New year sparks confusion surrounding self-assessment and QIP requirements for ECE services

Posted 29 January 2020

The Penelope team speak with hundreds of Educators each week. Confusion surrounding the role of ACECQA’s optional self-assessment tool has increased since its release in March 2019. More recently, The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education has stated if a NSW service chooses to supply their self-assessment information, they will not be required to submit their Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) [1]. Services have been contacted with the option of submitting their self-assessment results as part of a new process beginning from February 2020.

From this, we’ve been contacted by many of our partner providers who are confused as to whether ACECQA’s self-assessment tool will become mandatory from February. Perhaps of more concern is that some have interpreted the situation to mean that either or both their self-assessment and QIP will become optional submissions from this time.

We act on behalf of our partner providers and have contacted ACECQA and the Department. Through this we can provide the following points of clarification.

  • ACECQA’s self-assessment tool will remain optional
  • It is not mandatory to use the tool now or beyond February 2020
  • Services have the option to either submit a self-assessment tool or QIP

If you’re a NSW ECE service who chooses not to use the self-assessment tool through your submission, it is compulsory to submit a QIP through the assessment and rating process.

However, in comparing between ACECQA’s QIP and self-assessment tool templates, you may notice that the information prompted for in both versions is essentially the same.

This is because the assessment and rating requirements are underpinned by National Regulation 55, which states that services are to include the following 3 elements within their QIP:

  • Self-assessment against the National Quality Framework
  • Identify areas for improvement
  • Contain the service’s statement of philosophy[2]

We believe that a significant cause of confusion lies simply in having more optional templates. They may take slightly different approaches but prompt for the information mandatory for your assessment and rating submission. For example, the most recent version of ACECQA’s optional QIP template encourages services to include their self-assessment results. The optional self-assessment tool prompts services to document the areas for improvement identified. Both have space for the service’s statement of philosophy.

The ‘optional’ part is important. Just as not all strengths and improvement plans will work in the context of every service, not all tools and templates will work for your service. There is no requirement for your service to use either of ACECQA’s optional tools. You’re free to innovate and use a solution that best fits the needs of your service while fulfilling those 3 requirements of National Regulation 55.

In fact, ACECQA encourages this approach on page 7 of the optional self-assessment tool where it states

‘Choose a self-assessment documentation process that suits your context and planning approach.’

‘You may need to adapt the tool to suit your service type, for example, consider how family day care educators might access and use it.’[3]

How can I make sure our service is submitting the right information?

Aside from staying in communication with and across information provided by ACECQA and your Regulatory body, Penelope provides a self-assessment and QIP platform that guides your team in getting quality, and your assessment and rating outcome right.

More than 1900 Australian ECE services subscribe to Penelope QIP. Penelope provides those services with a tailored, online self-assessment program unique to their service type and the ages of their children. We then match these characteristics as we continually update the relevant self-assessment criteria to each service as they’re updated within the National Quality Framework (updated in January 2020). This means Penelope does the hard work for you ensuring you’re always assessing against what is current in an ever-changing regulatory landscape.

The platform is all about collaboration as your team, families, communities and stakeholders inspire strengths and opportunities for improvement via the completion of self-assessments or updating you with feedback. It seamlessly pushes this information through for action in your living, breathing QIP.

You connect an unlimited number of people to share the workload, and their ideas, as they help update your service’s QIP in real-time. To make ongoing self-assessment manageable, we’ve spread the 40 elements of the NQS into customisable, quick and digital tasks for your team to complete across the year. This means you can immediately submit and share a current version of your service’s QIP, aligned to ACECQA’s template, with assessors, families and your team – on demand. Penelope partner services now have the option of including their Penelope self-assessment results on their QIP and how they’ve progressed since their last reflection.

If you are unfamiliar with Penelope and would like to find out more, please feel free to reply to this email, call us on 1300 435 962 or sign up for a free trial now at

[1] NSW Department of Education, ‘Self-assessment for quality improvement.’

[2] Page 314 of the Guide to the National Quality Framework – updated January 2020).

[3] Self-assessment Tool – acecqa.