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The New 2022 Essential NQS Assessment and Rating Conference

Our new Essential NQS Assessment and Rating conference is coming to your state in 2022 and we couldn’t be more excited! Since the implementation of the National Quality Framework in 2012, we’ve come a long way as a sector and this conference is the culmination of what we’ve learned so far and has been a decade in the making. One of those learnings, it’s fair to say, is that Assessors are not and cannot be expected to be experts on all matters in relation to education and care. Early and middle childhood pedagogy and practice is sophisticated and complex, and I say that not only as a consultant and university lecturer, but also as a previous teacher in both early childhood and primary school settings. Assessors are tasked with determining quality at a service through the lens of the National Quality Standard. However, this doesn’t mean that they have a superior level of expertise or know more than teachers and educators about the delivery of quality practice in unique contexts in relation to the National Quality Standard. It is incumbent on teachers and educators to step into their professional space and know how to advocate for their own practice, and in doing so become advocates for their children, families and communities. While ever we as a sector modify our practise to fit into pre-determined expectations of others (e.g., assessors), then we undermine our own professional expertise, knowledge and skills.

I have a very good friend who is Director of a number of public hospitals in a local area health district in NSW. He’s not a doctor. He’s an exceptional administrator. He doesn’t tell the doctors that report to him how to practise medicine. He listens to them and relies on their expertise. However, he expects that they are able to explain their decisions to him using an evidence base. What does this have to do with education and care? Well, if as teachers and educators we are able to draw on our evidence base, such as the theories that underpin our approved learning frameworks, and explain these in relation to our own unique practice, then we are in the best position to make a claim for meeting or exceeding the National Quality Standard. Assessors are not experts, although this is by no means a criticism of their extensive skills and capabilities. If you asked an Assessor whether they were an expert in pedagogy and practice, I’m sure that they would agree that they are not! Teachers and educators, who are everyday practitioners, are the experts. What will stand them in good stead in relation to success in A & R is being able to talk about their practice, the why of what they do, and for this knowledge and confidence to be shared and then able to be articulated across an educational team. When teams share this knowledge and feel confident to talk about the why of their practice, then they are not necessarily beholden to the ‘trends, fads and fables’ of our sector. Progressive mealtimes? Mat sessions or group times? Maybe they’re for you in your context, and maybe they’re not. What’s important is your ability to articulate what’s influenced your curriculum decisions, and how this aligns with the NQF. Must you cut down your beloved 50-year-old oak tree in the outdoor area just because an Assessor says so? Well, do you have a risk assessment, a history of no or insignificant injuries to children, an introduction to safe climbing of the oak tree as part of the induction and orientation process, a program that reflects regular revisiting of how to climb the tree safely, a philosophy that values challenging play to support children’s physical, social and emotional development, etc? Stepping in to your professional expertise would see you advocating for the retention of your old oak tree for the benefits its brings to children’s learning and development, whilst aligning your rationale with the NQF.

The new Essential NQS Assessment and Rating Conference aims to empower teachers and educators to step into their professional know how and advocate for high quality and contextually relevant practice. Not only is this a powerful professional skill, it is also a key contributor to teachers and educators feeling valued, a key contributor to their sense of identity and ultimately wellbeing, and a key contributor to retention and career progression. Some lofty claims there, but we believe them to be true! The Essential NQS Assessment and Rating Conference will take place in every capital city in Australia, with the aspiration of regional events in the not-too-distant future. Watch this space for further details, and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Jennifer Ribarovski


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