities are uninterrupted and quality interactions are maintained when sharing digitally documented moments with families.
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. As a result of the changes, OSHC services might consider how they explain their documentation approaches to families, including what this means for them and what changes they might see.
Educators may also consider how their service philosophy is in line with contemporary research, supports decision making around children’s documentation, their interactions with children and their use of digital technologies.
To support families in understanding documentation and its purpose within their child’s learning and development, you may like to share the following resources with them, including resources from our family friendly website StartingBlocks.gov.au:
- Programs in education and care I StartingBlocks.gov.au
- Digital documentation for families – quality or quantity? | ACECQA
- Documenting your child's progress - new factsheet for families.
The 35th annual Red Nose Day is taking place on Friday 11 August 2023. Red Nose aims to raise $1million to fund vital research into the causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which is the sudden death of a child under the age of one.
As the recognised authority for safe sleep, Red Nose also provides support services for grieving families who are impacted by sleep related loss and offers education programs that will help save little lives. Red Nose invites children (and adults) to get ‘silly for a serious cause with Australia’s BIGGEST Disco fundraiser. It may also be the perfect opportunity for education and care services to get involved in Red Nose Day. You can find out more about the Disco by visiting www.rednoseday.org.au/disco.
Since October 2017, services have been required to keep policies and procedures about children’s sleep and rest. Red Nose Day is a useful reminder to services of the need to critically reflect upon their current sleep and rest practices. As advised in the Guide to the NQF, it is recommended that sleep and rest policies and procedures are reviewed and developed in line with the guidance from recognised authorities such as Red Nose. To support safe sleep, Red Nose recommends preventative measures such as:
- placing babies on their backs to sleep,
- keeping their face and head uncovered during rest and,
- providing a safe sleep environment.
From 1 October 2023 new legislative requirements will require sleep and rest policies and procedures to address prescribed matters, with risk assessments undertaken. Approved providers will need to make any necessary updates to the sleep and rest policies and procedures as soon as practicable after conducting a sleep and rest risk assessment. More information can be found on the ACECQA website.
You can access the free educator resources and factsheets on the Red Nose Australia page for further support on understanding and implementing safe sleep practices and to help services prepare for the upcoming changes in October.
From 19 August, children’s education and care services, public libraries, schools and the wider community are encouraged to spend one week celebrating books and Australian children’s authors and illustrators.
This year, the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book Week theme is “Read, Grow and Inspire”, encourages reading to be viewed as an endless opportunity for new experiences and possibilities by using our imaginations. Participants of the event are encouraged to share stories relating to the theme with the overarching intention of valuing the importance of reading.
BabyLab, a research initiative developed by Western Sydney University, has highlighted the valuable contribution that reading has on children’s early literacy and language development. Through the sharing of stories that use repetition, rhyme and intonation, children develop their communication skills by observing and actively engaging in shared reading opportunities.
The Approved Learning Frameworks [ALFs] also refer to the benefits of reading to, with and for children.
Outcome 5: Effective Communicators suggest that literacy capabilities are important aspects of communication and are vital for successful learning. Literacy incorporates a range of communication modes including talking, listening, viewing and composing, all of which form the basis of both reading and storytelling (Adapted from the Early Years Learning Framework V2.0, 2023, p. 57.)
Services are encouraged to participate in CBCA Book Week in ways that are meaningful and authentic to their context. This may include:
- ensuring there are intentional moments for reading to occur in the daily routine
- designing environments where books are freely accessible to children at all times
- providing environments that are rich in print, using different text types
- supporting a love of reading and development of literacy behaviours by encouraging children to select books, turn the pages and share their thoughts throughout the reading process.
- 11 Aug - Red Nose Day
- 12 Aug - International Youth Day
- 19 Aug to 25 Aug - Book Week