ACECQA Newsletter Issue 8 2020
Welcome to our August newsletter.
As you would expect in the interests of continuous quality improvement, governments continue to reflect on programs and practices and make changes to strengthen the National Quality Framework in the interests of children’s health, safety, wellbeing and development.
This month we bring you the latest news about changes to the Education and Care Services National Regulations coming into effect in September and October. There are also updates on the SkillsIQ review of the training packages for six children’s education and care qualifications and the 2020 review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005.
Understandably, we are all experiencing rapid changes and heightened workloads during this pandemic and, as a result, we adapt to maintain our focus on delivering business as usual. This new reality is not to be underestimated for you, your teams and staff wellbeing, but we do hope that staying engaged with national changes and reviews continues to be a priority for your service.
Great leadership in every organisation ensures staff are well informed, have a voice on matters that affect them, and are supported in their ongoing professional learnings and practice changes. Please read these articles and get involved in the reviews if you can.
We also provide a reminder about the value of research and some handy links for your consideration. Reflection, research, respect for all perspectives, rigour of debate and shared evidenced-based knowledge are cornerstones of continuous quality program and practice improvement for individual services and the wider education sector.
Our informed collective voices may influence public debate about the role and purpose of quality childhood education and care so that each child’s development is paramount.
We hope you find these articles helpful.
Education Council has agreed to changes to the Education and Care Services National Regulations. You can access the new and amended provisions on the NSW Government legislation website.
They relate to:
- new requirements for providers of services transporting children - commencing 1 October 2020
- revised staffing provisions in South Australia - commencing 1 September 2020
- updated references arising from changes to the Victorian Children’s Services Act 1996 - commencing 1 September 2020.
New requirements for providers of services transporting children
Children are sometimes transported, or travel on transport arranged, by children’s education and care services. Transporting children may present risks, including during transition between a vehicle and an education and care service premises or other location.
To better manage these risks, all governments have decided to introduce new requirements to strengthen oversight arrangements when children are being transported under the care of an education and care service.
From 1 October 2020, approved providers of education and care services that offer, or arrange, transportation of children as part of the education and care service – for example, transport to and from the service and a child’s home – will be required to have:
- transportation-specific policies and procedures (regulation 168(2)(ga))
- transport-specific risk assessments and written parental/carer authorisations (regulations 102B, 102C and 102D).
Minor corresponding changes relating to excursions that involve transporting children (regulations 101 and 102) will also take effect on 1 October 2020.
We have published an information sheet to support services to make any necessary adjustments in line with the new requirements. It has links to risk assessment templates that providers may wish to incorporate within their own risk material.
Updates to the Guide to the NQF will be published in September ahead of the changes taking effect.
Revised staffing provisions in South Australia
There have also been amendments made to staffing provisions in South Australia to support national consistency and provide greater flexibility for South Australian centre-based services to meet staffing requirements under the NQF.
These changes commence on 1 September 2020 and introduce:
- a minimum educator-to-child ratio requirement of 1:11 for children over 36 months of age up to and including preschool age in South Australian centre-based services
- a three month probationary period for new educators without an approved qualification to be counted as a certificate III qualified educator for the purposes of educator to child ratios in South Australian centre-based services that educate and care for children preschool age or under.
Please note: There will be no change for South Australian government provided preschools. Providers across the sector can maintain existing requirements through service policy and operational decisions.
Updated references arising from changes to the Victorian Children’s Services Act 1996
Changes have been made to the National Regulations to reflect recent amendments to former licence categories under the Victorian Children’s Services Act 1996.
Certain approved services under the Victorian legislation (those referred to as ‘licensed limited hours Type 2 services’ before 17 May 2020) will remain excluded from the definition of an ‘education and care service’, meaning they will be outside the scope of the NQF.
These Victorian-specific provisions commence on 1 September 2020.
Continuous improvement is a fundamental component of the National Quality Framework (NQF), underpinned by the education and care sector’s ongoing commitment to delivering best practice and quality outcomes for children and families.
A guiding principle of the NQF is that best practice is expected in the provision of education and care services. Current research, theory and understandings about early and middle childhood can help in determining what might constitute best practice in the context of each service. The NQF does not prescribe what best practice looks like because each service’s children, families, educators and community are unique.
Research can further build your understanding of the best and most suitable practice for the unique and changing context of your service
- Sharing research findings, data and information with others in your service community helps build knowledge and understanding, and supports critical reflection and quality improvement.
- Reviewing contemporary research from Australia and overseas can help you strengthen your programs and practice and develop ideas to promote quality outcomes for the children, families and educators at your service.
- We often see the many different ways that Excellent rated services are using research to identify and deliver exceptional practice in Excellent rating applications. As well as using research, some of these services are also actively collaborating with learning institutions to be part of research projects, or engaging in service or community based action research projects. Starting your own action research can assist in evaluating the ‘what and why’ of daily practice. It allows you to identify an improvement process which will benefit children, educators and families.
A range of relevant research is freely available online, including on the Research and Reports page of our website
- The Quality Improvement research project which we commissioned last year identified practices supporting quality improvement in educational program and practice, and governance and leadership.
In 2017 the Australian Industry and Skills Committee commissioned SkillsIQ to review the six children’s education and care qualifications, including the Certificate III and Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care, Certificate IV and Diploma of School Based Education and Care and Certificate III and IV in Education Support.
A number of key changes have been proposed, including:
- strengthened assessment requirements
- increased work placement hours
- new entry requirements for the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care
- revised scope of the education support qualifications.
The final stages of the review are underway and the revised qualifications are now available for public consultation on the SkillsIQ website for four weeks, closing 11 September 2020.
SkillsIQ expects the final qualifications to be endorsed in October 2020, with new qualifications available from the end of the year. We encourage all employers, particularly those with training and development programs, to look at the changes and have their say on the proposed changes.
On behalf of all governments, we are seeking the views of providers of early childhood and school age education and care services about their knowledge, understanding and application of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (the DDA) This includes questions of access and participation by children with disability to education and care.
Our consultations with providers will inform the Australian Government’s 2020 Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (the Standards) which under the DDA and, in an ECEC context, apply to “preschools, including kindergartens (but not child care providers)”.
Reviews of the Standards in both 2010 and 2015 recommended considering extending the application of the Standards to “child care” providers. The 2015 Review found that the sector had undergone significant reforms which increasingly emphasised the educational purpose of services.
As part of the 2020 Review of the Standards, the Australian Government is examining the extent to which families and children know about their rights, and educators and early childhood education and care providers know about, understand and comply with their responsibilities under, the DDA.
On 20 August 2020, we published a stakeholder discussion paper to support consultations. All early childhood and school age education and care providers have been contacted and invited to complete an online survey or make a written submission in response to issues and questions within the discussion paper. Survey responses and submissions will be accepted up until Wednesday 16 September 2020.
All survey responses will remain anonymous. We may make written submissions public, unless you tell us not to. ACECQA will publish a high level summary of stakeholder engagement findings in late 2020.
The Early Childhood Resource Hub (ECRH) will cease operating from 1 October 2020.
While the Hub will no longer be active, you will still have access to helpful resources and materials available on the ACECQA website.
In 2014, ESA was funded by the Australian Government to develop, host and source content for the ECRH – a website for early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals. The ECRH was developed in the early stages of the National Quality Framework (NQF) in response to sector feedback that they were experiencing difficulty in accessing resources to assist their understanding of the NQF and early childhood issues.
Following the closure of the ECRH, information on early childhood matters and the NQF can continue to be accessed via ACECQA, the national authority responsible for the NQF. This will streamline support for you on key early childhood education and care matters, particularly with guidance on the NQF.
The ACECQA website provides freely available guidance, resources and services to support the sector to improve outcomes for children.
Use ACECQA’s handy new tool to find services and temporary closure information fast
We have launched a new interactive mapping tool to show temporary service closures. It displays the open/closed status of approved children’s education and care services across Australia.
It shows close to real time temporary closure information about services on ACECQA’s national registers, based on service provider notifications of temporary service closures made under Regulation 175(2)(b).
You can filter service data by name, state/territory, and closure reason, and count groups of services by zooming in or out of a location on the map.
In April 2020, the StartingBlocks.gov.au Find Childcare tool was also updated to show open services, to help families find alternative arrangements if their current service is temporarily closed.
New data included in latest NQF Snapshot
- the volume of assessment and rating visits compared to all other visits undertaken by state and territory regulatory authorities
- the level of change between draft and final quality ratings
- the proportion of ratings that result in a review.
The report finds 81% of services are rated Meeting National Quality Standard (NQS) or above, with 30% of these rated Exceeding NQS or above. Almost two thirds (65%) of services previously rated Working Towards NQS improved their overall quality rating after reassessment.
On 2 April 2020, in recognition of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Education Ministers announced four critical areas for time-limited regulatory action, including the temporary suspension of assessment and ratings. This has had some impact on the volume of new quality assessment and rating results in this report as the assessment and rating process typically takes around three months from initial notification through to the publication of the final ratings. The impact is likely to be much more significant in our next NQF Snapshot, scheduled to be published in early November 2020.
How the NQF can help families
Developing an understanding of how the National Quality Framework (NQF) guides the ways educators work and interact with children can be valuable for parents and families.
This understanding can also aid in building collaborative partnerships with families to enhance children’s inclusion, learning and wellbeing (Standard 6.2 of the NQS).
StartingBlocks.gov.au’s factsheet explains quality using plain English to make it to understand. Please share it with your families and communities.