‘Clearer and simpler’ star system to show A&R results causes controversy in NSW
The New South Wales Government has announced what they termed “a clearer and simpler rating system” for early childhood education and care (ECEC) services over the weekend. The intention of the new four star rating system is to make the National Quality Framework (NQF) ratings easier for parents to understand.
In a media release introducing the star rating system, NSW Education and Early Learning Minister Sarah Mitchell said the change is “something both parents and services have been calling for”.
Under the new system all NSW providers will be required to display their National Quality Standard (NQS) rating in the format of one of four stars that correlate to their NQS rating level.
The new four star format will display a service’s NQS rating as:
Exceeding NQS = 4th star
Meeting NQS = 3rd star
Working towards NQS = 2nd star
Significant Improvement Required = 1st star
Those who wish to display a fifth star, indicating an excellent rating, will need to apply for the star, and the associated rating, through ACECQA, the release noted.
Services will be required to display the stars where parents can see them clearly, and will be requested to provide more detailed rating information to parents and families at enrolment from 1 July 2020.
Ms Mitchell said the change came as a result of the NSW Government working with the ECEC sector and families to “find a better way for promoting and understanding the quality ratings”.
The announcement was swiftly responded to by ECEC professionals around the country who took to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to query the value of the change, concerned that it devalued the work of early childhood educators by placing them in the same category as food, hotels, campsites and safety ratings.
Further commentary took place across the weekend with education and care professionals wondering what critical reflection was undertaken around the introduction of the new star system, asking who was involved in the decision making process, and calling for the NSW Government to share the research which supports the idea that a star system equates families understanding of quality.
Additional questions were raised about the value and validity of the involvement of children’s entertainment character Dorothy the Dinosaur in the launch, saying that the involvement of an iconic Australian character in a profession as complex and nuanced as ECEC was “a reductionist and insulting approach”
Whilst there has been some positive feedback from those in the sector, who have welcomed the system as a way for families to more readily engage in conversations with services about their quality rating, the bulk of the feedback publically shared has focused on the concerns of those in the “front line” of service provision in NSW.
In a statement about the changes, the NSW branch of the Australian Childcare Alliance expressed “disillusionment” about the change, noting that the NSW Department of Education roadshows conducted during 2018 and 2019 have been platforms where many in the ECEC sector have “consistently and overtly raised concerns about the inconsistencies and subjectiveness of NSW’s assessment and ratings process”.
“If service providers and educators do not have faith in the current assessment and rating system, how can parents have faith in the new star rating in NSW? Instead, it will only serve to further disenfranchise the very people the NSW Government needs to implement its public policy, leaving parents none the wiser as to why their services are rated the way they are,” ACA NSW president Chiang Lim said.
More information about the new stars system can be found here.
Image source; Creativity 103