From 1st October 2023, significant changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF) will be implemented, focusing on sleep and rest for children in educational and care settings.
It’s vital that all approved providers and educators are across these changes in order to ensure the safety of children, and to ensure compliance with the National law and Regulations,” says Kerrie Maguire, CELA learning and development specialist.
Here are the key changes:
Regulation 168: Services will now be mandated to include matters prescribed under the national regulations in their policies and procedures for sleep and rest.
Risk assessment: A sleep and rest risk assessment must be conducted at least once every 12 months and as soon as practicable after becoming aware of any circumstance that may affect the safety, health and well-being of children during sleep and rest. The risk assessment needs to inform the service’s safe sleep and rest procedures.
Bassinets ban: Bassinets will be prohibited on education and care service premises, including both centre-based care and family day care, during times when children are being educated and cared for.
Regulation 170: Approved providers are required to ensure that nominated supervisors, staff members, family day care educators, and volunteers adhere to the policies and procedures under regulations 168 and 169.
Why the changes?
In 2022, Education Ministers agreed to changes to the National Quality Framework based on findings from the 2019 NQF Review. The 2019 NQF Review included extensive consultation with the sector, families and other parts of the community which informed government decisions, and recommended changes to many areas that will improve the safety and well-being of children, including changes to enhance sleep and rest policies, procedures and requirements.
The primary motivation behind the changes to sleep and rest is to enhance the safety, health, and well-being of children. By introducing these legislative requirements, the Australian, state, and territory education ministers are aiming to standardise best practices across educational and care services, ensuring that every child receives the same level of care and attention.
The regulations that will be included on 1/10/23 are:
84A Sleep and rest
84B Sleep and rest policies and procedures
84C Risk assessment for purposes of sleep and rest policies and procedures .
84D Ensure that bassinets are not on the education and care service premises (including centre-based care and family day care) at any time that children are being educated and cared for by the service
These amendments are outlined in Education and Care Services National Further Amendment Regulations 2023
Other legislative considerations
Regulation 165 Offence to inadequately supervise children
The Education and Care Services National Law emphasises the importance of adequate supervision. Section 165 mandates that all children being educated and cared for at an approved service must be adequately supervised at all times. This ensures that children's safety and well-being are prioritised, especially during sleep and rest periods. This is in addition to meeting ratio requirements as per the National Regulations.
Adequate supervision means that an educator:
Can respond immediately, particularly when a child is distressed or in a hazardous situation, and
Knows where children are at all times, and monitors their activities actively and diligently.
The Department of Education’s Safe sleep and rest resource outlines the following practices that support adequate supervision at sleep and rest time including:
Physically checking/inspecting sleeping children at regular intervals (for example, every 10 minutes for children under two years of age) by checking the rise and fall of the child’s chest and the child’s lip and skin colour from the side of the cot/bed.
Not using CCTV, audio monitors or heart monitors to replace physical checks.
Always being within sight and hearing distance of sleeping and resting children so that educators can monitor children’s safety and well-being
Taking into consideration the risk for each individual child, such as considering the age of the child, medical conditions, individual needs and history of health and/or sleep issues.
Every service is required to have policies and procedures in place relating to providing a child safe environment, based on their individual service context.
Regulation 170 (Policies and procedures to be followed), Regulation 81 (Safe sleep and rest), Regulation 167 (Offence relating to protection of children from harm and hazards) and Regulation 168 (Education and care services must have policies and procedures) must also be considered.
What needs to be considered
Approved providers must conduct a comprehensive risk assessment concerning sleep and rest. This assessment should identify potential risks and outline strategies to manage and minimise them. Factors to consider include the number, ages, and developmental stages of children, specific health care needs, cultural preferences, and the suitability of staffing arrangements.
The content of the risk assessment should be adapted to suit your service’s circumstances, for example, risks associated with children who are sleeping may not be present in services that cater to older children who may not need to sleep.
The procedures should address various aspects, including how children's sleep and rest needs will be met, how health care needs will be addressed, and how requests from families about a child's sleep and rest will be considered. Additionally, the procedures should detail the management of potential hazards in sleep and rest areas. Approved providers must make any necessary updates to the sleep and rest policies and procedures as soon as practicable after conducting the sleep and rest risk assessment and keep a record of each sleep and rest risk assessment conducted.
“For every statement in a procedure about ‘how’ practices occur, services need to make visible how they’re doing it,” says CELA Learning and Development Specialist Kerrie Maguire. “Therefore, if they state that they are undertaking regular checks, then they would need to ensure a process is implemented. For example, if the service states that they check sleeping infants every 10 minutes, then this would need to be documented.”
Best practice guidelines to be aware of
Continuous supervision: Recognised authorities, such as Red Nose Australia, advocate for continuous supervision, where an educator is always within sight and hearing range of a sleeping child.
Safe sleeping environments: For children under 12 months, Red Nose recommends placing the baby on their back for sleep, keeping their head and face uncovered, and ensuring they sleep in a safe environment with a firm, clean, well-fitting, and flat mattress.
Equipment standards: The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has set standards for sleep and bedding equipment. For instance, portacots should only be used temporarily.
Risk management: ACECQA has developed a sleep and rest risk assessment template to help services identify and manage risks effectively.
The upcoming changes to the safe sleep and rest regulations are a significant step forward in ensuring the safety and well-being of children in educational and care settings. By understanding and implementing these changes, providers can offer a safer, more nurturing environment for every child.
CELA members can download our Sample Required Policy for Safe Sleep and Rest for Children
ACECQA Sleep and Rest Risk Assessment
ACECQA Sleep and rest legislative requirements
NSW Government Education and Care Services National Regulations
Regulation 170, Regulation 81, Regulation 167, Regulation 168
NSW Government - Education Safe sleep and rest
CELA Professional Development relating to this topic
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