Exceeding NQS in Quality Area 7: Continuous improvement (Element 7.2.1)

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 7: Element 7.2.1

To achieve an Exceeding NQS rating in the National Quality Standard 7.2, specifically in ELEMENT 7.2.1 CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT, here’s an exhaustive list of practical steps based on the provided references:

Element 7.2.1: Continuous Improvement

Objective: Ensure an effective self-assessment and quality improvement process is in place.

  1. Regular Monitoring and Review:
    • Monitor and review performance regularly to guide planning and improve service quality.
    • Update and maintain the Quality Improvement Plan as a dynamic document to guide progress towards improvement.
    • Use the Quality Improvement Plan for continuous assessment against the National Quality Standard and the approved learning frameworks.
    • Identify new goals for the service as part of an effective cycle of improvement.
  2. Engage in Regular Discussions:
    • Incorporate regular self-assessment and quality improvement discussions in staff meetings.
    • Encourage educators to participate in reflection on key practices, such as pedagogy and inclusion.
    • Enable all staff members to provide input into planning for continuous quality improvement.
  3. Establish a Reflective Culture:
    • Maintain a culture of ongoing reflection and self-review.
    • Challenge and inspire motivation among staff.
    • Support positive levels of staff satisfaction.
    • Provide opportunities for all staff to improve their practice and programming, which directly contributes to improved learning outcomes for children.
  4. Review Key Areas:
    • Review the extent to which the service meets or exceeds the National Quality Standard.
    • Review the performance of all staff members.
    • Ensure the service and its practices align with the Early Years Learning Framework and/or the Framework for School Age Care (or other approved learning frameworks).
    • Assess the outcomes for children at the service against the learning outcomes in these frameworks.
    • Gather feedback and address complaints from children and families.
  5. Stay Updated:
    • Familiarize with the updated national approved learning frameworks.
    • Transition to Version 2 of the frameworks as soon as practicable.
  6. Assessment Guide:
    • Ensure that service practices and program delivery match the service’s self-assessment, which should be reflected in its Quality Improvement Plan.
    • Engage in discussions about how the service aligns program delivery with quality improvement planning, collects information for self-assessment, uses reflections on children’s learning for planning, and how the educational leader supports educators.
    • Display the service’s Quality Improvement Plan so that families and staff can view the current goals and strategies for quality improvement.
    • Document the process for ongoing self-assessment, planning, and review against the National Quality Standard.

Exceeding NQS Guidance for Standard 7.2: Leadership

  1. Embedded Practice in Service Operations (Theme 1):
    • Ensure educators, the educational leader, and coordinators demonstrate a deep understanding of the requirements of the Standard.
    • Build and promote a positive organizational culture.
    • Support educators through ongoing professional development opportunities, such as mentoring.
    • Actively participate in the service’s ongoing self-assessment and quality improvement process.
  2. Informed by Critical Reflection (Theme 2):
    • Reflect on the service’s approach to leadership, ensuring it’s informed by robust debate, discussion, and past incidents.
    • Regularly reflect on the service’s quality improvement processes and make changes where opportunities are identified.
    • Systematically reflect, individually and as a team, on service performance in relation to the National Quality Standard.
  3. Shaped by Meaningful Engagement with Families and/or the Community (Theme 3):
    • Ensure leadership reflects the unique geographical, cultural, and community context of the service.
    • Support families and the community to participate meaningfully in the service’s quality improvement processes.
    • Build and maintain community partnerships that support continuous quality improvement.

By following these steps and ensuring that all practices are embedded in service operations, informed by critical reflection, and shaped by meaningful engagement with families and the community, your service can work towards achieving an Exceeding NQS rating in the National Quality Standard 7.2.

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 extensive list of steps to achieve an Exceeding NQS rating in the National Quality Standard 7.2, and considering the limited time of 4 hours per week, it’s crucial to prioritize tasks and break them down into manageable chunks. Here’s an example monthly schedule for an educator:

Week 1: Understanding and Planning

Total Time: 4 hours

  1. Research and Familiarization (1 hour):
    • Review the National Quality Standard 7.2 and its objectives.
    • Familiarize with the updated national approved learning frameworks.
  2. Self-Assessment (2 hours):
    • Assess the current state of the service against the National Quality Standard.
    • Identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement.
  3. Planning (1 hour):
    • Draft a preliminary Quality Improvement Plan based on the self-assessment.
    • Prioritize areas that need immediate attention.

Week 2: Engagement and Feedback

Total Time: 4 hours

  1. Engage with Staff (1 hour):
    • Hold a staff meeting to discuss the Quality Improvement Plan.
    • Gather feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  2. Engage with Families and Community (2 hours):
    • Send out surveys or hold short feedback sessions with families.
    • Reach out to the community for potential partnerships.
  3. Update the Quality Improvement Plan (1 hour):
    • Incorporate feedback from staff, families, and the community.
    • Refine goals and strategies based on feedback.

Week 3: Implementation and Reflection

Total Time: 4 hours

  1. Implement Changes (2 hours):
    • Start with the most prioritized areas from the Quality Improvement Plan.
    • Make necessary changes in practices, policies, or procedures.
  2. Reflective Practice (1 hour):
    • Engage in individual reflection on the changes made.
    • Document reflections and any observations.
  3. Engage with the Educational Leader (1 hour):
    • Discuss the changes made and gather feedback.
    • Seek guidance on further improvements.

Week 4: Review and Continuous Improvement

Total Time: 4 hours

  1. Review Implemented Changes (2 hours):
    • Assess the impact of the changes made.
    • Gather feedback from staff, children, and families.
  2. Update the Quality Improvement Plan (1 hour):
    • Make necessary updates based on the review.
    • Set new goals for the next month.
  3. Plan for Next Month (1 hour):
    • Based on the updated Quality Improvement Plan, draft a schedule for the next month.
    • Prioritize tasks and allocate time accordingly.

By following this monthly schedule, the educator can systematically work towards improving their service, ensuring that they are making the most of their limited time each week.

Reflective Questions

Reflective questions are essential tools to guide critical thinking and self-assessment. For Element 7.2.1, which focuses on continuous improvement, here’s an exhaustive list of reflective questions:

Understanding and Planning

  1. Do I fully understand the objectives and requirements of Element 7.2.1?
  2. How often do I review and update our Quality Improvement Plan?
  3. What are the current strengths of our service in relation to continuous improvement?
  4. Which areas of our service need immediate attention and improvement?

Engagement and Collaboration

  1. How effectively do I engage with staff, families, and the community in the continuous improvement process?
  2. Are there channels in place for all stakeholders to provide feedback on our service’s quality?
  3. How do I ensure that every staff member feels involved in the quality improvement process?
  4. In what ways do I actively seek and incorporate feedback from families and the community?

Implementation and Action

  1. How do I prioritize and implement changes based on our Quality Improvement Plan?
  2. What strategies are in place to monitor the impact of changes made?
  3. How do I ensure that changes made align with the National Quality Standard and approved learning frameworks?
  4. Are there any barriers or challenges faced during the implementation of improvements? How can they be addressed?

Reflection and Growth

  1. How often do I engage in individual and collective reflection on our service’s practices?
  2. What tools or methods do I use to facilitate reflective practice within the team?
  3. How do reflections influence decision-making and planning for continuous improvement?
  4. Are there any recent incidents or feedback that have sparked significant reflection and led to changes?

Outcomes and Feedback

  1. How do I measure the outcomes of the changes implemented?
  2. Are there any noticeable improvements in children’s learning outcomes as a result of the changes made?
  3. How do I address feedback or complaints from children and families?
  4. What mechanisms are in place to ensure continuous feedback from all stakeholders?

Continuous Learning and Development

  1. How do I stay updated with the latest in early childhood education and care practices?
  2. Are there professional development opportunities that can further enhance our continuous improvement efforts?
  3. How do I ensure that the entire team is aligned with the goals set in the Quality Improvement Plan?
  4. What are the long-term goals for continuous improvement, and how are they communicated to the team?

Future Planning

  1. Based on reflections and outcomes, what are the next steps for continuous improvement?
  2. How do I envision our service’s quality in the next year? What steps are needed to get there?
  3. Are there any external resources or partnerships that can be leveraged for continuous improvement?
  4. How can we ensure that the cycle of reflection, action, and improvement remains ongoing and sustainable?

Using these reflective questions, educators and service leaders can critically assess their practices, identify areas for improvement, and ensure that they are consistently working towards achieving an Exceeding NQS rating in Element 7.2.1.

Learning from ACEQA case studies

Let’s break down the practical steps taken by the services in the provided case studies to achieve Exceeding NQS standards in Element 7.2.1:

Case Study 1

This outside school hours care program, situated in a rural community, was keen to rethink their approach to developing their Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) as part of their vision for quality. Inspired by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and specifically Article 12, they wanted to ensure children had every opportunity to express their views in matters affecting them and for those views to be taken into account.

  1. Child-Centered Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) Development
    • Reason: Ensuring children have every opportunity to express their views in matters affecting them.
    • Tips: Engage children in meaningful ways, such as ‘talking circles’, to gather their feedback and insights.
    • Estimated Time: 2-3 weeks for initial setup and ongoing monthly sessions.
  2. Educator Mentoring and Shared Critical Reflection
    • Reason: Building a culture of continuous improvement and shared understanding.
    • Tips: Pair educators with different strengths and experiences to mentor each other.
    • Estimated Time: Ongoing, with monthly reflection sessions.
  3. Engaging Families in the QIP Review Process
    • Reason: Ensuring families understand and contribute to the service’s quality improvement journey.
    • Tips: Use visual displays, surveys, and direct conversations to gather feedback from families.
    • Estimated Time: 1-2 weeks for initial setup and ongoing monthly updates.
  4. Utilizing ACECQA QIP Self-Assessment Tool
    • Reason: Structured reflection against the NQS to identify strengths and areas for improvement.
    • Tips: Dedicate regular staff meetings to discuss one quality area at a time.
    • Estimated Time: 3-4 months to cover all quality areas.
  5. Visible QIP with Active Engagement Strategies
    • Reason: Keeping the QIP at the forefront and ensuring all stakeholders are informed and engaged.
    • Tips: Use creative displays, station educators for Q&A, and regularly update the QIP visuals.
    • Estimated Time: 1 week for setup and ongoing weekly updates.

Case Study 2

This council-run family day care service is situated in a local government area that covers a large geographical area and is on the outskirts of a major city. The council’s Children’s Services department also manages a range of other education and care services including long day care, occasional care and outside school hours care services.

  1. Commitment to UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
    • Reason: Upholding children’s rights and promoting best practice.
    • Tips: Regularly review and align service practices with the Convention’s principles.
    • Estimated Time: Ongoing with quarterly reviews.
  2. Distributed Leadership Approach
    • Reason: Utilizing the strengths, expertise, and interests of all coordinators to enhance service quality.
    • Tips: Engage in critical reflection to understand and implement distributed leadership effectively.
    • Estimated Time: 1-2 months for initial setup and ongoing monthly reflections.
  3. Engaging Educators in Distributed Leadership
    • Reason: Recognizing and valuing the knowledge, skills, and expertise of all educators.
    • Tips: Regularly consult with educators, provide them with leadership opportunities, and value their contributions.
    • Estimated Time: Ongoing with monthly check-ins.
  4. Intentional Professional Learning Practices
    • Reason: Ensuring that professional learning directly impacts and improves service quality.
    • Tips: Align professional learning with the QIP, engage educators in setting their learning goals, and facilitate knowledge sharing.
    • Estimated Time: Ongoing with quarterly reviews.
  5. Regular Feedback Mechanisms with Families and Educators
    • Reason: Keeping a pulse on the needs, interests, and feedback of stakeholders.
    • Tips: Use surveys, face-to-face sessions, and other feedback tools to gather insights and act on them.
    • Estimated Time: 1 week for initial setup and ongoing monthly sessions.

By implementing these practical steps, services can work towards achieving an Exceeding NQS rating in Element 7.2.1.



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