‘The National Quality Framework – The Musical!’ - So Long, Farewell…
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‘The National Quality Framework – The Musical!’ – So Long, Farewell…

by Freya Lucas

November 18, 2022

Many early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals have been captivated, delighted and inspired by the unique professional development experience which is The National Quality Framework – The Musical!


Capturing the experience of early childhood educators in everyday practice, the two characters – Red (Educational Leader) and Lou (Coordinator) take the audience through the professional and emotional experience of daily life in an early childhood setting. 


The key events that occur in four acts during the musical are: 


– Notice of Assessment 

– Reflective Practice 

– Assessment and Rating 

– Social Justice and The Arts 


Through these four acts, Red and Lou express thoughts, feelings and practices that educators have reported on anecdotally, through first hand experience, and in research projects pertaining to educators’ experiences of the National Quality Framework and the regulatory landscape more broadly. 


Through witty dialogue, music and dance, these experiences are enacted in order to acknowledge the complexity of the profession as well as reassure educators that they can engage confidently in their everyday practices. 


With the very successful run coming to a close, and a triumphant farewell performance to be held in Sydney on the 23rd of November, we caught up with Dr Red Ruby Scarlet & Louise Dorrat to learn more about their journey in bringing their dream to life



Where it all began


“The first time we met face to face we got straight to it and performed a song together at the Social Justice in Early Childhood conference in Melbourne in 2015,” Red explained.


“I suggested to Louise that we write and perform a musical about the NQF, a suggestion which was met with an unequivocally professed and resounding NO.”


In subsequent visits to each other’s home towns (Lou Naarm, Red Gadigal) where lots of playfulness with musical theatre and the NQF transpired – Red sat down one day and wrote the initial script – and sent it to Lou.


Lou read it and found herself in it – at which point she decided to play herself in the musical. Red had illusions of playing Lou but alas – Lou had already taken the role. 


Red and Lou wanted to “challenge the myths and never ending debates” on Facebook that purported misinformation about the NQF and the profession.  


“We wanted to give educators the ‘theatre experience’ because we knew (as dramaturgical thespians) that robust knowledge and research could be delivered in a fun, inclusive and empathetic way – and so the musical was born,” Red shared.


The first show was performed at C&K in Brisbane in 2019 – and there began the sensational musical movement that has now played in every state and territory along with numerous regional events across the country. 


“It has morphed and changed along the way as we have been responsive to the audiences and the issues we wanted to address in the musical,” Red continued.


“We had a year of musicals booked in 2020 but of course COVID came. While we had the opportunity to perform 3 shows in 2021 – we realised that while we were heartily disappointed at the time – being able to take the musical around the country in 2022 was perfect timing as it had become a healing experience for many – in that it was often the first time folks could be face to face for so long. We didn’t realise the musical would or could be such a special part of the much needed post-COVID reconnection.”


The profession was overwhelmingly so nervous about assessment and rating along with all of the other complexities such as documentation diverse gender identities, art (or ‘the art part’ as Lou says) social justice, QIP and the emotional and intellectual experience of what it means to work in the profession in the context of the national quality framework.

 A spectrum of emotions as educators embrace a new form of professional development


The way in which the musical has been received by the profession was beyond the wildest imaginings of the creators. 


“The comments and feedback were utterly overwhelming. We were brought to tears by some, giggled with others sharing their funny stories and recognised that the theatre experience brought something to learning that no other kind of professional development experience does,” Lou said.


Some of the feedback included: 


  • ‘While watching this performance, I was thinking – how do they know how I feel?’
  • ‘Every educator who goes through assessment and rating must see this – brilliant!’
  • ‘This is exactly what I needed after spending a whole night writing up our QIP. Lifted my spirits and gave me ideas to support educators who don’t have deep knowledge of theory. Out of this world – totally loved it!’  


“In terms of our own experience – well the remembering and forgetting of lines is always fun when you have a ‘developmentalist’ (Lou) and a squiggly ‘posthumanist’ (Red) on the same team,” Red continued. 


“That’s also what created the majik in that the perspectival diversity that the musical embodies. Folks have said that they feel like part of the relationship because it plays out on stage in a way that embraces the audience.”


“The other ‘fun’ part has been the ‘surprises’ we have brought to each other on stage unbeknownst to the other. Moon Unit’s sun cream, leg warmers, wheely bags, Chakra’s acid drops and very large NQF blue prescription glasses.”


During the season both Red and Lou celebrated milestone birthdays, with Lou turning 60 and Red turning 50. To celebrate Lou’s birthday, she received a “LouDo Dolly” in the image of her musical character, while Red was given a ‘cake free’ cake. 


“The audience often didn’t know what was going on but rolled with it all, highly engaged and with enjoyment to be part of the special celebrations,” Red told us.


Professional development that brings growth for its creators 


When asked to reflect on the biggest learning throughout the process, the creators shared that while there are always skeptics who will wonder about the validity of musical theatre as a form of professional development, they were delighted at the response received. 


“We learned that our background in the dramatic arts has been activated to become valued and important for folks in how we deliver the importance of taking early childhood seriously,” Red said. 


“The response to advocacy has been extraordinary. Lots of the feedback has pertained to educators feeling empowered to speak up about the profession as educators so that the stories told about us are authored by us. This makes us very happy.”

“Feeling good about yourself is important when you’re working with children and in teams of people who are so undervalued and under recognised,” Lou added. 


“In our opening prologue we state: 


“Early childhood education is a profession that experiences discrimination from a number of different angles. Structurally in ways that attempt to restrict, demean, and keep small the very essence of who we are as a feminised profession. 


Musicals are written about influential people, extraordinary stories and major historical events. We value the early childhood profession so much that we felt it worthy of a musical. This musical is research based. It is written by teachers for teachers about our lived intraentwinglements with the profession and what it generates.  


This musical is for you. It is about you. You will find yourself and your colleagues within it. And the stories will resonate with the culture of who we are as a profession.”


Follow your creative passions, knowing help is at hand


When asked if they had any tips for fellow ECEC professionals who would like to take a creative approach to sharing their learning and wisdom with the broader sector, both Red and Lou said “give us a call!” 


“We have been in theatre, dance and music all our lives – it’s what we love and we were able to bring together early childhood education with our loves and talents.” 


“Draw on the talents you have and love – if you love sport do sport, if you love gardening do gardening, if you love sewing do sewing – do what you love and what you’re good at in a way that communicates with the profession in inclusive, intellectual and empathetic ways.”


Exit, stage left


“We just can’t thank the profession enough for embracing musical theatre as a valid form of knowledge and an inspiring method/experience of professional learning. The folks, family and friends behind the scenes are many so this was only made possible because of the beautiful loving communities of which we are part,” Lou said. 


“This has been a career high for us both,” Red added. 


“We have one last show on 23rd November in Sydney where we look forward to a lively farewell but also feel all the feels of winding up a national tour. All good things must end at exactly the right time – 2022 was the year of the musical.”


To purchase tickets to the farewell performance, please see here.  More information about the musical is available here

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