2016 is drawing to a close, let’s celebrate

This time of year is an ideal opportunity to reflect on the year coming to an end and all the opportunities and excitement a New Year brings. This month on We Hear You, we turn our attention to how we recognise and celebrate achievements and plan social occasions, such as Christmas celebrations, activities and events.

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When thinking about authentically including religious, cultural and/or community activities, experiences and events within the learning environment, it is important to consider the diversity within the group of children, families and educators at the service, as well as the communities in which the service is located. Another consideration is the learning opportunities such experiences offer for children. For example, planning open-ended activities and experiences has the potential to support children to be involved learners and further develop their creativity and problem solving skills.

In thinking about and planning for celebrations such as Christmas, educators also need to ensure they are respectful of the cultures, beliefs and values of the children, their families and the educators at the service. Anne Stonehouse’s Celebrations, holidays and special occasions resource sheet has tips to ensure ‘special occasions are celebrated in ways that recognise, respect and strengthen children’s appreciation of diversity and difference’. For many children, families and educators, Christmas is an important celebration in the calendar. However, as Anne notes:

While it is important to acknowledge holidays in a children’s service, there are a number of issues to be aware of. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays. Christmas and Easter, for example, have their origins in Christianity and are not universally observed. Some families may acknowledge the secular aspects of Christmas, and are happy for their child to participate in the celebrations in the service. It is crucial to know families’ views, respect them and avoid either a child participating in something the family objects to, or creating a situation in which a child is singled out or left out.

Extending this thinking to the ways we authentically embed culture in our environments, practices and programs, the Early Years Learning Framework (p. 16) and the Framework for School Age Care (p. 15) describe cultural competence as being ‘much more than awareness of cultural differences. It is the ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures’.

The Cultural Connections Booklet provides a framework to support further reflection around the celebrations that are relevant for the children, families and community of your service. This allows us to have more meaningful, engaging and child focused events and activities that are based on children’s individual identity, culture, capabilities, agency and family traditions, making our practice less tokenistic and more authentic.

Valuing families’ decisions about their child’s learning and wellbeing underpins our principles and practices. When we are active partners working together with the children and families, we can embed different cultural perspective in our services. This fosters a deeper sense of belonging and allows for more meaningful participation; everyone has an opportunity to actively contribute to the process and children feel a sense of connectedness to their learning.

Strategies to embed meaningful cultural competence in your service might include:

  • Developing a resource kit, drawing on resources (such as professional journals) and agencies (such as the relevant Inclusion Support Programme provider) that can assist in building your knowledge and skills.
  • Involving children in the planning and evaluation of celebrations that are important in your service, and to them. This allows for a deeper sense of agency and belonging.
  • Thinking about maximising learning opportunities for children. For example, does encouraging children to practice their observation and drawing skills by drawing a Christmas tree enhance their learning more than just colouring an adult representation?
  • Involving families, educators, other staff and your community in discussions about what celebrations are important to them and how you could include them in your service in respectful and meaningful ways.
  • Reviewing and reflecting on your current policies and philosophy. Do they mirror your service’s beliefs, goals and responsibilities around inclusion and cultural competence?

As an end of year treat, take some time to reflect on how you can celebrate Christmas in meaningful ways. Consider how celebrations can tie into acknowledging progress in your Quality Improvement Plan, sharing children’s learning and valuing each team member’s contributions to the service throughout the year. Drawing on the reflective questions in the approved learning frameworks is a great place start to your critical reflection. For example, as a team reflect on the questions to broaden your approach or lens in relation to the different ways children, families and educators experience Christmas activities and celebrations:

Who is advantaged when I work in this way? Who is disadvantaged? (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 13 / Framework for School Age Care, p. 12)

Other questions you might like to consider:

  • How is cultural competence embedded in your service and reflected in your philosophy? What does it look and feel like?
  • What celebrations are important for the families in your service?

Further reading and resources

Failing services is failing to understand – the emphasis is on continuous quality improvement

we-hear-you-blog-karen-curtisAustralian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) Chief Executive Officer Karen Curtis addresses the importance of continuous quality improvement under the National Quality Framework (NQF).

One of the most important aspects of our system of assessing and rating the quality of education and care services is its emphasis on continuous improvement. This is deeply embedded within the NQF, starting with the requirement for all services to have a Quality Improvement Plan in place.

ACECQA’s latest published Snapshot, based on data as at 30 September 2016, shows that, of the 15,429 services approved to operate under the NQF, 83% have been assessed and rated, with 71% rated at Meeting the National Quality Standard (NQS) or above.

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As you can see from the information above, most jurisdictions have assessed and rated more than 80% of services in their state or territory and the focus for some, particularly those that have assessed and rated more than 90% of services, is increasingly upon reassessing services.

When state and territory regulatory authorities undertake quality assessment, the goal is to drive the quality improvement of services, improve outcomes for children and make meaningful information available to families and communities.

To make the best use of available resources, regulatory authorities take a responsive, risk-based approach, focussing on services in need of quality improvement. This typically results in more frequent assessments of services that do not meet the NQS, as well as potential reassessments of services that have experienced significant changes or adverse events. As at 30 September 2016, a total of 1332 reassessments had taken place. Almost two thirds of these resulted in a higher overall rating being given, with the most common improvement being services moving from Working Towards NQS to Meeting NQS.

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The NQS is made up of a series of standards and elements and it is at the element level where we get a comprehensive picture of quality improvement. To date, 75% of reassessments have resulted in a higher number of elements being assessed as met. On around 100 occasions there has been a very notable improvement in performance, with 21 or more elements on aggregate moving from being assessed as not met to met.

In contrast, just over 10% of reassessments have resulted in a lower number of elements being assessed as met. On seven occasions, there have been marked deteriorations in performance, with 21 or more elements on aggregate moving from being assessed as met to not met.

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More than half of reassessments have resulted in between one to 10 elements on aggregate moving from being assessed as not met to being assessed as met. My previous article, which looked more closely at the nature and diversity of the Working Towards NQS rating, is relevant to this, in particular the high proportion of services that are rated at Working Towards NQS due to not meeting a low number of elements.

When looking at changes in performance at reassessment, it is also informative to examine individual elements to see which are most and least likely to exhibit improved performance. We can do this by looking at the number of times an individual element has changed from:

  • not met to met
  • met to not met, or
  • continued to be assessed as not met.

Of  the 10 elements most likely to exhibit improved performance at reassessment, two each are from standards 5.1, 6.2 and 7.1:

  • Element 5.1.2 (children’s interactions with educators)
  • Element 5.1.3 (support for children to feel secure, confident and included)
  • Element 6.2.1 (recognition of families’ expertise and shared decision making with families)
  • Element 6.2.2 (availability of current information about community services and resources to support families)
  • Element 7.1.2 (comprehensive staff induction)
  • Element 7.1.3 (continuity of educators and co-ordinators)

At the other end of the spectrum, of the 10 elements least likely to exhibit improved performance at reassessment, three are from Standard 2.1, and two each are from standards 2.3 and 7.3:

  • Element 2.1.1 (support for children’s health needs)
  • Element 2.1.3 (effective hygiene practices)
  • Element 2.1.4 (infectious disease control and management of injuries and illnesses)
  • Element 2.3.2 (protection of children from harm and hazard)
  • Element 2.3.3 (incident and emergency planning and management)
  • Element 7.3.1 (storage, maintenance and availability of records and information)
  • Element 7.3.5 (effectively documented policies and procedures)

Unsurprisingly, in the list of the 10 elements most likely to continue to be assessed as not met are five of the most challenging elements of the NQS:

  • Element 1.2.1 (ongoing cycle of planning, documenting and evaluation)
  • Element 1.2.3 (critical reflection)
  • Element 3.3.1 (sustainable practices)
  • Element 3.3.2 (environmental responsibility)
  • Element 7.2.2 (staff evaluation and individual performance development plans)

Also included in the list of the 10 elements most likely to continue to be assessed as not met are two of the elements from Standard 1.1:

  • Element 1.1.3 (program maximised opportunities for children’s learning)
  • Element 1.1.4 (availability of children’s documentation to families)

Reflecting upon these elements and considering why they appear in the respective lists will help prioritise and direct future quality improvement efforts. For example, it may be that efforts to improve performance against some standards need to be more intense, targeted and prolonged.

I also want to highlight that the consistent picture over the last four years is that Quality Area 1: Educational program and practice is the most challenging of the seven quality areas, with Standard 1.2 (focused, active and reflective educators and co-ordinators) and Standard 1.1 (curriculum enhances each child’s learning and development) the most challenging of the 18 standards, and Element 1.2.3 (critical reflection) and Element 1.2.1 (ongoing cycle of planning, documenting and evaluation) the most challenging of the 58 elements. Devoting dedicated time to discussing, reflecting on and prioritising aspects for improvement around the educational program and practice, particularly reviewing the feedback received as part of the assessment and rating process, will provide a solid foundation for continuous quality improvement efforts.

In my final blog post next month, I look forward to sharing with you my reflections on the last five years, a period of momentous change for our sector.

Helping families understand quality

This month on We Hear You, Jessica Annerley, Chief Executive Officer of Bruce Ridge Early Childhood Centre and Preschool talks about helping families understand the National Quality Standard, and building support for quality education and care.

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Our service was rated Working Towards National Quality Standard (NQS) between 2013–2016. Conversations with families at the time were focused on why we achieved this rating, why we felt it was an appropriate rating at the time of the assessment, and what we were doing to improve our practices.

Our educators recognised the importance of including families in our quality improvement journey, helping them understand the quality areas, and what we were doing to support their child’s learning, development and wellbeing.

We used the information in the assessment and rating report as the basis of our Quality Improvement Plan (QIP). We then shared this in a formal process with families, along with our philosophy and policies, and asked our families what they felt we were doing well and what we could improve in relation to the NQS. After integrating this feedback into our programs and practice, the hard but rewarding work paid off in October 2016 when we celebrated the outcome of our reassessment with the families from our service. We are all thrilled to have achieved the Exceeding NQS rating, and look forward to our ongoing journey to achieve excellence.

exceeding-300-rgbIt was great timing with the release of the new NQS logos. So far the Exceeding logo, which is displayed on our website and signature blocks, has been a useful conversation starter, helping new families understand a little more about quality education and care.

Having achieved Exceeding NQS in all seven quality areas, our conversations with families are less about the areas we are doing well in and more about the areas that support our philosophy and that we feel passionate about as a community. Unique aspects of our service, such as our relationships with the community, the professional learning and development our educators are committed to and our ‘Bush School’ program, are often topics we discuss with families. We also outline how they directly link to the NQS and support children’s learning on a daily basis.

The assessment and rating process is another opportunity for us to talk to families about the NQS. It helps families recognise the value of what we do, and helps refocus the importance of our profession and the way it contributes to the outcomes and benefits for children both in the early years and later in life. We believe it’s a step towards improving what is a largely undervalued and underpaid sector at present.

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Families are often surprised to hear that prior to the National Quality Framework there was no national law, regulation or mandatory curriculum framework. This leads to conversations around professionalising our sector and mandatory qualifications for educators. It provides an avenue for us to talk to families about the importance of early childhood education and care – that is, not just child care.

Educators are often a family’s first experience of education for their child, and we play an important role in helping them understand the sometimes confusing terminology, complexity and importance of the NQS.

Looking for resources to help you talk to families about individual quality areas and the NQS? Check out the Guide to the NQS – the summary paragraph before each quality area might be particularly useful.

What does it mean to be ‘Working Towards’ the National Quality Standard?

we-hear-you-blog-karen-curtisAustralian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) Chief Executive Officer Karen Curtis addresses a number of questions on what it means when education and care services are rated Working Towards the National Quality Standard.

Are 30% of education and care services ‘failing’ the National Quality Standard (NQS)? Are they underperforming? Making progress? Or are they working towards meeting the NQS?

Depending on what you read and who you speak to, you may well get a different answer.

Of all the rating levels given to services, it is the ‘Working Towards’ rating that has generated the most discussion and conjecture, partly due to the ambiguous nature of the words themselves.


With the introduction of the National Quality Framework (NQF) on 1 January 2012 came a new, challenging and comprehensive system of assessing and rating the quality of education and care services around Australia.  All long day care services, preschools/kindergartens, family day care and outside school hours care services approved to operate under the NQF would be assessed and rated against the NQS.

The NQS sets a high, national benchmark for education and care services and encompasses seven quality areas that are important to outcomes for children. Services are rated against the quality areas consisting of 18 standards and 58 elements.

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More details about the NQS quality areas and quality ratings
are available on the ACECQA website.

This system of assessment and rating began in July 2012 and ACECQA publishes quarterly updates about progress and performance against it.

Our latest NQF Snapshot, based on data as at 30 June 2016, highlights a couple of milestones. Of the 15,417 services approved to operate under the NQF, 80% have been assessed and rated, and 70% of those are rated at Meeting NQS or above.

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More details and an interactive version of the graph
are available on the ACECQA website.

we-hear-you-ceo-blog-working-towards-graph-2To be rated Meeting NQS, all 58 elements of the NQS must be met. This is a high bar and means that a service may be rated at Working Towards NQS if they are not meeting anywhere between one or all 58 elements of the NQS.

There are over 1,000 services rated Working Towards NQS because they are not meeting three or fewer elements of the NQS. And over 2,000 services receive it due to not meeting seven or fewer elements. At the other end of the spectrum, 300 services receive the rating due to not meeting 24 or more elements of the NQS.

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Detailed results are available on the ACECQA website.

By examining the element level performance of services rated at Working Towards NQS, we get a much better idea of what, and how much, work needs to be done, and how close services are to meeting the high standard set by the NQS.

Over the years, ACECQA has published more information about the assessment and rating process. We do this for a number of reasons, including to help families and carers make informed decisions, and to educate and inform the sector about performance against the NQS.

In addition to our NQF Snapshots, we also publish comprehensive service level data on NQS performance. This allows anyone to look at the quality area, standard and element level performance of any service that has been assessed and rated.

As the assessment and rating process is designed to be comprehensive and transparent, the state and territory regulatory authorities provide detailed assessment and rating reports to services, which includes examples of the evidence that led to their rating decisions.

Services will also have a Quality Improvement Plan in place. This plan will identify the work that the service is doing to achieve a rating of Meeting NQS. Alternatively, if the service is already performing at that level, the plan will outline how it will continue to build upon its high performance and look to achieve a rating of Exceeding NQS. For the 29% of services rated at Exceeding NQS, the plan will summarise how that level of quality will be sustained and continually improved.

So, returning to the questions that I posed at the start of this article. In my opinion, a rating of Working Towards NQS is not a failure. Not least of all because the assessment and rating process was not designed to be a pass-fail system. Rather, it is a system that examines a broad range of quality measures and encourages continuous improvement. Working Towards NQS is also very far from being a one size fits all rating, as you can see from the figure above. Because all of the relevant information is readily available, I would encourage anyone to look beyond the overall rating, check which aspects of the NQS a service is finding more challenging, and ask the staff at the service what work they are doing to improve on these.

A notable aspect of the assessment and rating system is the process of reassessments, particularly for encouraging and fostering continuous improvement, and this will be the topic of my next article in November.

Building Belonging: A toolkit for early childhood educators on cultural diversity and responding to racial prejudice

Megan Mitchell, Australia’s first National Children’s Commissioner, talks to We Hear You about the launch of a new comprehensive toolkit by the Australian Human Rights Commission to help encourage respect for cultural diversity and tackle racial prejudice in early childhood settings.

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“I don’t play with black kids cos my dad told me so.”

“I don’t want my colour skin because no-one likes it and it’s yucky.”

Do these sound like things children in your service have said to you?

These are examples of comments from children that early childhood educators provided to the Australian Human Rights Commission, in a survey on the challenges to educating about cultural diversity and addressing prejudice.

Last year, the Australian Human Rights Commission conducted a survey with over 400 early childhood educators across Australia to capture their views and experiences of cultural diversity and racial prejudice in their early childhood services.

Many educators reported hearing comments like those above. What’s more, educators told us that they commonly encountered prejudicial attitudes or behaviours from parents and other educators, as well as from children.

43% of educators said they had heard a child say something negative about another person’s racial, cultural or ethnic background and 49% told us they had heard a parent say something negative on the same grounds.

“[A parent said] ‘I’m not racist, but how can someone from another country teach my children and we cannot understand what they are saying’.” (Survey respondent)

 “A parent was disgusted that we had to show respect to Aboriginal culture, even though we celebrate other cultures in the centre.” (Survey respondent)

Many educators indicated they felt unsure how to effectively respond to these challenges.

“I think the main difficulty is that many people feel uncomfortable addressing prejudice. So if a child makes a comment, educators aren’t confident in talking about the issue and instead give an answer about how it’s not nice to say those things or we’re all friends in preschool.” (Survey respondent)

In response to this, the Australian Human Rights Commission, with the support of a reference group made up of early childhood educators and other specialists, has developed its very first early childhood resource.

Building Belonging’ is a comprehensive toolkit which includes an eBook, song with actions, educator guide, posters and lesson plans. The resources aim to provide educators with simple and practical ideas on how to handle challenging or confronting questions about racial differences, while also offering children stimulating activities and games to engage them with ideas around cultural diversity.

It is important that children in Australia today grow up with an appreciation and respect for the diversity of cultures, races and ethnicities that surround them.

As National Children’s Commissioner, I seek to promote and advocate for the rights of all children and young people in Australia. This includes making sure children and young people know about their rights and how to claim them.

Children are never too young to start learning about their rights and responsibilities. Children who grow up knowing that they, and everyone around them, have rights will carry the messages of respect and dignity that accompany this knowledge into adulthood.

Through engaging with these resources, educators have an opportunity to shape positive practices and provide all children with an early sense of their value, agency and belonging.

I hope you find these resources useful in assisting children in your services to develop empathy and respect for others. I’d love to hear what you and the children in your services think of the resources. You can get in touch with me via email or social media:

Email: kids@humanrights.gov.au

Facebook: MeganM4Kids

Twitter: @MeganM4Kids

Information about the ‘Building Belonging’ toolkit and links to the free resources are available on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

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The role of the educational leader: Part 3

During the month of October, We Hear You will be showcasing a three-part series exploring the development of ‘The role of the educational leader’.

In the final instalment of the series, we turn our focus on the way educational leaders work with teams to set goals for both teaching and learning that help bring the program to life.

Part 3: Setting goals and expectations for teaching and learning

The final instalment in our educational leader series focuses on how leaders work with teams to set goals for both teaching and learning that help bring the curriculum to life. The expectations in Standard 7.1 of the National Quality Standard include establishing a positive organisational culture and creating a professional learning community. This involves recognising and acknowledging leadership as a collaborative endeavour. It is about building the capacity of educators through developing trusting relationships where teams work together and support each other to improve outcomes for children (Thornton, 2010).

The Early Years Learning Framework and the Framework for School Age Care acknowledge an important consideration when considering goals and expectations for teaching and learning:

Children are receptive to a wide range of experiences. What is included or excluded from the curriculum affects how children, learn, develop and understand the world (p. 9/6).

What is the best way to go about setting goals for teaching and learning?

Just like other aspects of the educational leader’s role, there is no one right way. The Guide to the National Quality Standard (p. 87) provides some examples of strategies that educational leaders might use. Developing a strong understanding across the service of the principles, practices and learning outcomes in the relevant learning framework is a great starting point to collaboratively decide on teaching and learning goals.

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belonging_page10The collective knowledge about pedagogy; child (and/or adolescent) development; the relevant learning frameworks; the service’s philosophy and policies; National Quality Standard and underpinning legislative standards and most importantly the collective knowledge about individual children, families and the community is a strong foundation for determining relevant goals and expectations for teaching and learning. It is essential to think about the service context in the process of identifying relevant goals and expectations.

It is worthwhile, spending some time thinking about:

  • additional strategies the educational leader could use to build educators’ understanding of teaching and learning
  • how the educational leader works with other educators to support and extend children’s learning
  • how new ideas and research are incorporated into the educational program and practice
  • what opportunities are available for discussion and reflective practice
  • what aspects of the service philosophy guide goals for teaching and learning.

When the organisational climate promotes respect, collaboration, reflection and  exploration of new ideas, theories and strategies, issues relating to program quality, environment design, equity and children’s wellbeing can be raised and debated (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 13; Framework for School Age Care, p. 13).

The role of the educational leader connects across many quality areas and will involve the educational leader navigating and linking a range of systems, processes and policies across the service’s operations. In addition to the standards and elements in Quality Area 1, the following are particularly relevant when thinking about the support and mentoring role of the educational leader:

  • Standard 1.2: Educators and co-ordinators are focused, active and reflective in designing and delivering the program for each child.
  • Element 4.2.2: Educators, co-ordinators and staff members work collaboratively and affirm, challenge, support and learn from each other to further develop their skills and to improve practice and relationships.
  • Element 7.2.2: The performance of educators, co-ordinators and staff members is evaluated and individual development plans are in place to support performance improvement.

Educational leaders are encouraged to reflect on how they are supporting critical reflection with teams in ways that encourage teams to work together and challenge each other. When setting goals for teaching and learning, ownership and commitment are more likely to be built if children, educators and families are involved in the process. The process of identifying and prioritising goals and expectations is also likely to assist in identifying professional development priorities and goals.

What is the best way to document goals for teaching and learning?

While there are no specific requirements on how to implement or document the way the educational leader guides the curriculum and sets goals for teaching and learning, it makes sense to have a plan that links to what the service already has in place. Suggestions include making links to the service’s Quality Improvement Plan, Strategic Plan, Reconciliation Action Plan and Strategic Improvement Plan to make explicit the strategies the educational leader is implementing to support continuous improvement and outcomes for children. The goals may also be woven through, reflected in, or align with the service’s philosophy and program planning and evaluation documents.

It is important to remember that the most effective and sustained changes and enhancements occur when teams work collaboratively to research, negotiate, shape and implement reform. Take it slow, collaborate with others, learn from experiences and don’t forget to celebrate the achievements along the way.

Further reading and resources

  • Green, J. & Bickley, M. (2013). Developing a Learning Community for Educational Leaders, Reflections, Winter: 51, Gowrie NSW
  • ACECQA – National Education Leader resources
  • Thornton, K. (2010) School leadership and student outcomes: The best evidence synthesis iteration: Relevance for early childhood education and implications for leadership practice, Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice, 25(1), pp. 31-41

Read the complete series:

Part 1: The role of the educational leader: aims, objectives and intent

Part 2: Leading the development of the curriculum

Part 3: Setting goals and expectations for teaching and learning

The role of the educational leader: Part 2

During the month of October, We Hear You will be showcasing a three-part series exploring the development of ‘The role of the educational leader’.

In the second instalment, we look at the ways educational leaders use their skills, knowledge and understandings to lead the development of the curriculum/program and consider how the service context influences the development of the curriculum.

Part 2: Leading the development of the curriculum

In this second part of the educational leader series, we follow on from exploring the why, what and how of educational leadership in education and care services to considering how leaders use their skills, knowledge and understandings to meet the requirements of National Quality Standard (NQS) Element 7.1.4, relating to leading the development of the curriculum/program.

In unpacking this component of the role, it is important to identify the relevant standard and elements of the NQS and consider strategies to ensure each member of the team is supported to build their capacity and feel empowered to contribute to rich and meaningful learning and leisure experiences for children. In particular, educational leaders can support educators to understand and implement:

  • Standard 1.1: An approved learning framework informs the development of a curriculum that enhances each child’s learning and development.
    • Element 1.1.2: Each child’s current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program.
    • Element 1.1.6: Each child’s agency is promoted, enabling them to make choices and decisions and influence events and their world.

Some questions to prompt discussion and reflection include:

  • What are the team’s current understandings of the approved learning frameworks and in what ways are they informing educator planning and practice?
  • How do the principles and practices outlined in the learning frameworks inform our work with children and families?
  • What could the team do to further build this knowledge and understandings to enhance practice?
  • In what ways does the program reflect the view promoted in the learning frameworks of children as capable, competent learners, active contributors, agents of change and co-constructors of knowledge? How might this aspect be strengthened and shared with families?

How does the service context influence the development of the curriculum?

The approved learning frameworks remind us that:

Curriculum encompasses all the interactions, experiences, routines and events, planned and unplanned, that occur in an environment designed to foster children’s learning and development (Early Years Learning Framework p. 9; Framework for School Age Care, p. 6).

A strength of the learning frameworks and the NQS is the recognition of the importance of the context in which the service is being delivered. The curriculum is influenced by the children, families, educators and community as well as the hours of operation, service type and learning framework implemented. The service philosophy, policies and procedures and the theories that inform educators’ thinking and practice will also shape the curriculum.

These factors influence the uniqueness of each service. You would not expect, for example, the curriculum in a sessional preschool or kindergarten implementing the Early Years Learning Framework to look like the curriculum in an outside school hours care service, as, apart from the difference in children’s ages, a strong focus of the Framework for School Age Care is on leisure and recreation. Educational leaders, in collaboration with educators, are empowered to use their significant knowledge and understanding of the service context to guide the development, implementation and evaluation of the curriculum. The context is also an important consideration for educational leaders when thinking about what mentoring, support and guidance will be most beneficial to assist educators to reflect on and enhance their practices.

The Educator Guides to the learning frameworks – Educators My Time, Our Place and Educators Belonging, Being & Becoming –  are invaluable resources for educational leaders providing helpful examples, explanations and reflective activities.

What are some effective strategies to inform and guide the development of the curriculum?

Engaging in professional conversations with educators across the service is an effective strategy to encourage continuous improvement and has the potential to inform enhancements to the curriculum. A professional conversation is ‘the formal and informal dialogue that occurs between education professionals including teachers, mentors, coaches and school leaders, which is focused on educational matters’ (AITSL, 2014).

The following diagram may be helpful in thinking about the key elements of an effective professional conversation.

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‘Professional Conversations’, Professional growth

When considering the opportunities for an educational leader to engage in professional conversations with educators across the service to lead and guide the development of the curriculum, the following questions may be useful to prompt discussion and reflection:

  • What do educators talk about professionally?
  • Where do these conversations happen, when do they happen, and are they effective?
  • What is the impact of the discussions the educational leader has with educators on developing expertise and improving outcomes for children?
  • What opportunities exist or can be created for educational leaders to enable, encourage and participate in professional conversations between educators that result in continual improvement of the educational program?
  • What strategies could educational leaders implement to keep abreast of developments and research in early childhood and share this information with educators?
  • What opportunities exist or can be established for educational leaders to link with the broader community, including other services, professional groups and, most importantly, other educational leaders, to learn and discuss and share information?

Some educational leaders have also engaged with educators in action learning or research projects. Action learning or research is carried out in the course of a professional environment, typically in the field of education, using research and inquiry to improve the methods and approach of those involved to address issues or challenges which have been identified or seek out opportunities for improvement. Action learning or research projects support educators to reflect on and enhance their pedagogy and practice. They can also link to Element 1.2.3 and critical reflection, which is, according to assessment and rating data, the most challenging of all 58 elements.

Further reading and resources

  • ACECQA – Information sheet: The role of the educational leader
  • ACECQA – Guide to the National Quality Standard
  • AITSL (2014). ‘Professional conversations’, Professional growth
  • Rodd, J. (2012). The role of effective leadership in achieving high quality provision in preschools and early learning centres, Association of independent schools of South Australia (AIAAS).
  • Rodd, J. (2013). Leadership in Early Childhood: The pathway to professionalism. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
  • Siraj-Blatchford, I. & Manni, L. (2006). Effective Leadership in the Early Years Sector (ELEYS) Study. London: Institute of Education, University of London.
  • Waniganayake, M., Rodd, J. and Gibbs, L. (2015). Thinking and learning about leadership. Sydney, Australia: Community Childcare Cooperative.


Read the complete series:

Part 1: The role of the educational leader: aims, objectives and intent

Part 2: Leading the development of the curriculum

Part 3: Setting goals and expectations for teaching and learning