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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Magazine Issue 55 Winter 2014
When developing the National Quality Framework (NQF), the Australian, state and territory governments recognised that some services would need time to meet the new, and often, higher benchmark of the National Quality Standard (NQS). They also agreed all services, regardless of rating, should seek to continually improve their programs, practices, policies and procedures. For a service to be awarded an overall rating of 'Meeting' National Quality Standard or higher, it needs to meet all 18 standards and 58 elements of the NQS. The ratings against each of the seven quality areas provide meaningful information to families, educators and others about the strengths of the service as well as the areas identified for improvement. Receiving a rating of 'Working Towards' National Quality Standard does not mean the service has failed to meet any of the requirements that pose a risk to the health and safety of children. If there were any unacceptable risks to the safety, health or wellbeing, the 'Significant Improvement Required' rating would be given. To give an example, a service may be 'Meeting' or 'Exceeding' National Quality Standard in a number of quality areas, as well as having one or more quality areas rated as 'Working Towards' the National Quality Standard, so it will receive an overall rating of 'Working Towards'. As agreed, these and other aspects of the NQF will be evaluated in the Council of Australian Government's review to be undertaken later this year. What the data tells us The ACECQA quarterly snapshot, drawing on data from 31 December 2013, shows that of the 32% of the services that have received a quality rating, almost 60% have been awarded an overall rating of 'Meeting' or 'Exceeding'. The data also indicates a significant proportion of services rated 'Working Towards' are operating at a level that is very close to achieving 'Meeting' or 'Exceeding', as they may have a small number of quality areas rated as 'Working Towards'. The quarterly snapshot also reveals that services are more likely to be rated 'Meeting' or 'Exceeding' in quality areas such as staffing arrangements, relationships with children and partnerships with families and communities. Services generally find it more difficult to achieve a rating of 'Meeting' or 'Exceeding' in standards on approved learning frameworks, educational programs and sustainable environments. We know that much work is being carried out by all services to continually improve and deliver quality services to children and their families and the sector should be congratulated on the significant achievements made in implementing the NQF to date. Improving quality So what can a service do to further enhance the quality of their service and improve their rating? A good starting place is to review the Assessment and Rating Report and Quality Improvement Plan (QIP). This will help services to identify the elements that were not met in the assessment and rating process and prioritise these for improvement. Breaking down the areas identified for improvement into a series of manageable and achievable steps will substantially increase the service's likelihood of success. To build ownership and commitment, it is important to involve children, educators, management, families and other key stakeholders in identifying and prioritising strategies and goals for improvement. For example, a service reported that they put enlarged copies of their QIP in the entry foyer, along with marker pens for families and children to add their thoughts and suggestions. Assessment and Rating Report The Assessment and Rating Report provides information on elements that were not met in the assessment and rating process, as well as what evidence authorised officers collected to inform the rating decision. The report may also include suggestions for the service's QIP. It is therefore important for services to regularly review their QIP and prioritise areas for improvement. Any regulatory standards that are not met need to be prioritised for immediate consideration and action. Resources and professional development available Take time to consider what assistance and support educators will need to understand and meet the NQS and regulatory requirements. This may take the form of professional development programs or support and advice from the educational leader or a respected authority, for example, the relevant Health Department for issues related to Quality Area 2. There are a number of online and paper resources that will assist in improving the service's quality. Online resources include: • Guide to the National Quality Standard - this details the aims of each element and identifies what authorised officers may want to observe, discuss and sight in their assessment of the element. • Approved learning frameworks - Early Years Learning Framework and Framework for School Age Care. • Related educators guides - Educators Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework and Educators Guide to the Framework for School Age Care. The Guide to the National Quality Standard contains a series of reflective questions for each standard of the NQS and these are a key resource to promote discussion and improve practice. For example, if the service has prioritised taking an active role in caring for its environment and contributing to a sustainable future (Standard 3.3 of the NQS), educators could REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • WINTER 2014 - ISSUE 55 9
Issue 56 Spring 2014
Reflections Magazine Issue 54