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The essential early and middle childhood education and care story.

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Who’s got the numbers?

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No one wants to see themselves as a statistic, but in education as in life, numbers play a significant role in how we operate.

We took a walk through ACECQA’s latest Snapshot to see how the sector’s numbers are looking towards the end of the sixth year of the National Quality Framework (NQF).

Assessment successes

For many of its six years, the NQF has been judged harshly for the speed (or lack of speed) at which services were being assessed and rated against the new National Quality Standard (NQS). By mid 2017 the tide had finally turned in favour of the regulatory authorities and more than 90% of all services were rated.

The latest report, based on data drawn down on 30 September 2018, shows 94% of all services have been rated, but that’s not the full story.

Just as a prematurely born baby is assessed on its ‘adjusted’ age for some developmental milestones, there’s an important caveat in ACECQA’s figures under the Progress of assessment and rating section.

In general, regulatory authorities will not assess and rate newly approved services which have been operating for less than 9-12 months, therefore the proportion of services with a quality rating will not reach 100% at any one time. Roughly 4% of services were approved in the last 12 months. Removing these services from the calculation increases the proportion of services with a quality rating to 98%.

In other words, at an adjusted figure of 98% of all services rated, this is close to as good as it will ever get.

Real quality improvement

Numbers will only ever tell part of the story, and in future Amplify editions we will look more closely at the stories behind this table, which is designed to show ongoing progress in quality improvement for reassessed services.

For now, the numbers show a generally positive picture of services more often improving than not under their second or subsequent assessment and rating.  The number found to have Significant Improvement Required – and remaining SIR after additional assessments – remains concerning to the wider community and parts of the sector.

The rating’s definition, after all, is not just that the service fails to meet one or more QAs or is operating outside the law, but also that there is a:

significant risk to the safety, health and wellbeing of children.

Grounds for closure? It’s a point often made.  The assessment, however, may come from a highly-nuanced and deeply considered judgement by the assessment officer and is rarely going to be as straightforward as the summarised definition of SIR sounds.

A rural service found to be SIR may fall well short of its counterparts in more populated areas yet provide the only formal education and care option available to families within an hour or more driving time.  It may be failing in areas outside its control, like the standard of leased facilities, but taking every possible precaution for the children. Or it may be at risk in the quality of its educational programs but under the new direction of a more qualified leader with a good chance of turning matters around.

Overall, this and previous Snapshots show that most SIR services make good by the time reassessment comes around.

It’s in the way that you move it

Another way of viewing the outcomes is by percentages of improvement from each rating, as this table shows.

Here, we can see that about a third of services originally rated Working Towards remained on that rating after a new assessment in the Snapshot period (July to September 2018).  Nearly half improved and are now Meeting the NQS, while almost 20% leapt ahead and are now rated Exceeding the NQS.

Community the way to go

And finally, in this snapshot of the snapshot, one result remains consistent throughout the country and throughout the lifetime of the NQF: not-for-profit, community managed services deliver higher quality programs for children.

Community Early Learning Australia has promoted the benefits of community managed, non profit services for 40 years.

Read the full snapshot on ACECQA’s site, here.

More help for you

CELA has some of the most experienced professional learning and development specialists in the sector working with services to support their goals under quality improvement and the National Quality Standard.  To find out more, head to this page and see how you could be supported in preparing for assessment and rating visits, and for everyday quality educational programs and management of your service and team.

Bec Lloyd

Bec Lloyd is the founder and managing director of Bec & Call Communication, providing professional writing, editing and strategy services to the school and early childhood education sector since 2014. In 2018 she launched UnYucky mindset and menus for happier family mealtimes. Formerly the communications lead at ACECQA and BOS (now NESA), Bec is a journo and mother of three who produces Amplify for us at Community Early Learning Australia.

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