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Self-assessment

Self-assessment

Self-assessment is an essential step in identifying and moving towards quality improvement. Self-assessment affects the overall experience and outcomes for children and families at the service.

Illustration of two educators talking. One has a book labelled 'Staff handbook' in her hands.

... the most effective improvements to service delivery are initiated from within the service, rather than being imposed from the outside.

Guide 4: Guide to Developing a QIP, 2013

In designing a self-assessment process service, the following are some considerations.

Who will lead the self-assessment process?

Various factors affect who is selected as the most appropriate person to lead the self-assessment process in the service. These factors include:

  • service type (long day care, preschool, family day care or OSHC)
  • leadership attributes
  • enthusiasm for the role
  • availability
  • knowledge of the process.

 Tip for practice

The person leading the self-assessment process is not expected to do all the work, or to be responsible for all the decisions or outcomes. However, someone needs to be identified to lead the way and ensure that the process is being implemented.

Engaging everyone in the process is critical. Include children, families, all educators and other staff or professionals who work closely with the service. The service type and context will influence how this engagement occurs, as face-to-face discussions may not always be possible.

What should be considered in the self-assessment process?

Self-assessment involves examining current practice at the service, deciding what is being done well and identifying what might need to be improved.

During the self-assessment process, the service's practice is evaluated against the requirements of the National Law and the National Regulations, as well as against the guidance provided in the National Quality Standard and the approved learning framework.

After self-assessment, services will be able to identify goals that will enhance the quality of children's and families' experiences within the service. These goals can then be incorporated into the service's QIP.

The self-assessment process

Diagram showing the self-assessment process. Self-assessment of service operations and practice is undertaken against: 1. The National Law and National Regulations and 2. The National Quality Standard and an approved learning framework. From this self-assessment, strengths and improvements are identified. Then the QIP is developed, including goals and strategies to achieve the goals.

Diagram showing the self-assessment process

How is self-assessment undertaken?

Guide 3: Guide to the National Quality Standard is a useful tool for the self-assessment process. It is designed to assist educators and management to understand the detail of each of the quality areas, standards and elements that make up the National Quality Standard.

Illustration of the National Law and the National Regulations

Services can use the guide to:

  • check that they are meeting the requirements of the National Law and National Regulations within each quality area
  • evaluate current practices against each of the standards and elements of every quality area
  • recognise and note areas of practice that the service sees as strengths
  • note which policies, practices and procedures need to be established or improved
  • engage in deeper thinking about practice (by discussing the list of reflective questions provided in the guide under each standard)
  • recognise the links to the EYLF and MTOP by reading the related quotes that are included under each of the elements in the guide.
  • review examples of what the assessor (authorised officer) may observe, discuss and sight.

As the improvements you are seeking to make are mainly to benefit children, it is particularly important to include their voices in these processes. The best plans are developed and reviewed collaboratively, involving, wherever possible, children, families, educators, staff members, management and other interested parties, such as those who assist children with additional needs.

Information sheet: Reviewing your QIP

The following are two examples of including different perspectives:

  1. In assessing Element 1.1.2 (Each child's current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program) an educator might decide that there are many play experiences available in the program that meet the interests of children. However, if children are asked about the program, they might say that it is boring.
  2. In relation to Element 6.1.1 (There is an effective enrolment and orientation process for families) a service might assess that their enrolment and orientation procedures work well. However, if families were asked for feedback, some might say that they have felt pressured to leave before they were ready to farewell their child, or that they were given too much or too little information during that time.

Examples of practice: different ways of approaching self-assessment

The following are examples of how people leading the self-assessment process use 'Guide 3: Guide to the National Quality Standard' to foster critically reflective, honest self-assessment. The examples are from a range of different service types.

  • Circulate the summary table of quality areas, standards and elements so that each educator knows exactly what is expected under the National Quality Standard.
  • Ask each educator to assess whether their own practice would meet all the elements and, if it wouldn't, identify any improvements needed.
  • Display one standard at a time and ask educators to write examples (on a shared poster) of how they are meeting it; the poster is regularly replaced so that educators can review different standards and share ideas with each other. This approach has been described as 'eating the elephant one bite at a time'.
  • Email educators asking them to reflect on a particular element and to provide examples of how their practice meets the National Quality Standard. Over time, all elements are covered.
  • Before staff meetings, add reflective questions from the guide to meeting agendas so that educators have time to consider them.
  • Allocate different elements from the guide to individual educators. Ask the educators to read the examples of what the assessor may observe, discuss and sight, and determine whether or not improvements are needed within the service. Findings are then shared and discussed at a staff meeting.
  • Seek children's views by talking with the children about what they like about coming to the service, what they don't like and what they would like changed. Invite the children to draw or write their ideas onto a large piece of fabric. Together, educators and children make the fabric into a flag and invite the families to a flag-raising ceremony. At the ceremony, families also contribute suggestions and comments.
  • Ask families for specific feedback about aspects of practice – for example, via email, via a survey, on large posters, on clipboards placed in the foyer and through conversations.

 Tip for practice

As long as your service reviews its practices against all of the relevant sections of the National Law, National Regulations and the standards and elements of the National Quality Standard, the self-assessment process can be carried out in a way that suits your service.

Keeping track of improvements needed

Many services create a working document or 'to do' list during their self-assessment process so that they do not lose sight of areas that need to be followed up.

Some issues should be followed up immediately, especially if they relate to children's safety or wellbeing.

Other issues will need to be reflected upon, planned and implemented over time. These are the ones to incorporate into the QIP.

When should self-assessment occur?

Self-assessment at the service is expected to be ongoing, regular and systematic.

Ongoing self-assessment

Under the National Quality Framework, services are encouraged to continuously focus on quality improvement. For this reason, each service needs to have in place a continuous cycle of review that includes:

  • assessing the service's practice to review quality improvements that may be needed
  • implementing those improvements
  • reviewing whether further improvements are necessary.

Self-assessment is not over once the regulations and the standards and elements of the National Quality Standard have been reviewed for the first time. The process should be a continual one so that all aspects of practice are critically reflected upon, even areas that have been previously recognised as strengths.

Practice can be affected when:

  • new families enrol their children
  • new educators join the service
  • new ideas and thinking arise from professional learning
  • changes are made to requirements or guidelines.

Regular and systematic self-assessment

There is no specific requirement for how to undertake self-assessment on an ongoing basis. Each service will do it differently, depending on their service type, their context and the time that they have to meet together as a team. However, the service should allocate time to regularly and systematically review service practice against the standards and elements of the National Quality Standard.

Most services have staff meetings (monthly or bi-monthly) and these are ideal opportunities to undertake critical reflection as a team. Some services identify a particular aspect of practice that is to be discussed so that everyone has the opportunity to think about it beforehand.

Using a systematic approach means having a plan to review all aspects of the National Quality Standard over time so that none of them are overlooked. It also means keeping a record of what has been assessed and when that occurred.

The self-assessment should also include how the service is engaging with the approved learning framework.

Having an organised approach to continuous self-assessment will ensure that the service stays focused on quality improvement.

Mandy Richardson

We recognised that the process is about continuous improvement and constantly reflecting on our own practices to look for ways we can improve and adapt to our community.

Mandy Richardson from St Pius X OSHC, in Reflections, 47, 2012

What's next?

Now that you have explored self-assessment, you may want to learn more about developing and implementing a QIP.


Adapted from

Educators Belonging, Being and Becoming: Educators' Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, Commonwealth of Australia, 2009

Educators My Time Our Place: Educators' Guide to Framework for School Age Care in Australia, Commonwealth of Australia, 2011

'Guide 2: Guide to the Education and Care Services National Law and the Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011', National Quality Framework Resource Kit, Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority, 2013

'Guide 3: Guide to the National Quality Standard', National Quality Framework Resource Kit, Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority, 2013

'Guide 4: Guide to developing a Quality Improvement Plan', National Quality Framework Resource Kit, Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority, 2013

Abbreviations

  • EYLF: Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia
  • MTOP: My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia
  • National Law: Education and Care Services National Law
  • National Quality Framework: National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care
  • National Quality Standard: National Quality Standard for Early Childhood Education and Care and School Age Care
  • National Regulations: Education and Care Services National Regulations
  • OSHC: Outside school hours care
  • QIP: Quality Improvement Plan
Supported by the Australian Government.
© 2016 Commonwealth of Australia, unless otherwise indicated
Supported by the Australian Government.
© 2016 Commonwealth of Australia,unless otherwise indicated