ACECQA Newsletter Issue 9 2022

Girl and boy playing and holding hands

CEO foreword 

Welcome to our September ACECQA Newsletter. As National Education Leader I’m delighted to be providing this edition’s foreword while our CEO, Gabrielle Sinclair, is on well-deserved leave. This month we’re recognising the importance of a highly skilled, well-supported and professionally recognised children’s education and care workforce and the importance of inclusive practices to ensure the best outcomes for children and families attending education and care services across Australia. 

We’re pleased to share some workforce measures and incentives governments and stakeholders have implemented from the 21 actions in the Shaping Our Future: Implementation and Evaluation Plan. I particularly recommend ACECQA’s new series of free NQF professional development eLearning modules for early childhood teachers and educators.

I also encourage you to review the plan’s strategies to support training, recruitment and retention of qualified and experienced educators in our sector, particularly early childhood teachers, and to enjoy celebrating the contributions of teachers on UNESCO’s World Teachers’ Day on 5 October.

Inclusion is a key aspect of our work with children and families in education and care services and recently we published a series of engaging infographic posters and information sheets to support providers and services to understand their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). The series also includes posters and resources for services out of scope of the NQF. 

A commitment to inclusive partnerships is highlighted at KU Macquarie Fields Preschool, which recently achieved the Excellent rating. The service regularly critically reflects on, adapts and modifies its physical learning environment to ensure it is a safe and calm space where children can practice self-regulation and social-emotional skills. You may also be interested to read our article which unpacks research that categorises children’s experiences into eight risky play categories.

A key objective of the NQF relates to ensuring the safety, health and wellbeing of children attending our services. You can read more about how our research strategies are contributing evidence to measure performance against this important objective and significant improvements in ratings against Quality Area 2 standards in our 2021 NQF Annual Performance Report.

October also brings the annual Children’s Week celebrations across Australia, which draw community attention to children, their rights and achievements. This year’s theme is based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children (UNCRC) Article 27, which promotes children’s right to a standard of living that supports their wellbeing and healthy development. 

We hope you find these articles helpful and also encourage you to look at the resources available to share with families and communities on our website, including information on free Red Nose safe sleep webinars for parents. 

Rhonda Livingstone

New ACECQA resources to support inclusion in children’s education and care services

Information sheet featuring two girls wearing pink hats

Inclusion is a key focus in our work with children and families in children’s education and care services. Every child has the right to meaningfully participate and be included in all aspects of community life, including their education and care setting. 

A key piece of legislation which protects the rights of children with disabilities is the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). Equity, inclusion and diversity underpin the National Quality Framework (NQF) and are embedded throughout the National Quality Standard (NQS) and the approved learning frameworks. 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. 

Funded by the Australian Government, ACECQA has developed and recently published a new series of free national resources to support service teams to build understanding of DDA requirements and support inclusion in children’s education and care services. These resources for use by educators, teachers, service leaders, approved providers and interested others include posters, fact sheets and information sheets.

Access the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) resources on the ACECQA website.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) – What do I need to know?

Educator playing with two children

What is disability?

The DDA uses a broad definition of disability which does not rely on a formal diagnosis. For information about who is protected by this legislation, there is a helpful DDA guide on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

What is disability discrimination in children’s education and care?

Disability discrimination is when a person with disability (including a child, family member, carer or staff member), is treated less favourably than a person without disability in similar circumstances. This is also referred to as direct disability discrimination. An example is a child’s enrolment not being accepted or a child not being invited to participate in an excursion because of their disability.  

Indirect disability discrimination occurs when there is a general rule or policy that is the same for everyone but has an unfavourable impact on a person with disability. An example is requiring children to meet certain developmental milestones before enrolment is accepted. 

What are approved providers’ obligations under the DDA?

All approved providers of children’s education and care services must comply with the DDA. Therefore, it is imperative that approved providers, service leaders, teachers, educators and all staff work together to ensure access and participation for children with disability. 

It is the role of the approved provider and service leaders to support their teams to:

  • understand the DDA in the context of a children’s education and care service 
  • ensure that service operations, programs, policies and practices do not discriminate against children or people with disability
  • identify barriers to access and participation and make reasonable adjustments so all children can access and fully participate in the service.

Where can you find ACECQA’s new resources to help you comply with the DDA? 

For further information about disability discrimination, reasonable adjustments and some tips to support you and your team in complying with this legislation, please refer to the DDA information sheet and DDA tip sheets on the ACECQA website.

Where else can services find information about the DDA?

National Workforce Strategy: Implementation and Evaluation Plan released

Shaping our Future blue report cover

Quality outcomes for children depend upon a highly skilled, well supported and professionally recognised children’s education and care workforce. 

Throughout 2021, Australian governments and sector stakeholders closely collaborated to develop Shaping Our Future, a ten-year strategy (2022–31) to ensure a sustainable, high-quality children’s education and care workforce. The strategy represents a joint commitment between all governments, the children’s education and care sector, and other key stakeholders to address the complex and longstanding workforce challenges experienced by the sector.

Education Ministers have endorsed actions for implementation 

Shaping Our Future details 21 actions, including 13 short-term actions to be progressed by the end of 2024. Earlier this month, following endorsement by Education Ministers, the complementary Shaping Our Future: Implementation and Evaluation Plan was published, which outlines the steps that will be taken to progress, monitor and review each action.

Implementation is a collective responsibility between all stakeholders and requires collaborative effort to achieve the strategy’s objectives. Representatives from all governments, the children’s education and care sector and key national stakeholders will continue to be involved in the implementation and evaluation of the strategy to ensure it remains fit for purpose over the next decade.

There are also complementary new and enhanced workforce initiatives

All stakeholders – employers, higher and vocational education and training institutes, national, state and territory regulatory bodies and authorities, educators, teachers and governments – have a role to play in advancing the goal of a sustainable highly skilled workforce.

Since the release of the strategy in October 2021, governments and stakeholders continue to invest in a range of workforce related measures and incentives. Examples of these are outlined in the Complementary New and Enhanced Workforce Initiatives Summary, which accompanies the release of the Shaping Our Future: Implementation and Evaluation Plan.

NQF eLearning modules for educators are available

Video screenshot from elearning module

New National Quality Framework (NQF) professional development eLearning modules are now available. The online modules progressed as one of the short-term actions in the Shaping our Future: Implementation and Evaluation Plan.

These are helpful resources for new educators who have entered the children's education and care sector and a useful refresher for current educators to build understanding of their important role within the sector. 

There are four eLearning modules, with each covering a different aspect of the NQF:

  • Introduction to the children’s education and care sector
  • Overview of the NQF
  • National Law and Regulations
  • National Quality Standard

Access the NQF eLearning modules on the ACECQA website.

What is risky play?

Children jumping from bar to mat holding educators hand

We know that the NQF promotes the view of children as capable and competent, being given opportunities to make decisions, have agency and be physically active. 

It is possibly no surprise that research indicates that globally, children/young people are becoming less active. In many communities we have witnessed a rise in sedentary behaviours and a decrease in physical activity. The approved learning frameworks reflect the significant body of research that shows the benefits of physical movement on children and young people’s cognitive and social emotional development, positive wellbeing, functioning and achievement. Recent reviews have highlighted a particular need to consider the physical potentials of infants and toddlers noting that protection and natural hazard reduction are often emphasised.  

A growing body of research shows the benefits of risky play for children’s learning and development. Sandseter (2007) and more recently Kleppe, Sandseter and Melhuish (2017) have categorised children’s experiences of risk taking into eight risky play categories: 

1.    Play at great heights
2.    Play at high speeds
3.    Play with dangerous tools
4.    Play with dangerous elements
5.    Rough and tumble play
6.    Play where you can disappear/ get lost 
7.    Play with impact 
8.    Vicarious risk.

These frame areas for intentionality within education and care program and practice. 

Belonging, Being and Becoming the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia supports the image of children as competent and capable and encourages opportunities for children to assess and take appropriate risks. 

The National Quality Standard requires services to protect children from harm and hazard, encouraging a risk assessment and management approach rather than eliminating all risks. This includes risk taking for infants and toddlers. 

Educators and service leaders are encouraged to undertake thorough risk assessments, implement control measures to protect children from identified hazards and use these strategies to create interesting and engaging environments that promote learning through the safe inclusion of risky play.

When completing a risk assessment, you should carefully consider the ages, development, experience and capabilities of children, individually and in groups, to ensure the suitability of risky experiences are determined.  

More information on supporting children’s risky play is in ACECQA’s Risk Assessment and Management tool templates to support children and educators to consider risk in play and everyday experiences. 

Excellent rating awarded to KU Macquarie Fields Preschool

Excellent rating logo

KU Macquarie Fields Preschool has been awarded the Excellent rating by ACECQA, the highest rating a service can achieve under the National Quality Framework. The NSW-based service has been recognised for its inclusive partnerships with children and families, collaborative partnerships with professional, community or research organisations, and practice and environments that enhance children’s learning and growth.

The Marte Meo approach is embedded in the service philosophy and practices to enable educators and families to recognise and analyse children’s strengths and communication cues. The service shares videos to demonstrate children’s competence and engagement within the physical learning environment and as a tool to strengthen partnerships and relationships with families. Families recognise the importance of play-based learning and often adopt similar pedagogical strategies within their homes to improve their child’s outcomes. 

As part of the service’s commitment to inclusion, the physical learning environment is regularly adapted and modified to support the highly diverse and complex needs of its local community’s families and children. Regular critical reflection ensures the environment is a safe and calm space where children can practice self-regulation and social-emotional skills.

The service creates Individual Education Plans in consultation with each family to co-design a shared vision for the growth and development of each child. Learning trajectories are established and meetings with internal and external specialists and inclusion agencies are scheduled to support each child’s learning and wellbeing.

In response to a community-wide need, the service established a Healthy Eating program. The program shares information about nutrition, food safety, purchasing food and budgeting – and the importance of involving children in buying groceries and preparing meals. Family cooking lessons are incorporated into the program and handouts that highlight nutrition, recipes, and foodbank locations are provided.

Read more about the service’s achievements at KU Macquarie Fields Preschool has been awarded the Excellent rating.

Evaluating Objective 1 of the NQF 

NQF Evaluation Framework screenshot

The NQF Evaluation Framework provides an agreed way for governments to understand how the NQF is meeting its objectives. It also gives governments and all sector stakeholders a common reference point when considering research activities.

Our own research and evaluation activities align to one or more of the objectives of the NQF.

This month we focus on Objective 1 of the NQF:

1.    To ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children attending education and care services

We continue to contribute evidence to answer key questions about this objective under the evaluation framework, including:

  • NQF Annual Performance Reports
    • The reports include performance against Quality Area 2 of the National Quality Standard (Children’s health and safety), as well as analysis of serious incidents reported by approved providers, and confirmed breaches of the National Law and Regulations.
  • Report on Government Services
    • The early childhood education and care chapter of this annual report includes data on service quality and compliance.
  • Occasional Paper 2: Quality Area 2: Children’s Health and Safety
    • This occasional paper analysed performance against Quality Area 2 across service types, socio economic and remoteness classifications, jurisdictions and management types.

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.

You can find out more on our Research and reports page on the ACECQA website, which also provides a wide range of NQF related research and evidence.

Celebrating Children’s Week 2022

Children's Week 2022 logo

Children’s Week is a national celebration of children’s rights, talents and citizenship running from 22–30 October 2022 in Australia to coincide with Universal Children’s Day. 

Each year the theme of Children’s Week highlights a particular children’s right. The theme for 2022 is based on UNCRC Article 27: All Children have the right to a standard of living that supports their wellbeing and healthy development.

For resources and to find out more about the Children’s Week celebrations near you visit the Children’s Week website.

Resources to share with your families and communities  

Two preschoolers playing outside with logo

Share these useful resources with your families and communities:

Choosing quality children’s education and care for preschoolers

Research shows that children’s experiences in the early years matter a lot. While the family is the most important influence on a young child, the experiences and relationships that happen at education and care services are important too.

This factsheet outlines some characteristics of quality early childhood education that are more specific to preschool age children. 

Safe sleep and settling: Free Red Nose sessions for new parents and carers

Families are invited to join the Safe Sleep experts from Red Nose online to learn about Red Nose’s safe sleep and settling recommendations with other new parents. Parents can tune into discussions, ask endless questions and find out about available resources.

The sessions are held on the last Tuesday of each month at 1:30pm. 

Upcoming dates

  • Tuesday 25 October 2022
  • Tuesday 29 November 2022
  • Tuesday 27 December 2022

How to register

To join a session, complete the registration form available on the Red Nose website.

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