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Reading WA's National Law and Regulations

Last updated: 5/01/2016 4:59 PM
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Introducing the National Law and National Regulations

The National Quality Framework is made up of:

  • the National Law – the Schedule to the Education and Care Services National Law (WA) Act 2012
  • the National Regulations - the Education and Care Services National Regulations 2012
  • the National Quality Standard
  • the Assessment and Rating process

The National Quality Standard and the assessment and rating process are embedded in the Regulations. There are also a number of Guides to support services in implementing the National Law and Regulations:

  • Guide to the National Quality Framework (Guide to the NQF)
  • Guide to the National Law and Regulations (Services Guide)
  • Guide to the National Quality Standard (Guide to the NQS), and
  • Guide to Developing a Quality Improvement Plan

Understanding the National Law and National Regulations

It is important to be familiar with the key National Quality Framework documents, as they relate to legislated requirements for services. This information sheet focuses on the National Law and Regulations, the Guide to the National Law and Regulations (often called the Services Guide), and the Guide to the National Quality Standard (NQS).

The National Law: The Schedule to the Education and Care Services National Law (WA) Act 2012

How the National Law is structured

The first part of the Education and Care Services National Law (WA) Act 2012 outlines the legal framework in which the National Law operates in WA and amends other legislation. It is unlikely you will need to consider this first part of the National Law for day to day purposes.
The second part, the Schedule, is what we call the National Law and is the part that services will most commonly work with.

The National Law content

  • establishes the overarching requirements for services
  • establishes ACECQA as the national body to oversee its consistent application
  • provides for state and territory based Regulatory Authorities and their specific functions.

The Regulations: The Education and Care Services National Regulations 2012

How the Regulations are structured

The Regulations document follows a similar format to the National Law to make it easier to cross reference between the Law and Regulations.

The Regulations content

  • Each Chapter has a short introduction explaining what is in that Chapter.
  • Where a WA Regulation varies from the national template regulation there is a note at the end of the regulation.
  • Chapter 4 – Operational requirements, follows the same format as the National Quality Standard.
  • Chapter 7 contains the transitional requirements, which are the requirements that are being implemented in a staged approach. It is important that services are aware of these transitional requirements and the dates on which requirements come into effect. Note also that some transitional requirements are national and some are specific to WA.

The Guide to the National Law and Regulations (the Services Guide)

The purpose of this Guide is to assist services to understand the National Law and the National Regulations. It provides plain English information on the National Law and National Regulations, and examples of how providers, services and supervisors might meet their obligations. It also provides references to the relevant sections of the National Law and Regulations. The 'About this guide' section explains how the information is provided in the Guide and is a useful starting point.

The Guide to the National Quality Standard (NQS)

The purpose of this Guide is to assist services to understand the NQS, to evaluate their current practices, and to identify which practices they can or should improve. The Guide outlines each of the 7 Quality Areas in the National Quality Standard, including a list of the relevant sections of the National Law and Regulations that apply to the Quality Area.

Applying the National Law and Regulations: A 4-Step Process

The Education and Care Regulatory Unit has developed a 4-Step Process for understanding and applying the National Law and Regulations. It is an easy, systematic way of using the Services Guide, the Guide to the NQS, the National Law and Regulations to answer the questions you may have about your service or your responsibilities under the Law and Regulations.

Step 1: Start with the Services Guide and the Guide to the NQS

  • The Guide to the National Law and National Regulations (Services Guide) and the Guide to the National Quality Standard (NQS) provide a simple and easy to understand explanation of the requirements of the National Law and Regulations.
  • The paper-based versions have a comprehensive index to help you find what you are looking for.
  • They provide the context for understanding the intent of the Act and Regulations.
  • Importantly, both Guides also provide the details of the relevant sections of the Act and Regulations.

Step 2: Go to the National Law

  • The National Law is the first official stop – always check the National Law, then the Regulations.
  • Use the Contents section of the Law, and particularly under the Schedule, to look for key words. The Services Guide will help here with the key words to look for.
  • If you have the Act as a PDF (digital copy), you can search for your key words by using Edit > Find.

Step 3: Clarify any terms

  • Words within the Law mean what they say – 'must' means 'must', 'one' means 'one'.
  • Read the whole of the Section from the National Law to ensure you get any exceptions.

Step 4: Go to the National Regulations

  • Check the Contents page in the Regulations – checking the contents in all three documents (the Guide, that Law, the Regulations) gives you key words, and will tell you which topics are inter-related.
  • It is important to go to the Regulation or Regulations referred to and read the requirements.
  • If the Regulation refers you to another Regulation or Section, check that out too - the cross references are important.
  • The more you use the Services Guide, the Guide to the NQS, the National Law and the National Regulations, the easier it will become.

Using the 4 step process in practice: An example

The question

The Diploma qualified staff member has called in sick but the service (centre-based) is only able to source a Certificate III qualified replacement. What do they need to do?

The process

Step 1:
Start with the Services Guide and the Guide to the NQS

Staffing arrangements is a staff to child ratio issue as well as qualifications of staff issue, so the service needs to check the contents page and index for reference to both.

The section on educator-to-child ratios in the Services Guide refers the service to:
National Law: Section 169 National Regulations: Regulations 121-123 (Centre-based services)

General educator qualifications refers the service to: National Law: Section 169 National Regulations: Regulations 125–135

In the Guide to the NQS, Quality Area 4 Staffing Arrangements, Element 4.1.1 states 'Educator-to-child ratios and qualification requirements are maintained at all times.'

The information in this section of Guide to the NQS explains what this element aims to achieve, and how this element will be assessed. This Guide also identifies related sections of the National Law and Regulations for the Quality Area.

Step 2:
Go to the National Law
Section 169 of the National Law says that an approved provider of an education and care service must ensure that, whenever children are being educated and cared for by the service, the relevant number of educators educating and caring for the children is no less than the number prescribed for this purpose.

Step 3:

Clarify any terms

What does 'the number prescribed' mean?

 

'Prescribed' when used in an Act means the details that are set out in the Regulations. In this case, the Regulations prescribe a specific staff to child ratio.

Step 4:

Go to the National Regulations

The service should read all of the regulations recommended in the Services Guide and check the Contents page of the Regulations to find the ones that apply in their service.

In this case the relevant regulations are:

  • 122 Educators must be working directly with children to be included in ratios
  • 123 Educator-to-child ratios - centre-based services
  • 126 Centre-based services - general educator qualifications

Note: Other WA specific provisions the service may want to check are:

  • Regulations 372 and 374 (relating to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programmes provided by a school)
  • Regulation 374A (which is a transitional provision for educator to child ratios for centre-based services during the lunch period.

The answer

Consulting [1] the Services Guide and the Guide to the NQS, [2] consulting the National Law, [3] clarifying all relevant terms, and [4] consulting the National Regulations tells the service that they must comply with the requirements for staffing arrangements prescribed in the Regulations.

The Regulations tell the service that: 

  • the staff-to-child ratio requires a specific qualification (in this case a Diploma qualified staff member is required).
  • if the service is unable to meet with the requirement they must contact the Education and Care Regulatory Unit and discuss the issue as soon as possible.