Compliance focus – learnings to enhance your practice in 2024

We share resources to support services uplift their quality practice and compliance in areas the sector finds challenging.

Boy playing with plastic blocks outdoors. Boy playing with plastic blocks outdoors.
Image: Drawing from 2023 data, learn how you can enhance your practice and drive improvements throughout the year.

Compliance data gathered by the NSW Department of Education, as the NSW Regulatory Authority for early childhood education and care (ECEC), provides valuable insight into areas of the Children (Education and Care Services) National Law (NSW) and Education and Care Services National Regulations services find challenging.

The NSW Regulatory Authority collects data in a variety of ways, including during compliance and monitoring visits, assessment and rating, and via service notifications. An analysis of this data is used for a number of purposes, including to understand service behaviours and practices in relation to the National Quality Framework (NQF), and support operational planning and decision-making within the NSW Regulatory Authority.

We also use the data to develop tailored guidance and resources to support services to better understand their regulatory requirements and drive quality improvement across the sector.

Drawing on learnings from 2023 compliance data, here are 5 key regulatory areas ECEC services should consider as they reflect on ways to enhance their practice throughout the year ahead. We’ve also compiled consideration points and resources to support you to drive improvements in these regulatory areas.

Harm and hazards

  • Section 167 Offence relating to protection of children from harm and hazards.
  • Regulation 103 Premises, furniture and equipment to be safe, clean and in good repair.

Developing effective and robust risk management processes is essential to creating a culture of children’s safety and wellbeing within your service. Reflecting on your policies and procedures with service staff is also critical and will help ensure they are current, fit for purpose and in line with requirements under the NQF.

Risks in ECEC services are dynamic and require a proactive, coordinated approach. All ECEC professionals play a vital role in identifying, minimising and managing potential risks and hazards in service settings to ensure everyone’s safety.

Consideration points

  • How do you engage children in conversations about potential risks or hazards? How are they supported to be proactive in caring for themselves and each other?

  • How have you made your policies and procedures easy to understand, concise, and accessible to staff at all times?

  • How are actions taken resulting from daily safety checks of buildings, equipment and the general service environment communicated with staff?

Emergency preparedness

  • Regulation 97 Emergency and evacuation procedures.

Having clear emergency management procedures is key to ensuring the health and safety of children, families and staff should an emergency occur at your service.

In NSW, all ECEC services are required to have an emergency management plan (EMP). A well-developed EMP will help service leaders and educators identify possible emergencies that may occur in their setting, the potential impacts, and how to prepare for and respond to these events.

An EMP should detail a service’s emergency response and evacuation procedures and contain a site-specific risk assessment, clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and other critical information staff need to effectively manage emergency incidents and safeguard children, their colleagues and others from harm.

Consideration points

  • How do you ensure your EMP is up to date (e.g. include updated key contact details)?

  • Is your service located in a multistorey building? If so, do your emergency and evacuation procedures meet the updated requirements for multistorey buildings?

  • How are children involved in conversations in preparing for emergencies?

  • How are staff made aware of their roles, responsibilities and required actions during an emergency event? Does this consider all potential emergencies relevant to your service?

Policies and procedures

  • Regulation 170 Policies and procedures to be followed

Under the Education and Care Services National Regulations, approved providers must ensure policies and procedures relating to a range of areas are in place at their service (regulation 168). However, socialising and reflecting on policies and procedures with service staff and ensuring they are effectively implemented are also key.

Policies and procedures establish a clear understanding of what is expected of staff and standard processes and practices they should implement to support service operations. They ensure consistency in behaviours, practice and quality. When policies and procedures are not followed, risks of harm and hazard may increase.

Supervision of children

  • Law 165 Offence to inadequately supervise children.

Effective supervision is pivotal to creating environments where children are safe and supported while in the care of a service.

Observing and assessing children’s behaviour and the physical and social environment for risks and hazards is just one aspect of effective supervision. It also involves carefully planning rosters to ensure educator ratios are maintained at all times and being responsive to and actively engaging with children to support their learning, agency and wellbeing, among other strategies.

Consideration points

  • What are your service’s processes to inform new or relieving educators of the service’s supervision arrangements?

  • How do your educators balance both observing and engaging with children in your service?

  • How do your practices allow educators to complete administrative work, programming tasks or education while maintaining effective supervision?

  • How and when are your supervision practices reviewed, discussed and adjusted to meet changing needs?

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