Aah! The “QIP” – seen as an administrative nightmare by some, something that we just “have to do” by others, and by another group, as a tool that is used to engage in continuous improvement.
First thing I am going to say is that I am no longer going to write “QIP”, and I encourage you to stop using this abbreviation as well – why? Because I think (and yes I know it is picky), that when we shorten it, when we fail to use language that reminds us what the purpose of a tool such as this is, we stop remembering the WHY of the Quality Improvement Plan – why it is part of the Quality Improvement Process, and the role that it has in continuing to raise the standard of care and education provided to children.
It is a plan – and it is important to remind ourselves of that – it’s not meant to be a manual that details absolutely everything we have ever done, it’s also not there to prove how you meet every standard in the NQS – it’s a plan, and like any good plan, it needs to be flexible, usable and relevant.
So, what is it really?
The Quality Improvement Plan is just a tool – its tangible, physical evidence that your team have engaged in and with the cycle of continuous improvement – that you continually reflect on what you are doing, and that you make shifts and changes, small, medium or large, to address the outcomes of your reflections.
The plan can write itself!
Because the Quality Improvement Plan is just a plan, our time and energy should not be focused on the tool but on the process itself. Because in focusing our energy on the process, the Quality Improvement Plan will basically write itself.
Sound radical? Well, let me explain with this example.
A new team member has started with you, and during a team meeting she raises a question – “Why do you make all of the children rest or sleep at the same time in the 2-3-year-old room?” Everyone looks at her blankly and says “Well, that is just what we have always done – and it is much easier to do it that way”. She goes on to tell you about a previous centre she worked at, where they decided to support the children from around age 2 to choose when they slept and engaged in rest, as they wanted to further promote the children’s agency and ability to make choices that influence their world. She went on to explain that they were surprised how when they changed their approach, the day ran much smoother and the children were much more content.
So, as a team you decide to explore the idea – perhaps you use the Cartmel Model of Critical Reflection to “Deconstruct – Confront – Theorise – Think Otherwise”.
Someone records the thoughts and ideas shared on butchers’ paper. From working through this process, you come up with a goal – you decide you are going to start in the kindergarten room, offering the oldest children in the centre the opportunity to choose when they sleep or rest – this will be a trial, with the educators observing the children, sharing their findings with the wider team, tweaking and shifting things as they go, and then after 4-6 weeks, they will report on their findings to the whole team.
This may, depending on the outcome, see other rooms trialling the approach. You then document your discussions and plans in the Quality Improvement Plan – different aspects of the critical reflection and goal setting you engaged in will be recorded in different sections, but it might look a little like this:
|Area of the Quality Improvement Plan||Content|
|QA 1 Strength||You might describe the events and discussions above, detailing the process you used to critically reflect on the suggestion as a team. You could discuss how you were critically thinking about what you offered the children and why, and that you chose to engage in the discussion because you are committed to deliberate, purposeful and thoughtful teaching and caring practices.|
|QA 2 Goal||One of our team members challenged us to re-think our approach to supporting children to sleep and rest, suggesting that we consider an approach that encourages children to choose when they sleep or rest. We critically reflected on this using the Carmtel Model of Critical Reflection, and from this process determined our goal and plan of action. From here you would detail the goal and plan of action you determined and recorded. Notes over the trial period, and outcomes from the trial would be recorded here as well.|
|QA 4 Strength||You could direct the reader to the event detailed in QA 1, and then detail how this is an example that shows that the team work collaboratively with mutual respect, a willingness to be challenged, and a commitment to learning from and with each other.|
It is NOT your maintenance & compliance log!
The next point – no compliance or maintenance issues!!! The Quality Improvement Plan is not your maintenance log, nor is it the place to detail issues that relate to regulations and compliance. If you are a licensed early childhood service, then it is assumed that you comply with the regulations. Of course, in reality, there are events that occur that see a service slip in and out of compliance from time to time , and when this occurs, the issue should be remedied as soon as possible – and it is often a pretty black and white situation – a rock is near the fence, reducing its height and therefore the rock needs to be moved – we are not going to critically reflect on this, we are just going to get the rock moved. Of course, if any of your team don’t understand why this is an issue, then we would support them to not only understand the regulations, but the WHY behind them, that is, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all of the children.
Good handwashing is not a strength!
Also, do not detail that you meet standards and regulations as your strengths – again, ensuring effective handwashing is modelled and implemented is a regulatory requirement, EVERYONE should be doing this – so it is not a strength! However, you may have a practice in place where the staff do a little puppet show at the start of each year about handwashing, and that aligns with a visit from a child health nurse. And following this, you engage children from around 2.5 years and up in a learning experience where they use microscopes to look at cut outs of images of hands that you have created – some with tiny, tiny pictures of germs on them, and then they have to go on a hunt to find where the germs came from (you stuck tiny little germ pictures on the toilet, or the walls near the toilet perhaps).This approach to supporting children’s understanding of health and hygiene, and the connection with community, would be something to share as a strength!
Treat the Quality Improvement Plan like a listing on realestate.com
Let’s be honest it’s just one piece of a much larger puzzle. The other pieces include the Assessment and Rating visit, your ability to respond to the draft report from the visit, how you use the final report, and all of this sits inside your vision of, and commitment to, continuous improvement.
So, don’t write some MASSIVE document that the Authorised Officer (AO) doesn’t even have enough time to read – think of the Quality Improvement Plan like the photos shared on realestate.com.au – the real estate agent showcases the strengths of the home, they don’t tell you every single tiny thing about the place – they make you excited about coming to the home, you want to ask questions and see all that it has to offer – it’s the same with your Quality Improvement Plan – it should engage the AO’s curiosity, make them excited to come to your centre and ask lots of questions, to learn more about the great things you are doing, and the great things you are planning to do.
Let your Quality Improvement plan be a showcase and celebration of your strengths, and your commitment to and engagement in continuous improvement – it is not meant to show that you are perfect, it is meant to show that you are dedicated, open-minded, passionate, professional and willing to question yourself in order to strive for the highest standards of education and care. If you need help writing or developing your QIP, reach out to us, we are happy to help.