All levels of Government agree on amendments to the NQF to commence mid-2023

All levels of Government agree on amendments to the NQF to commence mid-2023

by Freya Lucas

June 21, 2022

Commonwealth, state and territory education ministers have reached an agreement on changes to be made to the National Quality Framework (NQF), based on findings from the 2019 NQF review, the bulk of which commence mid 2023. 

 

Important changes are outlined in the Decision Regulation Impact Statement (DRIS) to recognise uniqueness of OSHC comparative to early childhood, including: 

 

  • an increase in the financial penalties for breaches of the National Law and Regulations;
  • changes to services that operate in multi-storey buildings; and, 
  • changes to how outside school hours care (OSHC) services are assessed and rated.

 

The 2019 NQF Review recommended changes to the Education and Care Services National Law and National Regulations, as well as additional guidance for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector to enhance children’s health, safety and wellbeing.

 

The review process included consultation with the ECEC sector, families and the broader community on proposed options for change. A summary of the proposals and final decisions made by Ministers has been shared below, with further information about the decisions and how they were reached available in the DRIS.

Changes fall into four broad categories – safety, compliance, workforce and regulation. 

These changes include the introduction of new policies, procedures and risk assessments to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children in education and care, while transparency and accountability from and for Regulatory Authorities is a key aspect of the changes in the compliance space. 

 

New workforce requirements, such as increasing mandatory minimum qualification requirements for family day care (FDC) educators and alleviating staffing requirements during short-term absences are outlined, along with a push to improve educator knowledge around what is considered best practice, and an update to the Guide to the National Quality Framework, and other Government resources, to provide support. 

The bulk of the changes will involve updates to the National Law and Regulations so that regulatory changes can come into effect from mid-2023 in all states and territories. 

Changes to regulations around regular transportation of children by ECEC services are expected to be fast tracked, and to come into play from early 2023, as a result of recent incidents where serious harm has occured to children left in vehicles while in the care of services. 

 

It is anticipated that guidance around the changes will start to circulate within the sector from early in 2023 to ensure that services are familiar with the changes before they come into effect from mid-year. 

 

ACECQA will provide more detailed information to explain the changes over coming months, including notification about the commencement dates for each of the agreed changes.

 

A summary of the major changes presented in the DRIS appears below. For more information, refer to the DRIS, here

 

Children’s health and safety

 

  • Schools to develop policies and procedures about safe transfer to and from outside school hours care (OSHC) services (DRIS p. 102) 

 

  • Updated guidelines for sleep and rest, changes to National Regulations about what must be included in sleep and rest policies, updates on sleep and rest risk assessments and what must be included in them, compulsory safe sleep training for all (FDC) educators. (DRIS p. 115) 

 

  • Additional staff member must be present when children are getting on or off ECEC transport, new resources to support the sector to understand ratio, qualification and supervision requirements on transport, with separate guidance for FDC. (DRIS p. 125) 

 

  • Rules for services who operate in multistorey buildings will change, and regulatory authorities will be asked to pay special attention when providing service approval to consider the direct access to safe evacuation areas when assessing service premises, particularly for very young children and children unable to walk. In Victoria and the ACT, the service approval process will be amended to require approved providers wishing to operate a centre-based service in a multi-storey building to apply to the regulatory authority for pre-approval of development and building plans for the proposed premises prior to development and construction. (DRIS p. 134) 

 

Royal Commission-based changes 

 

  • The NQF will be amended and guidance will be prepared for the ECEC sector to address identified gaps between the Child Safe Principles and the NQF. (DRIS p. 143) 

 

  • New guidance will be prepared around record keeping in relation to child protection (DRIS p. 151) 

 

FDC-specific changes 

 

  • FDC providers should anticipate changes that will allow regulatory authorities to identify and provide time-critical support during emergency situations to ensure the safety of children, perhaps through the use of an online portal (DRIS p. 159) 

 

  • Approved providers will be required to include details of FDC educators operating with more than 7 children, or more than 4 children preschool age or under, due to exceptional circumstances, on the FDC register. (DRIS p. 164) 

 

  • Additional safeguards for FDC residences with swimming pools, and new resources about water safety in FDC (DRIS p. 168) 

 

  • 0.75m height requirement for safety glass in all FDC residences, along with new resources about glass safety in FDC. (DRIS p. 177) 

 

OSHC-specific changes 

 

  • Changes to how OSHC services are assessed and rated, to recognise uniqueness of OSHC comparative to early childhood (DRIS p. 185) 

 

Workforce 

 

  • Regulation 135 will be amended to include resignation and practicum placement as allowable reasons for short term absence. Primary school teachers will be able to replace Cert III and Diploma qualified educators for a period of up to 30 days (DRIS p. 191) 

 

  • New guidance for providers to ensure that staff who are “actively working towards” a qualification are making sufficient progress. (DRIS p. 197) 

 

  • FDC educators will need a Cert III minimum qualification before commencing, and the ‘actively working towards’ option will cease. (DRIS p. 202) 

 

Quality ratings and fees

 

  • New guidance for the community about quality ratings (DRIS p.209) 

 

  • Annual fees, approved provider applications, service approval applications and transfer of service application fees will all increase. A new fee will be introduced for approval applications for amendment to service approval, which is currently free. (DRIS p. 214) 

 

  • The application fee for a Second Tier Review will increase, along with the application fee for assessment of a course to be included as an approved qualification. (DRIS p. 223) 

 

Governance of services and providers

 

  • The definition of ‘person with management or control’ (PMC) of a service in the National Law will align with the definition of PMC of an approved provider body in the Commonwealth Family Assistance Law. (DRIS p. 229) 

 

  • If a provider approval is refused or cancelled under Family Assistance Law, in relation to  fitness and propriety and/or a breach of the NQF, provider approval under the NQF will receive the same outcome (DRIS p. 237)

 

  • Updated guidance about the service transfer process and how to communicate this to families. Services will have 60 days to notify the Regulatory Authority of transfer, and families will need seven days notice instead of the current two. (DRIS p. 241) 

 

  • New offenses for providers who fail to notify Regulatory Authorities about changes to the ages of children being cared for and the nature of care. (DRIS p. 246) 

 

Technical amendments 

 

  • Providers must notify the regulatory authority if regular transport is provided or arranged as part of their service. (DRIS p. 252)

 

  • FDC educators to display a diagram showing the areas of the residence where the approved provider has conducted a risk assessment. (DRIS p. 255) 

 

  • All Tasmanian services will be required to meet all NQF Physical Environment requirements. (DRIS p. 257) 

 

  • Excellent rating will stay in place for five years (currently valid for three years). (DRIS p. 259) 

 

  • OSHC services in Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria will no longer need individual child-level documentation of learning for children over preschool age. (DRIS p. 264) 

 

Other amendments to the National Laws and Regulations outside of DRIS 

 

  • The maximum penalties in the NQF will be increased by 14.9 per cent to bring them in line with inflation.

 

  • A full-time equivalent FDC coordinator must be employed when the number of educators ranges between 1 and 15 (when there is a 1:15 ratio applied and the service has been operating for under 12 months) or 1 and 25 (when there is a 1:25 ratio applied and the service has been operating for more than 12 months). For FDC services that have operated over 12 months, adjusting the requirements after the initial 1 FDC Coordinator to 25 educators, so that an additional 0.2 FTE FDC Coordinator is needed for every 5 additional educators.

 

  • Ratings certificates to be clearly visible at any FDC residence or venue used to provide education and care as part of an FDC service. 

 

  • Prescribe currency periods for first aid qualifications and other health and safety training in the National Regulations. 

 

  • Amendment to National Regulations to clarify that escorting children by walking is within the scope of regulation 144(4).
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