Exceeding NQS in Quality Area 3: Fit for purpose (Element 3.1.1)

We’ve read over 1,000 pages of ACEQA guides, case studies and content (in September 2023) and have used this information to provide practical steps you can take to attempt to get a rating of Exceeding NQS for your service. We also provide an example weekly schedule for improvement, reflective questions and insights from ACEQA case studies.

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Practical Steps Towards an Exceeding NQS Rating in Quality Area 3: Element 3.1.1

To achieve an Exceeding NQS rating in the National Quality Standard 3.1, specifically in ELEMENT 3.1.1 FIT FOR PURPOSE, you will need to demonstrate that your service’s practices in this element are:

  1. Embedded in service operations (Theme 1)
  2. Informed by critical reflection (Theme 2)
  3. Shaped by meaningful engagement with families and/or the community (Theme 3)

Here’s an exhaustive list of practical steps you can take for each theme:

Theme 1: Embedded in Service Operations

  1. Consistent Implementation: Ensure that the physical environment is consistently fit for purpose across all aspects of the program.
  2. Training: Provide regular training sessions for all educators on the importance and methods of maintaining a physical environment that is fit for purpose.
  3. Documentation: Maintain a comprehensive record of how the physical environment supports children’s learning and development.
  4. Routine Checks: Implement daily, weekly, and monthly checks to ensure that the physical environment remains fit for purpose.
  5. Feedback Mechanism: Establish a system where educators can provide feedback on the physical environment and suggest improvements.

Theme 2: Informed by Critical Reflection

  1. Regular Reviews: Conduct regular reviews of the physical environment to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
  2. Group Reflection Sessions: Organize group reflection sessions where educators can discuss the effectiveness of the physical environment in supporting children’s learning and development.
  3. Individual Reflection: Encourage educators to individually reflect on their personal practices related to maintaining a fit-for-purpose environment.
  4. Action Plans: Based on reflections, create action plans to address any identified gaps or areas of improvement.
  5. Incorporate External Insights: Invite external experts or consultants to provide insights on how the physical environment can be improved.

Theme 3: Shaped by Meaningful Engagement with Families and/or the Community

  1. Feedback Surveys: Distribute surveys to families and the community seeking feedback on the physical environment.
  2. Open Days: Organize open days where families and the community can visit and provide feedback on the physical environment.
  3. Community Engagement: Collaborate with local community groups or organizations to gather insights on how to make the physical environment more inclusive and fit for purpose.
  4. Incorporate Feedback: Actively incorporate feedback from families and the community into decision-making processes related to the physical environment.
  5. Communication Channels: Establish regular communication channels, such as newsletters or meetings, to update families and the community on changes made to the physical environment based on their feedback.

Additional Steps for Overall Exceeding NQS Rating:

  1. Quality Areas: Ensure that all Quality Areas meet at least the Meeting NQS standard.
  2. Focus on Key Quality Areas: Prioritize achieving an Exceeding NQS rating in at least two of the following Quality Areas: 1, 5, 6, or 7.
  3. Continuous Improvement: Continuously strive for improvement in all 15 NQS Standards using the three Exceeding themes.

Remember, achieving an Exceeding NQS rating requires a holistic approach where all educators, families, and the community work collaboratively to ensure that the highest standards are met and maintained.

An Example Monthly Schedule

Ready to implement these practical steps in your service? Using the constraints of 4 hours per week to work on improvements, we’ve created an example schedule below.

Given the constraint of 4 hours per week, it’s essential to prioritize tasks that can have the most immediate impact while also ensuring a balanced approach across all three themes. Here’s an example monthly schedule for an educator:

Week 1: Understanding and Planning

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1Self-assessment – Spend the first hour understanding the current state of the physical environment. Identify areas that are already fit for purpose and areas that need improvement.
  2. Hour 2Research – Dedicate this hour to researching best practices related to maintaining a fit-for-purpose environment in educational settings.
  3. Hours 3-4Planning – Draft a plan for the month, prioritizing areas that need immediate attention. This plan will guide the activities for the subsequent weeks.

Week 2: Theme 1 – Embedded in Service Operations

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1Training – Spend an hour researching or preparing a short training module on the importance of a fit-for-purpose environment.
  2. Hour 2Routine Checks – Conduct a thorough check of the physical environment, noting any areas that need attention.
  3. Hours 3-4Documentation – Begin documenting how the physical environment supports children’s learning and development. This can be a combination of photographs, notes, and feedback from colleagues.

Week 3: Theme 2 – Informed by Critical Reflection

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1Group Reflection Session – Organize a one-hour session with colleagues to discuss the physical environment’s effectiveness.
  2. Hour 2Individual Reflection – Dedicate this hour to personal reflection. Consider keeping a journal to note down thoughts and observations.
  3. Hours 3-4Action Plans – Based on the reflections from the group session and personal observations, draft an action plan to address identified areas of improvement.

Week 4: Theme 3 – Shaped by Meaningful Engagement with Families and/or the Community

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1Feedback Surveys – Design a simple feedback survey for families and the community. This can be a digital survey or a paper-based one.
  2. Hour 2Communication – Draft a newsletter or communication piece updating families and the community about the ongoing efforts to improve the physical environment.
  3. Hours 3-4Community Engagement – Spend these hours reaching out to local community groups or organizations. This can be through emails, phone calls, or even a face-to-face meeting if possible.

By the end of the month, the educator would have touched upon all three themes and made tangible progress in improving the service’s physical environment. This schedule can be adjusted based on the specific needs and feedback received during the month.

Reflective Questions

Reflective questions are essential tools for educators to critically analyze and improve their practices. For Element 3.1.1 “Fit for Purpose,” the following exhaustive list of reflective questions can guide reflection:

Understanding the Element

  1. What does a “fit for purpose” physical environment mean to me?
  2. How does the current physical environment align with the principles of the National Quality Standard (NQS)?
  3. In what ways does our physical environment support children’s learning and development?

Assessing the Current Environment

  1. Are there areas in our physical environment that are underutilized or overlooked?
  2. How accessible is our environment for all children, including those with special needs?
  3. Are there any safety concerns in the current environment setup?
  4. How flexible is our environment in adapting to different learning activities and experiences?

Engagement and Feedback

  1. How often do we seek feedback from children about the physical environment?
  2. What feedback have we received from families and the community about our environment?
  3. How have we incorporated this feedback into our practices?

Continuous Improvement

  1. What changes have we made in the past to improve the suitability of our environment?
  2. Are there any barriers or challenges we face in maintaining or improving a fit-for-purpose environment?
  3. How do we prioritize and address these challenges?

Collaboration and Teamwork

  1. How do all educators contribute to maintaining and enhancing the physical environment?
  2. Are there opportunities for team collaboration in improving our environment?

Learning and Development

  1. How does our physical environment cater to the diverse learning styles and needs of children?
  2. Are there areas in our environment that stimulate curiosity, exploration, and problem-solving?
  3. How do we ensure that our environment is inclusive and promotes a sense of belonging for all children?

Resources and Materials

  1. Do we have the necessary resources and materials to support a fit-for-purpose environment?
  2. How often do we review and update the materials and resources in our environment?

Community and Cultural Considerations

  1. How does our environment reflect the cultural diversity of our community?
  2. Are there aspects of our environment that can be enhanced to better represent the local community and culture?

Future Planning

  1. What are our short-term and long-term goals for improving the physical environment?
  2. How do we plan to achieve these goals?
  3. How will we measure the success of our efforts in maintaining a fit-for-purpose environment?

Personal Reflection

  1. How do I personally contribute to ensuring our environment is fit for purpose?
  2. What have I learned from my experiences and reflections related to Element 3.1.1?
  3. Are there areas where I need further training or support to better contribute to a fit-for-purpose environment?

These reflective questions aim to provide a comprehensive understanding and evaluation of the practices related to Element 3.1.1. Regularly revisiting these questions can help educators stay aligned with the NQS and continuously improve their services.

Learning from ACEQA case studies

Let’s break down the practical steps taken by services in the provided case studies to achieve Exceeding NQS standards in Element 3.1.1, along with the reasons, tips, and estimated implementation times.

Case Study 1

This before and after school and vacation care service situated in a regional city is based in a two-room cottage on the grounds of the local school. The service has access to other indoor spaces used by the school. This includes the newly refurbished kitchen and a meeting space for staff meetings. The service also uses the school’s playground, which includes a large grass area, sandpit and an area with fixed playground equipment. During vacation care when more children attend, the service also makes use of the school hall.

  1. Collaborative Relationship with School Principal and Teachers
    • Reason: This ensures that the OSHC perspective is considered in the design of renovations to relevant parts of the school.
    • Tip: Schedule regular meetings with the school principal and teachers to discuss mutual concerns and collaborate on shared projects.
    • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours per meeting, quarterly.
  2. Engaging in Cultural Projects
    • Reason: Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and perspectives in the curriculum promotes inclusivity.
    • Tip: Collaborate with local cultural leaders or elders to design and implement culturally relevant projects.
    • Estimated Time: 5-6 hours for initial planning and discussions, ongoing engagement thereafter.
  3. Promoting a Sense of Belonging
    • Reason: Ensuring that the physical environment reflects the service’s philosophy of inclusion.
    • Tip: Engage children in discussions about belonging, document their feelings, and make necessary adjustments to the environment.
    • Estimated Time: 3-4 hours for discussions and documentation, with ongoing reflections.
  4. Action Research Project on Physical Environment
    • Reason: To ensure all children feel that they belong and to make necessary adjustments based on children’s feedback.
    • Tip: Regularly review the physical environment with children, seeking their feedback on welcoming and inclusive spaces.
    • Estimated Time: 4-5 hours for initial review and discussions, with periodic follow-ups.
  5. Maintenance and Renovation Collaborations
    • Reason: Ensuring that the physical environment is welcoming and fit for purpose.
    • Tip: Collaborate with the school’s maintenance team or local businesses for renovations and maintenance checks.
    • Estimated Time: 5-6 hours for planning and discussions, with additional time for actual renovations.

Case Study 2

This family day care service is situated in a regional town close to a major city. The coordination unit is located within a purpose-built integrated child and family service, which includes a long day care program, maternal and child health centre and a branch library. The service also has community spaces that are available to local community groups. The coordination unit makes use of these spaces for professional gatherings, such as team meetings, reflective practice meetings and professional learning sessions for educators.

  1. Reflecting on the Concept of ‘Home’
    • Reason: Ensuring that the family day care environment is welcoming and feels like a home to the children.
    • Tip: Engage in discussions with educators about their understanding of ‘home’ and how it’s reflected in their environments.
    • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours for initial discussions, with ongoing reflections.
  2. Feedback from Families and Children
    • Reason: To ensure that the physical environment meets the needs and preferences of children and families.
    • Tip: Design surveys or feedback forms for families and engage children in discussions about their preferences.
    • Estimated Time: 3-4 hours for designing and distributing surveys, with additional time for analysis.
  3. Exploring New Models for Play Sessions
    • Reason: To provide diverse and engaging environments for children’s learning and development.
    • Tip: Consider rotating play sessions in different locations, such as parks or community spaces.
    • Estimated Time: 4-5 hours for planning and discussions, with ongoing scheduling.
  4. Benefit and Risk Assessment of Outdoor Spaces
    • Reason: Ensuring that chosen outdoor spaces are safe and beneficial for children’s learning and development.
    • Tip: Conduct thorough assessments of potential outdoor spaces, considering safety, shade, and engagement opportunities.
    • Estimated Time: 5-6 hours for each assessment.
  5. Development of New Resources for Future Educators
    • Reason: To guide future educators on creating ‘fit for purpose’ environments.
    • Tip: Collaborate with current educators to develop resources that highlight best practices and considerations for physical environments.
    • Estimated Time: 6-7 hours for resource development, with periodic updates.

These steps, when implemented with dedication and consistency, can significantly contribute to achieving an Exceeding NQS rating in Element 3.1.1.



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