ACECQA applauds ECEC sector efforts and details progress on a range of initiatives in 2020/21 Annual Report
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has released its 2020-21 Annual Report detailing a broad range of initiatives and confirming another year of progress for the agency responsible for overseeing the delivery of nationally consistent and high quality early childhood education and care under the National Quality Framework (NQF).
Commenting on the events of 2020/21, Judy Hebblethwaite, Chair of ACECQA, said that “despite the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to deliver against our functions under the National Law, and meet our commitments under the Education Ministers Meeting’s interim Letter of Expectation and our Australian Government funding agreement.”
Ms Hebblethwaite commended “the significant and ongoing contribution of our sector, particularly the teachers and educators who work tirelessly to ensure our children continue to enjoy high quality education and care.”
This sentiment was also echoed by Gabrielle Sinclair, CEO of ACECQA who started her report by acknowledging the incredible work of Regulatory Authorities, providers and their staff in maintaining their commitment to children’s continuity of education and care while enduring the unpredictability of COVID-19 and its ongoing impact on communities, families and personal health.
Multiple initiatives completed to support enhancement of the National Quality Framework
Over the course of the reporting period ACECQA was involved in a number of initiatives designed to enhance the existing NQF structures through partnerships with state and territory Governments across Australia.
- An enquiry into the implications of extending the Disability Standards for Education to all early childhood education and care providers – Key findings from their consultation with the sector highlighted that services would like more assistance to raise awareness of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and to promote inclusive access and participation for children with disability.
- Updating the Approved Learning Frameworks to ensure they remain fit for purpose and to strengthen connections with school curricula and other related policies and frameworks. To date, a literature review has been conducted and a stakeholder discussion paper is being prepared to inform the next stage of stakeholder engagement.
- Supporting the 2019 NQF Review through the provision of policy advice, hosting the national website, and analysing the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement family and sector surveys.
ACECQA also contributed to professional learning across their Regulatory Authority partners via the delivery of a set of programs aimed at supporting authorised officers to deepen their knowledge around the NQF and assessment and rating.
Elsewhere ACECQA was also active in the operational space through engagement with the Early Childhood Policy Group (ECPG) and their Regulatory Practice Committee (RPC) where issues such as regulation amendments, sector communications, Regulatory Authority workforce training amongst others were considered and actioned.
Strengthening the capability of the ECEC sector remains a key focus
As well as its more traditional roles of managing and generating data to support reporting on NQF outcomes and promoting the benefits of the NQF and early childhood education and care (ECEC), 2020/21 saw a significant focus on workforce related matters both supply and learning related.
In October 2021 ACECQA released its National Workforce Strategy which was produced using a co-design method, and with the full support of stakeholder representatives. This ten-year strategy identifies evidence-based actions and initiatives to improve the supply, retention and quality of the sector workforce, all key issues currently facing the sector.
In addition ACECQA have worked with sector stakeholders such as member bodies of peak body the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) to develop and deliver a program for in-service professional development and also organisations that are out of scope of the NQF to build capacity and capability of services to develop and maintain a Quality Improvement Plan.
Excellent rating applications bounce back with 26 submitted in 2020/21
ACECQA is also charged with the awarding of Excellent ratings, the highest available quality rating for ECEC services, as one of its functions as stipulated under the National Law.
To be eligible to apply for the Excellent rating, a service must have received a quality rating of Exceeding NQS in all seven quality areas from their state or territory Regulatory Authority.
In the reporting period 26 applications were received which represented the largest increase since the introduction of new Exceeding eligibility benchmarks in early 2018.
The location of applying services was dominated by New South Wales, with 54 per cent of all Excellent applications coming from the state, followed by South Australia at 19 per cent and then Victoria at 15 per cent.
Following assessment of the 26 applications, 13 services were awarded the Excellent rating in 2020–21 with a total of 35 services across Australia holding the coveted rating as at 30 June 2021.
Following the traditional format dictated by the Education and Care Services National Law the 2020/21 report was submitted to the Education Ministers Meeting and will be tabled in the South Australian Parliament, as it remains the participating tabling jurisdiction.
To read this year’s report, please click here.