ACECQA Newsletter Issue 9 2021
Welcome to our September newsletter and a rich variety of articles which you may wish to share with your teams, families and community networks.
The safety, health and wellbeing of children, staff and visitors is always the most important consideration for approved providers and service leaders. As we continue to see strong growth in new services in metropolitan areas, children’s safety in multi-storey buildings has been high on the list of concerns for a number of years. This month, we have included an article aimed at building and planning practitioners. It raises awareness of the approval processes under the National Quality Framework (NQF) and the importance of design for ensuring children’s safety – including their egress during evacuation – which should be a paramount consideration during the very earliest stages of planning and building approvals for new services.
We also include the release of our new Risk Assessment Management Tool to support the leadership team to identify, assess and appropriately manage any risk of harm. The tool will help in the necessary consideration of both the likelihood and the consequence of any incident regardless of service type.
Each month we aim to share stories of 'what works' in the continuous quality improvement journey of early childhood education and care. The data clearly shows that Australia’s more than 16,400 approved services are deeply committed to providing the best development and education programs for their children and, in doing so, often provide innovative programs and practices to meet the unique circumstances of their families and communities.
This month, we showcase services that have achieved the Excellent rating and are exceptional in the way they have met the changing needs and interests of their children and families. As you would expect, their teachers and educators are also committed to sharing their stories in the spirit of ‘quality uplift for all services’ being part of the professional practice of the sector.
In considering applications for the Excellent rating, a common strategy of exceptional services is their commitment to evidence-informed policies and practices. Action research initiatives with research bodies, such as universities, are a positive way in which services can assess, identify, trial, test and implement new and effective approaches suited to their unique circumstances. Our article on research will hopefully help and provides a link to our NQF related research and evidence information.
Also, this month, we invite you to reflect on the use of digital technologies at your service. Although these can provide opportunities to document and share children’s educational and developmental moments, we recognise this comes with risks and challenges. Some educators and teachers have expressed feeling overwhelmed by the effect the use of these technologies has on their workloads. This is not an emerging concern just in Australia. It may be timely to consider the issue of technology and reflect on how its use supports your educational program and practice, as well as exploring the challenges. For example, is reliance on digital technologies becoming a barrier to, or limiting, opportunities for conversations and extending children’s thinking?
We are pleased to report on our free and confidential service to the sector delivered by our committed and skilled Sector Information Services team. It is understandable that questions may arise in implementing policies, programs and practices and the team is here to help navigate these in the context of the NQF.
As always, your conversations with parents and families are important and often time limited. Resources on our StartingBlocks.gov.au website are developed for easy reading and, this month, we include information for parents about assessment and rating. Please share the website if you can – it supports your professional practice and critical role in children’s development and education, and may lead to richer conversations in the future.
As always, we hope you find our articles stimulating and helpful.
We recently received the 300th Excellent rating application since the rating was enacted in April 2013. The Excellent rating is the highest rating achievable under the National Quality Framework. For approved providers, educators, teachers, children, families and the community, the rating celebrates exceptional practice in delivering quality children’s education and care and, importantly, improving outcomes for children.
To date, 125 services have been awarded the Excellent rating, with 75 of these services located in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia (as identified by the Socio-Economic Indexes For Areas (SEIFA)). Twenty-eight of the services are in regional, rural and remote locations across the country.
Currently, 35 services hold the Excellent rating. Each service that is awarded the Excellent rating demonstrates:
- active involvement of children and families across service operations
- engagement with children and families to identify and meet their needs
- leadership extending beyond the service
- commitment to continual improvement and sustained exceptional practice.
We asked Excellent rated service leaders what they, their teams and their community thought about applying for, and being awarded, the Excellent rating.
- ‘The process was the most interesting, exciting and motivating form of reflection any educational team could engage in. Our engagement with the ACECQA assessment team was positive and supportive. Our phone interview was an opportunity for our team to share our service achievements in more detail and they expressed genuine interest and delight at our stories.’ – Singleton Heights Preschool
- ‘Definitely apply, the process is a lovely way to reflect, share and also work as a team to really identify and value the practices that you have that set your service apart.’ – The Yellow Cottage Scone Grammar School Preschool
- ‘They (the families and community) are all amazed that a small community preschool can achieve such acknowledgement for their practices and programs.’ – Balnarring Preschool
- ‘We have achieved so much that we are extremely proud of and have shared our big ambitions for the future which is both exciting and scary however if there is something that we know and can be assured of is that collectively as a community of children, families, educators and community partners we can achieve it and so much more than we could even begin to imagine.’ – Goodstart Early Learning Tuggerah
The children of Goodstart Tuggerah also shared what the rating meant to them and how they feel about their service being awarded the Excellent rating.
- ‘It is like Buzz Lightyear on my shirt he plays with all his friends and shows them how to go to infinity and beyond.’.
- ‘Excellence is really great and doing good things like making cupcakes and selling them to our friends next door so we have money to save the koalas, we helped them so much.’
- ‘Excellence is like a superpower – it means that you can do cool things that no one else can do like fly or make magic potions.’
- ‘It is helping someone when they need help like you help us to learn how to do my ‘‘e’’ properly.’
We invite you to read more about how Excellent rated services are transforming opportunities into improved outcomes for children and their communities. You may wish to critically reflect on the practices delivered by Excellent rated services to inspire innovative practices and programs within your own service.
If you are interested in applying for the Excellent rating, the Excellent rating Application Guidelines are on our website and you can contact ACECQA on 1300 422 327.
NQF design considerations for centre-based early childhood education and care services in multi-storey buildings
For children’s education and care services operating in multi-storey buildings, there are increased risks when evacuating young children and babies.
This is why we have recently published National Quality framework design considerations for centre-based early childhood education and care services in multi-storey buildings.
This national guidance has been developed for building practitioners such as developers, architects and planning professionals in state and local government who are working with prospective or current providers to establish a service in a multi-storey building.
The guidance contains a key message – improved safety outcomes and streamlined approvals are achieved when NQF regulatory requirements are taken into account at the beginning of the design process.
Readers will be able to use this information sheet to improve their understanding and awareness of:
- the service approvals process under the NQF
- physical and building features enabling safety in multi-storey buildings
- ongoing operational requirements for approved providers of children’s education and care services relating to emergency evacuation under the NQF.
Our Quality Support Program team explores the opportunities and challenges with documenting children’s learning on ACECQA's blog.
Digital devices are a great tool when documenting a child’s learning. They are particularly useful for photos and videos of children at the point of their development or learning, to remind teachers and educators when documenting progress, as a focus for reflections with children about their experiences, and to share with families.
Documenting the program and the child’s progress within the program can make a child’s learning visible to their family. It creates valuable opportunities for starting meaningful discussions with families about their child’s progress and involvement in the program and routine.
Regulation 76 and Element 1.3.3 of the National Quality Standard (NQS) outline the requirement to provide families with information about their child’s participation in the educational program. In addition, Quality Area 6 of the NQS focuses on building supportive and respectful relationships with families. These relationships are based on active communication, consultation and collaboration, which in turn contribute to children’s inclusion, learning and wellbeing.
With all aspects of documenting children’s learning there are opportunities and challenges. We often hear that educators feel overwhelmed by the amount of documentation they are asked to collect. They can be unsure about the best ways to select and document meaningful learning experiences, rather than just capturing what has happened during the day. It may be timely to review practices at your service to mitigate the challenges and maximise the opportunities.
Our Sector Information Services team recognises the importance of having positive and respectful relationships with all of our stakeholders, whether individuals, businesses or government agencies. In accordance with our Customer Service Charter, our team is committed to providing timely and accurate information and guidance.
Our most recent feedback survey results show positive feedback about the knowledge and friendliness of team members, with 90 per cent of respondents saying their enquiries were resolved.
The contact details of our Sector Information Services team have recently changed. We are available to answer all of your enquiries on 1300 422 327 or via email on [email protected]
We are committed to promoting and fostering continuous quality improvement in children’s education and care, and publishing resources that support the sector in understanding and implementing the National Quality Framework.
With this in mind, and the emerging trend of services seeking support with Quality Area 2, we have developed the Risk Assessment and Management Tool (RAMT). It supports approved providers, service leaders, educators, teachers, coordinators and staff to better understand the importance of assessing and managing risk as an embedded part of quality practice and improvement.
The RAMT is a free resource for all service types. It can assist in identifying, assessing and managing the risk of harm, and considering the likelihood and consequence of an incident.
This RAMT will support your service to:
- ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of children, families, educators and staff
- identify potential risks and hazards before an incident or accident occurs
- build capacity in conducting both formal and informal risk assessments and management plans
- critically reflect on ways to develop, review and update policies and procedures
- encourage, share and collaborate with children, families and the wider community on risk management
- effectively identify and implement strategies to support self-managed risk through play and leisure, improving learning and developmental outcomes for children
- improve compliance with the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010, and the Education and Care Services National Regulations
- continually improve service practices aligned with Quality Area 2 of the National Quality Standard.
We have also developed a number of sample templates which, when used alongside the RAMT, can be adapted to meet the context of your service. We encourage you to review your templates as new hazards are identified, or as circumstances change. For example, there is a template for those leading learning experiences, and for children of all ages as they plan their own learning and leisure experiences.
We also encourage you to seek out your state or territory specific standards and requirements along with the relevant work, health and safety documents to support your service’s approach to risk assessment and management.
You can download the Risk Assessment and Management Tool from the ACECQA website.
The NQF Evaluation Framework was developed in collaboration with the Australian and state and territory governments.
It provides an agreed way of understanding how the NQF is meeting its objectives. This gives governments and all sector stakeholders a common reference point when considering research activities.
Universities, research institutions, governments, and other stakeholders are encouraged to contribute to the NQF evidence base by commissioning, undertaking or supporting research in line with the NQF Evaluation Framework.
Our own research and evaluation activities align to one or more of the objectives of the NQF, contributing evidence in answer to the key questions in the NQF Evaluation Framework. Our Research and Evaluation Strategy 2021–24 details our three main approaches to research and evaluation under the NQF:
- internal production of research and evaluations
- commissioning research bodies such as universities to undertake research on specific topics
- collaboration and partnerships with research bodies and sector stakeholders.
You can find out more on our Research and reports page, which also provides a wide range of NQF related research and evidence.
Our family-focused website, StartingBlocks.gov.au, has a range of free, downloadable resources that provide useful information and tips for families. All the fact sheets and infographics on the website are available as easily accessible web pages and printable PDFs.
When talking about your important role in your service, you may want to mention the following helpful resources to your families:
- A brief guide to the Assessment and Rating process – this information sheet provides an overview of how children’s education and care services are assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard and answers a range of questions that families may have about this process.
- Reading with preschoolers – this resource provides insight into the benefits of reading to children and how this helps prepare children to learn to read when they start school.
- Family Day Care or Centre-Based Care (Long Day Care) – which one to choose? – this resource tackles key questions that families may have when deciding which type of service their children should attend.
To access these resources and other information and tips to share with families, visit the StartingBlocks.gov.au website.