Page 297 - Week 01 - Thursday, 12 February 2015

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These are not standards we want to compromise or back away from. The feedback from the sector is that, while some adjustments could be or should be made, there is no desire to abandon the current standards.

The ACT government regulates the education and care sector through the Education and Training Directorate’s children’s policy and regulation unit. Each service has allocated an adviser who has qualifications and experience in education and care settings. These officers regularly visit services to provide guidance and support, as well as ensuring services are meeting quality standards. These officers are also responsible for assessing and rating services. This is an important part of the national quality framework that is designed to support service providers in continually reviewing their practices, identifying their strengths and making improvements that support children’s learning and development.

We are already seeing significant improvements in the ACT as services strive towards the national quality standards. For example, one long day care service improved its overall rating from working towards the national quality standards to exceeding it within the space of 18 months. This is a fantastic achievement, especially considering the national quality framework has set much higher standards for quality care than previous accreditation systems.

Ratings across seven quality areas also provide valuable information to parents about the quality of their education and care service, while the draft Productivity Commission report indicates that an assessment and rating system is more efficient than the previous systems. All governments are currently looking at ways to streamline the process and ensure we are measuring the right elements of service provision. The Productivity Commission also considers that regulators should maintain an educative function.

This government, through the Education and Training Directorate’s CPRU, provides a valuable role in supporting the sector to understand their requirements under the national quality framework and to meet the national quality standards. The CPRU provides advice through its website, information sheets, monthly newsletters, quarterly sector forums and one-on-one interactions with service providers. At the same time, we are committed to supporting the sector in delivering quality service. We are also conscious of the need to support growth in the sector to meet the increased demand for education and care places. There are currently around 9,600 places available to children of preschool age and under in centre-based services in the ACT. There are also around 3,300 places offered in government preschools.

Over the past few years, the ACT government has embarked on a program of facility upgrades to support services to meet new quality standards and to increase available places. The infrastructure program includes extensions, refurbishments and upgrades to facilities owned by the Education and Training Directorate, including long day care centres and public preschools. The directorate has also invested significantly in new facilities, most recently with the construction of the Franklin Early Childhood School, which includes a long day care centre as well as a public preschool, and the Holder Early Childhood Centre.

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