ACECQA issues reminder about ratios for centre based services
All centre based early childhood education and care (ECEC) services were issued with a reminder in relation to ratios, from the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) yesterday, via the organisation’s digital newsletter.
The reminder centred on a basic premise – that the Education and Care Services National Law requires that all children being educated and cared for by an education and care service must be adequately supervised at all times while in the care of the service (section 165).
Element 4.1.1 of the National Quality Standard (NQS) was highlighted, noting the role that minimum educator-to-child ratios and the purposeful organisation of educators play in securing the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and contributing to the continuous support of each child’s learning and development in an effectively supervised environment.
ACECQA further noted that “educator to child ratios are an important aspect of structural quality in education and care” outlining that the Education and Care Services National Regulations set the minimum qualification and educator to child ratio requirements for children’s education and care services.
The notion of whole of centre ratios, sometimes colloquially referred to in ECEC as “under the roof” was also addressed by the regulator, with ACECQA issuing the following guidance:
- The number of educators required is calculated based on all children in attendance at the service regardless of grouping or room configuration.
- In a mixed age group of children, an educator who is caring for one age range of children can also be counted against another age range of children, as long as the ratio for each age range is maintained and adequate supervision is maintained at all times.
- The first step is to determine the number of educators needed for the youngest age range of children in the group. Once that ratio is met, an educator can also supervise children in another age range, provided the youngest age range is still maintained.
- Maintaining the ratio for each age range of children in the mixed age group does not mean the educator to child ratio for the youngest age range must be applied to all children in an older age range.
By applying minimum educator to child ratios across the entire service, centre-based services can flexibly arrange educators in a way that effectively responds to the needs of all children.
To be included in the educator to child ratio, educators must be working directly with children (regulation 122), meaning that educators are physically present with the children and directly engaged in providing education and care to the children (regulation 13), ACECQA said, emphasising the following points:
- The National Regulations require educator to child ratios to be maintained at all times when an education and care service is operating, regardless of the activity children or educators at the service are undertaking.
- Educators should be replaced when not working directly with children (e.g. when on a scheduled lunch break or undertaking administrative tasks), however some jurisdictions have specific provisions which modify these ratio requirements when educators are taking short breaks and are not working directly with children.
- Service providers should check if jurisdiction-specific regulations or guidance apply in their state or territory and contact their regulatory authority for advice if required.
In terms of calculating ratios, ACECQA reminded centre based services that ratios are calculated using whole numbers of educators. “When you are calculating the number of educators required across your service you must round up” the Regulator noted.
- For example, if you have 7 children who are 18 months of age, the required educator to child ratio is 1:4, therefore if you divide the number of children by 4, your answer would be 1.75 educators required. Since you are unable to have 0.75 of an educator, you round up and two educators are required. Similarly, if you have 5 children aged 18 months, you are also required to have two educators, as you cannot have 0.25 of an educator.
- Whole numbers are also used to decide how many qualified educators are required. The National Regulations set qualification requirements for educators at centre-based services. Regulation 126(1)(a) stipulates that ‘at least 50 per cent of the educators who are required to meet the relevant educator to child ratios for the service must have, or be actively working towards, at least an approved diploma level education and care qualification’.
- Rounding up also applies to calculating how many educators must be qualified. For example, if your service must have 13 educators, 50 per cent of these educators equates to 6.5 educators. As you cannot have 0.5 of an educator, you must round up to 7. Having 7 qualified educators satisfies regulation 126(1)(a) as 7 is ‘at least 50 per cent’, whereas rounding down and having 6 qualified educators would be less than 50 per cent and therefore not comply with the National Regulations. ‘
Further guidance in relation to ratios is available on the ACECQA website, with the regulator directing services to review pages 429 – 433 of the Guide to the NQF, describing it as “a useful reference on how to apply educator to child ratio requirements”