I am pleased to present the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) Annual Report for 2016-17.
This year was one of many milestones. As an organisation that works closely with, and is accountable to, the Council of Australian Government’s Education Council, we have a special and vital relationship with our nine government partners.
Following receipt of our new Letter of Expectation for 2016-18, we as a Board assessed how the organisation can best align itself with, and respond to, the needs and expectations of our partners. We were pleased to finalise a new strategic plan in April 2017, which defines ACECQA’s vision, mission, priorities and success indicators for the next five years.
The plan emphasises how we will continue to enhance the way we work, and what we value - collaboration and partnerships, high quality and continuous improvement, evidence based decisions, consistency, and accountability and responsiveness. The plan is accompanied by a new corporate communication and engagement strategy, which articulates our approach to purposeful and meaningful engagement that meets the expectations of our government partners and sector and community stakeholders.
ACECQA’s ability to deliver on its strategic and forward work plans is underpinned by mature and effective financial management, strong governance and effective reporting systems, all of which ensure resources are allocated in a way that maximises value.
As a Board and on behalf of the whole organisation, we would like to acknowledge ACECQA’s inaugural CEO, Karen Curtis. Karen’s leadership and achievements in establishing and guiding the organisation through its first five years of operation, including the first six months of this reporting year, have been significant, and felt far and wide.
In January 2017, I was pleased to announce the appointment of Gabrielle Sinclair to the role of CEO. Ms Sinclair came to ACECQA having most recently led Queensland’s participation in the National Quality Framework (NQF) for children’s education and care, and following significant senior executive experience and achievements across a range of Queensland Government portfolios.
As Chair, I am fortunate to lead a dedicated Board that possesses a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight. In particular, I acknowledge the significant contributions of outgoing members Sabine Phillips and Nick Ryan, as well as foundation member Mark Brown. It is a privilege to work with colleagues who have shown such commitment and dedication to improving outcomes for children.
In 2017-18, the Board looks forward to a year of significant delivery on many fronts. I know we will again be well served by the professional and dedicated staff at ACECQA, as we continue the quest to improve, and promote the value and importance of, high quality education and care services for children.
With the National Quality Framework (NQF) now in its sixth year, this report highlights our performance over the past 12 months and our commitment to monitor, evaluate and innovate so that we continuously improve our services to funding partners, regulatory authorities, services, educators and families.
Our focus for 2016-2017, in collaboration with state, territory and Australian Governments, has been on the delivery of priority activities as per the Education Council’s Letter of Expectation, and in accordance with our functions under the National Law. I touch on a number of highlights below.
Supporting the sector to prepare for NQF changes - this includes design and delivery of modifications to the National Quality Agenda IT System, publication of new and revised support and guidance materials, and the redevelopment of training content and services for regulatory authorities’ staff.
Delivering the Evaluation Framework - which provides a coherent approach to assessing whether and to what degree the NQF is achieving its stated objectives. Our role in the evaluation of the NQF is articulated in a new five year research and evaluation strategy and implementation plan released in June 2017.
Enhancing capabilities of the National Quality Agenda IT System - This includes a new business intelligence tool to improve jurisdictions’ NQF data analysis capability, and a new Document Verification Service to enable regulatory authorities to verify identity documents in real time.
Promoting State, Territory and Australian Governments’ strategies - to drive service improvements and compliance with regulatory and quality standards, including through our public reporting and national audit program.
Designing and delivering new and revised authorised officer training and testing programs for regulatory authorities, and leveraging the skills of Lead Assessors to promote reliability and confidence in the system. This includes work to further consistency and validity in quality assessment and rating.
Supporting a well-qualified and professional workforce through the determination of qualifications equivalence for 564 individuals seeking work as educators under the NQF, and assessment of 23 qualifications or training programs for inclusion on our approved lists.
Improving information for families and carers about the importance of quality early education, child development milestones and informed choices about service options through our Starting Blocks website.
Supporting sector capability and continuous quality improvement through the delivery of 31 quality practice workshops to more than 1650 educators across the country, responses to nearly 30,000 NQF related enquiries, and our assessment of Excellent rating applications.
I thank all staff for their hard work and dedication to the goals and guiding principles of the NQF. Their commitment to making a tangible difference for children’s educational and developmental outcomes is remarkable. As I stated when I came to ACECQA, I am fortunate to have been able to build upon the solid foundation created by Karen Curtis. Our strong financial governance and reporting systems and the positive culture of our capable staff are a testament to Karen’s leadership from mid-2011 to December 2016.
I also acknowledge the stewardship and guidance provided by our Board. The Board continues to set a strong and positive direction for the organisation, while offering their unwavering vision that children in Australia have the best start in life. As to the year ahead, we will continue to work in partnership with our government and stakeholder partners to prepare for the revised National Quality Standard in February 2018, the development and release of the first NQF annual performance report in late 2017, and the delivery of all commitments in our Forward Work Plan for 2017 and 2018.
There is still much to do.
Chief Executive Officer