Exceeding the National Quality Standard and articulating professional practice

ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.

‘There’s no straighter road to success than exceeding expectations one day at a time.’ ~ Robin Crow

The commencement of the revised National Quality Standard (NQS) on 1 February 2018 signals some changes to the Exceeding NQS rating. I thought I would take this opportunity to unpack what this means for services and encourage all educators to engage with the change in the lead-up.

From 1 February 2018, to achieve a rating of Exceeding NQS for any standard, the three Exceeding themes need to be reflected in service practice for that standard. In addition to meeting the requirements of a standard, practice for that standard needs to be:

Together these themes describe the high quality practice demonstrated and expected at the Exceeding NQS level for any standard. The three themes aim to ensure transparent expectations of quality at the Exceeding NQS rating level are clear for providers, educators and authorised officers. During an assessment and rating visit, authorised officers will use ‘observe, discuss and sight’ methods to collect evidence of all three exceeding themes in order to rate a standard as Exceeding NQS.

The approach relies on a shared understanding of what each theme means. The National Quality Standard and Assessment and Rating chapter in the new Guide to the National Quality Framework reflects the 2018 NQS and outlines the assessment and rating process, including guidance on the Exceeding NQS rating level. A tailored list of indicators is included for each standard of the NQS. This provides guidance and offers clarity on the changes to assist services and assessors to consider if practice across each of the standards demonstrates the Exceeding NQS themes at the level required for a rating of Exceeding NQS. While the indicators provided are comprehensive, they are not prescriptive. Services may demonstrate Exceeding level practice in a variety of ways that suit their particular operating environment and approach to practice. They are a useful prompt for critical reflection and a valuable support for educators to express and articulate their own unique practice.

In light of the forthcoming changes, it is worth considering how the new Exceeding NQS guidance for standards may be practically applied within your education and care service and used by educators to articulate and advocate quality service provision – that is, explaining the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their practice and, importantly, how this is consistent with the service vision and philosophy, the higher purpose ‘why’.

Professional standards and fundamental values of the education and care profession are reflected in the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Code of Ethics and include an emphasis on:

  • taking responsibility for articulating professional values, knowledge and practice
  • engaging in critical reflection and ongoing learning
  • participating in a ‘lively culture of professional inquiry’
  • building shared professional knowledge, understanding and skills and advocating for the provision of quality education and care.

Establishing, articulating and disseminating a common and shared understanding of what quality means and how this is reflected in service provision is a responsibility all education and care professionals can take on.

The new guidance on determining Exceeding NQS for standards provides a consistent language and transparent expectations of quality at the Exceeding NQS rating level. It is applicable guidance across all education and care services and a useful tool for reviewing and informing Quality Improvement Plans (QIPs) and new service goals and priorities.

What will be your first step on the road to success?

The new guidance on determining Exceeding NQS for standards, including the three exceeding themes and indicators, may be used to support, scaffold and inform:

  • self-assessment and QIP development and revision
  • thinking about quality and service provision
  • identifying shared perspectives and actions
  • professional conversations and critical reflection/articulation of professional practice
  • reflection/re-examination of service philosophy, vision, policies and procedures
  • increasing knowledge, understanding and preparation of educators for assessment and rating visits
  • a culture of continuous quality improvement
  • mentoring of colleagues and constructive professional feedback.

How might you use the new Exceeding NQS guidance to both articulate and advocate for the provision of quality education and care? Some questions to guide your thinking may include:

  • How will the new guidance on Exceeding NQS (including the tailored list of indicators for each standard of the NQS) guide professional decision-making and inform a commitment to a shared vision for children’s learning?
  • How will your service use the guidance and indicators to inform and measure if practice for each of the standards demonstrates all three Exceeding themes at the level required for a rating of Exceeding NQS?
  • What methods or approaches might you use to document or demonstrate that service practice and provision is:
    • embedded in service operations
    • informed by critical reflection
    • shaped by meaningful engagement with families and/or the community?

Further reading and resources 

ACECQA – Information sheet – New Guidance on Determining Exceeding NQS for Standards 

ACECQA – Information sheet – Transitioning to the Revised National Quality Standard 

ACECQA – Slide pack – Changes to the NQS, Assessment and Rating and Rating Levels: Determining the Exceeding Rating Level for Standards

We Hear You – Are you exceeding the 2018 National Quality Standard?

2 thoughts on “Exceeding the National Quality Standard and articulating professional practice”

  1. I am concerned that the extra burden on educators and services to provide evidence of there practices is taking educators away from children and centre managers away from educators, we are an over-burdened industry struggling with administative tasks, at our local network meeting we were advised that need for increased evidence of practices we already undertake, the noise in the room was that maybe Meeting was more than acceptable as services would prefer to spend time with children and families than on more paperwork that would provide no better outcomes for children, the well being of educators was also of a concern with all areas of compliance ever increasing. Whilst we all agree that reflective practise and ongoing improvements are a part of our everyday practise, I am very concerned that this is one step too far. We are all for changes in our administrative practices if we can see the benefit for children, and educators are able to achieve those outcomes within their time contraints. With the changes in the governments attitude to the early childhood industry and the focus not on early learning, we as an industry are quite demoralised. We really need to put children and their learning first and support our educators in that role. More paperwork is not going to meet that outcome. Please ensure that future reviews are based on the needs of children, families and educators well being.

    1. (Hi Leonie, Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. Rhonda has asked me to post her response.)

      Thank you for your feedback on the blog, Leonie. Changes to the Exceeding NQS rating were made to provide clarity for approved providers, service staff and authorised officers about the requirements for a standard level rating of Exceeding NQS. The changes were implemented to allow flexibility and encourage innovation, while also supporting consistent measures and decision making. The new Exceeding NQS guidance aims to differentiate Meeting NQS from Exceeding NQS, which is ‘above and beyond’ the expectation at the Meeting NQS level. Sector feedback was often focused on what going ‘above and beyond’ meant as it was not always as clear in the 2012 NQS guidance. With the 2018 NQS, there was the opportunity to better articulate expectations of quality at the Exceeding NQS rating level.

      Authorised officers use ‘observe’, ‘discuss’ and ‘sight’ techniques to assess practice against the National Quality Standard. These techniques also apply to capturing evidence that demonstrates practice against the three Exceeding NQS themes for any of the standards of the NQS and is are not solely focussed on sighting documentation to determine the Exceeding NQS rating.

      ACECQA recently released an Exceeding NQS extension pack for our Quest for Quality knowledge game, which might be useful to your network colleagues and service staff. If you haven’t already viewed it, we have an Exceeding NQS theme guidance video featuring Professor Jennifer Sumsion (Charles Sturt University) and Dr Jennifer Cartmel (Griffith University), who were among a panel of experts that contributed to the development of the guidance. Here they discuss how it can be used by educators, approved providers and assessors, to understand and articulate practice.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your views. I hope the additional information is helpful.

      Kind regards
      Rhonda Livingstone

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