Educational Experience was recently heavily represented at the first official National Quality Framework conference. Hosted by The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) in Sydney. The event was held over two days with more than 950 delegates involved in a variety of professional development sessions. This was a truly national conference. The diverse range of participants was one of the reasons for the overwhelming success of the sold out conference. There were representatives from every region and state of Australia, all bringing together their unique stories of how the NQF has been implemented. Our representatives included National Sales Manager, Georgina Picton who said that ‘Educational Experience showed our support for the NQF Conference with two booths, packed full of brilliant educational resources.’
Shane Lucas, CEO of the Early Learning Association of Australia, was most impressed by the range of participants, ‘there was a diverse range of people; educators and directors from all sectors.’ For Mr Lucas this encouraged something that he thought had been missing from early childhood education and care. ‘It was a national conference, with a national conversation.’ While Early Learning Association of Australia had historically been a Victorian based organisation, its new national vision was enhanced by this conference, ‘it was these interactions with peers from across the country that was most enlightening for me on a personal level,’ said Mr Lucas. Georgina, agreed with Mr Lucas, ‘The variety of representatives from across the country and all education settings made for interesting discussion about the future’.
The ongoing journey towards a national approach has been important for Mr Lucas and he envisions the National Quality Framework as something vital to the sector. ‘This agenda, for a national view, is important. There must a national quality.’ The process involving accreditation for such a diverse sector must be comfortable with the national vision, explained Mr Lucas. Georgina echoed Mr Lucas, saying that ‘It is vital Educational Experience can show all educators and carers that our resources and our vision for education fits perfectly with the NQF.’
ACECQA Board Chair Rachel Hunter described the event as a fantastic opportunity for the sector to come together and it was great to hear the stories from across the nation. Ms Hunter gave the introductory plenary and asked ‘What is an ACECQA?’ with some help from some children and their imaginations.
While the change of Federal government did give way to some trepidation, Mr Lucas believes that the NQF is not going anywhere. Mr Lucas highlighted that ‘There is a general sense that the jury is out in regards to the new government. I believe that there will be a commitment at the higher levels of the government for this [National Quality Framework] focus on quality.’ For Mr Lucas most concern would come over lengthy process of accreditation. Mr Lucas emphasised ‘There will always be questions about the cost and timely nature of the processes.’ Essentially, Mr Lucas echoed the thoughts of many in the early childhood education and care sector, ‘Quality in early learning means better social and economic benefits in the long term.’
The NQF Conference keynote presentations were widely praised, kicking off with Mark McCrindle, Social Demographer who discussed trends and what the family of the future will look like, how they will behave and how this will influence the future of children’s education and care. Focusing on research released just prior to the conference Mr McCrindle shared his insights into the family of the future and what that means for children’s education and care. More than 300,000 babies are being born every year, which is more babies than born in the original baby boom after World War II. This will mean huge increases in the importance and availability of children’s education and care in future.
Karen Schmidt, Change Management Specialist followed up with an engaging presentation on dealing with change. Over nearly two years, the children’s education and care sector has been adjusting to change with the introduction of the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care. Ms Schmidt’s presentation resonated with many in the audience with her suggestions and tips for embracing and encouraging change, where change equals growth.
On day two ACECQA CEO Karen Curtis opened the day with a reflection on the nature of the NQF Story and how it is different for each participant on the journey.
The first National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell followed on with the morning’s opening plenary talking about Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – the right to play. Ms Mitchell, Network of Community Activities CEO Robyn Monro Miller and a guest panel of educators had an interactive question and answer session with outside school hours children Rocco and Holly about the importance of play, the NQF and outside school hours care services. Holly summed up the importance of quality children’s education and care services beautifully saying: “If The Cottage was on another planet I would still feel at home”.
Paul Porteous, Director of Leadership Development at the Australia New Zealand School of Government delivered a high energy presentation on leadership techniques and their relationship with problem solving. Mr Porteous noted the importance of taking time to adapt to new environments and situations that have never been faced before, to spend time diagnosing and understanding these difficult situations rather than rushing to action.
Khoa Do, film-maker, teacher and Young Australian of the Year (2005) wrapped up the conference with his inspiring story of overcoming obstacles. Touching on his own story as a refugee, Khoa discussed how education and life lessons helped him to write his own success story, reinforcing the message that you can do anything if you set your mind to it.
Over the two days, conference delegates had the opportunity to attend nine different breakout sessions with the themes of quality, consistency and excellence. These session presentations will be made available online in the coming weeks.
The ACECQA website is hosting a variety of resources available to those who could not attend and for participants to gain further insight into the NQF Story.
Educational Experience would like to thank:
ACECQA their support and contribution to this article,
Mr Shane Lucas, CEO of the Early Learning Association of Australia, for his insightful contribution.