Updating your Quality Improvement Plan

In Issue 1 of the ACECQA Newsletter for 2013 we asked ‘What are you doing to ensure your Quality Improvement Plan remains a living document?’ 

Share what you and your service are doing to build on 2012 and keep your QIP up to date by commenting on this post.

Want to read more about keeping QIPs up to date? Check out this post from Gaye Stewart on how she and her team supported the process at a local level. 

Family day care assessment visit

Nicole Vinken is the Acting Family Day Care Co-ordinator with the City of Greater Geelong. She has 20 years of experience in the early childhood sector in long day care and has been working in family day care since January 2012.

Nicole has worked with the City of Greater Geelong for more than 17 years as a qualified educator and as a centre director for 13 years before her more recent role in family day care. Nicole is recently married, in November, and has two teenage step-children.

The City of Greater Geelong Family Day Care Scheme currently has 50 educators and has been operating since the 1970s. It went through the rating and assessment process in July 2012 and in this blog Nicole shares the scheme’s experience of the process.

Initial contact
When we received our letter from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) in April 2012 notifying us of the commencement of the assessment and rating process and requesting our Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) by 28 May, I must admit I nearly fell off my chair.

“How can we be first??!!!”

Once the initial shock wore off I was able to review the documentation provided to us. This included information about the rating process from ACECQA, what will happen on the days of the visits, the role of the authorised officers, a breakdown of the rating levels and details of the assessment and rating report.
I think I sat on this information for about four hours before sharing it with my team!

Once we provided our QIP and centre philosophy to DEECD in May, we received a letter to confirm receipt and were notified of the assessment and rating visit dates in July – six weeks after DEECD received our QIP and 12 weeks after the original letter requesting the QIP.

This letter outlined the breakdown of the days, e.g. when the authorised officers would meet with the Co-ordination unit, the number of eductors they would visit (five) and the days they would be visited, and a list of resources to support the service through the rating and assessment process. Again, they provided plenty of supporting documents to prepare for the visits.

DEECD made phone calls to the Co-ordination unit to support us through the process and to check if we needed any guidance.

Assessment and rating visit days
For our Family Day Care Scheme, we had a three-day visit, with five of our educators chosen to be assessed.

Day 1 and 2
AM – Co-ordination unit visit – About 2-2.5 hrs – we had an in-depth visit with the DEECD to discuss the roles of the co-ordinator, support officers and the administration team. We were questioned about the support/home visits, processes and procedures, service management, relationships with educators and parents, philosophy, governance, supporting vulnerable families/child protection processes etc. The authorised officers also spoke to the educational leader about her role and how she supports the educators.

I was then given a list of documents that DEECD would like to see on the third day when they returned to the office– enrolment forms, educator rosters, policies and procedures, excursions, professional development, evidence of recording police checks and working with children checks, newsletters etc.

We were then notified of the five Educators that had been chosen to undertake site visits. One educator was on leave so another educator was chosen. We had the opportunity to call the educators at that time and inform them how lucky they were to be chosen and when the visits would be occurring. Luckily, everyone seemed to handle the news well.

PM – Two educators were visited in the afternoon of the first day and three on the second day. As we were one of the first services to undergo the rating and assessment process, there were two authorised officers conducting site visits, and it was requested that a representative from the Co-ordination unit was also present to support educators. Although this made things quite busy in the homes, we were able to respectfully situate ourselves to ensure minimal interruptions to the children and the program.

Day 3
AM: DEECD spent about 3.5 hrs at the Co-ordination unit looking at documentation and then had a closing meeting with myself to discuss the three days and if there was anything else I would like to contribute. No feedback was provided by DEECD at this meeting on what our rating might be, which we understand is best practice, but it was still frustrating as we really wanted to know how we went.

Overall, the authorised officers were very professional and supportive from the initial contact made, throughout the three days undertaking the rating visit and the after support to clarify and discuss any details.

Educators all reported feeling comfortable and happy with the process. At no time were the authorised officers judgemental or invasive in their practices or questions. Questions were clear and concise and relevant to form an assessment.

Rating
We received a draft copy of our assessment and rating via email in early August, about three weeks after our visit. A meeting was co-ordinated with one of the authorised officers to discuss the report about three days later. At this meeting I was able to query any of the comments and ratings presented. We then had about three weeks to submit a response to any ratings to the regional DEECD office.

We completed a response email on behalf of the Co-ordination unit, and these items were taken into account, which we felt was a positive outcome. It showed how DEECD respected our feedback.

A final report was then submitted, and the rating confirmed. About two weeks later (early September) we received our rating certificate.

Support to Educators
Throughout the rating and assessment process, we maintained regular contact and support with educators. We did this in the following way:

  • Continued contact with our educators to keep them updated throughout the whole process.
  • Support home visits as key opportunities to support educators to ensure they had the required documents etc.
  • Mentor groups to support with any questions and assistance with program planning and the assessment process.
  • Regular email, newsletter and SMS contact.
  • Professional development.

Where to from here?

  • QIP working group formed between the Co-ordination unit and volunteer educators. We have formulated an Educator QIP. Educators will personally identify areas they would like to work on in their program, based on the National Quality Standards. This process is supported by the support officers, reviewed throughout the year, and updated every 12 months.
  • Professional development and Mentor groups – a strong focus on program planning, sustainable practices (and how this is embedded into the program) and child development.
  • Policy developments – continue with regular reviews and seeking feedback from educators and families.
  • Review service QIP every three months with the Family Day Care team and provide to educators for feedback.

Overall, we found the new rating and assessment process to be a positive one. We are committed to supporting our educators in providing a high quality education and care program and this process helped us identify where our strengths are and areas where we can build on. We don’t look at these areas as ‘weaknesses’, but opportunities to grow and improve.

 

Assessment visit – what is it like?

In ACECQA Newsletter Issue 19 we featured an article on authorised officers. A key element of the National Quality Framework is the introduction of ‘authorised officers’ who fulfil the same role in all states and territories under the Education and Care Services National Law.  Authorised officers may have different job titles and carry out a variety of functions from state to state.

This week’s blog post is from Kerry Gardner, an Acting Senior Assessment Officer for the Education and Care Regulatory Unit in Western Australia. In this post, Kerry writes about what it is like to carry out an assessment and rating visit to a service, and how impressed she has been by the efforts of services to meet the National Quality Standards.

I feel very privileged to have been involved in eight assessment and rating visits to services throughout Western Australia with one country service and one Outside School Hours Care service included in these visits.

My first Rating and Assessment visit was a bit daunting but due to the intense training and testing and my prior experience as a Licensing Officer I felt well prepared. I was accompanied by an equally experienced Assessor which provided the opportunity to discuss observations made, paperwork viewed and further information we required from the service. This visit was conducted over two days of intense observation and note taking to ensure we collected enough information about the service’s practices to make an informed decision regarding their meeting of the elements and standards of the National Quality Framework.

At the conclusion of the two day visit we came back to the office where we wrote the draft report for the service. This was completed over two days with many long discussions about what information, from all that was collected, was needed to justify the rating. These reports were then reviewed and moderated by the Assessment Team Leader and the Quality Manager before being sent to the services for review. Once reviewed by the service the report was finalised and a final rating given.

I have especially enjoyed the interactions with the children, educators and management at the services and some of the innovative ways services have found to meet the elements of the National Quality Framework. I am excited to be involved in this ground-breaking work in ensuring continued improvement in the care of children.

My position at the Education and Care Regulatory Unit also involves ensuring service compliance with the law and the associated regulations and occasionally investigating complaints.

All assessment officers are also responsible for assessing new service applications, amendments to service applications, notifications of serious incidents and other notifications, and answering phone calls from the general public and services.

About the author

Kerry Gardner is an Acting Senior Assessment Officer for the Education and Care Regulatory Unit in Western Australia. Previously, Kerry was employed by the Western Australian Child Care Licensing and Standards Unit as a Licensing Officer for six years. She has a child care background having been employed as a qualified Educator and Director of Child Care services over 16 years. She also has three grown children and four grandchildren.

Communicating with families

In Issue 15 of the ACECQA Newsletter, we called out for ideas and suggestions on electronic communication with families. We had a great response, including a post on the ACECQA Facebook page from Joanna O’Brien of Platinum Pre School in Randwick, NSW.

While these methods may not be for everyone, it was clear that Platinum had embraced electronic communication and social media in a big way. We asked Joanna to write a guest blog to hear first hand what has worked for Platinum, and whether any of these tools might help other services communicate with parents.

In this post Joanna writes about the reasons her service embraced electronic communication, benefits to the parent community and professional development for staff.

Since opening our doors in mid 2010 at Platinum Pre School in Sydney’s East we’ve spent a considerable amount of time experimenting and developing techniques that would allow our love of early education to fit with the changing lifestyles of the families in our community.

To give a brief overview of our pre school, we are located at the heart of the Sydney suburb of Randwick. Due to the relatively high socio-economic nature of our community, most of our families consist of two parents working full-time, many of whom have little to no family support in the area. As our Directors were previously primary school teachers they knew that we would have to take a unique and well targeted approach when communicating with these very busy people.

So, from the outset we identified that social media and other technology based communication services would allow us to clearly and effectively communicate with our time-poor families in an efficient and interactive way. It is an important balance for us; our parents need to be integrally involved in their child’s education, however we also need to ensure that time spent on communication is streamlined ensuring that our students’ contact time with their teachers isn’t compromised. To manage this, earlier this year we introduced Online Portfolios for our students, which allow parents to log on to a secure portfolio dedicated to their child’s development at preschool. In the portfolios parents can view photos, videos and audio posts related to the daily educational programmes that their child experiences. Our teachers can quickly and easily post observations, learning stories or simply photos directly to any child’s portfolio via their group’s iPad.

Our Online Portfolios combined with our use of FacebookInstagramYouTubeTwitter, our Blog and eNewsletter Weekly Email mean that we make our voice heard! And the response has been nothing but positive. We’ve found that using these technologies, particularly social media, has brought our busy parent community much closer together. We see more discussions between parents at drop-off and pick-up about things that are going on at the pre school and within our community, we have built professional relationships with local and international people and organisations, and we are able to keep our finger on the pulse by following industry leaders in early education.

We currently lecture our practices at two universities and we also take part in conferences held by Electroboard and TAFE. We are passionate about developing the holistic child and to do this we find it imperative to be co-educators with our children’s families and parents.

To see examples of how we currently use technology check out our website www.platinumpreschool.com and we’d love to ‘connect’ with anyone else out there who is interested in the new world of early education. 

Joanna O’Brien is co-director at Platinum Pre School, Randwick NSW. Joanna is a trained primary school teacher with over 15 years’ experience in face-to-face education and education management.

Children’s Artwork Competition – Australian Child Care Week 2012

Earlier this year ACECQA sponsored a Children’s Artwork Competition as part of Australian Child Care Week.

Our CEO, Karen Curtis, took this task very seriously. The artwork proved irresistible, with everyone in the office coming to have a look, and being delighted with what they saw.

Play matters: UN

This weeks blog post is from Robyn Monro Miller who recently attended meetings in Geneva in her capacity as International Vice President of International Play Association (IPA). Network of Community Activities has a long and proud history of support for the UNCRC and enshrined in our constitution is a commitment to advocacy on Article 31 and Article 12.

Article 31

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

In February 2011 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, announced its decision to draft and adopt a General Comment on Article 31.  Article 31 is historically one of the least understood areas of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)  and contains a number of themes that draw in the interests of people from across the spectrum who may work in widely diverse settings. This is why the development of a General Comment on this article is so significant.

The General Comment will be issued to every government of the world, which has signed up to the Convention, which includes Australia.  The General Comment provides further guidance to world governments on implementation of Article 31 and highlights the important role of play and access to cultural life and arts in children’s healthy development.

The International Play Association received funding from the Bernard Van Leer Foundation for the development of the draft General Comment with a cross sectoral team of experts from across the world. As a working document of the UN, the draft was required to remain confidential and was not released for public consultation.

At the end of September, International Play Association representatives and the expert panel assembled met in Geneva to finalise the document ready for presentation to the UN committee. The Article 31 ‘Working Group’ consisted of 15 people from 12 countries who met with the UN Committee’s focal group chaired by Awich Pollar (Uganda).

This was the final stage in a long process that involved a core team, the expert working group and child consultation processes across the world.

The child’s voice was included in the document with special consultations held in selected locations across the world.  These locations included Brazil, Italy, Scotland, and Kenya. Children in post conflict situations and conflict situations in Lebanon and Sierra-Leone were also engaged in consultation as well as children in refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border.

The final draft of the document was given to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in early October with formal adoption likely at the January 2013 meeting of the Committee. The draft cannot be released until the UN officially adopts it. However it has been identified as a comprehensive one that is inclusive of the issues and challenges associated with play and important considerations for implementation.

Once released, the children’s services sector will be in a position to use the General Comment to inform our work with children and highlight the valuable role of play and access to culture and the arts in the healthy development of all children. It will be an opportunity for Governments across Australia to take shared responsibility for reflecting on how their own planning and processes support Article 31.

As educators working in children’s services we have an important role in supporting children’s opportunities to engage in play and a responsibility to advocate on its benefits to families and the community.

Representatives from Brazil, Turkey and Mexico who will be leading Article 31 projects in their home countries with Robyn Monro Miller (2nd from right) and International President Theresa Casey from Scotland (right) outside the UN.

About the Author

Robyn Monro Miller attended meetings in Geneva in her capacity as International Vice President of IPA. 

Robyn is the Executive Officer of Network of Community Activities in NSW, Australia. Network is an organisation with a long and proud history of advocacy for children and has embedded in its constitutional objectives the requirement to promote and support Articles 31 and 12 in the UNCRC. 

Robyn has represented the Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) at a State and National level for the past 20 years as a member of the National Out of School Hours Services Association (NOSHSA). Most recently she was on the steering committee for the development of the first Australian school age care framework “My Time, Our Place.”

For more information please email Robyn Monro Miller through play@netoosh.org.au

This article may be reproduced with written permission, please email play@netoosh.org.au.

Communicating with families

Recently on the ACECQA Facebook page we asked how services communicate with families, and what works best.

Communicating with families can develop strong partnerships and help families to feel connected to their children’s experience in education and care. Having open and two-way communication forms an important part of NQS QA6 – Collaborative partnerships with families.

The daily interaction that occurs when families drop off and pick up children is often supported with daybooks, noticeboards and newsletters. Increasingly more and more services are beginning to introduce a range of electronic communication platforms to share and discuss information with parents.

But every service is different and unique, and the discussion on our Facebook page captured some great methods for family communication:

“Day book, newsletter, mainly face to face. I find that the most effective and makes the connection more personal.”

“We use all sorts of communication styles. From emails, newsletters, day books, display board, online survey tools, face to face discussions, phone calls and texting.”

“One of the ways my centre communicates with our lovely families is through a daily blog where they can check out what their children have been up to, can comment on activities we have done or provide suggestions. We provide upcoming events on there, recipes of the children’s favourite food that they are enjoying, anything that we think the parents might find interesting and could possibly try at home as well. We generally get great responses from the families and it’s easy as they can access the blog at work.”

Has your service recently introduced a form of electronic communication for families? If so, we would love for you to share your experience by writing a guest post for the ACECQA blog. If you are interested please send outline of your blog post idea to news@acecqa.gov.au and we will be in touch shortly.

If you would like ideas or want to share how your service communicates with families, please join the discussion on our Facebook page.