What is research telling us about children’s physical activity in the early years?

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

In the November ACECQA Newsletter, we featured the release of the first national 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years. The guidelines take a more holistic view of children’s experience as they reference a 24-hour period, recognising that each movement behaviour is interlinked and integral to health. The guidelines also provide an opportunity to work collaboratively with families and the child at the centre of decision-making about how much time is engaged in sedentary pursuits or physical activity at the service and the home.

In this month’s blog, we share examples of the research being undertaken around the country, with our focus on how best to support Australian children to engage in recommended levels of physical activity.

Research from around the globe is pointing to strong correlations between physical activity and learning. As Pasi Sahlberg, the educator and author who specialises in the progressive approaches undertaken in Finland notes, ‘We also know from research that children’s brains work better when they move’. An experienced Finnish teacher put it this way: ‘Not only do they concentrate better in class, but they are more successful at negotiating, socialising, building teams and friendships together’ (Doyle in Sahlberg, 2018, p.23).

Below is an overview of some of the research and initial findings, as well as questions to prompt your own investigation and practice.

Early Start – University of Wollongong

Early Start is a strategic teaching, research and community engagement initiative from the University of Wollongong. The research associated with Early Start is diverse and focuses on a number of different themes, including physical activity.

In 2017, Early Start was commissioned, in collaboration with researchers from Canada, to develop the new Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years. Researchers from Early Start, namely Professor Anthony Okely, are now working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Kingdom working party to develop similar international guidelines.

Early Start has been involved in a number of other significant research studies focusing on physical activity in the early years. For example, between 2014 and 2016 Early Start conducted a multi-component physical activity intervention known as Jump Start in 43 NSW early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings from areas of disadvantage. This study, which aimed to increase physical activity during the preschool hours, comprises five components broadly focusing on gross motor skills, facilitation of active energy breaks and incorporating physical activity into other curriculum areas. Data from the study is currently being analysed. Additional information can be found in this recent research paper on increasing physical activity.

Myrto-Foteini Mavilidi and Early Start have recently investigated the effect of incorporating integrated physical activity into learning experiences facilitated in ECEC settings. Irrespective of focus area (numeracy, language, geography etc.), the study found learning was enhanced when integrated physical activity was part of the learning experience. They have published a number research papers, including one on the immediate and delayed effects of integrating physical activity.

Other studies, conducted by Y.G. Ellis and colleagues, have looked into the time children spend in sedentary behaviour in ECEC settings and the potential effectiveness of environment-based interventions on reducing sedentary time.  Their results show children in ECEC spend approximately 50% of their time sitting and that a simple environmental intervention has the potential to modify the amount of time children spend sitting.

Some of the most recent research on the early years facilitated by Early Start focuses on improving the quality of the environment of ECEC settings in relation to movement-play and physical activity. This research involves professional development for educators and uses the MOVERS environmental rating scale.

A critical area of research within Early Start focuses on the role of educators in physical activity learning experiences. K.L. Tonge and colleagues are interested in how high quality interactions between children and educators can enhance physical activity experiences in ECEC settings.

PLAYCE – University of Western Australia

The Play Spaces & Environments for Children’s Physical Activity study (PLAYCE) is a four-year Healthway funded study (2015-2018). PLAYCE is investigating a range of features, including indoor and outdoor space, play equipment, and natural features of the environment, to determine which have the most influence on children’s physical activity and health whilst attending ECEC. The research team is working with the ECEC sector in Western Australia and nationally to develop a checklist to assess whether services are meeting the standards detailed in Quality Area 3 of the National Quality Standard. This will help services identify what they can do to improve the quality of their physical environment to better support children’s physical activity, health and development.

So far, over 115 long day care services and 1400 children (2-5 years) and families have taken part in the PLAYCE study. Preliminary findings show less than one third of children meet the recommended three hours of physical activity per day and less than 8% achieve this recommendation in an average day while attending ECEC.

Physical health and wellbeing project – Gowrie Training and Consultancy and Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Gowrie Training and Consultancy (Tasmania) are collaborating with the Faculty of Education, QUT, in an Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) funded research project – Physical health and wellbeing: innovative approaches in an inner-city community. Project leader Dr Megan Gibson from QUT, together with Professor Andrew Hills from the University Tasmania, will be working with Gowrie Training and Consultancy and educators from the Lady Gowrie Integrated Child and Family Centre in Tasmania.

The AEDC is a national, population-based evaluation of child development in the first year of full-time schooling. AEDC data can help professionals working with children and families to think critically about how to effectively support children’s development. Early childhood educators are well placed to proactively use AEDC data to support and enhance children’s learning and development.

The project applies action research to support and enhance children’s physical health and wellbeing through:

  • building educator capability in relation to using AEDC data sets to inform professional decisions
  • enacting pedagogical practices that afford children opportunities to engage in challenging physical play, and
  • measuring and communicating about the effects of intentional, sustained and contextual practices to families, the local community and other ECEC services.

The overarching research question is:

How can early childhood educators enable children to flourish in the area of physical health and wellbeing?

The project involves educators applying key elements of action research to explore possibilities for children to flourish physically. Pedagogical documentation is central to the project as a tool for reflective practice that enables different ways of thinking about physical development. Examples of key areas of focus include: physical literacy, risk, the use of the outdoor environment, innovative ways to use equipment and resources, and educator decision-making.

Across the course of the project, educators are exploring resources to inform and shape their thinking about physical health and wellbeing, with examples including Active Healthy Kids Australia and Gooey Brains.

Early research findings have seen enhanced experiences and opportunities for children in the area of physical development.

For further information on the Physical health and wellbeing project, you can contact: Dr Megan Gibson, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education, QUT – ml.gibson@qut.edu.au. You can also read about the range of AEDC projects currently funded in Tasmania.

~o~

Now we have taken you through examples of the latest research and studies, how might you engage with their findings to improve quality outcomes for children?

Conducting an action research project at your service is one way to incorporate some of the ideas. The prompt questions below are another means of reflecting on physical activity at your service. You could also use some of the specific questions from any of the above studies or findings.

Questions for further investigation:

  • What innovative ideas could you incorporate into your environments to increase activity? For example, Duplo boards on the walls for construction or taking away chairs from the art area.
  • What skills and knowledge do educators have about physical activity, recommendations and fundamental movement skills?
  • How is risk aversion impacting physical activity?
  • What impact is the provisioning of outdoor environments having on children’s physical activity?

References

Sahlberg, P. (2018) FinnishED Leadership: Four big, inexpensive ideas to transform education, Corwin, California.

Family day care services: How using only one brush can unfairly taint all

Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) Chief Executive Officer, Gabrielle Sinclair, reflects on the quality ratings of family day care services and looks beyond the headline figures.

The family day care sector is in the spotlight regularly, but sadly often not for the right reasons. Family day care has been, and remains, a preferred and appropriate option for many Australian families. The latest Early Childhood Education and Care National Workforce Census, undertaken by the Australian Government, estimates there are more than 30,000 educators working in the family day care sector.

Our most recent NQF Snapshot (Q3, 2017) shows that, as at 1 October 2017, 78% of approved family day care services have been quality rated, equating to some 664 individual services. Less than half (43%) of these are rated Meeting National Quality Standard (NQS) or above.

It would be wrong not to acknowledge that, as a service type, family day care services need to improve their quality ratings. More than three quarters (76%) of centre-based care services are rated Meeting NQS or above, with a third (33%) of these rated Exceeding NQS or above. In contrast, only 16% of family day care services are rated Exceeding NQS or above. However, this is not the complete story. To take the headline figures and then conclude that all family day care services are poor quality is misleading for families.

At the top end of performance, three family day care services have achieved an Excellent rating. To be eligible for this rating, a service must first be rated as Exceeding NQS and then demonstrate how they are promoting exceptional education and care that improves outcomes for children and families, and showing leadership and a commitment to sustained excellent practice through continuous improvement.

One of the three Excellent rated family day care services, Wynnum Family Day Care in Queensland, received the rating for the second time late last year (the Excellent rating lasts for a period of three years), having been the first family day care service in Australia to receive the rating in 2013.

There are then 106 family day care services rated Exceeding NQS and 175 rated Meeting NQS. To be rated Meeting NQS, a service needs to meet all of the quality areas, standards and elements of the NQS. This is a high bar and means that a service may be rated Working Towards NQS based on not meeting only one (or all 58) elements of the NQS.

We want families and the general public to understand what Working Towards NQS means and to look below the overall rating so that they are well-informed about their choices.

Almost 100 (96) family day care services rated Working Towards NQS do not meet seven or fewer elements of the NQS. At the other end of the spectrum, a similar number (94) of family day care services do not meet 27 or more elements of the NQS.

By examining the element level performance of all services rated Working Towards NQS, families will have a much better idea of the range of quality and how close, or far away, individual services are from meeting all of the requirements.

It is also the case that individual services can be rated Exceeding NQS for one or more of the seven quality areas without achieving an overall rating of Exceeding NQS. This could be because they do not receive enough ratings of Exceeding NQS across the seven quality areas or because their performance is below Meeting NQS in one or more of the quality areas.

While only 109 family day care services are rated Exceeding NQS or above overall, a total of 215 services are rated Exceeding NQS for one or more of the quality areas, with 28 services rated Exceeding NQS for all seven quality areas.

While the National Quality Framework is committed to shining a light on poor quality and taking swift action in response to fraudulent behaviour or practice that poses a significant risk to children, we should also ensure that the efforts of the majority of family day care providers and educators are not disregarded or diminished.

One of ACECQA’s roles is to promote and foster continuous quality improvement and to support parents and the community in understanding what quality means. It will always be important to provide a balanced and accurate portrayal of performance across all service types. One of the most important aspects of the quality rating system is that it provides freely available information to assist the decisions of parents and carers when considering which education and care service would best suit the needs of their children.

I would encourage educators to help families to be aware of, and understand, their service’s quality rating and to explain how they are tracking on their journey of continuous quality improvement.

The revised National Quality Standard: Key concepts

The revised National Quality Standard (NQS) will come into effect on 1 February 2018. For the first time, the NQS introduces key concepts for each element and standard to help support the children’s education and care sector unpack the central ideas. This month on We Hear You, we look at these key concepts and the important role they play in continuous quality improvement.

A key feature of the changes agreed to by education Ministers earlier this year is the revised National Quality Standard (NQS) which will commence for all states and territories on 1 February 2018. This builds on other changes to the National Law and Regulations commencing 1 October 2017 in all states and territories, except Western Australia which will come into effect by 1 October 2018.

For the first time, the revised NQS introduces key concepts for each standard and element. These have been developed to support the sector unpack key ideas related to the NQS, as well as offering greater clarity that will strengthen quality outcomes for children. The concepts also provide a bridge between the current and revised NQS.

The revised NQS retains the seven quality areas, with a small change to the title of Quality Area 7 to Governance and Leadership. The streamlining of the NQS has minimised conceptual overlap and duplication, resulting in a reduction from 18 to 15 standards and 58 to 40 elements while retaining the current features that promote quality.

Key concepts

The concepts will support services to collaborate to identify strengths and opportunities for quality improvement, including engaging families and others in the community (such as local schools) in the process. They also provide clarity for both services and regulatory authorities about what is being measured or assessed in each of the standards and elements. Educators, educational leaders and service leaders can use the concepts to assist in the self-assessment process, as well as in critical reflection and professional conversations.

We have been working with all state and territory regulatory authorities to develop resources to support education and care services to understand the changes and what they need to do to ensure they continue to meet legislative requirements.

These resources include:

Familiarising yourself with the revised NQS

The best place to start is by familiarising yourself with the legislative changes and the revised standards and elements in preparation for your annual self-assessment and review to update your Quality Improvement Plan (QIP). To ensure your service is meeting all regulatory requirements, think about the need to reflect these changes in the following:

  • current service QIP (think about undertaking a self-assessment against the updated legislative standards and the revised NQS to inform the required update of the QIP)
  • policies and procedures (for example, there is a new requirement for a sleep and rest policy)
  • communication materials for families.

If you are looking for an engaging and interactive way to learn more about the revised NQS, we have developed The Quest for Quality game – a capacity building tool that integrates an element of fun into professional discussions and critical reflection. You can download the game from the ACECQA website or order a copy to be delivered.

For more information, visit Changes to the National Quality Framework on the ACECQA website.

Transition to school: a collaborative effort

Why is the process of transitioning to school from early childhood education so important? How can educators, families, schools and community members collaboratively develop useful and meaningful strategies to help children? Why is this collaboration essential?

This month on We Hear You, we look at the latest OECD Starting Strong V report on this transition and explore what a quality transition to school looks like.

The latest OECD Starting Strong V report – Transitions from Early Childhood Education and Care to Primary Education – recognises transition to school as an integral component of quality educational provision. It highlights that a commitment to equity and excellence in the development of transition programs, evident in the engagement of children, families, professionals, educators and community members, is key to developing appropriate and meaningful approaches.

The report also acknowledges the central role of relationships in positive transitions and opportunities for those involved in building and maintaining these relationships. The importance of community engagement in supporting effective transitions is also recognised. The report also notes ‘the benefits of early learning can fade during the first years of primary school if the transitions between early childhood education and care and primary schooling are not well-prepared, or if continuity in quality is not ensured’ (p. 5).

This has major implications for school and early childhood education and care (ECEC) sectors, if the benefits of continuity of education and development for children are to be realised. Both have a responsibility of working collaboratively to ensure a smooth transition to schools and ensure our schools and early childhood services are responsive to individual children and their families.

The OECD report identifies findings from international research that the following key indicators support successful transitions (p. 23):

  • shared views between early childhood education and care and schools on transitioning
  • alignment and balance between what and how children learn in early childhood education and care and primary school (i.e. curriculum and pedagogical practices)
  • shared understandings on individual differences and how each child learns differently
  • collaborative practices between preschool and primary school teachers, such as sharing written information on child development and children’s experiences
  • alignment of pedagogical understanding of preschool and primary school teachers through training
  • alignment of working conditions of preschools and primary school teachers
  • flexibility and responsiveness to individual communities, families and children
  • collaboration among staff, managers, parents and the community based on reciprocal communication, inclusivity, mutual trust and respect.

The report also highlights some challenges that are worthy of consideration including:

  • lack of coherence across regions in transition approaches, for example education and care services and schools with different approaches across regions may result in inconsistent quality
  • difficulty engaging all actors, for example the communication about transition approaches that schools, early childhood education and care services and communities receive may be different
  • weak collaboration amongst stakeholders (is this a priority for all parties and has the transition process been adequately resourced?)
  • inequity in transitions, for example children and families may require additional support.

The importance of smooth, collaborative transitions that support continuity of learning is recognised as a key concept of Quality Area 6 – Collaborative Partnerships with Families and Communities in the revised National Quality Standard (NQS). This is part of the changes to the National Quality Framework agreed by Education Ministers earlier this year.

With the implementation of the revised NQS from 1 February 2018, it may be timely to undertake a self-assessment against the revised standards, considering your service’s approach to supporting children’s transition to formal schooling and school age education and care. How does your service approach fare against the success indicators highlighted above? What enhancement strategies could be included in your Quality Improvement Plan (QIP)?

When we think about collaboration between education and care services, schools, school age care and communities as an ideal opportunity to improve lifelong outcomes for children, we should also consider it an exciting and productive way for communities to work together as agents of change. This collaboration presents an opportunity for your service to demonstrate how you meet or exceed the NQS.

The current Guide to the National Quality Standard is a useful resource to review when thinking about the roles that each of the key stakeholders might play. Some examples could include:

  • Early childhood education and care services:
    • sharing strategies that were effective in preparing children and families to transition to your service
    • sharing information with parents/carers and other services children may be attending  to support them  in preparing to  transition to school or  school age care
    • collaboratively developing coherent goals and expectations about learning, and understanding the links between the approved learning frameworks and the Australian Curriculum
    • understanding the AEDC data for the community
  • School age education and care services:
    • seeking out connections with early childhood services, local schools and families
    • understanding the AEDC data for the community
  • Schools:
    • drawing on information from education and care services (such as transition statements) to gain an understanding of each child’s strengths, history, culture and identity
    • collaboratively developing coherent goals and expectations about learning, and understanding the links between the Australian Curriculum and the approved learning frameworks
    • understanding the AEDC data for the community
    • engaging in respectful, collaborative partnerships and networks to build understanding and knowledge
  • Community:
    • supporting an inclusive environment where services and agencies, cultural groups and community elders are welcomed and involved in supporting children’s effective transitions from home to early childhood and onto school.

What opportunities exist for your service, as a key stakeholder, to take the initiative in improving connections or developing/enhancing the procedure for transitioning children to formal schooling?

In your quality improvement planning processes, you might consider strategies to build and maintain respectful, collaborative partnerships to support continuity of learning and effective transitions.

Further reading and resources                                       

ACECQA – Approved Learning Frameworks

Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia

My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia 

Educators’ Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework

Educators’ Guide to the Framework for School Age Care

ACECQA National Educational Leader – Transition to School

Australian Government Department of Education – Continuity of Learning: A resource to support effective transition to school and school age care

Early Childhood Australia and Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority – Foundations for learning: Relationships between the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum

OECD – Starting Strong 2017: Key OECD Indicators on Early Childhood Education and Care

Leaders as agents of change

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

Leaders within education and care are widely acknowledged as change agents, working with educators, families and communities to interpret and implement policy changes designed to raise the quality of early childhood and outside school hours care services. With the upcoming changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF) coming into effect on 1 October 2017, what better time to consider how the leadership structures within your organisation are supporting an effective transition to the revised National Quality Standard (NQS) and regulatory standards?

The NQF is a framework that reflects a commitment to continuous improvement. Recent changes represent the voices of educators, families, communities and other stakeholders, responding to aspects of the NQF they believed could be improved to allow education and care services to focus on what matters – providing high quality programs and practice. The revised NQS represents a more streamlined set of quality standards that have been refined to reduce overlap and provide greater clarity and guidance.

One of the areas that has been streamlined is Quality Area 7, now titled Governance and Leadership. There is increased clarity about the expectations relating to governance and how philosophy, systems, and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities support a strong foundation for leadership.

The revised standard also refines expectations of the role of educational leader. The new 7.2.2 element states: The educational leader is supported and leads the development and implementation of the educational program and assessment and planning cycle. This change acknowledges the role requires support in order to effect positive changes and the significant role the educational leader plays in supporting educator understandings of the assessment and planning cycle.

Professor Joce Nuttall, a renowned academic, recognised authority in education and care leadership and member of the ACECQA Board shares some important messages that can prompt you to consider what this may mean for the way leadership is enacted in your service. In the first video Joce speaks about the context for leadership in education and care, particularly the difference between positional or hierarchical models and relational and distributed approaches.

In this next clip, Joce unpacks what support for the educational leader might look like, recognising this will be unique to the context of the service and the needs of individual educational leaders. She goes on to discuss the often opposing dynamics of positional and distributed leadership and poses some ideas for moving forward.

In order for the educational leader to be successful in generating quality outcomes, they must receive support from the approved provider and nominated supervisor. Joce discusses some of the theory and research as well as practical ideas about how this might happen.

Joce goes on to speak about the important role educational leaders play in building educators’ capacity to engage with and demonstrate knowledge of the assessment and planning cycle, by reflecting on children’s learning as individuals and groups as well as the effectiveness of the program as a whole.

In the final video, Joce encourages educational leaders to consider their own learning and professional development. This is essential if educational leaders are to support the development of others.

Questions for further reflection:

  • What is the collective understanding of leadership within your service?
  • How is the educational leader supported? What supports are needed?
  • How effectively are educators engaging with the planning cycle?
  • How is the educational leader leading the evaluation of the whole program?

For more information on the NQF changes, visit the ACECQA website.

Further reading and resources

ACECQA – Information sheet – The role of the educational leader

ACECQA – National Educational Leader presentation – Educational Leadership

We Hear You – The role of the educational leader series

We Hear You – Unpacking the planning cycle series

We Hear You – Uncovering the layers of reflective practice series

Early Career Educators Program

In January 2017, Delana Murdoch, Rebecca Mahoney and Sally Burt joined ACECQA to participate in our Early Career Educators Program – an initiative that provides a work and development opportunity for new early childhood teachers. 

As part of the program, Delana, Rebecca and Sally have been contributing to a wide range of ACECQA’s educational leadership activities and participating in on-the-job and structured learning. The three educators spoke to We Hear You about their experiences in the program as well as their career goals and ambitions.

Rebecca Mahoney and Delana Murdoch presenting on The Quest for Quality knowledge game
Rebecca Mahoney and Delana Murdoch presenting on The Quest for Quality knowledge game

Delana: Hi, my name is Delana, and I have recently graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Education: The Early Years (Birth – 5 years) degree. Having enrolled in university directly after high school, working at ACECQA has been my first role in the children’s education and care sector.

Rebecca: Hi, I’m Rebecca and I’m from Ballarat, Victoria. I have worked in the education and care sector for over 10 years, and have two beautiful young children of my own. I am currently completing a Bachelor of Education (Birth – Year 6), and will graduate at the end of 2018.

Sally: Hi, I’m Sally. I recently graduated with a Master of Teaching (Early Childhood) from the University of Sydney. My professional background is as a dietitian-nutritionist, working for 20 years in nutrition education and public health. My ACECQA role is part time, as I currently work two days per week as an Early Childhood Teacher (ECT) at a community preschool.

How did you find out about this opportunity?

D: My ECT mentor Eliza tagged me in the advertisement of the position on Facebook.

R: I stumbled across the advertisement for the educational leadership assistant position on the ACECQA website while filling out an expression of interest form for ACECQA’s 2017 Temporary Employment Register.

S: My University of Sydney Program Director forwarded the advertisement to our class. I also saw the opportunity promoted on the ACECQA Facebook page.

What were the highlights of your experience at ACECQA?

D: While there have certainly been many highlights throughout this experience, one of those being the development of the innovative resource The Quest for Quality. Another one of my favourite parts of the program has been shadowing the assessment of Excellent rating applications. It is truly inspiring and fascinating to hear about the unique and high quality practices of those applying for the rating.

R: One of the highlights for me has been experiencing a work environment so different to the education, care and school environments I have worked in during my career. It took me a while to get used to the idea of a workplace without a sandpit, and a workday that didn’t involve singing, cuddling and cubby-building!

S: A definite highlight has been the opportunity to gain ‘hands-on’ experience within the Educational Leadership team, such as writing a We Hear You blog, sitting in on an Excellent rating assessment teleconference, and supporting the development of authorised officer training resources. Being personally introduced to esteemed leadership academic, Manjula Waniganayake (who was visiting ACECQA), at the very moment I was using her work in some educational leadership research content, also absolutely stands out!

Sally Burt at work researching and developing key resources
Sally Burt at work researching and developing key resources

What new knowledge did you gain during your time at ACECQA?

D: My knowledge and understanding of the National Quality Framework (NQF) and ACECQA’s role in the sector has grown extensively.  The development of The Quest for Quality game required us to delve into the National Quality Standard (NQS), the National Law and Regulations, the roles of ACECQA and the regulatory authorities, the approved learning frameworks and much more. If you want to develop your own understanding of integral components of our sector in an enjoyable and engaging way, be sure to check out The Quest for Quality!

R: I see my time at ACECQA as something of a crash course in the NQF. I dug deeper into the NQS, the National Law and National Regulations than I ever thought possible, and have such a better understanding of ACECQA’s role and the Australian education and care sector. The people at ACECQA are so lovely, knowledgeable and passionate about promoting quality education and care in Australia that you can’t help but become incredibly inspired yourself! I hope this inspiration will translate into the resource we helped create – The Quest for Quality. I’m really looking forward to hearing some feedback from those working and studying in the sector.

S: Inductions across the organisation introduced me to the critical work undertaken by the ACECQA Training, Communications and Engagement, Policy and Strategy, Research, Qualifications Assessment, Business Communications and the Education and Care Services team which is responsible for the National Quality Agenda IT System. I now have a much greater understanding, and appreciation, of the breadth, depth and dynamics of ACECQA’s work, particularly during this time of change.

What was the most challenging facet of your experience at ACECQA?

D: The most challenging part of the program was the lack of children in the office environment! It was definitely quite a change to be interacting with adults all day instead of children.

R: The most challenging aspects for me were the logistics of temporarily relocating to Sydney from regional Victoria and being apart from my family for the first time. However, I knew working with ACECQA was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the experience would be well worth the challenge!

S: Working at ACECQA three days a week, and in a preschool for the other two, has required some brain plasticity as I transition between the two roles each Wednesday! That said, each role has been a wonderful context for my work in the other.

How will your time at ACECQA inform your future practice or career aspirations as an ECT?

D: My time at ACECQA has given me a wealth of knowledge and experience that I plan to translate into my future practice in early childhood education and care settings. I also plan to share all I have learnt with my fellow educators in the sector. And who knows, maybe my future involves developing more game-based resources for the sector!

R: I look forward to putting the knowledge and skills I have learnt at ACECQA to good use in my future studies and practice as an educator. I am very proud and excited to introduce The Quest for Quality resource to my university lecturers, fellow educators and students.

S: My ACECQA experience has definitely been formative for my current ECT practice, giving me a much greater depth of understanding of the NQF. My working knowledge of the NQS has grown exponentially and I now have a much greater appreciation of the complex work authorised officers undertake. I have also been really inspired by the exceptional programs and practices of Excellent rated centres. The experience has cemented my interest in working at a strategic support level in the longer term.

If the program was run again, would you recommend this opportunity to other graduates?

D: The Early Career Educators Program provides you with an experience incomparable to any other. The learning and growth you experience in a three-month period can dramatically change your understanding and perception of the education and care sector in a number of ways. Regardless of the career path you wish to take after your time at ACECQA, the knowledge and experience you have gained will further equip you to contribute to positive outcomes in the sector.

R: This truly is an unprecedented learning experience for those working or studying in the sector. You gain such an immense amount of knowledge, inspiration and experience in a relatively short period of time, and get the chance to work with some of the loveliest people and informed professionals in the Australian education and care sector.

S: Echoing Delana and Rebecca’s comments, this program offers graduate teachers a golden, once-in-a-career opportunity. Post-university, when you are full of enthusiasm but a little lacking in confidence, this provides an intensive ‘summer school’ internship-type opportunity where you will have access to the very best human and professional resources, undertake meaningful projects, be inspired and learn so much! Graduates should not hesitate to apply.

 

The Quest for Quality game, which has been developed for children’s education and care services, explores the seven quality areas in the revised National Quality Standard through sector specific knowledge.

The Quest for Quality was designed as a capacity building tool and provides educators an opportunity to integrate an element of fun into their professional discussions and critical reflection.

The Quest for Quality game is available for purchase or as a free download on the ACECQA website

Start a conversation about quality

In this month’s We Hear You blog, we look at how children’s education and care educators can shine as professionals, translate the sometimes complex language of the sector, help families better understand their child’s potential and explain how this work supports children’s physical, emotional, social, language and cognitive development. 

The education and care sector has demonstrated professionalism and dedication embracing the concept of continuous quality improvement and new national standards introduced under the National Quality Framework (NQF) in 2012. Over the years, the commitment shown by the sector has opened up a community dialogue about the importance of education and care for children’s holistic development, and the progress the NQF has made in raising the professional status of educators.

Why is it then that relatively few parents and carers know about the commitment to quality in early childhood and outside school hours care services?

We are providing families with information about the wide range of services in Australia and the importance of quality through Starting Blocks, our family-focused website. We also publish the ratings of services on the national registers and the Starting Blocks website. This empowers families and carers to make informed choices when selecting a service for their child and helps them to understand the critical elements that make up a good quality service.

Recently, we collaborated with states and territories to develop new logos to help services and providers promote their commitment to quality and their overall rating to families. We want the new logos to help parents and carers to be more confident in their selection and to appreciate the professional role of educators in meeting the needs of their children as unique learners.

NQS quality areas and quality ratings

Educators are the vital first point of contact for families seeking education or care. They trust you to look after their children – to keep them safe, happy and developing skills appropriate to their age and interests.

Building close relationships is what great educators do really well – engaging with families about their expectations, providing regular updates and sharing children’s experiences – and is a key component of the National Quality Standard. These close relationships present opportunities to discuss the importance of quality practice and how a high quality service, in turn, contributes to their child’s smooth transition to, and success at, school.

Your service’s rating logo also provides a chance to educate families and the community about the wonderful work you do in your service as a professional educator. These are opportunities too good to miss.

Visit the Starting Blocks website for fact sheets and infographics to share with families. Like the Starting Blocks Facebook, Instagram page and ACECQA Facebook page for regular updates and information.