1. Governance and operations
ACECQA is the national statutory authority established under the Education and Care Services National Law (the National Law) to work with all governments to guide the implementation and administration of the National Quality Framework (NQF).
ACECQA's functions are prescribed under section 225 of the National Law. [All references are to the National Law and Regulations as in force at 30 June 2017]. They include research, education and awareness raising to inform policy makers, the sector, parents and the community. We provide guidance and support for education and care providers and educators. We manage the National Quality Agenda IT System to provide an efficient and effective online business tool for states and territories and the sector. We also have regulatory functions with respect to educator qualifications, second tier review of quality ratings, and determining applications for the Excellent rating.
We support the objectives and guiding principles of the NQF, namely - to improve educational and development outcomes for, and ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of, children attending education and care services.
ACECQA's vision - that children in Australia have the best start in life - is pursued through our services to four primary groups - state, territory and Australian governments; state and territory regulatory authorities; the more than 15,500 approved education and care services and their educators; and families and the community.
The nine governments in Australia are supported to make evidence-based policy decisions through ACECQA's research reports, policy advice, audits and evaluations.
ACECQA's authorised officer training and support, and maintenance and enhancement of the National Quality Agenda IT System enables state and territory regulatory authorities to effectively and efficiently administer the NQF.
ACECQA's publications, professional development and guidance materials for providers and educators build sector capability, with a focus on continuous quality improvement.
For families and the community, ACECQA helps them to know about, and use, service specific information such as quality ratings to choose the best education and care service, and to recognise the importance of quality education for the development of their child.
ACECQA's activities deliver on the strategic priorities agreed by all governments through the Education Council's Letter of Expectation. The letter to ACECQA for 2016-18 was received in December 2016 (Appendix A).
ACECQA produces the following reports, as required under the National Law, the National Partnership Agreement on the National Quality Agenda (NP NQA) and the Education Council's Letter of Expectation 2016-18.
ACECQA's annual report includes:
- an audited financial statement for the period to which the report relates;
- a report about the National Authority's performance of its functions under this Law during the period to which the annual report relates;
- an assessment of the implementation and administration of the National Quality Framework;
- all directions given to the National Authority by the Ministerial Council and the Authority's response;
- all directions given to the Regulatory Authorities by the Ministerial Council and the Regulatory Authorities' responses;
- a report on any committees established by the Board; and
- any other matter determined by the Ministerial Council.
NPA Annual Performance Report
This new report to the Education Council will assess the implementation of the NQF against the objectives and outcomes of the NP NQA to:
- deliver an integrated and unified national system for education and care services, which is jointly governed and which drives continuous improvement in the quality of services;
- ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children attending education and care services;
- improve educational and developmental outcomes for children attending education and care services under the NQF;
- foster a joint system of governance to allow the perspective of all jurisdictions to be taken into account in the operation of the NQF where there is shared responsibility for the regulation of quality in education and care services;
- improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the regulation of education and care services;
- reduce regulatory burden for education and care service providers;
- improve public knowledge about and access to information about the quality of education and care services for parents, carers and the general public to help inform their choices about the quality of education and care provided to their children; and
- build a highly skilled workforce.
The Board developed and finalised a new strategic plan for 2017-21 in the reporting period. The plan outlines ACECQA's commitment and approach to working closely with its government partners to effectively and efficiently administer the NQF, supporting a highly professional and capable workforce, and helping families and carers to make informed choices about their children's education and care.
The strategic plan sets out ACECQA's view of the operating environment and the key strategic priorities that will guide the management and focus of the organisation and form a framework for the pursuit of longer term goals. The strategic plan highlights ACECQA's:
- mission, vision and sector
- role and context
- success indicators
Figure 1: ACECQA's governance structure
Forward Work Plan
The strategic plan provides the foundation for ACECQA's forward work plan for 2017 and 2018, which documents ACECQA's key deliverables, timelines and budget. The work plan also ensures coverage of ACECQA's functions and obligations under the National Law and the NP NQA.
The forward work plan outlines performance measures, outcomes and key activities that will contribute to the achievement of ACECQA's strategic priorities and guide delivery on all strategic directions and expectations within the Letter of Expectation.
The forward work plan underwent formal consultation with ECPG and AESOC before being endorsed by the Education Council. A progress report will be provided to the Education Council at the beginning and end of 2018.
Under section 222 (1) of the National Law, the Education Council may give directions to the ACECQA Board in relation to carrying out its functions under the law. Section 222 (2) also permits the Education Council to give directions to a regulatory authority with respect to the administration of the NQF. No directions were given by the Education Council in 2016-17.
Reconciliation Action Plan
In September 2016, ACECQA's 2016-17 Reflect RAP was finalised and published on its website following endorsement by Reconciliation Australia. The purpose of ACECQA's RAP is to formalise and strengthen the organisation's commitment to:
- engaging and building national and local partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups and stakeholders
- considering and including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across ACECQA's work, including published materials
- supporting and contributing to government's efforts to improve education and care outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, including through support for providers of education and care services to those children
- embedding a reconciliation perspective of cultural awareness, sensitivity and respect into ACECQA's consciousness and practices
- encouraging diversity in employment and among suppliers.
ACECQA's Reflect RAP identifies existing and future meaningful, achievable and measurable actions for relationships and opportunities that are specific to ACECQA and its role in promoting quality children's education and care. The predominant focus is on building and extending relationships, both internally and externally, and achieving a shared understanding and ownership of the RAP across ACECQA.
ACECQA is governed by a Board of up to 13 members appointed by, and accountable to, the Education Council. The third and current ACECQA Board was appointed by the Education Council from 14 April 2016.
In December 2016, Ms Judy Hebblethwaite and Ms Catherine Hudson were appointed as Chair and Deputy Chair, respectively, of ACECQA's Board. Ms Hebblethwaite had been Acting Chair since her appointment to the Board in April 2016. Membership of the Board is outlined at Appendix C, with Mark Brown's term ending on 10 March 2017 and Sabine Phillips and Nick Ryan's terms ending on 30 June 2017.
The ACECQA Board held six meetings in 2016-17. Board meeting attendance is outlined at Appendix D.
Key undertakings for the Board in 2016-17 included:
- the development of ACECQA's new strategic plan 2017-2021
- the appointment of new CEO, Ms Gabrielle Sinclair, who commenced in the role at the end of January 2017
- finalising the NQF evaluation framework to guide national research priorities. The framework, which was accompanied by a five year implementation strategy, was developed in collaboration with governments and provides a coherent approach to prioritising and commissioning future research, supporting all governments and ACECQA to progressively determine the extent to which the outcomes of the NQF are being realised
- completing a scheduled review of approved educator qualifications, with the decision to extend until the end of 2019 the transitional measure to allow a registered teacher with a primary teaching qualification and an ACECQA approved diploma level (or higher) qualification to continue to be recognised as equivalent to an early childhood teacher
- delivery of a new communications and stakeholder engagement strategy for 2017-2018. A particular focus for 2017-2018 will involve using the Starting Blocks brand to increase families' understanding of the NQF and quality education and care
- monitoring of the organisation's statutory obligations and financial management.
Board Sub Committees
Audit, Finance and Risk Sub Committee
The Audit, Finance and Risk Sub Committee provides independent oversight and monitors the organisation's governance, risk and control frameworks, financial performance and external accountability requirements. Membership of the AFR Sub Committee and details of meetings held throughout 2016-17 are outlined at Appendix E.
Major priorities for the Sub Committee during the reporting period included:
- reviewing and endorsing the Authority's financial statements
- reviewing and monitoring ACECQA's financial and corporate governance policies and strategies, including the risk management plan, investment and insurance policies, fraud control procedures, business continuity planning, and legal and compliance reporting
- overseeing an internal audit of ACECQA's IT Infrastructure security, which found that ACECQA has an adequate control framework in place, as measured against the relevant standards.
Performance and Remuneration Sub Committee
In 2016-17, the Performance and Remuneration Sub Committee provided advice on relevant matters and also managed the appointment of ACECQA's new CEO. Membership of the Sub Committee and details of meetings held throughout 2016-17 are outlined at Appendix E.
Enterprise Agreement Sub Committee
In 2016-17, the Enterprise Agreement Sub Committee provided oversight on the negotiation and development of ACECQA's Enterprise Agreement 2016-19. Membership of the Sub Committee and details of meetings held throughout 2016-17 are outlined at Appendix E.
The Qualifications Working Group
The Qualifications Working Group undertook a review of approved educator qualifications, specifically the continued recognition of registered teachers with a primary teaching qualification and an ACECQA approved diploma level (or higher) qualification as being equivalent to an approved early childhood teacher (until the end of 2019) and recognition of Certificate III and IV education support qualifications. The working group also established the context for a qualifications roundtable, planned for the second half of 2017. Membership of the Working Group and details of meetings held throughout 2016-17 are outlined at Appendix E.
Strategic Planning Working Group
This working group established the initial parameters to guide the Board's strategic planning processes following receipt of ACECQA's Letter of Expectation 2016-18. Membership of the Working Group and details of meetings held throughout 2016-17 are outlined at Appendix E.
The ACECQA Board. Back row (left-to-right): Naomi Wilson, Robyn Layton, Sandra Cheeseman, Sabine Phillips, Ann Farrell, Joce Nuttall.
Front row (left-to-right): Jackie Wilson, Catherine Hudson, Judy Hebblethwaite, Nick Ryan, Catherine Weber.
Organisational structure and staffing
On 30 June 2017, the Executive management team comprised the:
- Chief Executive Officer - Gabrielle Sinclair
- Chief Operating Officer - Angela Buchanan
- General Manager Strategy, Communications and Consistency - Michael Petrie
- National Education Leader/GeneralManager Educational Leadership - Rhonda Livingstone
- Company Secretary - Craig Bennett.
Rhonda Livingstone, Michael Petrie, Gabrielle Sinclair, Angela Buchanan and Craig Bennett.
The organisation's structure continues to consist of three business groups with strategy, communications and consistency functions reporting to the General Manager, Strategy Communications and Consistency and the National Education Leader/General Manager Educational Leadership managing sector support, training and promoting excellent practice. Business Services continues to provide corporate support services to all staff and business groups and delivers the National Quality Agenda IT System.
The Board and Governance team report to the CEO and support the ACECQA Board and manage legal governance, planning, and reporting and accountability requirements across the organisation, including ACECQA's participation in inter-governmental environments. The Board and Governance team also manage ACECQA's second tier review function.
The Educational Leadership Group is led by Rhonda Livingstone and delivers:
- advice on educational programs, practices and pedagogy
- ACECQA's operational function of assessing Excellent rating applications
- educational resources and professional development for the sector and regulatory authorities
- training resources and support for state and territory regulatory authority authorised officers.
The Strategy, Communications and Consistency group is led by Michael Petrie and delivers:
- stakeholder engagement, including media and social media, web content and design, ACECQA newsletters and other mass communications, internal communications, major presentations and conference appearances and inbound and outbound sponsorship
- expert policy analysis advice and research and evaluation under the NQF
- national consistency initiatives including national audits of aspects of the NQF
- ACECQA's operational functions of assessing educator qualifications and organisations' early childhood education programs
- responses to enquiries from the sector and wider community through a dedicated service unit.
The Business Services group is led by Angela Buchanan and delivers:
- human resources and facilities functions
- information and records management.
Figure 2: Workforce Profile - FTE and headcount by gender 30 June 2017
% of workforce (headcount)
This group also includes ACECQA's education and care systems team, which provides maintenance and development of the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS) for the NQF, including sector and regulatory authority support.
The number of FTE staff at 30 June 2017 was 79.76 inclusive of employees on parental and unpaid leave. A breakdown of the workforce profile by FTE, headcount and gender is at Figure 2.
The ACECQA organisational structure as at 30 June 2017 is outlined in Figure 3.
During 2016-2017, human resources focused on the negotiation of ACECQA's second enterprise agreement. Bargaining commenced in May 2016 after the appointment of the new Board and the ACECQA Enterprise Agreement 2016-2019 was agreed by a majority of staff in mid-October 2016 with approval by the Fair Work Commission in early December 2016. The agreement came into force on 12 December 2016 and its nominal expiry date is 30 June 2019.
A Staff Consultative Committee was established in accordance with the Enterprise Agreement. Nominations were called for from across the three business groups and the first meeting is scheduled to occur in 2017.
The human resources team provided policy and reporting information to support the bargaining process, as well as continued focus on the implementation of HR policies. The team facilitated training for all staff and managers in relation to their obligations and responsibilities under the HR policies and ACECQA's Enterprise Agreement.
In 2016-2017, the human resources team also managed payroll, recruitment, induction, learning and development, work health and safety (WHS), mandatory and professional development training and staff separations. The temporary employment register continued to support workforce management and planning and reporting.
HR specialist providers facilitated learning and professional development for staff relating to responding to and managing mental-health in the workplace, privacy and administrative law. Staff also completed specific mandatory and professional learning and development training including software training, HR policies and WHS refresher training.
In 2016-17, ACECQA undertook a full review and test of its Business Continuity Plan to provide assurance that appropriate measures are in place in the event of a business disruption. The implementation of a well-structured and scalable program has strengthened business resilience, increased effective management of a disruption and provided a proactive business continuity culture whilst establishing best practice guidelines, standards and benchmarks.
ACECQA also continues to maintain a strong commitment to a supportive workplace through initiatives and events that engage staff and build community awareness. ACECQA's social committee held events to support NAIDOC Week, R U OK Day, Dress for Success and Reconciliation Week. ACECQA's Reconciliation Action Plan working group continues to support and promote the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures within Australia.
Figure 3: ACECQA's organisational structure
Information and Communication Technologies
ACECQA's IT team delivered a number of projects to enhance organisational ICT capabilities in 2016-17, including:
- finalising the server refresh program, including major upgrades to the Exchange email system and the EDRMS records management system
- delivering a fully revised IT Disaster Recovery Plan, and contributing to the internal Business Continuity Plan
- the renegotiation of new corporate printers and planning for their implementation
- improvements to security patching of servers and workstations to improve defences against cyber-attack
- the renegotiation of the support contract for ACECQA's core CRM system, which facilitated a fresh approach to systems development, thereby providing ACECQA with greater value and improved outcomes.
The IT team also provided guidance to major projects across ACECQA, including the redevelopment of the ACECQA website, the delivery of new CRM capability for the National Education Leader team, and assisting with developments to the National Authorised Officer training portal.
Records and Information Management
ACECQA continues to ensure that best practice information management is implemented within the organisation. There were significant achievements this year which included the following:
- major upgrade of ACECQA's records management system
- identification of high risk / high value records and protection methods to be implemented for these records
- implementation of improved processes to manage social media records
- archiving and destruction of ACECQA's hardcopy and digital records in compliance with the State Records Act 1998
- continued development of ACECQA's information security management system.
ACECQA also continued its work with jurisdictions to identify common records management requirements for NQA ITS records. A priority for 2017-2018 is assisting jurisdictions with changes to the NQA ITS to better support records management requirements.
The operations of ACECQA are primarily funded by the Australian Government and the state and territory governments under the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care. The current Agreement covers the period up to 31 December 2018.
In addition to the operational funding from the Australian Government and state and territory governments under the NPA, funding streams in 2016-17 also included:
- fee revenue under the National Regulations relating to ACECQA's functions of assessing qualifications, second tier review and Excellent rating applications
- 10 per cent of NQF related transaction and annual fees levied by the state and territory governments for calendar year 2016 in accordance with the NPA
- operational funding from the Australian Government and states and territories for administering, maintaining and upgrading the NQA ITS, and
- one-off project funding from the Australian Government for the NQA ITS integration with the new Australian Government Child Care Subsidy IT system.
Financial performance 2016-17
ACECQA operated in accordance with its Board-approved budget to deliver on the strategic priorities contained in the Letter of Expectation for 2016-18 from the Education Council. The operating result for the 2016-17 financial year was a surplus of approximately $0.3m.
Funding from governments received in 2016-17 was approximately $13.7m. ACECQA also received own source revenue of approximately $0.4m, mainly from services delivered under the National Regulations on a fee for service basis, the sale of NQF resource kits and interest income.
ACECQA's Financial Statements report a $13.3m accumulated surplus as at 30 June 2017. This includes approximately $6.4m funding received in advance for 2017-18 from the Australian Government and $0.1m from the Queensland government, which will be progressively spent in that period, as well as required working capital for ACECQA to remain solvent. As an independent statutory authority, adequate working capital is crucial to ACECQA's financial viability to ensure that the agency can arrange supplier contracts, declare solvency and cover any funding shortfall or funding delays.
The total expenditure for the 12 months was $13.7m. The main expenditure items were:
- salaries and on-costs (approximately 67 per cent)
- ICT costs (approximately 12 per cent)
- occupancy costs (approximately 7 per cent).
At 30 June 2017, ACECQA's total financial assets were approximately $14.5m, increased by $0.3m compared with the previous financial year of $14.2m. The $14.5m total financial assets mainly comprise $2m cash and $12.5m investments in term deposits, compared with $5.3m cash, $2.6m trade and other receivables and $6.3m investments in deposits at the end of last financial year. In accordance with ACECQA's investment policy, where cash and cash equivalents exceeded ACECQA's at call requirements, they were transferred to investments. Due to the low trade and other receivables balance at 30 June 2017, ACECQA was able to increase its investment of temporary surplus cash.
Freedom of Information
Information Publication Scheme
The National Law and the National Regulations apply and modify the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).
As an agency subject to the FOI Act, ACECQA is required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). ACECQA's IPS is on the Authority's website and includes the Information Publication Plan and details of the Authority's:
- organisational structure
- statutory appointments
- functions and powers
- consultative arrangements
- operational information.
Freedom of information requests
The following table shows the status of Freedom of Information applications for access to information for the period 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017.
On hand as at 1 July 2016
Granted in full
Granted in part
On hand as at 30 June 2017
Appeals to the National Education and Care Services Freedom of Information Commissioner
Appeals to the relevant Administrative Tribunal
The National Law and the National Regulations apply and modify the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988. ACECQA must comply with the Privacy Act 1988 and the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012 (Privacy Amendment Act).
During 2016-17, ACECQA did not receive any privacy complaints. In addition, no investigations of ACECQA were undertaken by the National Education and Care Services Privacy Commissioner.
Privacy training was provided during the reporting period for staff dealing with personal information.
The National Law and the National Regulations apply and modify the Commonwealth Ombudsman Act 1976.
The Office of the Education and Care Services (ECS) Ombudsman is responsible for independently examining complaints and concerns about the administrative actions of ACECQA. In 2016-17, ACECQA worked with the Office of the ECS Ombudsman to resolve any matters raised with the Ombudsman, with no formal investigations instigated.