Future of the National Quality Framework
No doubt by now, you will have heard not just from the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) NSW but also from the NSW Department of Education that there will be a Review of the National Quality Framework (NQF) in 2019 and to be led by the NSW. This Review, we understand, has been given the support of the Commonwealth Government and all States and Territories through their Education Council.
However, when ACA NSW asked the NSW Department of Education, the Education Council and the Federal Department of Education and Training, about what is the process, the timeline,
the requirements for consultation, and the agreement between the Education Council and the Government to lead the review in 2019, we are still awaiting information from any of these organisations.
Notwithstanding, ACA NSW remains confident that a comprehensive Review of the NQF will still occur in 2019, but perhaps after the Federal Election in May 2019. This is likely to enable clarity of the elected governments’ direction, especially if one or both governments were changed.
In any case, ACA NSW remains continually engaged with the NSW Department of Education as to how the Review of the NQF in 2019 would be conducted, and how our members can be assured of effective and constructive input into the Future of the NQF.
Issues talked about the NQF to date
Through ACA NSW’s interactions with members, non-members and other stakeholders, some of the concerns raised about the NQF include:
- changes to the educator:children and/or teacher:children ratios
- safety standards for services in multi-storey buildings
- new nutrition standards and requirements
- lack of clarity/consistency of the revised NQF and how it is applied through assessments and ratings
57.1% of Exceeding Centres downgraded
In 2018 year alone, the revised NQF appears to have downgraded 57.1% of services (141 of 247) that had their assessments and ratings conducted that year to Meeting or Working Towards.
But compared to the two other comparable states, namely Queensland and Victoria, the number of downgrades of services originally Exceeding but now are rated Meeting or Working Towards was much higher in NSW, and the number of those originally Working Towards but now are Exceeding or Meeting much lower in NSW.
This concerns ACA NSW as to whether the assessment and rating process conducted by the NSW Department of Education is done consistently and appropriately as is in other states. Likewise, ACA NSW is also concerned that they may also be a lack of understanding on how the revised NQF is supposed to work, especially from an assessment and rating perspective.
Easier process for documentation and administration
Another common complaint about the NQF is the amount of documentation and administration of compliance there is. ACA NSW has constantly been asking the NSW Government about how over-regulation can be identified with the intention of creating greater efficiencies and lower operational burdens without sacrificing quality.
It just so happens that in NSW, the NSW Government has received $100m and will receive another $100m from the Federal Government with the aim to reduce regulatory burden and improve operational efficiencies. The NSW Government also introduced their Regulatory Sandbox, which ACA NSW has been agitating the NSW Government to consider trialling new ways of doing things in early childhood education and care yet do not compromise on quality.
Review of excessive safety versus appropriate risky-play for children
One of the interesting comments received at ACA NSW are (some) members’ concerns that the NSW Department of Education is increasingly removing wherever possible any and all forms of risk to children to the potential detriment of the children’s own educational, social and health outcomes.
In this regard, these ACA NSW members were concerned about the removal altogether of appropriate risk-play for children.
Ironically, in Western Australia, there appears to be a concerted effort by the WA Government to bring back monkey-bars and cubby-houses in trees, for example, while ensuring the safety of children in care.
ACA NSW hopes that there will be a meaningful discussion of this during the Review.
NSW Government to provide some financial relief for services with higher number of degree-qualified Early Childhood Teachers (ECTs) than other Australian states
NSW services would be well aware that for an 80-place childcare service, there is a regulatory requirement of 4 degree qualified full-time ECTs. But for all other Australian states, there is a need for 1 degree qualified part-time ECT for comparable services with 80 places.
ACA NSW has and will continue to agitate both the NSW Coalition and NSW Labor that in government this higher cost imposition on services compared to those in other Australian states ought to attract the NSW Government’s help to try to achieve parity by the NSW Government offering some financial relief.