Myths about the Early Years Learning Framework and National Quality Standard
All education and care services which will be assessed under the National Quality Standard will have now received their resource kit from the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).
This includes a guide to the National Law and National Regulations, a guide to the National Quality Standard and a guide to the Quality Improvement Plan (QIP), as well as information for families.
One of the challenges for all of us, whether we are face-to-face educators, managers or owners of education and care services, is ‘how am I going to find time to read and implement all of this?’.
As educators began working with the Early Years Learning Framework there were many different understandings—including many myths—that gave rise to much discussion and debate. The publication of the National Regulations and the National Quality Standard (and the pressure we all feel) will have already raised many questions, with no one answer.
One measure might be to use the guiding principles of the National Quality Framework (ACECQA, 2011) to determine whether our current practices meet all of these and what changes or improvements we need to make. These are:
- The rights and best interests of the child are paramount.
- Children are successful, competent and capable learners.
- Equity, inclusion and diversity underpin the framework.
- Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are valued.
- The role of parents and families is respected and supported.
- Best practice is expected in the provision of education and care services.
Each service will begin the process of self-assessment and quality improvement in ways that are as unique as the children, families and communities they work in.
This is complex and ongoing work, but knowing and embracing all components of the Early Years Learning Framework will be the ‘best tool’ to achieve the standard. The seven standards that make up the National Quality Standard do not stand alone, just as the Principles, Practices and Learning Outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework do not. They are integrated and they interplay with and influence each other.
We will be doing the children in our services an injustice if we merely treat each element under each standard as something to be ticked off.
‘All children have the best start in life to create a better future for themselves and for the nation’ (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 5)
To achieve the goal of government in undertaking these major reforms we need to spend time in professional conversations with our peers and colleagues. ACECQA, the new authority set up to support services and manage the assessment process, as well as each state and territory regulatory authority will also provide us with additional information. All educators will be expected to be actively engaged in this process of self-assessment and quality improvement and should be able to discuss why ‘we do things this way around here’.
The 200th issue of Exchange Magazine was dedicated to change—what has changed our field, what will change our field, how you can change, how programs can change. Margie Carter talked explicitly about ‘changing your view of yourself’:
‘Change the story you have about yourself, rejecting the idea that you can’t go beyond regulations, there aren’t enough resources, “they won’t let me” and all the limiting things you tend to tell yourself. Start seeing yourself as powerful, rather than powerless.
Seek out others interested in innovative ideas and other possibilities for defining quality; meet regularly to support and challenge each other. Tell yourself this is one of the most important aspects of your job. Together, build an expanded narrative about what quality looks like.
Before you start rushing around trying to “fix” things, work on fixing anything that might be broken in your leadership. The amazing thing about changing yourself is that it usually leads to others changing’.
A timely reminder for all us—even if we are not in leadership positions—as a way to negotiate through this process, and work together to support better outcomes for all the children in our settings. Keeping the guiding principles in mind as we move to write our Quality Improvement Plans, we might also be guided by these questions:
- What is absolutely essential?
- What would we like to do?
- What are the extra things that would be nice to do?
Each service will reflect their children, families and community as they move through these timely and appropriate changes for children.
Let’s be excited, not alarmed.
Director, Cooloon Children’s Centre Inc.
Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) (2011).
National Quality Framework. Sydney, NSW: ACECQA.
Exchange Magazine 200 (July/August 2011). Childcare Information Exchange.
Every Child magazine – vol. 18 no. 1, 2012.
Don’t forget, Every Child is tax deductible for early childhood professionals
You can purchase this issue of Every Child magazine now.