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Written by Heather Barnes OAM, Early Childhood Consultant

The start of the year is always busy with new children and families settling in, new staff to be inducted and supported and a myriad of other conflicting pressures on your time. You will have received updates from ACECQA about the changes to the NQF and you may have skimmed it quickly and then parked it in your ‘To read when I have time’ file! Those of you who anticipate having an Assessment and Rating visit in early 2018 may have read widely about the changes so that you are prepared and so that there are no nasty surprises!

This article is designed to give you a quick update about the changes and will provide some links for further information to save you having to hunt for it.

As a result of consultations and a review of the NQF there have been changes to the Regulations that came in on 1 October last year and the revised NQS began on 1 February this year.

The revised Guide to the NQF is on the ACECQA website and has been designed as an online PDF document and will be updated as required, but a printed copy can be ordered. 

The Introduction includes some useful information about the Guiding Principles of the NQF on pages 10 and 11. It is important that services know about them as they are referred to within the Guide to the NQS.

Section 3. National Quality Standard and Assessment and Rating includes the Guide to the NQS and begins on page 87.

Key changes to the Regulations

  • Certified supervisors and supervisor certificates were removed from the National Law, to reduce red tape for approved providers.

    (See ACECQA’s Information sheet - Responsible person requirements for approved providers) 

  • As an approved provider you must notify the regulatory authority of certain incidents and allegations while a child or children are being educated and cared for by the service. 
    ‘This must include:
    - any incident where you reasonably believe that physical and/or sexual abuse of a child has occurred or is occurring while the child is being educated and cared for by the service
    - any allegation that sexual or physical abuse of a child has occurred or is occurring while the child is being educated and cared for by the service.’

    (See ACEQA’s Information Sheet - Key changes to notifications, incidents and complaints, and also further information on Approved Provider Reporting Requirements about children in education and care services.) 
  • Policies and procedures about children’s sleep and rest must be in place in all children's education and care services. ‘They should be based on current research and recommended evidence-based principles and guidelines. Red Nose  (formerly SIDS and Kids) is considered the recognised national authority on safe sleeping practices for infants and children.’

    (See ACECQA’s Information on Safe Sleep and Rest Practices)

Key changes to the NQS:

  • The names of the quality areas have stayed the same except that QA 7 is now called Governance and Leadership instead of Leadership and Service Management.

  • The number of elements have been reduced from 58 to 40 and there are now 15 standards instead of 18. This removes overlap with the Regulations and between Quality Areas. If you want to see what’s changed see ACECQA’s Information Sheet on the comparison between the original and the revised NQS.

  • You will notice that the language is clearer and each standard and element has a concept that helps educators understand what each of them is about.

  • The examples that Assessors may ‘observe, sight and discuss’ have been strengthened so it’s important to review each element. There are some inclusions that were not there in the original. For example, Standard 1.1 Element 1.2.3 Educators may sight: use of open-ended resources and materials that allow children to express themselves (rather than using templates, stencils or resources that limit children’s capacity to create, interpret, experiment and explore).

  • Questions to prompt critical examination of your practice in relation to each standard have also been revised.

  • All standards now only have two standards except for Quality Area 1. It has 3 standards to reflect the three primary contributors to quality education: programs, practice, and assessment and planning.

  • There is new guidance for services and assessors on determining the Exceeding NQS rating for standards. The guidance unpacks the difference between the Meeting NQS and Exceeding NQS rating levels for standards. (ACECQA Information Sheet: New guidance on determining exceeding NQS for standards. See also the video Guidance on the Exceeding NQS Themes in ACECQA’s Newsletter Issue 4 2018

  • All standards in each Quality Area (including QA 1) will need to be rated Exceeding NQS for that Quality Area to be rated Exceeding. There are no changes to the way in which the overall rating for Exceeding is calculated, i.e. at least four quality areas need to be at Exceeding and the other three need to be Meeting. At least two of the Quality Areas need to be from QA 1, 5, 6 and 7.

Suggestions to get your head around it and to assist your teams

  • Read the Guide to the NQS thoroughly. Break it down into bite-size chunks as it is hard to take in all at once and there is a lot of detail. There are important reminders about best practice in there. As you read it, create a ‘to do’ list of anything you want to alert your team about or to include in your QIP.

  • Be a positive role model about the changes. The NQF is designed to be an aspirational system where all services, no matter what level of quality they have already achieved, are encouraged to continuously reflect, self-assess and work on further quality improvements so that outcomes for all children are positive.

  • Make sure that you have alerted all staff to the changes in the Regulations, particularly in relation to Child Protection notifications.

  • Amend your sleep policy and procedures to reflect the new expectations and information from Red Nose if not already included.

Best wishes as you transition to the revised NQF.

Coming soon – Making sure that your QIP is useful and effective in highlighting your strengths and guiding continuous improvement.