Changes to A&R from 2023: what are they, and how will they affect your service?
The assessment and rating process (A&R) will change in 2023, with a refinement of the process to support clarity and consistency at a national level, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has announced.
Key changes will include:
- a shift to a shorter notice period of 1-5 days for most A&R visits
- an enhanced focus on the service’s self-assessment and Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) as part of its continuous quality improvement, rather than as a point-in-time preparation for A&R
- greater use of partial A&Rs as currently allowed under the National Law (only applicable to services rated under the 2018 National Quality Standard (NQS)). These refinements are consistent and in accordance with existing National Law requirements.
A more transparent assessment process
These operational process changes are intended to make the system more efficient and effective for providers and services, as well as provide families with up-to-date information on service quality to assist them in their decision making.
ACECQA believes the adjusted notice period will promote best practice in education and care service delivery, one that is ‘always ready’ for quality A&R. This meets the intent of observing and assessing typical practice, rather than practice which has been specifically prepared for A&R.
“Approved providers and their services should not be experiencing unnecessary stress or pressure in anticipation of a quality assessment visit,” a fact sheet about the changes from ACECQA read.
The introduction of adjusted notice periods for A&R should enable “a more accurate and agile process that is more reflective of typical service practice, through targeted evidence gathering and focused discussions.”
Adjusted notice periods will also apply to any partial assessment processes. A partial A&R is where the regulatory authority reassesses any aspect or element of a service that has already been fully assessed and rated.
Where appropriate to do so, a partial reassessment may be undertaken without a visit by the regulatory authority to the service (via a ‘desktop’ review).
For partial reassessments that do not include a service visit, the regulatory authority may provide 1-5 days’ notice that a conversation will occur instead of a visit. A desktop review may be appropriate where the required evidence includes documentation for sighting or discussions that can be conducted over the phone.
A desktop review would not be conducted if the authorised officer needs to observe practice to collect evidence to inform a rating. Partial assessments, whether in person or via desktop review, provide the opportunity to target quality assessments to specific quality areas with a direct link to improving educational and developmental outcomes for children, without requiring a service to undergo a full assessment. They also require less evidence collection and can offer less disruption to service routines.
Keep QIP up to date
To prepare for these changes, providers and services should maintain an up to date Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) (or Self Assessment Working Document in NSW) informed by a thorough self-assessment. The QIP is designed to be a dynamic, evolving document that enables continuous improvement, self-assessment, and self-reflection.
Approved providers should ensure an up-to-date QIP (or Self Assessment Working Document in NSW) is uploaded to the National Quality Agenda IT System portal or via any other jurisdiction specific submission process. The regulatory authority will use the uploaded QIP for quality A&R purposes.
The sector will be further supported to adapt to this shift through updated content to be published in the Guide to the NQF, including further guidance on best practice self assessments and maintaining a current QIP.
Some regulatory authorities also have self-assessment resources available and encourage their use. Putting these adjustments into practice will be a matter for each regulatory authority.
Individual regulatory authorities will be communicating further information in relation to these operational refinements in 2023.
To access the full ACECQA fact sheet in relation to these changes, please see here.
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