More than a worm farm: Supporting children to be environmentally responsible

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

Young children have the greatest stake as citizens in the future. ~ European Panel on Sustainable Development (2010)

Viewing children as agents capable of being active participants and enacting change in their world is integral to the guiding principles of the National Quality Framework and the approved learning frameworks. Children’s rich potential as active agents of change for their environment is integral to 2018 NQS Element 3.2.3 – The service cares for the environment and supports children to become environmentally responsible. Research and NQS assessment and rating data indicate that some services can find aspects of caring for the environment, and supporting children to become environmentally responsible, challenging. This month, I step you through a number of strategies to support this quality practice.

What does ‘environmentally responsible’ mean?

Environmental responsibility builds on the important foundation of children’s care, wonder and appreciation of the environment, and fosters accountability, agency and advocacy. Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child reminds us that:

  • education should prepare children to live responsibly and peacefully in a free society
  • education should teach children to respect the natural environment.

Responsibly is not passive; it requires engagement and the potential for action. Supporting children to become environmentally responsible requires meaningful opportunities for children to engage in authentic experiences and to be active participants and decision-makers. Responsibility is, therefore, more than physical resources, such as a worm farm or a set of recycling bins. While these can be wonderful experiences for children, responsibility engages at a deeper level. For example, decision-making about maintenance of the worm farm or monitoring of the amount or type of paper going into paper recycling to understand its source.

Responsibility engages children in critical thinking, problem solving and action. It might invoke questions such as: What does this mean? What do you think? What could you/we do or change? How could you/we do it? How will you/we know it has changed?

Education FOR the environment

Associate Professor Julie Davis (2015) from Queensland University of Technology describes meaningful environmental education opportunities as more than education ‘IN’ the environment – nature education experiences in the outdoors – or education ‘ABOUT’ the environment – children engaging in the natural sciences, recycling or conservation. Education ‘FOR’ the environment is about understanding human-environment interactions and interdependence and their impact on sustainability. Environmental responsibility focuses on the child and their potential role as citizens and agents of change for sustainability.

It is important to also consider that ‘the environment’ is your service and the interconnected environment which may be beyond your doors or gates. The broader geographical, social and cultural environments in your community are fundamentally connected to your service environment. In a rural community, this may include a local water catchment, while in an urban community this could be your neighbours on other floors of the building. Providing children with experiences that allow them to make connections between these environments will enhance their understanding. For example, exploring where a service’s waste water drains or what native bird habitats are available beyond a service’s garden.

Education for sustainability

Environmental responsibility and educating FOR the environment are central to the concept of sustainability. Sustainability has been described as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ or ‘enough for all forever’.  However, depending on your personal understanding, experiences, philosophy, values and beliefs, sustainability can be a complicated concept to define. Sustainability will have different meanings to different people.

As the environment and sustainability involve ‘big ideas’ and thinking on a scale beyond one’s usual context, it can pose intellectual and emotional challenges. This can be exacerbated when engaging with children, families and colleagues. If personal knowledge, beliefs and values are still forming, how can we confidently support and educate others?

Recognising that different individuals will have different understandings and perspectives on the environment and sustainability is a useful starting point for critical reflection.

Supporting environmental responsibility

In ‘Inspiring environmentally responsible preschool children through the implementation of the National Quality Framework’ (2017), Krista Pollock, Jane Warren and Peter Anderson from the University of Wollongong have proposed three key ways to support children to be environmentally responsible.

1. Involve children authentically

It is essential that children are considered as capable change agents. ‘Transformative pedagogies’ that value and build on children’s knowledge and experiences, and provide opportunities for them to participate in real life issues that are important and relevant to them, provides empowering opportunities for decision making and problem solving.

Educators who listen to and respect children’s ideas recognise children’s capabilities and help them develop the sense that their ideas and opinions matter. They support children to explore their world, to ask questions, to express ideas and to learn from their mistakes. When children are supported to develop decision-making skills and to make appropriate choices for their own wellbeing, they realise the choices they make may impact on others. When children are given choices and control, they begin to understand the connection between actions and consequences.

2. Collaborate with families

A ‘whole-of-setting’ approach that involves meaningful collaboration with children, families and community enhances the potential for quality practice. Welcoming, respecting and drawing on the voices, priorities and strengths of all community members will ensure practice is relevant and tailored to the service context.

Drawing on sociocultural theory, the researchers suggest encouraging families ‘to reflect on their own early childhood experiences with, and connections to, the natural environment’. Reflecting on personal influences can highlight their potential impact on children’s foundation knowledge and experience. Drawing on home experiences and culturally-valued knowledge can also build communication and connection between home and service practice. This can, in turn, provide insight, perspective, sharing and feedback on environmentally responsible actions.

3. Engage in critical reflection

Reflect on your own understanding of environmental responsibility and sustainability and how this has been informed. Reflection can enrich decision making, increase awareness of influences and bias and provide goals for continuous improvement. Supporting your own, ongoing learning journey through professional development, and accessing resources to foster a deeper understanding of sustainability, are also highly recommended.

A good starting point for reflection is to undertake a sustainability audit to help you assess your service’s current practices and contribute to a Quality Improvement Plan. Cool Australia has a number of resources, which can be found through a search under the keyword ‘audit’

~o~

We hope this month’s blog has given you some starting points for your own learning journey. Please access the many resources on the new ACECQA website and those recommended below. We would also love to hear about your own experiences supporting children to be environmentally responsible. What have been your challenges? What are your successes? How have children been agents of change? I encourage you to leave a comment or share your story below.

Further reading and resources

ACECQA – Guide to the National Quality Framework

ACECQA – Guide to the NQF reference list – Quality Area 3: Physical Environment

ACECQA – We Hear You – Sustainability blogs

Cool Australia – Educator and student resources

Davis, J. (ed.) (2015) Young Children and the Environment: Early Education for Sustainability (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, London.

Early Childhood Australia – Talking about practice: Embedding sustainable practices, NQS PLP eNewsletter (67).

Pollock, K., Warren, J. & Anderson, P. (2017) ‘Inspiring environmentally responsible preschool children through the implementation of the National Quality Framework: Uncovering what lies beneath theory and practice’, AJEC, 42(2), pp. 12-19.

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

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

A statement of philosophy guides all aspects of your service operations and your approach to achieving quality outcomes for children and families. But how can this statement be a living document that is the foundation for continuous improvement every day? In this final instalment, we wrap up the series by exploring the connection between your service philosophy and self-assessment and quality improvement processes.  

Part 5: A philosophy of continuous improvement

A statement of philosophy, which guides all aspects of a service’s operations, is a requirement under Element 7.1.1 of the National Quality Standard (NQS). The National Regulations (Regulation 55) further require the approved provider of an education and care service to ensure the service Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) links to a statement of the philosophy of service.

Your service’s statement of philosophy should be a living document used in daily experience, setting the foundation for your approach to achieving quality outcomes for children. It should be used in daily practice and clearly guide your decision making and service practice – outlining the purpose and principles under which your service operates. Further, it should reflect the unique ‘personality’ of your service and incorporate the beliefs, goals, commitments, aspirations and intentions of those who belong to your service community. This service philosophy should also express a shared understanding of the role of the service with educators, children, families and the community.

The 2018 NQS provides an opportunity to think through your service philosophy and actively consider the extent to which it references quality improvement and/or speaks to the intent and importance of self-assessment and quality improvement processes within your service. It is also an opportunity to reflect on how your service self-assessment and quality improvement practices are informed by the philosophy and how well this is understood in your service community. You may also look at the introduction of the 2018 NQS as a chance to reflect on how your service philosophy advocates more widely for the profession and the provision of quality education and care.


Tip
: In making decisions about operating education and care services and working to achieve the National Quality Standard to improve quality at services, the guiding principles of the National Quality Framework (NQF) apply. The guiding principles of the NQF can be found on pages 10-11 of the Guide to the National Quality Framework or section 3(3) of the National Law.

Your service philosophy should also reflect the approved learning framework/s that guide curriculum decision-making and inform educational program and practice.

 

Questions for consideration:

  • How is your service philosophy used to inform decision making, build commitment and align actions with your self-assessment and quality improvement priorities, goals and outcomes? How do your practices match your philosophy?
  • Is your service philosophy statement a living document that reflects the views, values and beliefs of current management, educators, children, families and the service community regarding quality, self-assessment, best practice and the commitment to continuous quality improvement? How often is it reviewed?
  • How accessible is your service’s statement of philosophy? Is it visible and made available to your service community, such as induction processes for all staff members, orientation processes for families, on the service website?
  • What messages does your philosophy communicate to the broader community about the importance of self-assessment and continuous quality improvement in providing quality outcomes for children and the importance of quality education and care more generally?

~o~

I hope this series has provided you with useful and practical ideas, prompts and resources to support and strengthen your self-assessment and quality improvement planning processes. It is important to recognise and remember these processes reflect the uniqueness of your service and are shaped by your meaningful and collaborative relationships with children, families and communities.

 

Read the complete series:

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 4

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 4

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

In the previous instalment, we explored the way collaborative relationships with families and the community can contribute to your quality improvement processes and goals. In part four, I want to build on this collaboration and focus on how engaging children’s voices and ideas in your decision making can reflect your service values and philosophy, as well as encourage and support children’s agency. 

Part 4: Engaging with children’s voices in service decision making – Are we truly listening? 

The right of the child to be heard is set out under Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). It establishes the right of every child to have their say in decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account. The articles within the UNCRC are embedded within the guiding principles of the National Quality Framework (NQF) which apply when making decisions about operating education and care services and working to meet or exceed the National Quality Standard (NQS). Similarly, the approved learning frameworks explicitly incorporate the Convention and highlight the central role of children’s rights in the provision of quality curriculum decision making and service delivery.

The NQF, NQS, approved learning frameworks and the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Code of Ethics (as a professional standard) apply a strengths and rights-based approach that positions children as active participants in their learning and as owners of rights, respect and agency. The concept of ‘agency’, applied within the NQS and approved learning frameworks, refers to children’s ability to ‘make choices and decisions, to influence events and have an impact on one’s world’ (Early Years Learning Framework, p.45; Framework for School Age Care, p. 41). Even very young children have preferences, make choices, and have the ability to influence others, actively construct their own understandings and contribute to others’ learning. Having a sense of agency is closely linked to the key concepts of being, belonging and becoming, and to developing a strong sense of identity.

The process of embedding the 2018 NQS provides an opportunity to reflect on how your self-assessment and quality improvement processes meaningfully involve children’s input and welcome their feedback and suggestions. Remember, children are the best source of advice for matters affecting them – as the quality improvement goals you are seeking to make mainly benefit children, it makes sense to engage them and reflect their voices in the process.

The 2018 NQS also supports you to consider how self-assessment and quality improvement processes are informed by and reflect the values, beliefs and philosophy of your service. For example, if your service philosophy values children as ‘active participants and decision makers’, how might this belief be embedded and enacted in your self-assessment and quality practices?

Questions for consideration:

  • Do your self-assessment and continuous improvement processes encourage children’s developing sense of agency by embracing their input  and incorporating their decisions and ideas? Are children provided with the sense their ideas and opinions matter?
  • What strategies are used to encourage children to express their ideas as fully and richly as possible? Are the processes accessible, inclusive and meaningful to children? How do you respond to children’s comments and criticisms?
  • How do your self-assessment and quality improvement processes reflect Article 12 of the UNCRC: ‘Respect for the views of children’? Do you consider the way your decision making ‘affects children, their right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account’?
  • The approved learning frameworks note that ‘viewing children as active participants and decision makers opens up possibilities … to move beyond pre-conceived expectations about what children can do and learn’ (Early Years Learning Framework,9; Framework for School Age Care, p.7). How does authentically listening to children inform your work as an educator?

~o~

In the final instalment of this series, we will further explore the importance of your service philosophy, the way it guides all aspects of service operations and your approach to achieving quality outcomes for children.

 

Read the complete series:

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 4

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

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

How can families and the community contribute to your quality improvement processes and goals? How can these collaborative relationships support children and contribute to quality outcomes? In this third instalment, I turn my attention to the partnerships at the heart of Quality Area 6 and their potential for supporting and enhancing outcomes for children.

Part 3: Family and community engagement – Continuous improvement is a shared endeavour 

Relationships are very much at the heart of our profession. Quality Area 6 – Collaborative partnerships with families and communities speaks to the familiar adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and reflects current research that suggests when educators, families and communities work together as partners to collectively support children’s healthy development and wellbeing, the potential for improving positive learning outcomes is enhanced. This quality area focuses on educators, families and communities uniting around a shared vision for children and working together to achieve goals.

The changes to the National Quality Standard (NQS) present an opportunity to reflect on existing practices and consider how families – as children’s first and influential educators – are meaningfully supported from the time of enrolment to exercise their agency and contribute to service self-assessment, decision-making and quality improvement processes. The 2018 NQS can also help you consider how your service establishes and maintains an active presence in the local community, seeks to strengthen community links and learn about local community contexts, aspirations and needs to develop inclusive and responsive programs and quality improvement goals. You might also like to reflect on  the way family and community engagement in your service’s self-assessment and quality improvement processes speak to the advocacy of education and care in your community and help raise public awareness of the importance of early childhood development and the benefits of quality education and care.


Tip:
‘Family’ is a single word with many different meanings. Children have diverse understandings of ‘family’ and unique relationships with those who feature predominately in their lives. Extended families, kinship ties, carers and guardians can provide essential relationships in children’s lives.

How do you reflect on what the concept of family means to each child and nurture the important relationships that exist between children and their families?

Does your concept of family reflect the diversity of family structures in the service and the wider community?


Questions for consideration:

  • How are your self-assessment and quality improvement processes shaped by meaningful engagement with families and the community?
  • What techniques or strategies do you use to encourage families and the community to meaningfully inform the development and review of quality improvement planning processes, including self-assessment? How effective are these strategies in receiving and addressing feedback?
  • Is your service’s Quality Improvement Plan displayed or accessible so families can view the current goals and strategies for quality improvement? How do you share your progress and celebrate achievements with families?
  • How is community level data (e.g. the Australian Early Development Census [AEDC]) used to identify the vulnerabilities of children in your community, identify quality improvement priorities and support partnerships that provide targeted support to children and families?


Tip
: Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and the Queensland Department of Education have developed a free suite of resources to help services use the AEDC data. The AEDC data provides important information about the development of Australia’s children, with these resources providing clear links to the NQS and approved learning frameworks. View the AEDC resources and read more about how you might use the results to inform your self-assessment and quality improvement practices and support areas of vulnerability in your community.

 

Building on these collaborative relationships, in the next instalment we will look at relationships with children and their active and meaningful participation in your self-assessment and quality improvement processes.

 

Read the complete series:

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 4

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

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

In the first instalment of this series, I explored the role of critical reflection in supporting and strengthening self-assessment and quality improvement planning processes. In this next part, I want to focus on the way professional collaboration can strengthen and inform both of these processes.

Part 2: Professional collaboration – Together we can achieve so much  

The importance of promoting a positive organisational culture and professional learning community built on a spirit of collegiality and trusting, respectful relationships is well recognised in the National Quality Standard (NQS). Likewise, professional collaboration, building shared professional knowledge and active participation in a ‘lively culture of professional inquiry’ are acknowledged in the NQS, the approved learning frameworks and the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Code of Ethics, as fundamental to supporting continuous quality improvement.

While the National Regulations (Regulations 55 and 56) require the approved provider of an education and care service to prepare, review and revise a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP), it is not expected that the provider be solely responsible for all the work, decisions or outcomes. Rather, self-assessment and quality improvement processes should be a shared and collaborative process engaging everyone: the approved provider, nominated supervisor, services’ leaders and management, co-ordinators, educational leaders, educators and other service staff. Your service’s journey of self-assessment and quality improvement should also provide an opportunity for collaboration with and input from children, families and the community (which I will explore further in my next instalment).

Implementing the 2018 NQS provides an opportunity to consider how your self-assessment and quality improvement processes:

  • support the development of shared visions and goals
  • foster and sustain a culture of collaborative professional inquiry
  • empower educators by instilling a sense of ownership and shared accountability.

You might also consider how your service’s self-assessment and quality improvement processes support your team to articulate professional values, knowledge and practice, and assist in building confidence regarding the changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF) and what these mean for service practice and continuous quality improvement.

Questions for consideration:

  • How are the views and suggestions of all members of your service team used to support self-assessment and the development and review of quality improvement plans? What are some of the challenges to involvement that you have faced?
  • How does your service create and sustain a ‘lively culture of professional inquiry’ that contributes to continuous improvement? Are there regular opportunities for self-assessment and quality improvement discussions?
  • How do you develop a strengths-based approach to self-assessment and quality improvement planning that recognises the diverse skills, capabilities and experiences of all team members and supports a sense of shared responsibility? Are there opportunities for various team members to be ‘QIP champions’ responsible for aspects of quality improvement goals?
  • Are all team members aware of the strengths and quality improvement goals and strategies identified in your service QIP? Is the intent and vision of your quality improvement goals clear and able to be communicated by all team members? Are these discussed at team and/or planning meetings?

~o~

Following on from these professional conversations, the next instalment in the series will explore the meaningful collaborations and engagement with families and the community, and the way they can shape your quality improvement processes.

 

Read the complete series:

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 4

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

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

We know a comprehensive process of critical reflection, self-assessment and evaluation, along with a commitment to continuous quality improvement, is essential in contributing to and enhancing quality outcomes for children. But how often do we take time to reflect on the effectiveness and intent of our self-assessment and quality improvement practices? 

In a sector that recognises the importance of high quality education and care and is driven by a focus on raising continuous quality improvement, it is appropriate that the changes to the National Law and Regulations* and the introduction of the 2018 National Quality Standard (NQS) merit an opportunity for services to reflect, review, update and enhance their self-assessment and quality improvement planning processes and arrangements.

In this series, we explore five ideas to support and strengthen your self-assessment and quality improvement planning processes building on the ideas and the 2018 NQS self-assessment strategies discussed in the February ACECQA Newsletter.  This first instalment will provide a starting point,  and offer practical support to guide reflective practice, spark professional conversation and identify ‘where to next’ actions.

*Changes to the National Law and Regulations came into effect on 1 October 2017 in all states and territories (except Western Australia, which will commence by 1 October 2018). The 2018 NQS and related changes commenced on 1 February 2018 across all states and territories.

Part 1: Critical reflection – Take a brief look back to pave a path forward

Rear Admiral and pioneering computing scientist, Grace Murray Hopper, stated that the most dangerous phrase in our language is: ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ A key strength of the NQS is the way it supports education and care services to commit to best practice and engage in ongoing critical reflection and self-assessment to inform professional judgements and drive continuous quality improvement. Educators are encouraged to stop, reflect and rethink the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their practice and consider ‘why’ they do things in particular ways. This assists in assessing the effectiveness of current practices and analysing what might be changed or improved. It also has the potential to enrich decision making and provide opportunities to explore new ideas and approaches.

The 2018 NQS represents an opportunity for education and care services to consider the efficiency and effectiveness of existing self-assessment and quality improvement practices. It is an opportunity to identify the implementation of successful strategies and celebrate the achievement of goals as well as acknowledge what has proved challenging and/or confronting. Reflecting on previous self-assessment and continuous improvement processes can provide the impetus for change and is an important step in paving an informed path towards continuous quality improvement and improved outcomes for children and families.

Questions for consideration:

  • How does your service undertake self-assessment, decide what is being done well and identify areas where quality improvements could be made? Is self-assessment an ongoing, regular and systematic process? If not, how could practice be adapted?
  • How is feedback from children, families, community representatives and critical friends invited and incorporated?
  • How does your service prioritise areas for quality improvement and identify goals that will enhance the quality of children’s and families’ experiences? What processes exist to monitor goals and regularly review progress?
  • What information, resources and guidance currently inform and assist your service’s self-assessment and quality improvement practices? For example, how are the Guide to the National Quality Framework, National Law and Regulations, approved learning frameworks, and the Exceeding NQS guidance for standards being used in your service?
  • Are there opportunities to streamline processes and integrate other service plans (such as the Strategic Inclusion Plan, Reconciliation Action Plan) into your service Quality Improvement Plan?


Tip
: You may also like to refer to the questions, included in the Guide to the National Quality Framework, to guide reflection for Standard 7.2 – Leadership. The guide to practice for Element 7.2.1 – Continuous Improvement, which describes how the element might be put into practice at the service and how the element may be assessed, may also be a helpful reference to for professional discussions at your service.

Refer to the Assessment and rating chapter of the Guide to the National Quality Framework for further guidance on the self-assessment and quality improvement and planning process available on the ACECQA website.

 

In my next instalment, I will explore how professional collaboration and ‘a lively culture of professional inquiry’ can strengthen and inform your self-assessment and quality improvement processes. Additional questions will be provided to further stimulate critical thinking and build on your professional conversations.

 

Read the complete series:

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 4

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

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?