In this series of Amplify articles, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about self-assessment, with a view to giving you clarity and confidence around how it fits within the A&R process.
Today we answer the question:
What is the self-assessment tool, and is it mandatory?
The self-assessment tool – an optional resource
In response to sector feedback on the A&R process, ACECQA launched a self-assessment tool in March 2019. The tool is designed to support approved providers, service leaders and educators to assess the quality of their education and care service’s practices, policies and procedures, against the National Quality Standard and the National Law and Regulations.
It’s fair to say that there has been some confusion around the tool, with many wondering where it fits into the A&R process and how to use the tool in the most effective way.
The tool is available nationally and can be used throughout the year to keep a handy record of your internal self-assessment process, but it is not mandatory.
In addition to this, there are now two ways that NSW services can submit documentation as part of the A&R process, and the tool can be used to inform the second ‘opt-in’ option.
2 options for submitting documentation in the NSW A&R process:
Submit your QIP prior to the A&R visit
Option 2 (new and only in NSW):
Opt-in to the new self-assessment process where you will be asked to upload up to 5 key practices against each element of the NQS, which you can take from the information you have in your self-assessment tool (maximum of 500 characters per key practice – it’s up to you and your team how many key practices you upload for each element).
If you choose option 2 and opt into the self-assessment process, you gain access to the NSW regulatory authority’s quality support team, who provide guidance throughout the process.
NSW services that choose option 2 will not be required to submit their Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) to the portal, however, under the regulations, services are still required to have a QIP onsite.
According to The Department, this new approach to A&R reflects changes that services in NSW wanted to see, including:
- Increased engagement and frequency of visits
- Opportunities to work with authorised officers
- Increased consistency with assessment and rating
If it’s optional, why would you use it?
According to ACECQA:
The Self-assessment Tool will help you identify service strengths, areas of compliance, practices that are Exceeding NQS, and areas and opportunities for quality improvement. The Tool helps you through the process of self-assessment which can, where needed, inform your QIP.
The tool is suitable for all service types and provides a process that services may choose to apply or adapt in a way that meets the needs of their unique service context.
CELA trainer and A&R expert Kerrie Maguire positions the self-assessment tool as something that can enable you to feel more confident and competent on the day of the assessment because it helps you to be prepared.
“Feedback from the regulatory authority is that authorised officers can gather up to 400 pieces of evidence during the A&R process,” shares Kerrie. “If you need to gather or find evidence on the day, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time on compliance. That means that the authorised officer is going to spend a lot of time in your office to see whether you’re meeting the regulations, which will take away from time outside the office where you could really let your service shine.”
In CELA’s training session, Self Assessment – implementing the ACECQA Self-assessment tool in the quality improvement process, Kerrie suggests that each team needs to make their own mind up about whether the self-assessment tool could be useful for their service (alongside the Quality Improvement Plan). She positions the self-assessment tool as a document that allows you to make the invisible visible, create opportunities, and give you confidence on the day of assessment.
“If you say you do something in your QIP, how will you articulate it on the day and how will you support your statements?” asks Kerrie. “Using the evidence-based approach within the self-assessment tool enables you to show evidence of key interactions with families, each other, children, the intentional teaching and the continuous reflections that take place. The tool can help you to find and share that evidence in an effective way.
“Think of it as a tracking document that makes your authentic quality practices more evident. It informs the quality improvement plan and allows you to easily track changes that you are making, and keep tabs on your evidence. It’s fluid and agile and you don’t need to wait for an annual review to update it like you would with your QIP.”
Self-assessment – an integral part of the continuous improvement process
Remember that self-assessment is an integral component of quality improvement and allows education and care services to:
- Assess their current practices through self-assessment against the National Quality Standards (NQS)
- Identify key practices that meet the benchmark of quality under the NQS
- Identify evidence that supports key practices
- Identify the practices that they can or should improve on
Quality area 7, Standard 2 (7.2.1) outlines that there must be an effective self-assessment and quality improvement plan in place:
“Quality services regularly monitor and review their performance to guide planning and improve service quality. This creates a shared understanding of the principles that guide the service and encourages continuous improvement in practice, policies and procedures.”
So, while the tool itself is optional, it’s imperative that services have a structure in place to enable self-assessment as part of their continuous improvement process.
Would you like to find out more about the self-assessment process?
Register for our two-hour webinar Self Assessment – implementing the ACECQA Self-assessment tool in the quality improvement process