2. ACECQA's Functions under the National Law
- 2.1 Guiding implementation of the National Quality Framework
- 2.2 National quality improvement
- 2.3 National information and registers
- 2.4 Excellent rating and second tier review
- 2.5 Educate and inform
- 2.6 Support and training for authorised officers
- 2.7 Educator qualifications
Implementing the outcomes of the 2014 review of the National Quality Agenda
The Education Council's Letter of Expectation for ACECQA set implementing the outcomes of the 2014 review of the National Quality Agenda as a major strategic priority.
From mid-2016 to February 2018, we worked closely with representatives of all nine governments to support implementation of some 100 agreed changes to NQF legislation and policy. The project became our single largest deliverable in 2017, with major implications for the deployment of resources and the prioritisation of activity across our Education and Care Systems, Educational Leadership and Training, Policy, and Communications and Engagement teams.
ACECQA's role in supporting the changes agreed by governments aligned with our legislated obligations to:
- guide the implementation of the NQF and promote consistency in its implementation and administration
- establish consistent, effective and efficient procedures for the operation of the NQF
- educate and inform education and care services, and the community, about the NQF.
The project's major deliverables helped regulators and service providers to respond to the review changes in a timely and efficient manner.
Strengthening the NQA ITS
We developed and released changes to the NQA ITS to support regulatory authorities in their ongoing administration of the NQF, and to support streamlined business interactions between service providers and the eight regulators. NQA ITS upgrades were also delivered to ensure Western Australia's continued use of the NQA ITS prior to adoption of amendments in Western Australia in October 2018.
Training for regulatory authority staff
Extensive work was undertaken to redevelop training and testing programs for regulatory authority staff. We created a new bridging program to support the existing regulator workforce in understanding the revised NQF. We also modified and updated NQS training for authorised officers, including reliability and drift testing materials, in advance of the start of a revised 2018 NQS.
To support the announcement of the changes, and their promotion to the sector and families, we led on communications planning, collateral production, and sector engagement services. This work involved online and social media communications with approved providers, services, universities, and registered training organisations; meetings with large providers and peak bodies; newsletter articles and a series of National Education Leader blog posts.
Developing operational policy
Our policy team developed operational policy content and provided a range of policy advisory services to government officials and to internal clients. A major outcome was the review of all existing regulator and sector guidance and operational policy to align with legislation changes. This work led to the release of updated NQF publications, including our website content, sector resources and operational guidance. A new Guide to the NQF brought together two distinct sets of guidance that since 2012 had separately addressed service provider and regulator audiences. The new Guide was supported by tailored information sheets to various audiences, for example, family day care providers, co-ordinators, and educators.
We also agreed a new Information Sharing Protocol with governments to align with, and take advantage of changes to information sharing provisions within the National Law.
Evaluating our work
Post the project's implementation, we conducted an evaluation of our program of work. Our evaluation included surveys of government officials and regulatory authority staff. The surveys found strong agreement that we had delivered what was requested, on time, and to a high standard. In particular, feedback from governments commended us for the delivery of high-quality sector and regulator resources and communications, including the Guide to the NQF.
A survey of regulatory authority officers showed that more than 90 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the Guide to the NQF is a helpful and relevant resource, and more than 70 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the Guide uses clearer language and provides a 'one-stop shop' for information compared to previous resources. Our analysis of sector communications engagement showed a high level of engagement with posts on our social media platforms. Large service providers also found the new Guide to the NQF to be user-friendly, easy to understand and helpful for educators.
Working with our Government partners
Regulatory Practice Committee
Our role to guide the administration of a unified, national regulatory system is achieved in collaboration with all state and territory regulatory authorities and the Australian Government. To enable this, we formally engage with all state and territory regulatory authorities and the Australian Government through the NQF Regulatory Practice Committee (RPC). The RPC met three times in 2017-18 and consists of senior representatives from each of the regulatory authorities, the Australian Government and ACECQA. Chairing is on a rotating basis and in 2017-18 the Chair was held by Queensland. The committee's purpose is to provide:
- all state and territory regulators and ACECQA with a 'community of practice' forum for improving regulatory practice, including through identifying emerging issues and developing mechanisms to minimise the risks these present to the objectives of the NQF and
- a forum for all state and territory regulators, the Australian Government and ACECQA to collectively authorise a range of functions and services provided by ACECQA to, and on behalf of, all governments.
Supported by its working groups, the RPC has a role to identify new trends and emerging issues within the sector and to develop mechanisms to minimise any risks to the objectives of the NQF. The RPC also works to promote quality improvement and consistent outcomes for children through agreement on shared operational policy.
Examples of RPC's work and outcomes in 2017-18 include:
- developing and maintaining key NQF guidance materials
- implementing national communication strategies
- the establishment of a national register of repealed qualifications assessment decisions
- the establishment of a Lead Investigator Network to support consistent practice with regard to investigations and areas of significant non compliance
- setting priorities for the ongoing development of the NQA ITS
- agreeing the subject of national audits and implementing key findings.
Early Childhood Policy Group
ECPG is one of three Australian Education Senior Officials Committee (AESOC) Standing Working Groups, reporting to and providing advice to AESOC on national early childhood matters. We contribute to the work of the ECPG through policy advice, attendance at meetings, where we have observer status, and participation in ECPG's working groups.
NQF annual performance report
In line with the current National Partnership Agreement (2015-16 to 2017-18), we provided an annual performance report to the Education Council in December 2017 that included an assessment against the objectives and outcomes of the Agreement. After consideration and endorsement by Education Ministers, this inaugural annual performance report was published in January 2018 and is available on the research and reports page of our website.
The report contains eight chapters, examining areas such as the safety, health and wellbeing of children attending education and care services, and the education and care workforce. The report also includes an assessment of families' and general public knowledge and access to information about education and care service quality, and the regulatory burden for education and care service providers. The former is based upon research we conducted in 2017 via both a nationally representative survey, as well as supplementary surveys. The latter is based upon a survey of all approved providers of education and care services in 2017 that examined their perceptions of administrative burden under the NQF.
We will produce a second annual performance report for the Education Council during the 2018 calendar year, which will include the results of qualitative research with families, following on from the 2017 quantitative research, and another survey of all approved providers.
Our NQF Snapshot provides analysis and information on the profile of the sector, the progress of quality rating and the quality ratings of services, including by service sub-type and provider management type. We published four quarterly NQF Snapshots during 2017-18, with additional data analysis provided across the period.
An interactive online version of the NQF Snapshot is available for users to sort and search for information, along with an Excel workbook that includes comprehensive quality rating data.
Audits for 2016-17
In 2017-18 we completed three national audits in accordance with our responsibility under the National Law.
Our audits align with our objectives of guiding the implementation and administration of the NQF, and monitoring and promoting national consistency.
Our audit topics focus on areas that have been identified and agreed as high priority, and the outcomes, learnings and good practice are shared with state and territory regulatory authorities.
Quality rating reassessments
In September 2017 we completed our 13th national audit which examined quality improvement in services by analysing differences between a service's first assessment and rating against the NQS and any subsequent assessments. The audit analysed reassessment data for the period between 1 January 2016 and 30 June 2017.
The audit found that two thirds of services previously rated Working Towards NQS improved their overall quality rating to either Meeting or Exceeding NQS after reassessment. Furthermore, almost a third of services rated Meeting NQS improved their rating to Exceeding NQS after reassessment.
Providers and regulatory authority audit contacts interviewed for our audit indicated that factors that contribute to quality improvement include service leadership, staff familiarity with the regulatory system, and training and support offered to the sector. Conversely, the main barrier to quality improvement was the availability of high quality service staff members with a practical understanding of the quality improvement process.
Serious incidents - injury, illness or trauma
We completed our 14th audit in February 2018. This audit analysed serious incidents involving injury, illness or trauma to a child attending a service (as defined in Regulation 12 of the National Regulations) that were notified by providers between 1 January 2017 and 30 September 2017.
The audit found that long day care had the highest proportion of services notifying at least one serious incident involving injury, illness or trauma, which is unsurprising given the number and age of children attending long day care services, as well as the relatively high number of hours that they attend for. The audit also found that the most common type of injury, trauma or illness involved cuts, open wounds and bleeding, with the most common cause being a fall or trip. The most likely times of day for a serious incident to occur were mid morning (between 10-11am) and mid to late afternoon (between 3-4pm).
Through the audit we found that recent enhancements to the NQA ITS have enabled more efficient and detailed analysis of serious incidents data. Regulatory authorities and providers interviewed in the audit indicated a high degree of satisfaction with the enhancements and the online form for notifying serious incidents.
Conditions on approval
In June 2018 we completed our 15th audit. This audit examined conditions imposed by state and territory regulatory authorities on provider and service approvals between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2017. It aimed to identify opportunities to improve consistency and efficiency in how regulatory authorities apply, monitor and review conditions. The audit also considered findings from our inaugural national audit on the same topic in 2013.
While the audit found that there have been significant improvements in the quality of conditions data since the 2013 audit, opportunities were also identified to minimise jurisdictional variations and improve consistency.
Research and evaluation strategy
In 2017-18 we continued to progress our research and evaluation strategy and implementation plan 2017-21.
This five year plan outlines our approach to research and evaluation under the NQF, providing a summary of progress to date, as well as our current and future priorities.
The plan also complements the NQF evaluation framework, a shared framework developed in collaboration with the Australian and state and territory governments, and endorsed by Education Ministers. The NQF evaluation framework provides all governments with a common way of understanding whether and how the NQF is meeting its objectives.
Universities, research institutions, government organisations and departments, and other stakeholders can all contribute to the NQF evidence base by commissioning and undertaking research in line with the NQF evaluation framework.
Our own research and evaluation activities, as detailed in our research and evaluation strategy, align to one or more of the objectives of the NQF, and contribute evidence towards answering the key evaluation questions and sub questions outlined in the evaluation framework.
Our research and evaluation strategy and the evaluation framework are available on the research and reports page of our website, which is designed to be a repository of NQF related research and evidence.
Our fifth occasional paper, published in August 2017, analysed one of the more challenging areas of the 2012 NQS, Quality Area 7 - Leadership and Service Management. This paper emphasises the importance of effective leadership and administrative systems in supporting educators, co-ordinators, educational leaders and staff members to deliver quality education and care programs. It also explores contemporary research and theory relating to effective leadership and service management.
All of our occasional papers are available on the research and reports page of our website.
One of our key functions is to improve public knowledge and access to information about the quality of education and care services. Information about services, including their quality rating, helps families and communities make informed choices about education and care services for their children. We manage the national database and software solution which supports regulatory authorities and the sector to operate under the NQF.
In accordance with the National Law, we publish national registers to provide open and transparent information about children's education and care services. There are three registers published on our website:
- Education and Care Services - this register lists the individual services granted approval to operate under the NQF and also includes the quality area rating as well as the service's overall rating
- Approved Providers - this register details individuals or entities authorised to operate an approved education and care service
- Certified Supervisors - this is a register of persons holding a supervisor certificate. Following changes to the National Law and Regulations in October 2017, this requirement only applies in Western Australia.
During 2017-18 we made various technical improvements to the registers including hosting them on a new website and increasing the frequency of data updates from weekly to daily. The registers are searchable via our website and can be exported into an excel file either at a national level or by states and territories. We also implemented a single system to ensure consistency across other websites hosting similar datasets. This includes the Australian Government's MyChild website and our Starting Blocks website.
National Quality Agenda IT System
The National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS) is an online business tool that facilitates communication between children's education and care services and state and territory regulatory authorities, and is also the primary business system used by regulators to administer the broad spectrum of functions as prescribed in the National Law. The NQA ITS enables regulatory authorities to efficiently administer the National Law and also supports the goal of improving regulatory consistency across jurisdictional borders by creating a more efficient, cohesive and streamlined environment for business activity.
The system also provides valuable national and jurisdiction specific data to ACECQA, state and territory regulatory authorities, the Australian Government and other government agencies. We have made significant progress in the integration and automation of data transfer via technologies such as web services. The NQA ITS now seamlessly interacts with several state and territory regulatory IT systems, the Australian Government and other key systems. Some of this interaction has allowed for enhanced fraud detection such as through the Document Verification Service identity verification software.
National Law and Regulation Implementation
A major project for 2017-18 was the implementation of changes to the NQA ITS to support amendments to the National Law and Regulations which came into effect in October 2017 and February 2018. These changes required significant analysis and development as they spanned all core applications within the National IT solution.
Once the solution was developed and prior to implementation a number of training courses and materials were delivered. These activities ensured regulatory staff understood the technical changes to seamlessly continue with their work and support the sector. Training sessions were held with larger providers to preview the reporting improvements.
Positive feedback has been received on the system changes, including the reporting tools for sector users. These changes simplified processes and provided stronger guidance to users.
NQA ITS Releases
There were three system releases during 2017-18, with two of the releases focussed on upgrading the NQA ITS to reflect changes to the law and regulations. We also addressed more than 300 issues and improvements suggested by regulatory authorities and sector users during this period. Major projects successfully completed across the 2017-18 period include:
- NQF review changes that came into effect on 1 October 2017 for all jurisdictions except Western Australia. The NQA ITS was updated to align with these changes to the law and regulations. Major areas of system development/change included nominated supervisors, certified supervisors, notification of incidents, waivers, amendments and service approval
- NQS review changes that came into effect in February, 2018 for all states and territories. The NQA ITS was updated to allow for a seamless transition to the revised standards, effectively catering for both versions during and after the transition. Additionally, enhancements such as improved editor and automatic calculation of ratings were made to streamline the assessment and rating process
- enabling mobile capability on tablets for regulatory authority users to assist with evidence capture in the assessment and rating process
- integration with the new Child Care Subsidy (CCS) IT system of the Australian Government. Verification of provider and service information in the NQA ITS is a pre-requisite for eligibility under the new Family Assistance Law.
NQA ITS Governance
The Regulatory Practice Committee (RPC) is the governing body responsible for the overall strategic direction of the NQA ITS and forms part of our broad governance framework. Under this committee sits a working group called the National IT Systems Steering Group (NSG). Membership of NSG comprises all state and territory regulatory authorities, the Australian Government and ACECQA. The NSG is responsible for:
- considering significant issues and operational decisions regarding the NQA ITS
- making recommendations to the RPC regarding strategic priorities for the system, and
- managing data quality and consistency issues.
The NSG meets at least twice a year to discuss the current status of the NQA ITS, its future direction and priorities, and other technical and operational matters. We report on the progress of the system and changes via the annual State of the System report.
Table 3: Approved providers registered in the NQA ITS, 30 June 2018
We produce an annual forward work plan which outlines agreed system enhancements as well as a delivery schedule for the year. NQA ITS priorities are formulated and agreed through discussions with NSG, workshops, technological changes and high level direction from the RPC. In addition, our own strategic plan and Letter of Expectation are considered during this process. Both the State of the System report and NQA ITS forward work plan are agreed by NSG and then endorsed by RPC prior to commencement.
NQA ITS usage
The NQA ITS public portal allows providers to:
- register and link a provider, service and certified supervisor (in case of WA)
- view their details
- submit applications and notifications
- pay annual fees or any application related invoice.
Usage of the public portal by sector users continued to increase in 2017-18. Table 3 below shows the percentage of approved providers registered in the NQA ITS at the end of June 2018. Nationally, approximately 94 per cent of approved providers are registered with one or more user accounts to use the NQA ITS, which is an increase of more than 5 percentage points from 2016-17.
The number of individual users registered to use the NQA ITS continued to increase in 2017-18, with a 23 per cent increase in the total number of registered sector users in 2017-18 from 31,845 to 39,268.
Annual fee invoices
As part of the administration of the NQA ITS, we create and deliver annual fee invoices to each provider for all their services in each jurisdiction on behalf of regulatory authorities. In May-June 2018, we issued a total of 7,706 annual fee invoices for the 2018-19 financial year.
Applications and notifications
Ongoing system enhancements to application and notification forms have provided the sector with a simpler and more efficient mechanism to submit forms online. Together with NQF review changes that were implemented on 1 October 2017, regulatory authorities agreed to the removal of the paper forms that were available on our website, thereby encouraging providers to submit through the NQA ITS.
In 2017-18, approximately 97 per cent of application and notification forms were submitted to regulatory authorities nationally via the NQA ITS, with only 3 per cent submitted via paper. This was an increase of 10 per cent of online line forms submitted from last year. Table 4 below shows the number of applications and notifications submitted by providers in 2017-18.
Table 4: Applications and notifications submitted 2017-18
NQA ITS service desk and training/support
Our in-house NQA ITS service desk caters to queries and requests from both the sector and regulatory authorities seeking assistance in using the system. The service desk provides email and phone-based support to the user base.
In 2017-18, the service desk answered more than 6,300 enquiries from users of the system. This represents a comparative increase in call volumes of 3 per cent from 2016-17.
We provide training and support to the sector and regulatory authorities in the form of on-premise training, online webinars, help documentation, training videos and quick reference guides. We produced a suite of help materials and hosted web training sessions for regulatory authority users to help with the system changes in line with the NQF review changes in October 2017 and NQS review changes in February 2018. By mid-2018, more than 400 regulatory authority staff had attended training sessions, reporting an 86 per cent overall satisfaction rate.
Each year sector and regulatory authority users of the NQA ITS are asked to complete a satisfaction survey. This includes questions about the NQA ITS portals, system functionality and NQA ITS Service Desk.
Approximately 3000 responses were received from sector users, with most having used the NQA ITS for more than one year. 70 per cent of respondents reported that the NQA ITS satisfied most, if not all, of their needs. 95 per cent of the respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the support provided by the NQA ITS service desk.
A total of 342 responses were received from regulatory authority users. 81 per cent of regulatory authority users were satisfied or very satisfied with the NQA ITS and 97 per cent were satisfied or very satisfied with the support they receive from the NQA ITS service desk.
The NQA ITS user survey is a valuable instrument for gauging user satisfaction with the IT system and highlighting ways in which the NQA ITS can improve. Analysis of responses and feedback are used to inform the forward work plan and guide the development of new features.
Excellent rating assessment
Applications, service profile, reapplications
Under the National Law, we are responsible for developing and managing the Excellent rating application process and for awarding the rating. To be eligible to apply for the Excellent rating, a service must be quality rated as Exceeding NQS by a state or territory regulatory authority. Under the 2018 NQF, as of 1 February 2018 (except Western Australia) services must be rated Exceeding NQS across all seven quality areas to be eligible to apply for the Excellent rating.
We write to approved providers of services that have been awarded a rating of Exceeding NQS, providing them with information on their eligibility to apply for the Excellent rating. In 2017-18, we wrote to more than 590 services about their eligibility to apply.
2017-18 saw the continuance of reapplications being received for the Excellent rating, with 22 services eligible to reapply. Reapplications for the Excellent rating are subject to the same application and assessment process as for the original application. We received a total of 64 applications for the Excellent rating in 2017-18. Of these, 17 were reapplications and 47 were new applications.
Following assessment, we re-awarded the Excellent rating to six services in 2017-18:
- Doveton College Early Learning Centre
- Globe Wilkins Preschool
- Wesley College Melbourne Glen Waverley Early Childhood Learning Centre
- Jindi Woraback Children's Centre
- AIS Caretakers Cottage Child Care Centre
- Uniting Preschool Grafton.
We also awarded the Excellent rating to 13 new services in 2017-18:
- Goodstart Early Learning Parafield Gardens
- Indooroopilly Montessori Children's House
- Bonkers Beat Music Kinder and Childcare Aspendale
- Mount Gambier Children's Centre for Early Childhood Development and Parenting
- Inspire Carlingford
- Darlington Children's Centre for Early Childhood Development and Parenting
- KU Lance Children's Centre
- Waratah Cottage Early Learning Centre
- Lansvale Public School Preschool
- Uniting Frederick Street Preschool Rockdale
- Millville Childcare Centre
- Awakabal Preschool Wickham
- Tigger's Honeypot.
Of the 64 applications for the Excellent rating, 40 were assessed as unsuccessful in 2017-18, one was withdrawn and four were being assessed as at 30 June 2018.
Excellent rated service profile
As at 30 June 2018, we had received a total of 219 applications for the Excellent rating since the proclamation of legislative provisions enabling this function in April 2013. Over time, 88 services have been awarded the Excellent rating, 15 for the second time. As at 30 June 2018, 52 services were rated Excellent. Those services include long day care, preschool/kindergarten, family day care and outside school hours care services from across Australia.
Services demonstrate excellence through their applications in a range of different ways. During 2017-18, more than 85 per cent of the services that achieved the Excellent rating demonstrated excellence in the theme of 'practice and environments that enhance children's learning and growth'. An overview of each Excellent rated service is published on our website.
Figure 2: Origin of applications received 2017-18
Excellent rating criteria
The range of services awarded Excellent suggests that the aims of the criteria are being met. The criteria identify exceptional practice in education and care services across all service types and Excellent rated services are located in metropolitan, regional and rural areas.
In 2017 the Board decided to streamline the themes in Criteria 1 from six to five. Themes four and six were combined under the new theme of 'Positive workplace culture, organisational values, support of educators and sustained commitment to professional development'.
Criterion 1: The service exemplifies and promotes exceptional education and care that improves outcomes for children and families across at least three of the agreed themes.
Criterion 2: The service demonstrates leadership that contributes to the development of a community, a local area, or the wider education and care sector.
Criterion 3: The service demonstrates commitment to sustained excellent practice through continuous improvement and comprehensive forward planning.
Second tier review
If an approved provider of an education and care service disagrees with the rating level awarded through the quality assessment and rating process, they can apply to the relevant regulatory authority for review. This first tier review will often resolve concerns approved providers have with the assessment and ratings process and awarded ratings levels. If the first tier review does not resolve an approved provider's concerns, they may apply to ACECQA for a second tier review, which is conducted by a ratings review panel.
Each panel has three members, including at least one early childhood or school aged education and care expert, and is responsible for confirming or amending the rating level awarded by the regulatory authority. We manage applications for second tier review and provide administrative support to the panel.
A list of current panel members is available on our website. In accordance with the National Law and National Regulations, panel members have expertise or knowledge in one or more of the following areas:
early learning and development research or practice
a prescribed area, such as the assessment of quality in education and care services or other relevant services
best practice regulation.
In 2017-18, we received three applications for second tier review. As at 30 June 2018, we have received and finalised 29 applications since quality assessment and rating began. The ratings review panels have, by consensus, decided to:
amend the service's overall rating in five cases
partially amend the service's ratings in nine cases which did not impact the service's overall rating
confirm the rating of the service in 15 cases.
De-identified decision notices, setting out the panel's reasons, are published on our website. Guidelines and an information sheet are also published to help applicants submit a second tier review application.
In partnership with all governments we developed a comprehensive communications plan and toolkit of resources to assist providers and educators with the implementation of changes to the NQF from 1 October 2017. The communications campaign commenced in July 2017 and ended in February 2018 with the launch of the 2018 NQS.
The new Guide to the National Quality Framework was developed with key stakeholders and was first published on our website during September 2017, and then updated in February 2018 to incorporate the 2018 NQS.
Other resources and key communications developed and published during, and following, the campaign period included: social media posts on all our platforms; newsletter articles; updates to key stakeholders; information sheets and presentation materials on key changes; a series of posters on the NQS for families, educators and service staff sent to every education and care service in Australia; website content and online videos and podcasts.
ACECQA's Family Strategy - Starting Blocks
Starting Blocks, our family focused initiative, supports new families taking their first step into early childhood education and care and raises awareness and importance of quality assessments and ratings when choosing a service.
In 2017-18, Facebook and Google Adwords campaigns increased awareness about the changes to the NQF and the 2018 NQS. Digital campaigns were also created to increase the number of users of the Starting Blocks website, with a particular focus on information about finding education and care services and resources for families. Facebook Live videos were created and posted in the second half of the financial year to reinforce the changes to the NQF and website resources.
At the end of June 2018, Starting Blocks had more than 28,100 Facebook fans and 413,502 website page views - a 58 per cent increase from 2016-17.
The Starting Blocks website was updated to meet accessibility standards and over 15,000 indexable pages created for all the services to be reflected in Google's search results. Ongoing work on search engine optimisation is expected to increase Starting Blocks' organic search ranking on Google.
We promoted Starting Blocks at five parenting expositions in the past year and sponsored Playgroup Victoria's The Big Playgroup Meetup. A number of bloggers were engaged to promote Starting Blocks' presence at these expos. We also partnered with Health Direct's Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website to display Starting Blocks articles in its related search results.
We work collaboratively with a range of stakeholders to inform our NQF functions. Throughout the year we met regularly with national peak bodies and large providers to discuss topics of interest and ensure our services continue to meet expectations. We also met with the departments of education at a federal and state/territory level and inter-governmental working groups.
We held two forums in October and November 2017, bringing together a broad representation of sector and government partners. Discussions at these forums focused on sector readiness for the second Early Childhood Teacher or Other Suitably Qualified Person requirement of the National Regulations, workforce planning issues for the early childhood education and care sector, including the qualification accreditation process, and embedding the NQF in early childhood teaching degrees.
Throughout 2017-18, our staff presented at 134 conferences and sector events both nationally and internationally. These events provided important opportunities for sector professional development and a continued focus on continuous improvement.
Partnerships with key sector organisations
In partnership with Family Day Care Australia (FDCA), we delivered 22 presentations in 11 locations around Australia between July 2017 and June 2018. The FDCA National Engagement Program (NEP) presentations are part of the FDCA commitment to drive continuous improvement in the delivery of quality family day care. The two-day NEP was targeted at service providers/co-ordinators and educators and in some locations included presentations from the Australian Government and state and territory regulatory authorities.
Our National Education Leader delivered 33 presentations in collaboration with state and territory regulatory authorities at Inclusion expos and forums in NSW, Queensland and Victoria. These presentations focused on the NQS and regulatory requirements (including showcasing and promoting the 2018 NQS and regulations) that support inclusion, identifying data and resources to support quality service delivery (such as the Australian Early Development Census data), and identifying examples of evidence authorised officers look for when assessing against the standards.
Our new website went live on 31 January 2018, in preparation for the commencement of the 2018 NQS on 1 February 2018. Since the refresh, stakeholder feedback has been positive. Redeveloping the website has resulted in easier navigation, improved search functionality and better information architecture to provide a much improved experience for stakeholders.
Our social media presence continues to grow, with more than 38,000 Facebook followers (an increase of almost 9,000 on the previous year) and more than 4346 Twitter followers (up by more than 500). Engaging content shared with followers is regularly reaching more than 45,000 people a week, with more than 90,000 people viewing some high interest content.
Our monthly newsletter and We Hear You and National Education Leader blogs are other channels to keep the sector informed and provide useful information about meeting the requirements of the NQF. The newsletter has more than 27,000 subscribers and the We Hear You blog has been viewed more than 263,000 times in the past year. Articles that proved popular on the blog include the five-part series 'The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider?' and 'Are you exceeding the 2018 National Quality Standard?'.
In 2017-18, we continued to provide a suite of guides and resources to support the education and care sector's understanding of the NQF, with a continued focus on the changes to the NQF. This includes the new Guide to the National Quality Framework for approved providers, educators and authorised officers, additional information sheets on the seven quality areas, a series of quality area posters, and a video providing updated guidance on the topic of Exceeding NQS. We also developed a number of extension packs for the Quest for Quality knowledge game exploring inclusion, Exceeding NQS, environmental sustainability, the National 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, family day care and outside school hours care.
Our customer service team is an essential part of our communication and engagement with the sector. The team responds to public queries by telephone and email and is often people's first point of contact with the organisation. In 2017-18, the customer service team received a total of 30,791 enquiries. This consisted of 18,776 phone enquiries and 12,015 email enquiries. The highest number of enquiries related to interpretation of legislation, including the NQS.
As part of our Customer Service Charter, the team has a goal to respond to email enquiries within five days. The average rate of response in 2017-18 was 1.4 days. We also draw on our enquiries to inform newsletter articles, information sheets, blogs, social media posts and website content to share relevant information with a broader audience.
Quality Support Program
In March 2018, the NSW Department of Education announced a partnership with us to deliver a Quality Support Program for eligible education and care services.
Under the Program, we are providing free professional development and support to a group of long day care and family day care services across NSW. In May 2018, we extended invitations to eligible services to join the program. To be eligible, services need to have been rated Working Towards NQS in the past two and a half years due to not meeting six or more elements of the 2012 NQS.
Three rounds of the program, each for 16 weeks, allows for each cohort of services to attend workshops, experience face-to-face visits from education and care experts, undertake bespoke training, and receive tailored resources and other support. The support will seek to enhance service quality, improve safety standards, and implement quality programs that lift learning outcomes and optimise the health and wellbeing of children. The shared goal, over time, is that all services will Meet or Exceed the NQS, leading to improved outcomes for children and their families.
Funded by the NSW Department of Education, the program enables us to expand our offerings under our legislated function to 'promote and foster continuous quality improvement'. This is in addition to broadening our collaboration with regulatory authorities to produce resources to support services to Meet and Exceed the NQS and to understand and comply with their obligations under the NQF. Resources developed in the course of the program will later be made available to all services and regulatory authorities.
Under the National Law, ACECQA is responsible for the delivery of training, testing and support to state and territory regulatory authorities to undertake tasks including the assessment and rating of education and care services against the NQS. A key focus is on promoting and maintaining a consistent approach with the implementation of the NQF.
Lead assessor network
The Lead Assessor Network is a working group of the Regulatory Practice Committee (RPC) and comprises nominees from each state and territory as key jurisdictional representatives. We work with lead assessors with a focus on identifying emerging issues and informing development and review of national training, guidance and support resources and materials for all authorised officers. Our Educational Leadership and Training team provide secretariat support to the lead assessor network and facilitated two workshops in 2017-18.
Our online training portal comprises a suite of 59 interactive eLearning modules covering topics such as Assessing Family Day Care, Cultural Competence, Assessing Outside School Hours Care and alternative philosophies such as Steiner and Montessori. Authorised officers are also required to complete their post-training reliability testing and annual drift testing via the training portal which is an automated system designed to closely replicate the officers' understanding and application of the NQS. The other significant component of the portal is the resource library. The resources library includes guidance notes, sample assessment and rating reports, monthly and quarterly ACECQA publications and sector focused research.
As at June 2018, almost 700 authorised officers and lead assessors are registered on the portal. eLearning resources have been accessed more than 15,000 times and more than 2,200 reliability drift tests have been completed since the training portal was developed.
Reliability and annual drift testing
Prior to conducting assessment and rating visits, all authorised officers must complete the national training program and demonstrate they can reliably assess quality against the NQS. Ongoing reliability is demonstrated by successfully completing annual drift testing. This is a key element in supporting consistency and validity in respect to assessment and rating nationally, and we have worked with regulatory authorities to develop and conduct online reliability and drift testing for all authorised officers.
Since the commencement of the revised NQS in 2018, we have updated the suite of testing materials to include two updated drift tests, three new drift tests and four new reliability tests.
During 2017-18, we delivered face-to-face training to, and managed reliability testing for, 87 new officers from six jurisdictions.
Revised training and bridging program
From November 2017 onwards, authorised officers received a revised training package in line with the changes to the NQF that came into effect 1 February 2018. The revisions were completed in close consultation with each of the states and territories to ensure a robust and high quality product was implemented that maintained the integrity of the initial NQF assessment and rating system introduced in 2012.
In collaboration with all states and territories, we developed and delivered 25 bridging program presentations to more than 360 authorised officers in all states and territories on the changes to the 2018 NQS. The bridging program was delivered in the four months before the 2018 NQS came into effect on 1 February 2018. The bridging program ensured that authorised officers were provided with information on the changes to the NQF, allowing their assessment and rating visits to continue as scheduled using the 2018 NQS.
Applications from individuals
ACECQA is responsible for determining and approving the qualifications that need to be held by educators working in children's education and care services. These include:
- early childhood teaching qualifications
- diploma level education and care qualifications
- certificate III level education and care qualifications
- first aid qualifications
- anaphylaxis management training
- emergency asthma management training.
We maintain lists of current and formerly approved qualifications on our website, as well as lists of qualifications for working with children over preschool age.
Individuals who do not hold qualifications on our approved lists and are not recognised by former state and territory laws can apply to us to have their qualifications assessed for equivalence.
Between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018, we received 1095 applications from individuals seeking to have their qualifications assessed for equivalence to an approved qualification. This compares to the 1153 applications we received in the 2016-17 financial year. More than half (56 per cent) of the applications were from individuals seeking equivalence to early childhood teaching qualifications. Around one quarter (28 per cent) were for diploma level qualifications, and the remainder were for certificate III level and working with children over preschool age qualifications.
Most applications were from individuals with qualifications from overseas, notably the UK (29 per cent of all applicants), New Zealand (12 per cent) and Ireland (8 per cent).
More than one quarter (28 per cent) of the applications were from individuals looking to work in NSW, followed by Victoria (17 per cent), Queensland (17 per cent) and Western Australia (16 per cent).
In 2017-18, we approved 559 individuals for equivalence. This included 225 early childhood teachers, 167 diploma level educators and 126 certificate III level educators. The overall approval rate for finalised applications was 74 per cent, slightly higher than the percentage (72 per cent) for the 2016-17 financial year.
Applications from organisations
Organisations, such as universities and registered training organisations, can apply to have an early childhood education program or relevant training added to our approved lists.
Between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018, we received a total of 16 applications from organisations wanting their qualifications or training assessed for equivalence.
Most applications were from organisations seeking to have early childhood teaching qualifications added to our published lists, with the remainder seeking approval of diploma level qualifications, anaphylaxis management training and emergency asthma training.
Of the 16 applications received, 13 had been finalised by 30 June 2018. All of the finalised applications were approved.
We publish quarterly updates of data relating to our applications from individuals and organisations on our website as part of our online operational activity report. The report is available on the research and reports page of our website.
Collaboration with partner bodies
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL)
In the reporting period, we continued our collaborative work with AITSL to promote national consistency in the recognition and assessment of early childhood teachers in Australia, notably as a member of AITSL's Teacher Qualification Expert Standing Committee (TQESC) and through supporting and engaging with the national review of teacher registration.
SkillsIQ embarked upon a review of the children's education and care sector qualifications in 2017. These qualifications include the Certificate III and Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care, as well as the Certificate IV and Diploma in School Age Education and Care, and the Certificate III and IV in Education Support.
We are a member of both SkillsIQ's Industry Reference Committee and Technical Advisory Committee, with SkillsIQ scheduled to seek endorsement of the revised qualifications in 2019. Once endorsed, our Board will determine whether the revised qualifications should be included on our published list of approved qualifications.