G8’s quality improvement road map revealed for the first time
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Sector.
Given the response in the mainstream media to G8 Education’s trading and strategy update last week, one would be forgiven for thinking the most important news the company shared in their release was that occupancy had matched the same levels as the year before but that wasn’t the case.
Yes, it was good news but for those of us who watch the sector and the company closely, it wasn’t news.
The quiet revolution that has been taking place behind the scenes at G8 for the last 18 months was bound to kick in eventually and as child care subsidy (CCS) related demand started to gather momentum in September, G8 was well positioned to benefit.
So although welcome, the trading performance was to some degree anticipated.
What was far less certain was whether G8 would choose this update to share more about their approach to quality and what plans were in place to drive quality improvements across the organisation.
The importance of this cannot be overstated, it is after all at the heart of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, and – as we move into next year – is going to become an increasingly important point of difference for providers looking to win the hearts and minds of families and their children.
Fortunately we were not to be disappointed.
Contained within the “strengthen the foundation” segment of the strategy, a set of slides focussing entirely on quality has been included.
The slides provide a snapshot of G8’s current quality position as rated by ACECQA; a breakdown of G8’s performance in the seven Quality Areas; a prioritised action plan; detail on how quality correlates positively with occupancy; and, a set of ambitious three-year targets for overall quality rating performance.
This is very encouraging.
It shows a clear acceptance of G8’s current quality position, a recognition that quality improvement is a priority, and a roadmap which outlines how to get there.
The roadmap targets are ambitious but necessary.
As we can see from the latest ACECQA data, G8’s current overall quality position compares favourably to the for-profit long day care segment of the sector, and to Affinity Early Education, but less favourably to the other large for-profit providers, large not-for-profit (NFP) providers and the NFP space generally.
There is certainly room for improvement when viewing G8’s performance from this perspective.
If we are to drill down into the Quality Areas, the three that are holding G8 back are Quality Areas 1, Educational program and practice, Quality Area 2, Children’s health and safety, and Quality Area 3, Physical environment.
ACECQA’s latest data on Quality Area performance confirms that G8’s performance vis a vis for-profit long day care providers is better across all 3 standards but worse when compared to NFP long day care providers.
The performance relative to other large operators in the sector is similar to that described above for the overall performance with Guardian Early Learning, Only About Children, Goodstart Early Learning, C&K and KU Children’s services outperforming G8 and in some cases very materially so.
To truly be a leader, an advocate and an inspiration for the ECEC sector across Australia, G8 will need to raise their game across the board in terms of their quality ratings.
This is not lost on Gary Carroll, CEO of G8, who has already taken significant strides to lay the groundwork for the execution of the strategy, particularly in the resourcing space.
In July 2018, Jenni Marsh joined G8 as the new General Manager of Safety, Quality and Compliance.
Ms Marsh had previously spent 10 years at NFP aged and community care provider Feros Care where she was responsible, amongst other things, for ensuring compliance with a range of regulatory and quality frameworks via maintenance of the company’s integrated quality, governance and risk management system.
Ms Marsh will have overall responsibility for driving quality through the G8 network and will be the executive held accountable for quality performance going forward.
Working with Ms Marsh will be the Head of Early Education and Learning, a new position created to own pedagogy and curriculum delivery, a recently established quality assurance function designed to assess quality performance across the network on a real-time basis and a network of team members aligned on ‘quality driven’ objectives and expectations.
And that’s only what we know so far.
“We haven’t yet finally determined what our resource model looks like,” Mr Carroll told The Sector when asked if any more investment would take place but went on to add that “the concept of also having well-qualified people in the field working with our teams and passing on knowledge, including coaching, is certainly what we see as one of the outputs of our new education team.”
Even though the resource model has not been finalised, the team are very clear as to what initiatives must be completed and rolled out to drive the change required.
Perhaps the most visible of these initiatives will be a new G8 curriculum framework that will capture not only the entirety of the National Quality Framework (NQF) but also include the cumulative experience of G8’s centre-based professionals, insights from renowned subject matter experts, and prevailing best practice to create a curriculum foundation that will provide centre-based teams with maximum resource, support and insight to deliver sector-leading programs that will more than deliver against current NQF obligations.
A second important initiative will be the rolling out of a new Child Safety and Protection program that encompasses all of the requirements of Quality Area 2 but also incorporates deeper protections informed by the recommendations forthcoming from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse . The program has been developed with the support of Bravehearts, Australia’s leading child protection organisation.
What is key to note here is that these commitments go above and beyond what is expected from the NQF and signals that G8 is not aiming to just meet their quality obligations, but to exceed them and exceed them by a wide margin.
That is exactly the type of ambition that one would want to see from the largest for profit provider in the sector.
The next leg of G8’s quality journey has now formally begun.