2017 Sector Consultations
Thanks to all who were able to attend the October/November sector consultation sessions.
There will be another round of consultations in May 2018 with new topics and locations.
There were common themes raised by attendees across a range of topics. A summary of these can be found below.
Questions on National Law answered
Responsible staff members – who are they and are there any essential requirements?
There are no changes to who can be a responsible person.
A responsible person continues to be defined as:
- the approved provider or a person with management or control
- a nominated supervisor
- a person in day-to-day charge of the service.
Approved providers must continue to ensure that a responsible person is present at a centre-based service at all times when the service is educating and caring for children (section 162).
The staff record must include the name of the responsible person at the centre-based service during each period that children are being educated and cared for by the service (Reg 150).
From 1 October 2017, there are revised minimum requirements for nominated supervisors and a person in day-to-day charge. Guidance on the minimum requirements are provided in the Responsible person requirements for approved providers fact sheet on ACECQA's Information sheets and resources page.
Educator ratios (includes responses to queries about sleep and rest periods and “Under the roof”)
No changes have been made to the general provisions in the National Law or National Regulations concerning the application of prescribed ratio requirements during Educator breaks. There are no NSW-specific regulations for Educator breaks.
Only Educators working directly with children can be included in ratios (Reg 122).
Educator-to-child ratios must be maintained at all times when the service is educating and caring for children, including during sleep and rest periods.
Complying with ratios is just one part of staffing arrangements. Approved Providers must also ensure there is adequate supervision (s165 National Law), and that children are protected from harm or hazard (s167 National Law).
In NSW, there is flexibility for Educators to take a short unplanned break e.g. for personal hygiene, without their position being back-filled by another staff member.
Staff entitlements are not covered by the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations. Services should seek advice from the appropriate authority regarding employment laws in relation to employee break entitlements.
24 hour reporting period for serious incidents
Approved providers are required to notify the regulatory authority about incidents, complaints and changes to information. The ACECQA website outlines notification types and timeframes including whether or not there was a change from 1 October 2017.
The timeframe for notifying the RA of a serious incident continues to be within 24 hours of the incident. There have been changes to the definition of serious incident and other notification responsibilities. These changes are outlined in the Key changes to notifications, incidents and complaints fact sheet on ACECQA's Information sheets and resources page.
Services advertising prior to service approval
It is an offence for a person to advertise a service unless the service is approved or an application for service approval has been submitted to the regulatory authority but not yet decided (s104). In the case where an application for service approval has been submitted to the regulatory authority but not yet decided, the service should not commit or advertise an opening date as service approval is not guaranteed.
A family day care educator can advertise if they make clear they are part of an approved service. Any advertisement should indicate which approved service they are promoting and include contact details for that service.
Activities that are part of a planning process, such as gauging interest in the feasibility of a service, do not constitute advertising a non-approved service.
Child protection training and expiry dates/renewal
Prior to the changes to the National Law and Regulations, NSW was the only jurisdiction that required Nominated Supervisors to have completed an approved child protection course (Reg 273). Following the 2014 review of the National Quality Framework, state and territory governments decided to apply this requirement nationally. To accommodate this change the NSW-specific Reg 273 has been repealed, and all jurisdictions have adopted the new s162A.
In adopting s162A, the change for NSW is that Nominated Supervisors and persons in day-to-day charge are required to have completed the child protection courses approved by the NSW Regulatory Authority. In-house training is not sufficient. The department will provide further information on approved child protection courses in the coming months.
Section 162A doesn't provide any time periods, however Reg 84 provides that the approved provider of an education and care service must ensure that nominated supervisors and staff members at the service who work with children are advised of the existence and application of the current child protection law; and any obligations that they may have under that law. Reg 84 is an ongoing requirement that requires services to maintain up-to-date knowledge of child protection law.
Approved Providers should ensure:
- The awareness of staff of current child protection law is assessed regularly, such as at staff meetings.
- Nominated Supervisors and persons in day-to-day charge undertake approved child protection ‘refresher’ training every 12 – 24 months, and whenever there has been significant changes to child protection law and reporting requirements.
Compliance with Reg 84 is also essential to meet the child protection awareness responsibilities in Quality Area 2.
In NSW, the responsible agency for child protection is NSW Family and Community Services.
For further information about child protection responsibilities contact the NSW Child Protection Helpline (24/7) on 132 111.
Attracting and retaining highly qualified staff
Attracting and retaining highly qualified staff through:
- Pay and entitlements comparable to equivalent primary school educators
- A positive working environment and culture where Early Childhood Education and Care service values focus on children, positive and respectful relationships, a strengths-based approach and high standards
- Fostering teamwork and encouraging staff collaboration and involvement in decision making
- Valuing staff through incentives, benefits and recognition through study leave and performance bonuses
- Professional development, training and mentoring opportunities to help retain staff
- Good practice conditions such as off-the-floor programming time, higher staff-to-child ratios and flexible working conditions
- Better recruitment processes by setting clear job descriptions and expectations and choosing staff with the right motivations who will be a good fit for the service
- Promoting services as employers of choice through their ratings and reputation.
Building capability of Early Childhood Education and Care staff
- Regular staff performance reviews and mentoring to encourage feedback, support and reflective practice
- Staff development plans to build skills and capacity for changing needs
- Supporting upskilling by providing relevant training opportunities, incentives and progression paths
- Creating consistency in expected skills for leaders
- Required skills for all staff should include literacy, time management and communication skills.
Professional development and training
- Supporting staff to attend in-service and external professional development and meetings, noting it can be difficult to backfill their positions, particularly in stand-alone services
- Mentoring and leadership training for those in leadership roles
- Training and support for new educators and staff working with children with additional needs
- More quality, affordable and diverse training options are needed, particularly in regional and remote areas
- Professional networking and information sharing opportunities at internal and external meetings
- Greater involvement by the government and peak bodies in professional development and training, including through scholarships funding.
Changes required to current vocational education
- Increasing the practical component, with more hours required earlier in the study program and quality practicums to ensure realistic expectations of the sector
- Quality and consistency in qualifications and assessment between institutions is needed (eg. between TAFE, Registered Training Organisations and universities)
- Better regulation and monitoring of Registered Training Organisations to ensure well-trained staff
- University degrees focusing on early childhood, for example, birth to 5 years
- Curriculum review to ensure skills taught are relevant to service requirements (eg. business skills)
- Greater networking between services and institutions
- More information and support for Early Childhood Education and Care students, including during the transition between study and the workforce
- Explaining alternative study pathways
- Lower fees with flexible payment plans
- More emphasis on leadership training courses, including networking for leaders, training and professional development
- Recognising prior learning.
- Early Childhood Education and Care is viewed as a ‘short term’ role and not a career, and there is limited incentive to move from diploma to degree
- Career pathways are essential for attracting and retaining highly trained staff
- Encouraging career aspirations and supporting training pathways within the service
- Opportunities for leadership, mentoring and meeting with other staff.
What next for disability reform?
Following the consultation sessions the new disability and inclusion program guidelines for community preschools (including mobile preschools) are now available.
The NSW Government is committed to supporting children with disability and additional learning needs to meaningfully participate in early childhood education programs on the same basis as their peers. The program also aligns support arrangements to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Start Strong early childhood education funding model.
The department received extensive feedback through the consultation sessions, which has directly informed transition and implementation arrangements.
If you have further queries about the new disability and inclusion program, the program guidelines and transition arrangements, please contact the information and enquiries team.