Working to uplift quality in NSW
Together the NSW Government and the sector are driving quality improvement and promoting the value of early childhood education and school-aged care.
In 2019, the NSW Government committed to investing in initiatives designed to drive quality improvement across the early childhood education and school aged care sector by a number of improving in the assessment and ratings processes and supporting service and educator engagement through resources and professional development.
This commitment is an essential step by the government to ensure NSW children have the best possible start in life. Many of the initiatives that have been developed by the NSW Department of Education, are underway and are having positive impacts on the sector’s quality landscape.
The Quality Support Team was established in November 2019 to engage with and support services on their quality improvement journey. The team provides services with guidance on self-assessment and their quality improvement journey, supports them to prepare for assessment and rating and ensures authorised officers have the tools and resources they need when conducting service visits.
Since November 2019, the Quality Support Team has supported over 700 services to conduct a reflective self-assessment against the National Quality Standard (NQS) which prepares them for their assessment and rating. We know when educators have a good understanding of what guides their practice, they are able to work together in the quality improvement space which has a direct impact on outcomes for children.
“My experiences working with the quality support team, during the assessment and rating process were very positive. I felt that they were very supportive in terms of offering help anytime I needed it and whoever I spoke to was very understanding and reassuring, particularly as it was my first time going through assessment and rating. They were instrumental in helping us to keep our calm and reminding us that we were on the right track with what we were doing,” Domenico Garzarella, Service Director, Only About Children Leichhardt Norton Street said.
Nadine Baxter, a senior field officer and member of the quality support team, said a key aim for the team is to build sector confidence in self-assessment which is key to continuous improvement.
“I find it exciting to talk to services about our approach to assessment and rating with the inclusion of the service’s self-assessment information. Services are relieved to know that their voices have been heard and that they’re able to share their key practices in a clear and concise manner as we recognise that they know their unique service best,” she said.
Self-assessment is certainly changing how the sector engages with the assessment and rating process and the results speak for themselves, with approximately 85 per cent of services who engage with self-assessment reaching Meeting the NQS or above.
Quality improvement opportunities for services with a Working Towards rating
The government’s commitment to ensure consistency and efficiency in the assessment and rating process as well as uplifting quality has led to two initiatives for services currently rated at Working Towards the NQS.
ACECQA Quality Support Program
Firstly, there is the Quality Support Program which was formed in partnership between the NSW Department of Education and ACECQA. Funded by the department and delivered by ACECQA, this 18 week program aims to improve the quality of participating services to Meeting the NQS or higher and to improve participants’ knowledge of and confidence in the NQS.
The program includes:
- Face-to-face visits
- Online training modules
- Tailored telephone, email, videoconference support from a designated experienced support facilitator.
The results so far are extremely positive with 95 per cent of participating services improving on NQS elements met by an average of 10 elements. Other stand out results include:
- Long day care services were 2.25 times more likely to achieve an overall rating of Meeting NQS or above if they participated in the program.
- Services from more socio-economically disadvantaged areas improved by 11 NQS elements met on average if they participated compared to only 4.5 elements met for non-participants.
Feedback from service leaders has also shown an increase in confidence in preparing for assessment and rating and improvement in team morale and collaboration.
“We cannot speak highly enough of the program, process and especially our support officer. She was patient, supportive and understanding with the team and took the time to understand our service and what we needed ensuring that her support was specific to our mode of service delivery!! We have been telling everyone who will listen how amazing the Quality Support Program is!!” Feedback from Mary Repole, participant of the program.
Eligible services can submit expressions of interest to join the program through ACECQA.
NSW Reassessment and Re-rating Initiative
The second initiative has been designed to allow services with a current rating of Working Towards the NQS, the opportunity to apply for reassessment and re-rating if they believe they have implemented effective strategies to lift their quality practices. The fee usually associated with re-rating is also waived.
As part of this initiative, the department’s Quality Support Team will connect with the service and support them through the self-assessment process.
“We’ve got a number of our services doing the reassessment and re-rating initiative and we’ve found it to be a really positive experience and I’d definitely recommend other services to engage in this process. It’s been a really great way to work in collaboration with the department’s quality support team to improve outcomes for children, for services, and for educators,” Belinda Wright, General Manager NSW/ACT, Camp Australia shared.
Sector development and support
Sector development and support covers numerous professional development initiatives that are run to ensure educators and services are supported to provide quality early childhood education and care.
The initiatives include training and resources on a range of issues such as mental health, physical health, policies and practice, and professional support.
The initiatives are constantly being reviewed so they can respond to changes and challenges within the sector, and are focused on giving services and educators the tools required to drive their own quality improvement.
Many of these initiatives are available now and include:
- mental health and wellbeing webinars
- sleep and rest resources
- supporting children’s health videos and resources
- risk management in children’s services webinars
- COVID-19 resources
- outdoor learning resources
- emergency and incident management resources
- safe transportation of children resources.
A range of Sector Development Programs are also currently being developed and include sleep and rest training and professional development support through peer networks and mentoring.
To learn more about any of the initiatives in this article, please visit the NSW Department of Education website.