This month’s feature post is by Gaye Stewart. Gaye is the Senior Consultant Planning and Review at Glen Eira City Council. Gaye’s article shares the process Glen Eira used to develop Quality Improvement Plans with their services.
The City of Glen Eira (VIC) is located 10 kilometres south east of Melbourne’s CBD. While we have no direct role in the management of many local services, as a planner of the physical environment, facilities and services Council seeks to promote partnership, improve the health and safety of children and build community connectedness.
Our local government area has 52 early years education and care services, 46 of these run funded kindergarten programs. As a local Council we manage three long day care services and a Family Day Care scheme with 38 carers. Our Family Day Care Scheme has recently gone through the Assessment process.
In Glen Eira early years education and care services have a variety of management structures; community management, school, cluster management and private providers. At the beginning of 2011 we began convening monthly network meetings [Kindergarten and Early Years Alliance] for service leaders. The focus of these meetings is professional conversations where we hope that early years education and care services will be able to share practice, challenges and ideas for the National Quality Framework and network to support each other.
At a recent meeting we shared the process undertaken with our managed services to develop Quality Improvement Plans (QIP). The idea was to use our story to begin a professional conversation.
We started the process in Glen Eira’s services by printing out the summary table of quality areas, standards and elements [on page 10 of the Guide to the National Quality Standard]. We made it A3 size so it was really easy to read and we put it up on the wall in the staff rooms. The idea was for staff to start talking, making notes and ticking the areas and elements they felt they did well now. Writing a note beside ones they didn’t really understand or wanted to talk further about lead discussion in staff meetings.
After reflecting, having some informal conversations with parents and reviewing annual survey results in detail, the team leaders from each service came together to collate and discuss elements for their QIP. The important first step was focussing on our strengths.
The QIP template provided by ACECQA was projected up on to a screen and we worked through each quality area. As staff talked about the things we did well, there was a need to jump between quality areas because some examples of good practice applied in different quality areas. This is where we found that converting the QIP template to excel was useful. Each quality area was made a different tab. Having it in excel made it easier to navigate around the different quality areas as we worked.
Sharing our approach resulted in a productive professional conversation. Some useful tips for services in the development and ongoing interaction with their QIP were collated from the discussion. Below are tips that were shared at the meeting:
- If possible work with others to identify your strengths and improvements.
- Be kind to yourself. Tick off the things you feel confident about. (the summary table can be useful to do this)
- Make an A3 copy of the summary table of quality areas, standards and elements on page 10 of the Guide to the National Quality Standard, and stick it up on the wall in the staff room. It’s a good reminder and discussion point.
- Remember your QIP does not have to have actions in every quality area.
- Identify quality areas and elements that you need to work on and plan in stages. Be realistic about what can be achieved, timelines and resources you need.
- Use the Assessment and rating instrument to help you to define your improvement goal and success measure.
- Once you have completed your QIP remember to update it regularly. It should be a living document. Write down progress notes and date them.
- Keep everyone engaged with the plan. One centre has a copy in the staff room and in the foyer for parents to access.
- Have the plan on the agenda of every staff meeting
- Every 6 months or so do a ‘save as’ of your plan and update it. For instance; if your first plan is saved at QIP 2012 towards the end of the year you might save it as QIP 2012-Oct. When you do the ‘save as’ process update it with new actions and identify emerging issues.
- Implement an annual satisfaction survey that details quality elements. This can help you to measure success and identify areas for improvement.
Note: We are happy to provide the Excel format of the QIP to others. It was useful for us and while it has some limitations in terms of formatting, once you work them out it’s easy to insert text. Each sheet is protected so you can only add text to the cells that change. You can easily take protected off by going into the review tab and clicking protect sheet off. It is not password protected. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with QIP Excel file in the subject line to request the file.
About the author – Gaye Stewart is the Senior Consultant Planning and Review at Glen Eira City Council. Gaye has worked in and around early years services for more than twenty years. Over the past 10 she has consulted across a broad service area with a focus on evaluation. Gaye has a Masters in Evaluation, a Bachelor of Education, Graduate Diploma in Special Education and a Diploma of Teaching in Early Childhood Education.