A key objective of the National Quality Framework is to promote continuous improvement in the provision of quality education and care services. Every service is required to be assessed and rated for quality by regulatory bodies and self-assessment is one of the most important steps in this entire process. Here is a bit more about the importance of self-assessment in the early care and education context.
What Is Self-Assessment?
In Australia, all education and care services must complete self-assessment to inform the development of a Quality Improvement Plan or QIP. A self-assessment identifies areas for improvement and then the QIP then be used to prioritise these improvements. There should be clear links between your service’s self-assessment documentation and identified priorities for attention in your QIP.
In the context of the assessment and rating process, self-assessment can be understood as a comprehensive cyclical process involving five steps:
- critical reflection of your service philosophy – this means analysing whether your service philosophy reflects its current operation and whether your educators, staff and other stakeholders are aware of the philosophy and what it means.
- self-assessment of service practice against the NQS and the regulatory requirements - essentially checking whether what you ‘do’ in the service meets requirements and guidelines laid down in the National Law, National Quality Standards and approved learning frameworks; if it doesn’t, take steps for prompt correction
- identification of strengths and opportunities for quality improvement – understanding what you are doing well and where you need to improve
- transferal of outcomes of the self-assessment to inform the development or update of your service QIP – use the takeaways of self-assessment to develop a fresh or update an existing QIP
- review and reflection of the self-assessment process – checking whether your self-assessment achieved its purpose.
In order to demonstrate to the regulatory authority, that your self-assessment has informed the development and review of the QIP, it is a good idea to document the self-assessment. Though not a mandated requirement, the ACECQA Self-assessment Tool is a free resource that you can use as a ‘starting point’ to plan to improve quality outcomes for children and families. The Self-assessment tool can be used to:
- identify strengths, areas of compliance
- practices that are Exceeding the NQS
- areas and opportunities for quality improvement
- complement and contribute to the development, review and update of your service QIP
Services may choose to apply or adapt the Self-Assessment Tool in a way that meets the needs of their unique service context.
For your self-assessment and quality improvement planning to be most effective, your service should engage not just professionals like educators, the nominated supervisor, service leaders, management, coordinators, educational leaders and other service staff but also take inputs from children, families and the broader community.
In each quality area, there are two or three standards. These standards are high-level outcome statements. Under each standard are elements that describe the outcomes that contribute to the standard being achieved within the service. The following is a list of all achievements under each 7 Quality Areas that can help services identify if they are achieving within each area which can be included in the self-assessment. It also includes documentation evidence required to support each element. Please follow the links to read through each Quality Area.
How To Achieve Each Quality Area
The following guidance is provided to assist services and assessors to consider if practise demonstrates a rating of Exceeding NQS. The indicators provided are not exhaustive, and services may demonstrate Exceeding level in a variety of ways that suit their particular operating environment and approach to practice.
Exceeding Quality Areas Within The NQS
Self-assessment requires all members of your service team to understand the NQS and the related regulatory requirements to effectively reflect on and evaluate current service practice, policies and procedures. a vital tool for this is the Guide to the National Quality Framework, especially Section 3 which has useful information on the assessment and rating process – including self-assessment and quality improvement – as well as a guide to the NQS including introductory statements for each quality area, standard and element that describe the intent and how practices contribute to quality outcomes for all children and families.
Importance Of Self Assessment In A Culture Of Continuous Improvement, ACECQA