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Not Quite Right

The new National Quality Rating system for early childhood has serious flaws and could undermine services serving challenging communities. Shayne Quinn vice president early childhood


HE AEU has expressed strong support for the directions being pursued by the Rudd Government, through the Council of Australian Governments agenda to prioritise early childhood education and care (ECEC). That support includes the goal of national ­regulatory standards aimed at improving the quality of ECEC provision. However the rating system associated with the National Quality Standard, strongly opposed by the AEU in its response to the Regulatory Impact Statement in 2009, continues to cause concern. The new National Quality Standard for Early Childhood Education and Care aims to provide the basis for quality provision through national standards and the publication of information about individual services on the My Child website (see box). Its stated purpose is to “give services and families confidence in understanding what distinguishes high quality or excellent services”. The rationale for My Child is similar to that of the My School website: publishing this information will supposedly assist parental choice in services, and serve as an incentive for improvement. While the AEU is aware that it is not the intent of the rating system to do so, it is concerned that ­publication of ratings on My Child will have potentially negative unintended consequences for preschool centres, teachers and ultimately for the quality of education provided to children. Accordingly, the AEU Federal Executive has determined to campaign to protect Australia’s early childhood education and care services from these unintended consequences. Not unlike My School, there is the potential for the ratings to be misused by external agencies and for the media to produce unfair and invalid comparisons between centres and for those ratings to damage the viability of some centres.

The potential for the ratings to increase inequity between centres and damage the equity of educational opportunities for children cannot be ignored. Meeting the requirements of the ranking system is likely to be more difficult for centres with disadvantaged communities or with students with special needs, especially when, as is often the case in Australia, centres serving economically disadvantaged communities receive fewer resources than those serving more advantaged communities. Despite the best endeavours of those designing and testing the National Quality Rating tools, there are no guarantees that the particular issues or needs of such centres would be fairly and effectively taken into account, or that such hierarchies would reflect the complexities of teaching to the needs of different students and cohorts. Further there is the potential for the rating system to become a proxy measure for teachers and

other early childhood professionals’ p­ erformance, ­particularly in smaller or one-teacher services, and for the performance of principals and other ­designated leaders. For there to be no doubt, let me state that the AEU supports proposals for minimum standards in early childhood education and care. As such it supports the concept of a National Quality Standard. The purpose of such standards is to ensure that in all jurisdictions and in all modes of delivery minimum standards are adhered to so that all children can benefit from the advantages quality ECEC has been demonstrated to deliver. The AEU supports a regulatory process to ensure quality standards form the basis of all ECEC provision as a condition of initial and continued registration. The AEU also supports effective and fair continued on page 4 »

My Child and the new national rating system


ACH service will be rated on its performance across the seven quality areas that make up the new National Quality Standard, as well as being given one overall rating derived from the seven. This aims to provide an overall picture of the quality of a service. All services will need to display their approval and rating information. Most significantly, ratings will also be published on the My Child website. Services will be rated at one of five levels: Unsatisfactory: the service is not meeting the standard and the regulator is working closely with the service to immediately improve its quality. If there is no improvement the centre will be closed. Operating Level: the service is working towards meeting the standard. All new services will commence operation with an Operating Level rating.

National Quality Standard: the service is meeting the standard. High Quality: the service is exceeding the National Quality Standard. Excellent: the service demonstrates ­excellence and is recognised as a leader in the sector. Services will need to apply to be assessed against this rating, and must already have achieved a High Quality rating. A new national independent statutory body, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), is being established to oversee this process. The system is due to fully commence, with the new body in place, on January 1, 2012. The ­assessment and ratings tool associated with the quality ratings system is expected to be finalised ­ by July 1 this year. ◆

A E U h e a d o f f i c e 112 Trenerr y Crescent, Abbotsford 3067 Tel : 03 9417 2822 Fax: 1300 658 078 Web : u v i c . a s n . a u

Banging the gong f

AEU members were prominent in this year’s Victorian showing how preschools are getting to grips with chan calls for lateral thinking while two finalists offer their ow Glenda Hewitt


EXT year will be busy and challenging for me as I juggle work with further study. I’ll be undertaking my Masters in Early Childhood Education with a focus on rural early childhood programs at the University of Ballarat, and travelling overseas to explore different early childhood programs, with a focus on isolated communities. However, “busy” is a constant state of play for us in early childhood, and as educators we are constantly called upon to rise to a challenge. Last year I was asked to participate as a trial site for the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. I admit to feeling rather daunted by this

document which followed so closely on the heels of the federal early years learning framework and discussion about the implementation of universal access in 2013. We are all aware that the sector is undergoing some radical changes at present. The rate at which these changes are occurring meant that for this early childhood educator to cope effectively, a new mindset was going to be necessary. I was quite comfortable in my setting, using a programming format I have followed for several years; I felt somewhat threatened while trying to find ways to incorporate this new framework into my program. I decided that for it to work for me, I needed to take

ownership of it and make this document mine. The more familiar I became with the framework, the easier it was to incorporate it into the many different aspects of my curriculum. The framework is just that — a framework. As in building a house, the external frame was there, but what colour I painted the walls and how I placed the furniture was my decision. For many years our sector has advocated for recognition of the importance of early childhood education and of our profession. The new Commonwealth and state early childhood policies do this.

O’er the hills and far away Helen Bretherton Mansfield Preschool


Time for a break

Your agreement sets out clearly your entitlement to a break at work. Martel Menz deputy vice president, early childhood


N OUR discussions with teachers and assistants, the issue of breaks is frequently raised. While provisions remain unchanged from MECA to the new VECTAA and LGECEEA agreements, it is important to know your entitlements — particularly as some services move towards longer session times. Teachers are entitled to a break after 5.5 hours of work. This is from the start of your rostered day, not after 5.5 hours with children. The break is 45 minutes free from teaching duties, unless by genuine agreement it is a break of 30 minutes, or by agreement to work for six hours from the start of work. If the teacher is performing non-teaching duties


Early Childhood newsletter | june 2010

T ALL starts with the child, and then the family, and then the community. “It takes a village to raise a child,” they say. But what happens when that child leaves his father and his extended family, his village and moves unexpectedly to the other side of the world? It could be devastating, or it could be an opportunity to share, to learn, to belong, to be and to become. Several years ago, a child left our village, Mansfield, and traveled to Scotland to begin a new life. His family back here in Australia asked what our kinder community could do to help him make the transition, and so a sharing began … I established a relationship with his nursery school or management support functions, the break is to be paid and counted as time worked. Where these duties are not undertaken, or the teacher elects to have an unpaid break, then this break is not counted as time worked. Assistants and activity group leaders are entitled to a break of not less than 30 minutes after five hours of work. Again, this is from the start of the rostered day, not five hours with children. If required to work for 5.5 hours, the break must be at least 30 minutes free from duties and counted as time worked. An assistant can elect to take a paid break if they are undertaking non-teaching duties under the direct supervision of a teacher during a meal break. Where services are offering longer sessions,

teacher in the remote fishing village of Aultbea in northern Scotland. Soon our children were exchanging drawings and postcards, books and photographs, emails and souvenirs. While taking my children on a sharing journey with their counterparts in Aultbea, I was taking the same journey with their teacher Rachel MacLean. She began with a simple statement: “We’re getting a new curriculum!” Then: “I’m a bit worried about making the changes; don’t know how I’ll go. I’ll send you a website.” Rachel and I found that we had much more than one child in common. We are both facing dramatic changes in the way we are expected to teach. We

or offering before and after care, members and employers need to be mindful of how these break provisions will be met. In most instances it will be necessary to employ additional staff to cover these periods. Under the current regulations, an unqualified reliever can be employed for this purpose, providing that the teacher remains on the premises. Note that the reliever must be engaged as a staff member — a parent cannot fulfil this role. For further advice, please contact our Membership Services Unit on (03) 9417 2822. You can also refer to the VECTAA and LEGECEEA Implementation Guide which has been posted to members and can be found on our website at ◆

for change Professionals’ voices Education Excellence awards, must be heard nge. Winner Glenda Hewitt

wn approaches to reform. I believe this is indeed a great opportunity for us to embrace the new curriculum and other opportunities that the early childhood education and care reform agenda presents, to create exciting initiatives in service delivery for young children and their families. But we need to think laterally and imagine what might be, rather than be governed by what has been. We all have a chance to make these changes work for the children we teach, their families and our profession. ◆ Glenda Hewitt teaches at Warracknabeal Memorial Kindergarten.

both need to examine our pedagogical position, embrace new concepts and methods of delivery, Helen Bretherton while staying true to our ideals and beliefs. Scotland and the UK are travelling the same path as us; they are just ahead, around the corner and over the hill. I love the look of their new “Curriculum for Excellence”, and it sits well with our Victorian Early Years Framework. Rachel and I are sharing these as well. Sadly, I did not win the $10,000 prize which would have enabled me to travel to Scotland and share in person. However, I know the sharing will continue. ◆

Joan Kimberley Waubra Preschool

and many of my colleagues. It underscored the importance of early childhood professionals being AUNCHING the Blueprint for Education and Early engaged with the change process. Childhood Development in 2008, Minister for By working alongside other educators, particiEducation Bronwyn Pike said: “The greatest gift we pating in planning with others, and by listening to can give our children is the solid foundation of high and engaging in dialogue with educators who are quality education.” involved in research, I believe we will be able to My reflection on her words, particularly in the develop more realistic expectations and practices. context of working in a community 148kms from With reflection it became increasingly evident to Melbourne, informed me that to ensure that my application for children receive Minister the recent Victorian Pike’s “solid foundation Education Excellence of high quality educaAwards: “Overcoming tion” we need to not be Isolation: Embracing overwhelmed and anxious change and about “change”; we just improving practice”. need some support and For centres such reassurance to work Max examines Joan Kimberley’s framed Victorian Education Excellence as Waubra and through the process. An medal. Joan says: “Max was quite confused that the medal was inside others in rural and important part of that the frame and therefore couldn’t be worn! Max’s family are involved in remote Victoria, support is each other. the CFA and his understanding is that medals are presented and worn.” the changes facing Together we face the our sector have particular challenges. Beyond reality of the pressure of the changes, not only this however, I felt the perspective of a practising on our time but on some of our long standing teacher on how to influence and enhance changing practices. Development of more realistic strategies practice was crucial. within my own practice is my objective. I am hopeful During 2009 we — early childhood teachers, the challenge and excitement of these changes assistants and other early years educators — will assist me in this task. I hope then to work with were involved in many PD sessions and forums other educators to assist and support them to do about the new Children’s Services Regulations, the same. I believe that a mentoring approach is the Australian and Victorian early years learning urgently needed within the sector. frameworks, universal access, transition statements The effective application of change will translate and more. into positive educational benefits for educators, I realised that while all of the presenters at children, families and communities. Ineffective these forums were highly skilled and qualified in translation of the changes will bring no benefit at their particular fields, not one of them was actually all. I believe it is up to us to do our part in seeing working with young children. This concerned me the benefits delivered. ◆



Solving the puzzle L

AST month, the Municipal Association of Victoria ran a forum on universal access — a chance for councils to share the findings of their audits and consultations with stakeholders on this tricky subject. The meeting gave councils an opportunity to share their different ideas and approaches to supporting the development of models of provision. Contributing to this discussion, early childhood consultant Catherine Hydon spoke on “a changed approach to early childhood care and education”.

She argued that the change process provided us with the opportunity to “re-think, re-position and to remember”. In re-thinking we should examine questions such as: what is the meaning of our work? What is in children’s best interests? And what do families expect of us? She stressed the importance of staff being given time for these professional conversations. Re-positioning required us to stop and reflect, Catherine said, to critically question the things we take for granted and to be open to opportunities.

Remembering not only provides the opportunity for nostalgia but also invites us to consider what we will take and what we will leave behind during this process of change. It is imperative that the profession engages in the new discourse. It must look to shape new models of early childhood education and care that reflect our times, respond to the children of today and equip them for the future — we must engage in solving the puzzle. ◆  — Shayne Quinn



Putting our fears behind us

Warrnambool East Kindergarten teacher Jane Gough explains why she organised a validation training session for AEU members — and what she plans to do next.


HAD been considering going through the validation process since its introduction and attended a number of PD sessions over the years. However I always procrastinated due to time constraints and a disbelief that I could ever meet the criteria and upgrade myself to “exemplary” status. After hearing the same thoughts from other teachers I decided to take the initiative and organise a group who could support and liaise with each other through this process. I contacted teachers throughout the Barwon South Western region and had a very favourable response. For me, the PD session, led by AEU deputy vice president Martel Menz, was invaluable; this was the first session I had attended that realistically unpacked the standards and helped me to understand what was expected. Maybe it wasn’t the mountain that I had created in my mind? The daunting process was simplified by providing us with examples of the evidence required as well as breaking down the language of the standards

and focusing on key elements within the standard. As a group, we pooled ideas and suggestions. It caused me to reflect that this process is achievable for me and might just be a case of gathering and

Not Quite Right

choice in communities where there is only one preschool service, or in Melbourne’s growth corridors where lengthy waiting lists are the norm, is at best nonsense. Over-reliance on the market-pressure impact of publishing a rating on a website has the potential to lead to the abrogation of governments’ ­responsibility to ensure quality in the provision of early childhood education and care. As a first step in the union’s campaign, the AEU will convey to the Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education and Child Care and senior

» continued from page 1

accountability systems to ensure that standards are met. This includes appropriate accountability mechanisms for staff. The purpose of such a system should be to guide improvement through appropriate mechanisms of feedback and support. This must be accompanied by adequate funding, system support and resourcing. The notion of publishing ratings to facilitate

Nothing to be scared of


Y TREPIDATION about validation was eased when this fantastic group of women gathered, all perhaps with the same fears and goals! Our workshop was relaxed and informal, with lots of questions and discussion between us. I came to the realisation at the end of our first meeting that I will proceed with validation, that it is nothing to be scared of and that I can do it within such a supportive and professional group of teachers. Our profession can be so isolating at times; to have support from other teachers and the AEU makes it less challenging. — Kate Rollo Warrnambool South Kindergarten

documenting all that I have already been doing. I have spoken to a number of the other teachers, and doubting our ability, experience and expertise has been a common thread. However after this interactive session, many of us feel more positive and are encouraged by the idea of working through this as an extremely experienced group who are enriched with resources and support. Since our PD session, we have organised another session with a local teacher who has been through the validation process, and we hope to get her perspective on key areas. The key element being that we will continue to meet regularly and often until we have all completed the process. And of course, we will finalise this all with a celebration meeting when we have all successfully validated! ◆ If you have a group of local members interested in validation training, please contact Shayne Quinn at the AEU.

officers of the federal Department for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations our concerns regarding the potential misuse of data associated with the quality rating system which is proposed to be published on the My Child website, and seek resolution regarding these matters. We will also inform the relevant federal, state and territory associations of these issues and concerns, and liaise with them on actions to ensure that measures be put into place to safeguard against the misuse of the rating system of the National Quality Standard. ◆

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Early Childhood newsletter | june 2010

Early Childhood Sector Newsletter, Term 2, 2010  

The newsletter for the Early Childhood sector fo the AEU VB for Term 2, 2010.

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