ACECQA Newsletter Issue 8 2018
This month on We Hear You, ACECQA’s Deputy National Education Leader, Perry Campbell, reflects on his experiences as an educator in the education and care sector and the enduring influence of the unique relationships and partnerships he has formed with families and communities.
The National Regulations require that for children preschool age or under assessments of children’s developmental needs, interests, experiences and participation in the educational program are documented (Regulation 74 (1)(a)). Engagement and participation is equally as important for older children.
How actively do we consider children’s participation in the educational program? Why is children’s participation important in the context of the National Quality Framework (NQF)? What opportunities exist for children’s meaningful participation and to have their voice heard on issues and decisions that affect them? How might children’s participation assist educators and co-ordinators adopt a planned and reflective approach to implementing the service program for each child? (NQS Standard 1.3)
This article looks at the concept of participation through the perspective of a child’s rights with particular attention to Article 12 of the (revised version of) United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which recognises the potential of children to contribute to decision-making processes, to communicate perspectives and to participate as citizens and change agents.
Why is children’s participation important?
The concept of children’s participation has gained increased support internationally since the adoption of the UNCRC. Sanctioned by Australia in 1990, the UNCRC outlines the rights of children in international law. The articles within the UNCRC are embedded within the objectives and guiding principles of the NQF, with the Early Years Learning Framework and the Framework for School Age Care also explicitly incorporating the UNCRC and children’s rights. The frameworks promote the importance of children’s agency – described as the ability to make choices and decisions, to influence events and to have an impact on one’s world (NQS Element 1.1.2). Likewise the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Code of Ethics is based on the principles of the UNCRC.
Article 12 of the UNCRC – Respect for the views of the child, establishes the right of every child to have opinions and for these opinions to matter. Further, children have the right to say what they think should happen, when adults are making decisions that affect them, and to have their opinions taken into account.
Article 12 recognises the need for democratic participation, which includes respecting children as active participants, capable and competent rights holders in the here and now, with voices to be heard and the capacity to express their views. It also recognises that children are experts in their own lives and experiences, and should be consulted on decisions that affect them. While ascertaining children’s views may not always be easy, the principle of seeking and taking into account the perspective of children is important. Children hold valid opinions and perspectives critical to the planning and delivery of a child-centred educational program that is responsive to each child’s current knowledge, strengths, ideas, culture, abilities and interests (NQS Element 1.1.2). This requires open communication with children regarding their right to participation and commitment on behalf of educators to actively seek out opportunities to promote the inclusion of children’s voices in decision-making processes and, wherever possible, give practical effect to their ideas and suggestions.
The expression of children’s meaning or their voice can be communicated through multiple vehicles of expression – the ‘hundred languages of children’, to quote Loris Malaguzzi. This requires educators to listen attentively to children with all of their senses and enable opportunities and environments that support children’s diverse ways of structuring knowledge, thoughts and ideas.
Enhancing children’s participation in decision making
For participation and the commitment to agency to be meaningfully embedded, it needs to form part of the vision or philosophy of your service, reflecting the importance your service places on the rights of children and on giving them a say in decisions that affect their lives. It is important to reflect on how children’s participatory rights are valued, embedded and reflected within the culture of your service. The ‘Pathways to Participation’ model developed by Dr Harry Shier is a useful and practical planning and evaluation tool for enhancing children’s participation in decision making.
Some questions to guide reflection include:
- Is children’s participation supported in day to day practice and how are children made aware about their opportunities for participation and decision making?
- How is children’s participation embedded in your service as an ongoing process of engagement and involvement? For example, how are your service’s self-assessment and QIP practices, service policies, procedures and philosophy proactively supporting children’s participation?
- Are educators encouraged to be effective facilitators of children’s participation? What opportunities exist for ongoing learning and reflective practice?
ACECQA has published its sixth occasional paper, which analyses the performance of services reassessed against the 2012 National Quality Standard (NQS) from 2013-2017.
As at 31 December 2017, more than two-thirds of reassessments of services rated Working Towards NQS resulted in a higher overall rating. The rate of improvement was highest for Quality Area 5 – Relationships with children, and lowest for Quality Area 1 – Educational program and practice, and Quality Area 7 – Leadership and service management.
The latter two quality areas are fundamental to the quality improvement journey, with both the subject of previous occasional papers published by ACECQA.
This latest occasional paper examines the outcomes of reassessments between 2013-2017, including evidence recorded in assessment and rating reports, and identifies two factors that contribute to quality improvement:
- service staff familiarity with the regulatory system, including the quality rating system
- high quality leadership, particularly from the service’s educational leader.
Experienced and high quality staff are generally more familiar with the National Quality Framework and have in-depth understanding of the National Law and Regulations. They also have a better understanding of the practical application of the NQS in the service environment, which leads to a more ‘authentic’ Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) and more effective critical reflection on practice. A knowledgeable and insightful educational leader understands the service philosophy and supports educators to reflect it in their practice. Effective service leaders also champion an ongoing cycle of planning, review and evaluation that drives continuous quality improvement.
Download Occasional Paper 1: Educational program and practice
Download Occasional Paper 2: Children’s health and safety
Download Occasional Paper 3: Promoting consistency and efficiency under the NQF
Download Occasional Paper 4: The quality of physical environments in education and care services
Download Occasional Paper 5: Leadership and service management
Download Occasional Paper 6: Quality improvement in education and care services 2013-2017
With the winter cold and flu season upon us, it is the ideal time to familiarise yourself and reflect upon the practices and procedures your service has in place to manage illness and take reasonable steps to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases.
To meet the requirements of Regulation 88 and Regulation 168(2)(c), your service might find it valuable to review practices and procedures about effective hand washing, cough and sneezing etiquette, hygiene and cleaning routines and appropriate exclusions of unwell children, educators and staff.
This is also an opportunity to speak to parents, carers and families about hygiene, infection control practices and illness. Explaining to families the processes your service has established not only keeps them informed but also puts them at ease during, what can be, an anxious time. Discussions might confirm what records are kept about illnesses, the notification process in the event of illness or an outbreak of an infectious disease, and the exclusion periods you have set to suit the conditions of your service, in line with the guidelines of relevant peak bodies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Involving families in the development and revision of agreed policies and procedures also helps to build understanding and ownership, as well as recognition of their importance. The Starting Blocks fact sheet about illness in education and care services is a helpful introductory resource that steps families through the basics, including the reasons children may become ill while attending services and the ways to lower the risks of contracting infectious illnesses.
The Guide to the National Quality Framework provides useful guidance about illness management and hygiene practices and the NHMRC website features many helpful resources, including the Staying Healthy guide, posters and fact sheets for services and families. The Staying Healthy guide, which is aligned with National Quality Standard Quality Area 2 – Children’s health and safety and Quality Area 7 – Governance and leadership, includes chapters on infection control, monitoring illness, hygiene procedures, and work health and safety for employers and educators.
Further reading and resources
ACECQA – Occasional Paper 2: Quality Area 2: Children’s health and safety
We have received a number of enquiries about educator to child ratios and approved certificate III qualifications.
There are no planned changes that would require all educators counted towards educator to child ratios to have, or be actively working towards, at least an approved diploma level education and care qualification.
Regulation 126 of the National Regulations requires at least half of the educators educating and caring for children preschool age or under to have, or be actively working towards, at least an approved diploma level qualification. All other educators who are required to meet the relevant educator to child ratios must have, or be actively working towards, at least an approved certificate III level education and care qualification.
While there are no planned changes to the existing requirements under the National Regulations, it is important to remember that individual employers may specify higher qualification requirements as part of their employment policy.
If you are looking for a fun and engaging way to find out more about the Exceeding National Quality Standard (NQS) rating level, our new Quest for Quality knowledge game extension pack is the ideal resource.
The extension pack features a range of questions, activities and scenarios to help you reflect on, improve and describe your service’s practice in relation to the Exceeding NQS themes.
As part of our ongoing commitment to openness and transparency, we continue to make information publicly available about a number of our operational functions. As of 30 June 2018, ACECQA has received:
- 220 Excellent rating applications, with 52 services currently rated as Excellent
- 29 second tier review applications
- 7700 qualification assessment applications from individuals
- almost 150 qualification assessment applications from organisations.
More information is available on the ACECQA website, including applications by month, location and outcome and new information about the number of services rated Excellent by SEIFA Index of Relative Disadvantage and remoteness. ACECQA will continue to update the information quarterly.
View the most recent ACECQA operational activity data.
ACECQA is proud to have partnered with the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) to offer the ‘New Voice’ in Early Education and Care scholarship. As a new addition to the ACEL scholarship program, the early education and care scholarship recognises emerging, forward-thinking educational leaders with teaching qualifications who are employed in an early childhood education and care service. We are happy to announce the ‘New Voice’ in Early Education and Care award winners are Jacqui Cannon and Karthika Viknarasah.
Each scholarship recipient will receive a number of benefits over one year, including individual ACEL memberships, Resource Centre subscriptions, the opportunity to work with local ACEL branches, and complimentary attendance at the 2018 ACEL National Conference in Melbourne where the official presentation of the ‘New Voice’ awards will take place on 4 October.
We congratulate all winners of the 2018 ACEL ‘New Voice’ scholarships. For more information about the scholarships, visit the ACEL website.