Are you exceeding the 2018 National Quality Standard?

From 1 February 2018, new guidance on determining the Exceeding National Quality Standard (NQS) rating level for standards will apply to quality rating assessments. A rating of Exceeding NQS means going ‘above and beyond’ what is expected at the Meeting NQS level for a standard. But what does going ‘above and beyond’ mean when we focus on quality service practice and provision?

This month on We Hear You, we explore this question and examine the three Exceeding themes that services will need to demonstrate for a standard to be rated Exceeding NQS.

A rating of Exceeding National Quality Standard (NQS) means going ‘above and beyond’ what is expected at the Meeting NQS level for a standard. But what does going ‘above and beyond’ mean when we focus on quality service practice and provision?

Sector feedback suggested that more information was needed to clarify what ‘above and beyond’ means and to better explain expectations of quality at the Exceeding NQS rating level. In response, the Australian and state and territory governments, ACECQA, and education and care experts collaborated to develop new guidance that clarifies the requirements and expectations between the Meeting NQS and Exceeding NQS rating levels for each standard.

New guidance published in the Guide to the National Quality Framework outlines, for the first time, expectations of quality at the Exceeding NQS rating level. Tailored guidance for each standard includes indicators for providers, educators and authorised officers to consider if practice for that standard demonstrates the three Exceeding themes at the level required for a rating of Exceeding NQS.

Determining Exceeding NQS for standards

From 1 February 2018, services will need to demonstrate all three Exceeding themes for a standard to be rated Exceeding NQS.

Using the ‘observe’, ‘sight’, ‘discuss’ methods to collect evidence about service quality, authorised officers will now look specifically for evidence of the three Exceeding themes. Authorised officers will then consider all evidence collected to determine a service’s quality rating.

For a service to be rated Exceeding NQS for any standard, all elements that sit under the standard must be met and the service practice must reflect all three of the above Exceeding themes.

The table below outlines what is required for a service to achieve a standard-level rating of Exceeding NQS. The middle column provides an example which demonstrates that the service will be rated as Meeting NQS unless the evidence reflects all three Exceeding themes. In the right column, all three Exceeding themes are demonstrated in evidence so the service is rated Exceeding NQS.

When does this change start?

The new guidance will apply, and will be used in quality rating assessments, from 1 February 2018, to support the introduction of the 2018 NQS.

Guide to the National Quality Framework

 The National Quality Standard and Assessment and Rating chapter in the 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. The chapter includes questions to prompt providers and educators and service managers to reflect on the quality of their practice. A tailored list of indicators is included for each standard of the NQS. This provides guidance 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.

The indicators provided are not exhaustive. Services may demonstrate Exceeding level practice in a variety of ways to suit their particular operating environment and approach to practice. The indicators provide a useful prompt for critical reflection and a valuable resource to support educators in being able to express and articulate their own practices.

Where to from here?

Change can provide an opportunity to reconnect with the collective vision for the service, to reflect on professionalism and to engage in a deeper level of quality improvement. The new guidance for Exceeding NQS provides a prompt for discussion with all service stakeholders. Are the three Exceeding themes (practice embedded in service operations, practice informed by critical reflection, and meaningful engagement with families and/or the community) reflected across the 15 standards? Can educators articulate their practice in relation to the themes? Why not make this a topic for your next team and parent meetings?

Additional resources

All governments and ACECQA are committed to supporting the sector to understand and prepare for changes to the National Quality Framework. Additional resources and information on the new guidance for determining Exceeding NQS for standards are available on the ACECQA website, including an information sheet and PowerPoint slide pack.

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?

Stories from the sector: Changes to the National Quality Framework

We Hear You in name and nature! We know the children’s education and care sector is always keen to hear from other educators about their practice, how they work on continuous quality improvement and the way they manage change. This month we talk to four educators about how they are responding to the changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF) at their services.

Tracy Cripps and the children from Bees Creek OSHC and Vacation Care
Tracy Cripps and the children from Bees Creek OSHC and Vacation Care
Su Garrett, Explore and Develop Annandale

As the approved provider and director/nominated supervisor at Explore and Develop Annandale in NSW, Su Garrett is passionate about creating an environment where the needs and development of each child is a priority and educators are valued as central to children’s learning. For Su, the changes to the NQF present an opportunity to reflect on programs and refine the specialty areas of her practice.

Information and resources

“The first thing we have done to familiarise ourselves with the NQF changes is to access the resources, information sheets and FAQs available on the ACECQA website and Facebook page. One resource we have found particularly interesting was the comparison between the current and revised NQS. We used this while looking at our Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) and considered how the current goals align with the changes.”

Revised National Quality Standard (NQS)

“Our educational leader has been participating in networking meetings that have focused on the NQF changes, in particular highlighting key wording changes in elements and standards in the revised NQS.

“As a team, we have started to critically reflect on a number of questions and think about whether we really doing and what we should be doing. For example, we have closely looked at the changes to the element relating to critical reflection because the new wording speaks to critical reflection driving the program. We have also thought about how we articulate this and trying to make it more explicit.”

Quality Improvement Plan (QIP)

“It has been a little bit tricky to keep working on the current QIP while also looking at what we might want to focus on as we reflect on how we are meeting the revised standards. We definitely find the revised NQS easier to read and easier for educators to engage with it, for example Quality Area 2 is just health and safety, which is simpler and easier to understand and think through with the concept.”

Practice and reflection

“We have three specialty areas that we are very passionate about: critical reflection (as I have already mentioned), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, and sustainability. We are looking at the NQF changes and thinking about what has changed in relation to sustainability and cultural competence and what this means for our practice.”

Martina Hribar, All Areas Family Day Care

Martina Hribar, one of the managers and the educational leader at All Areas Family Day Care in NSW, is a keen advocate for high quality programs and practice that are respectful and responsive to the unique needs of children and their families. The changes to the NQF have allowed Martina and the other educators at her service a chance to streamline processes and establish collaborative networks.

Support and guidance

“We started our preparations for the NQF changes by linking with ACECQA about the changes to the National Quality Framework. We feel it’s good to reach out for extra support and guidance. We have followed this up with some internal meetings to answer any questions and to give educators a copy of the changes.”

Policies, forms and reports

“One of the first things we did was to head to the ACECQA website and get all the information about regulatory changes and think about what policies, forms and processes needed to be updated. One of the changes we have made is to our educator reports that support officers fill in when they conduct service visits. We have included information that sets out the service expectations, which they sign off once they have read and understood the changes. The report has been updated to reflect the language of the Early Years Learning Framework and concepts such as play-based learning – we find this helps to keep the language more consistent.”

Streamlining processes

“We have also taken this as an opportunity to look at streamlining our processes, including developing a new webpage with both an educator and a parent portal. This means that all educators have access to information – we receive a report that details who has accessed the portal. We find this really helpful as we can follow up with anyone who hasn’t logged in via email.”

Collaborative networks

“Lately, we have established a partnership with Miller TAFE. This is a really exciting collaborative network as they hold discussions to help unpack the Framework for School Age Care, which is relevant for the educators at our service who cater for school age care.”

Lisa Reidy, Uniting Frederick Street Preschool

Uniting Frederick Street Preschool’s director/nominated supervisor, Lisa Reidy, heads a team of educators who are passionate about creating a range of experiences and learning opportunities for children that encourage and foster investigation and imagination. At her service, the changes have opened up a space to discuss and reflect on planning and practice.  

Discussion and exchange

“Uniting is hosting a practice forum in October to discuss the NQF changes. I will be attending this forum along with 60 service directors and coordinators across our NSW and ACT network, where ACECQA Deputy National Education Leader, Perry Campbell, will be speaking. We will then network and think tank each quality area as a way of exchanging ideas about implementing change and continuing to enhance practice across our services. I plan to take these ideas back to my team at our next staff meeting and plan what our next steps will be as a group. Our main focus will be comparing the current and revised NQS and what this means at a service level.”

Tracy Cripps, Bees Creek OSHC and Vacation Care 

Director/nominated supervisor of Bees Creek OSHC and Vacation Care in the Northern Territory, Tracy Cripps, thrives on the philosophy, values and programs of her service where children are encouraged to build relationships and explore and extend interests and hobbies in an outside school hours context. For Tracy, the October 2017 changes have resulted in effective and active participation.

Embedded and effective change

“Our first thought about the key changes to notifications, incidents and complaints was we needed to make them a priority. We knew it was vital to embed them into our service before 1 October and to rethink the traditional method of ‘informing’ educators at team meetings (as it would no longer be the most effective method). I felt our educators need to not only be informed about the changes, but also know how they apply to our practice and where to find them in our guidance and policies.”

Active participation

“After some brainstorming with our educators, we agreed educators would create a before and after table/fact sheet showing the key changes to notifications, incidents and complaints and identify where our policies will be changed specific to our service – for example, our child safe environments policy and OHS Handbook. We wanted this to be a point of reference available in an accessible format to both families and educators. For me, when educators are active participants they are able to connect, retain and apply the information in daily practice.”

~o~

We hope you have found these examples of interest and they have sparked some ideas to support your own service.

What will your first or next step be?

Some starting points might include:

  • discussing the changes at your next team meeting
  • reviewing your service’s Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) and considering what might be relevant for future quality improvement goals
  • unpacking what might need to change in your service as a result of the changes
  • reviewing the new Guide to the National Quality Framework and other information sheets and resources.

For more information on the changes to the NQF, head to the ACECQA website.

Further reading and resources

ACECQA – NQS Knowledge game – The Quest for Quality

We Hear You – Leaders as agents of change

We Hear You – Leading through change