ACECQA Newsletter Issue 8 2023
The first and foremost objective of the National Quality Framework (NQF) is the health, safety and wellbeing of our children. Without guaranteeing each child’s safety, health and wellbeing, their development and education is an empty promise to them, their families and the hundreds of thousands of teachers and educators who devote their careers to early education and outside school hours care.
This priority is evident in the symbiotic quality components of the NQF such as the child to staff ratios, staffing knowledge and skills (qualifications), requirements for best practice including safe sleep practices and the interrelated areas of the National Quality Standard (consistent close relationships with each child and family, safe environments, and high quality educational program and practice so closely dependent on the quality of governance and leadership in the service).
A major reason for the reviews of the NQF has been to update the regulations to ensure continuous quality improvement in services for our children. Again, this month we share the roll out of changes from the 2019 NQF Review so providers, leaders, teachers and educators can stay abreast of responsibilities and latest developments. For example, to make sure that the NQF and the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations are aligned, there are new obligations for volunteers and students, requirements for child protection training for family day care coordinators, and enhanced requirements for policies and procedures on providing a child safe environment and managing complaints.
We have been working closely with the National Office for Child Safety (NOCS) in reviewing child safety arrangements under the NQF and, this month, NOCS has provided an article to share its wide range of resources for services. NOCS leads the development and implementation of several national priorities recommended by the Royal Commission - Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – including improvements to information sharing arrangements between organisations to strengthen child safety and wellbeing.
While we stay ever vigilant and committed to high quality policies, programs and practices, it is important to celebrate the world-class achievement of providing high quality services to more than a million children each year under the NQF. Meeting the National Quality Standard is a high bar – not the minimum – and the proportion of children’s education and care services rated Meeting National Quality Standard or above is an impressive 89% (NQF Snapshot).
But none of this would have been possible without the dedication and commitment of early childhood teachers and educators who relentlessly protect, care for and educate our youngest children and young people. This year, we acknowledge and celebrate their role on Early Childhood Educators’ Day on Wednesday 6 September 2023.
One of ACECQA’s responsibilities under the NQF is to publish guides and resources to support services in understanding the NQF and to support parents and the community in understanding quality in relation to education and care services. Our newsletters are one way in which we support services and their staff, and we continue to explore new and interesting ways in which to tell the story of high quality in Australia’s more than 17,000 services. If you find our articles of interest, please share with colleagues and families: it is only together that we can reassure our families and communities that our children are safe, happy and thriving.
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. The decisions made by Education Ministers from the 2019 NQF Review are published on the nqfreview.com.au website.
The implementation of regulatory changes is occurring in phases: 1 March 2023, 1 July 2023 and, for the majority of jurisdictions*, from 1 October 2023. These 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 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 school 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.
- Prescribing currency periods for first aid qualifications.
- Requiring providers of centre based services to notify the regulatory 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 is 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.
*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
Children’s education and care services are required to ensure every child in their care is safe at all times, including during sleep and rest. From 1 October 2023, bassinets will be prohibited from all early childhood education and care services (excluding those in Western Australia which will start later). Bassinets will no longer be allowed on the premises of any education and care service, including when families drop off and pick up their children.
The amendment regulations to prohibit bassinets have been made and published on the NSW legislation website.
- an article from The National Office for Child Safety
The recent news about a former childcare worker who has been charged with more than 1,600 child abuse offences is confronting. If you, or someone you know, has been impacted by this news or is concerned about a child's safety, there are services and resources available to help. You can call Bravehearts on 1800 272 831, the Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. More information on support services can also be found at www.childsafety.gov.au.
This news is also an important reminder that we must work together to protect children and shows that we still have work to do to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse in Australia.
Child safety requires a holistic approach and there are a range of things that make organisations child safe. Worker screening is an important tool, but it is only one part of the response. Implementing the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (National Principles) is critical to building in protective factors to organisational settings and cultures.
The National Principles set out a nationally consistent approach to promoting a culture of child safety and wellbeing within organisations. The principles ensure that children receive the same quality level of safety regardless of where they are or what organisation they engage with.
The National Office for Child Safety has a wide range of resources to help you implement the National Principles. Some of these are:
- The Keeping Our Kids Safe resources, which support organisations to implement the National Principles in a culturally safe way
- Child Safety Risk Management Resources, which support organisations to understand how to appropriately manage child safety risks, to better keep children and young people safe
- The Complaint Handling Guide Upholding the rights of children and young people, which provides practical advice about how to develop, implement and maintain a complaint-handling system that prioritises child safety
- The Speak up and make a complaint resources, which help children and young people understand their right to speak up when they feel unhappy, uncomfortable or unsafe
The Australian Human Rights Commission also has a range of practical tools and resources to help implement the National Principles.
Early Childhood Educators’ Day (6 September) recognises and celebrates the work of Australian teachers and educators who provide a very high standard of quality education and care throughout the sector. The National Quality Standard highlights professionalism when service leaders and teams have strong values of mutual respect, equity and fairness. Leaders work with their teams, drawing upon unique strengths, skills and knowledge to build constructive professional relationships and positive workplace culture.
Embedded practices that recognise teachers and educators as professional advocates for the education and care sector include:
Eagleby Kids Early Learning Centre
The Queensland based service, awarded the Excellent rating in 2022, has a kindness project that aims to identify opportunities to ‘Spread Kindness like Confetti’ through a range of intentional and targeted actions, affirmations and random acts of kindness.
Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool
The Newcastle based service was awarded the Excellent rating in 2021. The service places an emphasis on ensuring all educators feel valued and view themselves as professional advocates of the education and care sector. The service achieved this by all educators developing and committing to a set of team values to enhance their self-leadership and motivation as early childhood professionals. The values guide interactions with one another, promoting a positive workplace culture for all employees. The values are embedded within each performance and development plan and each team member reflects on them regularly, ensuring that they continue to be at the forefront of interactions with one another.
Choices Family Day Care
The Queensland based service was awarded the Excellent rating in 2021 and operates through a distributed leadership model to ensure that every educator has the autonomy to make decisions and to feel empowered through their work with children and families. Educators are supported and encouraged to develop and organise their own programs, including connecting with community members and organisations to support and extend on the children’s interests, strengths, and capabilities.
The examples above demonstrate exceptional professional practice from services that recognise and value their unique teams and contexts. On Wednesday 6 September, it is an opportunity to thank each teacher and educator for their commitment to supporting quality outcomes for children and their families.
The definition of a person with management or control (PMC) of an education and care service under the National Law changed on 1 July in all jurisdictions except Western Australia.*
The National Law definition of a PMC now more closely aligns with the definition of a PMC under the Family Assistance Law (FAL). This article unpacks the reasons for the change and what it means for approved providers.
Why has the definition changed?
The definition has changed so that it includes all people who have authority or responsibility for, or significant influence over, planning, directing or controlling the activities of the service (whether or not they are employed by the approved provider of the service).
This is designed to give regulatory authorities continued, appropriate insight into who has significant influence over the operations of a service, and to be able to assess these people for fitness and propriety, to ensure children’s health, safety and wellbeing.
As identified in the 2019 NQF Review, the previous National Law definition for PMCs was based on specific, formal, and defined roles within the approved provider entity, rather than the functions that PMCs carry out. This did not clearly capture all people in influential management roles. For example, it did not include people who work for third party management companies or who act as ‘shadow directors’ but have a large amount of influence over the control of a service.
The 2019 NQF Review also found that there could be confusion among prospective and current providers around who is considered a PMC, and the requirements and obligations of PMCs, under the two definitions of a PMC in the National Law and FAL.
What happens after I’ve notified my RA of a new PMC?
An approved provider must notify the regulatory authority of any appointment or removal of a PMC within 14 days of the change. This includes any individuals who were not a PMC under the old definition but are under the new definition.
The requirement to notify the regulatory authority of any PMC appointments or removals has not changed as a result of the 2019 NQF Review, nor have the legislative provisions that underpin how a regulatory authority will process these notifications.
This means that, as was the case before 1 July, evidence provided with the notification may give the regulatory authority the information it needs to make a fitness and propriety determination on the new PMC.
If the regulatory authority needs further information about the new PMC, it will contact the approved provider/PMC. For example, the regulatory authority may request an interview with the new PMC, invite them to complete an online NQF knowledge assessment, or request further documentation.
There is no legislated timeframe for a regulatory authority to process notifications of new PMCs and, depending on the operational practice of each regulatory authority, approved providers may only be advised of the outcome of a fitness and propriety assessment if the regulatory authority has concerns about the new PMC.
Who is (and is not) a PMC?
The definition of a PMC is set out in section 5A of the National Law.
It is an approved provider’s responsibility to read this definition, consider who meets the new definition of a PMC in their unique operating context, and notify the regulatory authority of any appointment or removal of a PMC.
In considering whether an individual meets the definition of a PMC under National Law, an approved provider should think about what influence that individual has over the operations of the service, including the quality of education and care experienced by children and families. As an example, the 2019 NQF Review found that the amended PMC definition could include roles such as ‘state managers’ in larger, multi-jurisdictional/national providers, who have the power to direct the actions of nominated supervisors or other service personnel, or senior managers who make substantive resourcing decisions affecting the operations of services.
People in management positions, such as state managers, won’t automatically meet the new PMC definition based on their job title. Regardless of their job title, people will only meet the PMC definition if they participate in executive or financial decision-making or have authority or responsibility for, or significant influence over, the planning, direction or control of the activities or the delivery of the education and care service. For example:
- a centre director or educational leader would be very unlikely to meet the new PMC definition, unless they had other responsibilities that do make them a PMC
- a member of the management committee of an association, for example a member of a parent and carer committee, will be a PMC if their role on the committee gives them authority or responsibility for, or significant influence over, the planning, direction or control of the activities or the delivery of the education and care service.
Approved providers should assess this on a case-by-case basis.
Where can I find more information?
Existing resources you may find helpful include:
- Newsletter article: Spotlight on PMC notifications
- Information sheet: Identifying persons with management or control of a service from 1 July 2023 – Existing Providers
- Information sheet: Identifying persons with management or control of a service from 1 July 2023 – Prospective providers
- The Guide to the NQF
- The NQF Review website
You can also contact your regulatory authority for more information.
*Please check the legislation for implementation dates in Western Australia.
There have been significant improvements in quality ratings for family day care services over the past five years. Two-thirds (66%) of family day care services are rated Meeting NQS or above – the highest proportion since ratings were first published.
The Snapshot shows there are more than 17,300 services approved under the National Quality Framework (NQF). There has been consistent growth each year in the overall number of approved services including a 2 percentage point increase in the past 12 months.
Additional figures providing more detailed analysis continue to be added to the Online Snapshot, including geographic representations of the proportion of long day care services with a staffing waiver across the country.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (the ABS) has been undertaking a comprehensive review of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) for early childhood educators, teachers and service leaders.
ACECQA was one of more than 190 submissions received by ANZSCO who have now released their Consultation Round 1 Preliminary Proposed Changes paper. There was overwhelming support from stakeholders to:
- Update the terminology and language used in the existing occupations to focus on the educational program provided by educators, teachers and service leaders
- Introduce middle management level occupations to better align with the modern early childhood education and care workforce
- Increase the skill level for family day care educators to align with the National Quality Framework (NQF) including their qualification requirements.
ANZSCO has accepted and proposed the following changes to their classifications:
- The removal of all references to carers, worker and child care and the retitling of occupations to include early childhood teacher, children’s education and care service director, early childhood educator, family day care educator and out of school hours care educator and coordinator.
- The addition of two new middle management roles:
- An early childhood education room leader.
- A family day care coordinator.
- Embedding the objectives and language of the NQF and National Quality Standard (NQS) into the title, alternative titles, lead statements and main tasks of each occupation. The proposed changes to tasks references such things as:
- developing educational programs based on the approved learning frameworks.
- promoting the health, safety, wellbeing, learning and development of children.
- maintaining reciprocal relationships with children and families.
- working in partnerships with families, community and agencies to improve outcomes for children.
- coordinating professional development and providing pedagogical leadership and,
- complying with policies and national and state based legislation.
The final consultation round will be held in mid-2024 during which you can provide feedback on the complete set of proposed changes. ANZSCO will then finalise the classification update for release by December 2024. You can keep up to date with the progress of the consultation and find out more via the ANZSCO website.
This month, we hear from Emma Cross, Associate Lecturer in the School of Education at Curtin University, who highlights key findings from the Quality Leadership and Positionality project published in the 2022 Leading for Quality article, conducted by Curtin University.
The leadership of quality in children’s education and care services is the responsibility of everyone. However, the educational leader plays a critical role in the establishment of environments that support collaborative and distributed leadership structures.
The Quality Leadership and Positionality project has reimagined existing theories of leadership and proposed a way forward for the educational leader position. Read the full blog post.
R U OK Day is a wellbeing event that is recognised annually on the second Thursday in September. This event presents the opportunity to start valuable conversations about mental health and wellbeing, and promotes the message that one simple question, “are you okay?,” can lead to providing valued help and support to those around you. The practice of checking in and showing support is not isolated to this one day, R U OK Day highlights the value of these interactions and encourages these conversations to occur regularly.
When thinking about wellbeing and mental health in the scope of educators, it is important to understand the elements that can influence a sense of wellbeing. To experience a strong state of wellbeing, educators need to be supported to be both mentally and physically healthy. They need to experience a sense of belonging. A positive organisational culture assists educators to meet the demands and expectations of their role and provides a supportive environment to support a strong sense of wellbeing. Service leaders have a role to play in observing and monitoring the level of professional satisfaction of their educators, to better understand their staff and to build a well and effective team.
To assist with the journey of supporting educator wellbeing, ACECQA has developed educator wellbeing posters that are shaped around and linked to each of the 7 Quality Areas. Services may also like to consider how accessing the support of agencies such as BeYou, and the R U OK? Day website can act as a method of encouraging a mentally healthy workplace.
BeYou have developed resources that targets educator wellbeing through specialised tools and guides which you can access through their website. The R U OK Day website also has conversation starter guides and other resources to help you take the steps of supporting wellbeing.
New factsheet – Documenting your child’s progress
There are many ways educators in children's education and care services document children's learning and development throughout their early years. This new StartingBlocks.gov.au resource helps families understand what quality documentation looks like. View the new factsheet.
Resources to share with families at your service
Reading with toddlers
This factsheet provides tips for encouraging reading in a toddler.
Managing children’s challenging behaviour - biting
This information sheet provides insights into why children might bite, how children’s education and care services may respond to biting incidents, and what families can do to help.