Our Journey to date – The Assessment Process

This month on the blog, director Julie Dowling of Discovery Early Learning Centre, Lauderdale, Tasmania, writes a personal account of the assessment process.

Julie talks about how she led her staff and families to develop the Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) and how the educators became comfortable with the assessment process.

Our assessment went for three days, which included the centre based long day care centre and the outside school hours care programs which are facilitated on site at the school next door.

Our Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) is viewed and acted upon as a living document. It is freely available on all computers and is updated on a regular basis. We also have a whiteboard in the staff room that was used to document processes and change, this became the template for the QIP. There is no such thing as a silly question and educators were encouraged and supported to ask ‘why?’. As not everyone in our centre was computer literate the use of the whiteboard created an inclusive process for all educators. All stakeholders were involved in the development of the services self-assessment and its QIP including the children, families, community, school community and educators.

The QIP was completed in April so by the time the assessment visit occurred in June; some of the areas of the QIP had indeed changed. We had implemented plans, some were still progressing and other areas were added. Progress notes were added to the QIP as evidence of our continuous improvement journey, but also as a reminder of the distance we had travelled in supporting better outcomes for children.

The assessment day began with a tour of the service where the educators and children were introduced to the Authorised Officers. This provided the opportunity to talk about our processes, our people and our curriculum. The educators began to relax into the process as they were advised to ‘do what they normally do’ and to be confident in their practice. It was also important for them to understand that this is a continual improvement process and it was important to reflect on everyday practice with a goal of improving practice.

The officers visited each of our program areas, including before school care and two outside school hours care sessions. During the visit the educators were involved in non contact curriculum planning and the assessors asked whether they could sit with them as they did this. Although the educators were confident in their abilities, the actual thought of having an assessor ask them questions was initially ‘a state of panic’. As the centre director, I stayed with the educator. After some initial trepidation the educator articulated the planning process and spoke about the context of the room’s curriculum and planning cycle. This was a positive experience and enabled the educator to celebrate what was happening each and every day for children and families within the education and care environment.

As the officers walked through the service they spoke to the educators, viewed practice in the indoor and outdoor environments, viewed displays in the centre and room routines. As the director of the service the officers spent a lot of of time talking to me about Quality Area 6 and 7, and also asked questions about things that may not have been visible in the rooms at the time. They took lots of notes, which we unanimously decided was a good thing to ensure a transparent and robust process.

The officers chatted amicably to the educators and to the children and I must say the whole process was very unobtrusive. The visit was authentic and the experience was a positive one for the centre’s team.

The centre supports and is committed to continuous improvement and ongoing learning and this is what we strive to do each day. The assessment process has helped us build on our strengths and reflect on things we can learn more about. It was a great team building experience. Critical reflection played a major role in the process and we were able to show the officers our reflections which demonstrated our journey and the reasons behind any changes made to everyday practice.

By the second day of the visit the educators were very relaxed about the whole process. The unknown was now the known. The only thing that the team found difficult was the wait for the draft report and the final rating but we understand why it has to be this way to ensure a credible system has been implemented. We now know the visit isn’t scary and our doubts and apprehension have been put to rest. We wait in anticipation for our rating and are committed to this journey of continual improvement and growth as a service.

About the author – Julie Dowling is the Director of a 76 place long day care centre, 20 place After Kinder Care and  60 place outside school hours care in Lauderdale, Tasmania. Julie has worked in the sector for 18 years, firstly in Family Day Care and then in Outside School Care and centre based care.  Julie has a degree in Early Childhood education and care.

National Quality Framework Conference 2013

The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) will host the first official National Quality Framework Conference in Sydney on 12-13 September 2013.

The conference will bring the children’s education and care sector together to focus on the themes of quality, consistency and excellence.

Chair of the ACECQA Board, Ms Rachel Hunter, said the conference is an important step in the implementation of the National Quality Framework.

“As the national authority ACECQA works to achieve better educational and developmental outcomes for children,” Ms Hunter said.

“The conference will provide an opportunity for experts, peak bodies, service providers and educators to discuss research, practice and look at how the National Quality Framework is improving quality outcomes.”

Those who are interested in attending, presenting or sponsorship opportunities can register their interest here.

Questions from ACECQA/NSW DEC Forums

ACECQA and NSW DEC regional forums

ACECQA and the NSW Department of Education and Communities have been hosting a series of regional forums in NSW. The forums provide an opportunity to discuss the National Quality Framework. ACECQA is sharing some questions from these forums that may be of interest to others.

Q: When do you expect all services to be assessed under the new National Quality Framework?

A: Regulatory Authorities plan for all services to have had at least one quality assessment and rating visit completed by mid-2015.

With around eight weeks between the visit occurring and services receiving their report and rating, it is expected the quality rating of all services will be determined within months of this date.

New services will be assessed as they enter the system.

Q: What happens if a service is assessed as being below the standard?

A: This will depend on the degree to which the service is assessed as below the National Quality Standard (NQS), and the approach of the provider. The two levels below ‘Meeting the National Quality Standard’ are ‘Working Towards the National Quality Standard’ and ‘Significant Improvement Required’.

Working Towards the National Quality Standard

‘Working Towards National Quality Standard’ will be the overall rating if one or more of the seven Quality Areas is rated ‘Working Towards’. This means some services will receive an overall ‘Working Towards’ rating for receiving ‘Working Towards’ in every Quality Area, while others may only have ‘Working Towards’ in one Quality Area.

In either scenario, the service can use the information in its detailed ratings report to update its Quality Improvement Plan and focus on areas to improve over time.

Significant Improvement Required

If a service is assessed at the lowest rating level – ‘Significant Improvement Required’ – the Regulatory Authority has found that it fails to meet a Quality Area or a regulation in a way that constitutes an ‘unacceptable risk to the safety, health and wellbeing of children’.

In this case the authority will most likely take some formal enforcement action to require the provider to urgently rectify the problem.

The type of enforcement action will vary and might range from a written direction to comply or the suspension of approval to operate.

 

In general, the higher the quality rating, the less often a service will be reassessed.  If a service is assessed as ‘Working Towards National Quality Standard’, then another assessment is likely to occur within a year. A service rated ‘Exceeding the National Quality Standard’ might not be assessed for another three years. Read more.

Q: What kind of complaints from parents does a service need to report?

A: A parent complaint needs to be reported if:

  • a complaint alleges the safety, health or wellbeing of a child was or is being compromised or
  • a complaint alleges the Law has been breached

For example, a complaint about pasta being on the menu every week would not need to be reported to the regulatory authority. A complaint about a child not being offered an alternative meal when they have a food intolerance should be reported.

If you need to report a parent complaint to your regulatory authority, use form NL01 Notification of complaints and incidents (other than serious incidents).

This form is also to be used for:

  • incident that requires/required the Approved Provider to close, or reduce the number of children attending the service for a period
  • a circumstance that poses a significant risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of a child attending the service.

If you have a question for ACECQA you can post it here on the blog, email enquiries@acecqa.gov.au or call 1300 4 ACECQA (1300 422 327)

We Hear You

Welcome to We Hear You, a blog hosted by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).

Since starting operation on 1 January  2012, ACECQA has met with many people in children’s education and care services,  government regulatory authorities, community groups and professional associations.

Talking with people about the National Quality Framework (NQF) helps us carry out our role to monitor and support the implementation of NQF.

Listening helps us understand how the sector is adapting to the new framework as we work together to ensure children have the best possible start in life.

With such important changes underway, ACECQA would like to hear from you. So how do we do that?

We want to meet you face to face where possible and we’re doing that in a number of ways:

  • establishing formal meetings with national organisations representing the children’s education and care services sector
  • regularly attending your state and territory stakeholder reference groups
  • visiting services whenever we can
  • making it easier for you to invite us to your large events with a speaker request form on our website.

We also understand that some people are not members of larger organisations, or that you don’t get a chance to come to meetings, or that the best time for you to be heard is after 5pm.

So how can we listen and talk with everyone? We Hear You.

We Hear You is not only our blog, it’s our Facebook page, our Twitter account, our enquiries email and our national call centre.

The online format of We Hear You gives us a way we can talk about the NQF no matter where you are or what time it is.

The blog is running for a trial period, we’d like to know your thoughts and ideas on how you are finding this as a way of communicating.

You can post to our Feedback page, or email news@ACECQA.gov.au