There have been a few questions on the Facebook pages I follow about what services need to do to prepare for an assessment and rating visit. Sometimes these are a call for help, sometimes a request for confirmation the service's team are on the right track. There's always that sense of nervousness, even if the team is confident the service is operating well and meeting the National Quality Standard. This nervousness also happens on the second time around when services have already been rated Meeting or Exceeding.
The nervousness comes from that fear of not doing well, of failing to meet standards and therefore failing their families and community. Staff changes can mean that few of the educators and leaders were present for the previous assessment or staff may have been involved in an assessment that didn't go well. Let's face it, none of us like having our practice and the practice of our service put in high focus by regulatory authority officers or any other offical government visitor.
Having been in the role of official government visitor, and experienced first hand the nervousness of being 'inspected', I'm seeking through this post to put teams at ease around visits by providing some information about how this all works and why it's important.
So why are services assessed and rated?
The short answer, education and care services are assessed against the National Quality Standard to ensure they provide a safe and engaging learning environment for children. All people want children to be safe and well cared for and this is one way to check how well this is done in education and care services.
The National Law and Regulations provide a legislative platform for the quality improvement of education and care services for all Australian states and territories. The National Regulations outline the process for assessing and rating education and care services against the National Quality Standard. The National Quality Framework shows how the legislation ties together and the Guide to the National Quality Standard provides services with the details needed to guide them towards meeting legislated standards.
Education and care services are assessed and rated by trained authorised officers from local regulatory authorities. Authorised officer training is undertaken by ACECQA for all states and territories, and ACECQA provide guidance to the sector about the process and other matters of quality improvement. By training the authorised officers (lets call them assessors here), ACECQA is working hard to ensure national consistency in both the rating services receive and the processes of regulatory authorities. They also ensure services are kept informed by providing information and training. The ACECQA website is a mine of useful information, take some time to explore what's on offer.
So, what do services need to do to ensure the assessors visit is successful?
Again a short answer, show the assessors how leaders and educators are providing a safe and engaging environment for children. Demonstrate how quality improvement is embedded in practice and how this impacts on outcomes for children, their families, educators and the community. Share and celebrate your place and your education and care community.
Services are required by law to be working on a program of quality improvement and documenting this in a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP). This involves educators and leaders knowing what they do well and what they need to work on. Critically reflecting on these aspects of practice, enables educators and leaders to plan how they will improve practice over time. The QIP provides assessors with an insight into how your service operates so it's important the QIP is a living document with evidence of how the team is working on the QIP goals.
During the visit, assessors follow a set routine as they gather evidence to determine ratings. Assessors will observe practice, observe interactions with children and families and look at the resources and environments. They will takes notes on what they see and check these examples meet standards.
Assessors will discuss the practices they see and ask questions of educators, leaders and families. They will be looking at what you do and asking you to explain why you do what you do, in other words to critically reflect on your practice and justify this professionally. This is the time for educators and leaders to shine, to showcase intentional practice and engage in professional discussions with assessors. Remember by discussing practices, assessors just want to clarify how these are meeting standards and they may also provide you with some suggestions about practices.
Assessors will sight documents required by law, like the QIP, and look for evidence of how the standards are being met in policies. Assessors will take note of what is written in policies and procedures and check these are being followed by all educators, for example the nappy changing procedure must be followed by all educators changing nappies. They will check how you are implementing the approved learning framework for your service type; how the principles, practices and learning outcomes are embedded in planning for and assessment of children.
It's important to not doing anything differently on the day with the aim of impressing assessors. Children will tell on you, you know they will! Seriously, assessors want to see business as usual on their visits so they can give an accurate assessment of practice. It makes educators more nervous if they are asked to do something different on the day. This is often reflected in their practice and will therefore reflect in the rating.
Assessors are not there to trick educators and leaders. They are there seeking to find evidence of how standards are being met so they can accurately rate the service overall. Assessors want services to provide quality education and care so use their visit to seek feedback on how you can improve practice at your service.
And finally, enjoy your visit! Use it as a professional learning opportunity and share your successes.
Please let me know if you would like more information about the assessment and rating process and how to prepare for your visit. I can come and visit your service to review how well prepared you are and give you some feedback for improvement. You can contact me on 0452 374 733 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.