The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority, more commonly known as ACECQA, has announced changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF) from October 2017. This is big news for our sector. I will endeavour to outline what this might mean for you with my interpretation of the changes and content from and links to the ACECQA website.
The upcoming changes to the legislation have been discussed for some time and the Regulatory Impact Statement or RIS explored the possible impacts of these changes on the sector. Many of you may have had the opportunity to provide feedback along the way when consultation with the sector occurred. A summary of the changes as they relate to the RIS can be found on the ACECQA website.
Key changes include:
- A revised National Quality Standard (NQS) to strengthen quality through greater clarity, remove conceptual overlap between elements and standards and clarify language
- Improved oversight and support within Family Day Care to achieve better compliance and quality across the whole sector
- Removing supervisor certificate requirements so service providers have more autonomy in deciding who can be the responsible person in each service, and to reduce red tape
- Introduction of a national educator to child ratio of 1:15 for services providing education and care to school age children. Transitional arrangement and saving provisions apply in some states and territories.
Changes will commence on 1 October 2017 in all states and territories (except Western Australia which will commence by 1 October 2018). The revised NQS and some related changes will commence on 1 February 2018.
The October 2017/February 2018 timeline gives services time to explore how the changes might affect them; allows state regulatory authorities time to change how they assess and rate services; and allows bodies such as ACECQA time to develop supporting information to assist regulatory authorities and services to implement these changes.
The most important thing the sector can do at this point is to take note of the changes that will affect them, for example changes to family day care should not affect a long day care service while the revision of the NQS affects all services. Services due to be assessed and rated prior to February 2018 should be rated using the current NQS content and process.
The changes to the NQS are positive ones with the removal of the ambiguity of some of the standards and underlying elements. The revised NQS reduces the number of standards from 18 to 15, and reduces the elements from 58 to 40. The wording of the new standards and elements are designed to provide clarity about what these look like in practice, with the aim of improving national consistency in the assessment and rating of services.
When I completed my Authorised Officer training, I found it time consuming to rate each of the current 58 elements as met or not met. This was due in part to the overlaps within the elements and across the standards. These required checking to ensure consistency and fairness. The reduction to 40 elements should support authorised officers to complete their assessments more efficiently and support services to review and implement the elements more effectively. It should be clearer what is required so all stakeholders better understand how to implement the NQS.
There are also changes to the Exceeding and Excellent ratings. The new requirement from February 2018 for the Exceeding rating is that all standards in a Quality Area need to be rated Exceeding NQS for that Quality Area to be rated Exceeding NQS. This means that services currently rated Exceeding while having a Meeting rating for some of the standards, would be rated as Meeting the NQS after the February 2018 changes, not Exceeding. Only services with all standards rating as Exceeding would be rated Exceeding the NQS.
Currently, services with an Exceeding rating overall can apply for an Excellent rating. That means if some of the standards are Meeting, services can still apply. Post February 2018, only services rated Exceeding NQS in all Quality Areas will be eligible to apply. The removal of the fee for Excellent rating applications should encourage more Exceeding services to apply for an Excellent rating. Current information about how to apply is here.
The removal of the supervisor certificate requirements mean service providers have more autonomy in deciding who can be the responsible person in each service. The process for supervisor certificates was updated in 2014 and the current information can be found here.
This is the first of a series of blogs about the upcoming changes to the NQF. I will keep posting as more information and resources become available. I know from my time working at ACECQA that the team there will be working hard to ensure you have the resources and guidance to be able to implement these changes as they occur.
Please contact me on 0452 374 733 or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information.