2020 NQF Annual Performance Report captures key trends in pandemic hit year
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) have released their 2020 National Quality Framework (NQF) Annual Performance Report.
The year was impacted disproportionately by COVID-19 which forced a number of major changes across the early childhood education and care sector of Australia.
Commenting Judy Hebblethwaite, Chair of ACECQA, said in the Foreword that “The past year has been dominated by the global coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has had an immense impact across the world, causing rapid changes unimaginable a relatively short time ago.”
“The pandemic has made clear our challenges, including workforce sustainability, educator wellbeing, provider and service viability, and the diverse nature of our sector where one size can’t fit all.”
“These challenges require ongoing attention and action by all stakeholders. However, the NQF has proven itself a solid framework for navigating major crises, with the best interests of children at its core.”
The key trends picked up in this year’s report include but are not limited to the following:
- Impact of COVID-19 on the number of approved providers has been limited – The impact of COVID-19 on the number of service providers approved to operate appears to have been limited with an annual decline of 36 providers, around 0.4 per cent recorded on 30 June 2020, compared to the same period last year. A combination of aggressive policy responses from both Federal and State Governments is likely to have contributed to this result. (Page 15 of report.)
- Surveys of teachers and educators highlighted positives and negative impacts from COVID-19 – A recent survey of teachers and educators found the workforce adapted rapidly to the onset of COVID-19 and that a range of opportunities for both personal and practice related improvements presented themselves. That being said, the survey also highlighted significant falls in job security and a sense that the sector, although it was agreed to be working well before COVID-19, was vulnerable during it with emphasis placed on a need to simplify systems. (Page 15 of report.)
- Overall rate of serious incidents steady year on year but confirmed breaches quite substantially higher – The rate of serious incidents increased to 103 per 100 approved services in 2019/20 up from 102 in 2018/19, with long day care (LDC) and family day care (FDC) showing rises, particularly the latter. Confirmed breaches were substantially higher this year overall driven by a big jump in FDC due to process changes at the recording level and more broadly across settings due to an increased focused by state and territory regulators with requirements of the National Law and Regulations. (Page 23 of report.)
- Top National Law and Regulations breaches remain consistent with prior years – Section 167 – ensuring that every reasonable precaution is taken to protect children from any harm and any hazard likely to cause injury and Section 165 – ensuring all children being educated and cared for by the service are adequately supervised at all times continue to be the top Law breaches with Regulation 97 – emergency and evacuation procedures and Regulation 103 – premises, furniture and equipment to be safe, clean and in good repair the top Regs breaches. (Page 25 of report.)
- Notable improvements in Quality Area 1 performance year on year – Standards 1.1 (Program), 1.2 (Practice) and 1.3 (Assessment and planning) remain amongst the most challenging standards in the NQS but notably this year there was a jump of 3 percentage points of services meeting NQS or above for standard 1.3 compared to last year. 87 per cent of LDC services now rate meeting or exceeding for QA1 up from 85 per cent last year. (Page 28 of report.)
- ACECQA commissioned research highlights influential factors to quality improvement in educational program and practice – Research commissioned in 2019 highlighted for area that could influence programming and practice namely; maximising learning opportunities for children, guided by knowledge of the Early Years Learning Framework and Framework for School Age Care, with a focus on supporting children’s agency and rights, sustained commitment to improvement, notably through educator collaboration and critical reflection, service philosophy as the foundation of practice and involving families and the local community in broad and meaningful ways. (Page 32 of report.)
- Services in the most advantaged areas report materially higher proportion of Exceeding NQS centres than their disadvantaged peers – Services located in areas defined as most and least disadvantaged as measured by the Socio – Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) showed marked differences in quality performance, particularly in the Exceeding NQS category. Overall 35 per cent of services in the most advantaged areas were rated Exceeding NQS whereas only 26 per cent achieved the same rating in the most disadvantaged areas. (Page 34 of report). The difference between the proportion of services rated meeting NQS or above from both cohorts is now at its widest. (Page 34 of report.)
- Vocational education enrolment numbers diverge, Cert III’s rise, Diploma’s fall – Although the number of educators enrolling in the Certificate III in ECEC rose in 2019, the number enrolling in the Diploma of ECEC dropped materially for the third year running. Diploma enrolments were 48,105 in the year, down from 74,955 three years earlier. The ECT trends are also less then positive with falls recorded in 2018, the last year of data available. (Page 43 of report.)
- Proportion of services with staffing waivers leaps to 6.4 per cent overall, LDC at 10.5 per cent – The percentage of services with waivers reached 6.4% as at 30 June 2020, up from 4.5% as at 30 June 2019, and 3.9% as at 30 June 2018 and 2017 with the recent jumps likely a function of new staffing requirements introduced on 1 January 2020 and also the ongoing impact of COVID-19. LDC has been particularly hard hit with 10.5 per cent of services holding waivers. (Page 46 of report.)
The National Quality Framework (NQF) Annual Performance Report is released annually as part of ACECQA’s responsibility to evaluate and report on the implementation and administration of the National Quality Framework as detailed in the Education and Care Services National Law. Annual reporting also includes NQF Snapshots, national audits, occasional papers as well as the Annual Performance Review.
To read more of ACECQA’s reports please click here.
To read the 2020 National Quality Framework (NQF) Annual Performance Report please click here.