ECEC service upset about ‘unfair’ assessment and rating outcome forcing closure
An early childhood education and care (ECEC) service in the regional New South Wales community of Armidale has closed its doors this morning following an adverse outcome from an assessment and rating visit earlier in 2023.
The service was first rated as ‘Significant Improvement Required’ during the assessment visit, which took place in February this year.
Following support from the NSW Department of Education, and engagement with a consultant, the department conducted a further assessment and rating visit in August 2023. This visit was an opportunity for the service to demonstrate improved quality and compliance.
During the August visit, the service was again rated as needing significant improvement, indicating there is a significant risk to the safety, health and wellbeing of children, meaning the department must take immediate action.
Speaking with local news source The New England Times about the outcome, Centre Owner and Director Carina de Klerk said her service is “a victim of an unfair system” and that the standards under which ECEC services are assessed and rated are “inconsistent”.
Ms de Klerk said the service was given notice that they had to close because “we have been labelled unsafe. We have been told that we failed National Quality Standard 2, which is Children’s Health and Safety, but I don’t think this is the case.”
She described some of the aspects outlined in the assessment and rating report as “really minor” and expressed her disappointment that they were not raised verbally during the assessment process, which would have afforded the service the opportunity to address the issues.
Ms de Klerk further believes that while there is a need for standards in the ECEC sector, “with all the paperwork and the differing opinions, they’ve just made it too difficult and they’re driving educators out of the sector.”
The service has requested a hearing at the tribunal, noting the closure will impact the six permanent staff members employed as well as the 30 families that used the service.
A spokesperson from the NSW Department of Education responded: “The Department of Education is the regulator of ECEC services in NSW and our priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of children.”
“The department has worked closely with the service in question over recent years to address significant concerns. A satisfactory resolution could not be achieved, leading to the cancellation of the approval of the service.”
“We acknowledge the impact that service closures have on children and families, but our priority is always the safety of children.”
Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall has intervened, making an ‘urgent appeal’ to NSW Education Minister Prue Car, saying that the closure will exacerbate the already lengthy waiting lists in the region.
“Given (the service’s) exemplary track record, the dire shortage of childcare places in Armidale and the fact that the breaches were technical and paperwork deficiencies, I have asked the Minister to grant a stay of execution and allow the centre more time to comply with the standards,” he said.
“While I appreciate the importance of the childcare standards…small regional childcare providers can often find it difficult to sieve through paperwork and layers of bureaucracy.”
“Armidale, and our region more broadly, is in the midst of a childcare crisis with families waiting between 18 months and three years to secure a place,” he continued.
“A little bit of leniency should be considered and granted in this instance, especially with a decision that has far reaching consequences for our community.”
The Department is working with the provider to support families to find alternative ECEC placement.
Families impacted by the closure have been invited to contact the department’s ECEC information and enquiries line on 1800 619 113 or email [email protected]
Access local coverage of this story, produced by The New England Times here. Mr Marshall’s full statement in relation to the issue can be found here.
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