What is happening with the accreditation and rating process?

Lately I am hearing a lot of horror stories in regard to the assessment and rating process –these stories range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

How can we have faith in a system where an authorised officer is sent from a metropolitan office to the country to do the assessment and rating on a rural service and unfortunately she finds (shock horror) a cobweb, and becomes so concerned about this cobweb that she concludes that the educator doing the safety check on the day is not doing her job properly, and so the service receives a rating of ‘Working Towards’ in Children’s Health and Safety because of the cobweb.

When did a cobweb become ‘Working Towards’ instead of a wonderful exploration into the natural world of spiders and their place in the cycle of life? A chance to talk about protecting insects and wildlife? Caring for our environment?

As well, the number of authorised officers carrying out the assessment and rating does not seem to have anything to do with the licensed numbers of the service or the number of staff. It seems random, and in many cases the authorised officer does not seem to have knowledge of the area they are going to or the demographics of the area. I heard of two authorised officers arriving for two days, one authorised officer for one day, one authorised officer for two days, two authorised officers for one day.

I hear that reports seem to be cut and pasted with often little relevance to the service and in some cases it was obvious that the report referred to another service altogether. I have also been told that some reports also seem to be quite generic.

One director told me that the authorised officer refused to identify herself other than her first name and showed no identification – she wore no lanyard. Are we within our rights to refuse the authorised officer entry in this case? Everyone else has to identify themselves when entering a service.

I also hear that incorrect rating information about services has been put on the ACECQA website. In one case, the service contacted the Assessment and Rating team within the Education Department. They said it would take up to seven days to correct. It took six days for them to respond and another two to get it off the ACECQA website. These things impact on enrolment and choices families make when selecting a service.

Also, the process of giving feedback or seeking review is so onerous that many services don’t bother, even when they don’t believe the rating is fair or correct. So the proportion of services in NSW that disagree with their rating is probably much higher than the data indicates. Is it fair that we have only 10 working days for review/right of reply/feedback and submission of extra documentation when they have 60 days to assess this extra information?

Also there’s the fact that almost all of the applications for second tier review have been from NSW – what can be interpreted from that data? http://snapshots.acecqa.gov.au/OA/OA_secondtier.html

But the most concerning thing is the effect that these visits are having on the mental health and welfare of the dedicated teachers and educators in early childhood services. They tell me they don’t sleep, they are constantly worried, stressed, under pressure to perform and conform to ridiculous expectations, the goal posts are continuously moving and there is no consistency in the assessment process.

More alarmingly they tell me they are not going to do this again. We are losing valuable and experienced people through this process. Nobody is looking at the wonderful things happening in the services or the work of the passionate teachers and educators who are seriously underpaid – it is all about compliance! It is a negative process!

I want to know who is assessing the authorised officers? What are their qualifications and more importantly their experience in an early childhood setting? Where is the consistency? What happens if we make a complaint about these things?

One service tells me they don’t believe the assessor had the experience in the sector to be able to identify quality practice (or practice in the Exceeding areas).

In saying this we need to maintain standards and staffing requirements – we must fight against the dumbing down of the NQF – but we need to have some consistency and a fair and unbiased process where we have a voice.

The early childhood services team of the IEU would like to gather information on the process in order to present it to ACECQA. If you have had an experience that you would like to share please email Lisa at lisa@ieu.asn.au or any of the team at IEU. Your stories will remain anonymous unless you agree to have them presented.

Gabe Connell
Early Childhood Services Vice President