Home' Belonging Early Years Journal : Vol 5 No 2 Contents BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 5 NUMBER 2 • 2016 • 37
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themes in the instrument – Intentionality, Frequency,
Extent, Inclusivity and Outcomes – are described
below. The labels given to these themes are words
that I have chosen myself, and you may have different
ways of describing or understanding these concepts
in your practice; however, this analysis will hopefully
help you to identify ways for your service to improve
practice and outcomes for children and families – and
possibly even for your assessment and rating result!
This theme reflects the difference between passively
allowing something to happen, and actively working
to ensure that it occurs. It fits with the notion of
intentional teaching in the Early Years Learning
Framework (EYLF), and is essential for practice at
the highest-quality level. It does not mean planning
everything in advance, but can involve responding
to emerging learning opportunities in thoughtful,
Here are two examples of this theme in the
Element 6.2.1: Family expertise is ‘acknowledged’ at
Working Towards NQS level, but ‘actively sought’ at
Element 5.2.3: Children’s dignity and rights are
‘maintained’ at Meeting NQS, but ‘supported and
promoted’ at Exceeding NQS.
Often, descriptions at Exceeding NQS level include words
like ‘consistently’ or ‘regularly’, to show that the element is
fully embedded in day-to-day practice. Element 1.2.3 is a
good example of this. At Meeting NQS, critical reflection
is regularly used to ‘implement’ the program, but at
Exceeding NQS, it is ‘consistently’ used at all stages of
the planning cycle, to ‘implement, review and revise’ the
program. Achieving consistency in any element involves
setting high expectations, and supporting each other to
achieve them across the service.
Descriptions at Exceeding NQS level often indicate
that the element is occurring to a greater extent.
Services at Exceeding NQS level are not satisfied that
an element is occurring adequately in their programs,
but strive to ensure that it is occurring to the best
possible standard. This theme is reflected in a variety of
different words in the instrument. For example:
Element 1.1.1: Curriculum decision-making
‘contributes’ to outcomes for children at Meeting
NQS, but ‘maximises’ learning and development
opportunities at Exceeding NQS level
Element 4.2.2: Staff work ‘collaboratively’ at Meeting
NQS, but demonstrate ‘a high level of collaboration’
at Exceeding NQS.
One of the most important concepts in the NQS is
supporting the inclusion of each and every child.
There are many examples of this theme throughout
the instrument, where the words ‘each child’ or ‘every
child’ appear at Exceeding NQS level (compared
to descriptions at Meeting NQS, which often refer
to ‘children’). The program and environment at
Exceeding NQS services actively respond to the
unique needs and interests of every individual child
The last major theme is where the instrument explicitly
mentions a positive outcome that results from the
element. Services at Exceeding NQS level must not
only implement strong practice, but also demonstrate
that this practice is achieving results. For example:
Element 3.1.2: Premises and furniture must be ‘safe,
clean and well maintained’ at Meeting NQS, but
at Exceeding NQS they must also ‘enhance the
learning environment for children’
Element 7.1.3: At Exceeding NQS level, continuity
of educators is not only supported, but results
in ‘establishment and maintenance of secure
relationships with children’.
Several of these themes can often be found
together in the Exceeding NQS descriptions for a
single element. Practice at the highest-quality level
combines all of these themes (and others) in ways
that suit the unique context of the service, its children
and families. I hope this simple analysis will give
you some ideas for planning the next stage of your
service’s quality improvement journey, and also help
you to recognise and articulate the areas of practice
in which your service is already doing well.
This article was adapted from an article published
by Early Childhood Australia:
ACECQA 2012, Assessment and Rating Instrument.
Jackson, J. (2015).‘Constructs of quality in early
childhood education and care: A close examination
of the NQS Assessment and Rating Instrument’.
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 40: 3, pp. 46–50.
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