Changes to the NQF are coming – will your service be safe sleep and settling ready?
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.
While we don’t yet know the “ins and outs” of how these changes will be implemented, strong clues have been given in the Decision Regulation Impact Statement (DRIS), especially when it comes to important safety issues like safe sleep and settling.
Heavy consultation was conducted within the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector throughout the review process, with families, providers and educators telling the panel loud and clear that a lack of access to high-quality information and guidance was resulting in adverse outcomes for children attending education and care services.
One major concern across the board was about ensuring that educators are knowledgeable about safe sleep and settling practices for infants with the aim of reducing the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) (Chapter 3.2 of the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (CRIS)).
To address this risk, stakeholders recommended further guidance, information campaigns or training.
“It’s gratifying to see that safe sleep and settling has been so strongly addressed in the DRIS,” said Cindy Davenport from Safe Sleep Space and Sleep Smart. “In the wake of recent serious incidents in relation to children’s sleep and settling in ECEC services we are keen to support the sector to implement best practice solutions and to support educators to gain confidence when it comes to this important aspect of infant and toddler care.”
What are the key changes in the DRIS when it comes to sleep and settling?
In relation to sleep and rest requirements, four options have been proposed in the DRIS to address the feedback and issues raised during the consultation phase, namely:
Option C: Further guidance developed to support policies and procedures for sleep and rest.
Option D: Amend the National Regulations to specify the matters that must be included in services’ policies and procedures for sleep and rest.
Option E: Amend the National Regulations to require a risk assessment to be conducted in relation to sleep and rest, including matters that must be considered within that risk assessment.
Option G: Legislative change to require compulsory training on safe sleep practices for all family day care (FDC) educators subject to governments undertaking further research, costing and impact analysis of any proposed training and the implementation approach.
“We’re really pleased to see options C,D and E,” Ms Davenport said, cautioning that while option G would be of huge benefit to the FDC sector, she would like to see this opportunity of Safe Sleep and Settling training extended to all ECEC professionals.
“Our research with educators before and after they undertake our Sleep Smart training shows us that they make huge strides in their understanding, knowledge and confidence around safe sleep and settling best practice. This knowledge and confidence empowers them not only to communicate with parents and families, but also to support one another and work as a team to provide safe sleep environments for the children in their care.”
Sleep Smart training helps all educators, not just FDC
While safe sleep training may not be mandated for all ECEC service types, Ms Davenport believes all those who work with infants and toddlers can benefit from deepening their understanding in this vital aspect of children’s care.
Ms Davenport, a Midwife and Child and Family Health Nurse, developed her Sleep Smart: Safe Sleep and Settling training platform based on years of experience in the allied health sector, to offer a solution to common issues and risks she saw while attending services, such as putting children to sleep on their sides, bottle propping, leaving soft toys and comforters in cots, and leaving loose blankets or sheets in cots while children sleep.
Sadly, despite the numerous sources of advice and support in relation to safe sleep, children are still being put at risk daily through these unsafe practices.
Educators use these unsafe techniques, she believes, because they have not received adequate training in how to effectively settle infants and children in busy ECEC environments.
Sleep Smart was developed to address these concerns in a learning suite which recognises that ECEC isn’t the same as one on one care in a home environment. It supports educators by using a strong evidence based step by step guide to help solve sleep dilemmas.
“We understand how busy educators are,” Ms Davenport said, “and how difficult it is to find opportunities to all attend training at once.”
As such, Sleep Smart is delivered online, and is self paced, which allows educators to revisit core concepts and consolidate their learning. The NESA accredited courses also offer a refresher option, so that those who have already completed the full training can refresh their skills as needed.
“We know our training works,” Ms Davenport said. “We’ve seen that reflected in feedback from educators, but more importantly in the change in their practice and sleep environments after completing the training. Safe sleep and settling doesn’t need to be a burden on services, but it is an area which they simply cannot afford to make mistakes in.”
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