Exceeding the National Quality Standard in Long Day Care settings: A behind the scenes study of the hidden work of educators in high quality services

Year: 2013

Author: Olsen, Alicia, Elliott, Alison

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Recently, the Australian Government introduced a new National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care services to improve the health, wellbeing and early learning of children Birth-8 years of age. As part of the National Quality Framework, the quality of Early Childhood Education and Care services is now assessed under the National Quality Standard which comprises of seven quality areas that are imperative to outcomes for children. A service can be given an overall rating of one of four rating levels; Exceeds National Quality Standard, Meets National Quality Standard and Significant improvement required. Later a highly ranked service may apply for an Excellent rating. This poster presentation reports on a pilot study that investigated what goes on "behind the scenes" of long day care services that are "exceeding the National Quality Standard" and the impact of the National Quality Standard and assessment and rating processes on educators. Specifically, it explored the actual work roles during the assessment processes for educators involved directly with children's education and care on a daily basis. In practice, early childhood educators are a key determinant of quality, yet their roles are often under valued. Typically, they have much more influence on the quality of children's learning than do government policies. This research closely examined the "public face" of the assessment and rating process such as the formal assessment reports of early childhood services (the assessment and rating instrument) and the "hidden" roles of educators whose daily work with children puts policy into practice. As such educators are the backbone of early childhood services, yet there is little information on their contributions towards achieving high quality ratings. Preliminary results indicate that achieving an "exceeding National Quality Standard" rating requires much more than a long day care service simply exceeding the standards and elements listed in the National Quality Standard assessment and rating instrument. Interviews with educators indicate that what goes on behind the scenes and the invisible elements of professional practice that are often difficult to observe and document contribute significantly to a service achieving a high quality rating. This poster presents the results of the pilot study and highlights some of the "hidden dimensions of professional practice" that were identified. Questions are raised about the effectiveness of the National Quality Standard assessment and rating process and the lack of recognition of these underpinning dimensions of educators' professional practice in the assessment and rating documentation.