What the National Quality Standard Ratings mean for families

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In January 2012 the National Quality Framework (NQF) came into effect across Australia.

The purpose of the NQF is to improve and standardise the quality of child care through a range of measures including better staff-to-child ratios, higher staff qualifications, and an assessment and rating system designed to promote continuous improvement.

Under the NQF child care services are assessed and rated against the National Quality Standards (NQS).

What the National Quality Standard Ratings mean for families

The NQS measures the quality of early childhood education and care in Australia. It will cover most long day care, family day care, preschool/kindergarten, and outside school hours care services.

Under these standards, childcare services will be assessed and rated against the seven quality areas, 18 standards, and 58 elements that make up the NQS. Click here to see a summary table of the NQS quality areas, standards, and elements.

Once your child's service is assessed against these standards it will receive one of the following ratings.


The Excellent rating is the highest possible rating and can only be awarded by ACECQA (effective from May 2013).

Providers with a service rated Exceeding National Quality Standard can choose to apply.

Exceeding National Quality StandardA service that receives an overall rating of Exceeding will have exceeded the NQS in at least four or more of the seven quality areas, including two of the ‘key' areas.
Meeting National Quality StandardAn overall rating of Meeting means that your service has met all of the elements in the NQS and may have exceeded the standards in some quality areas.
Working Towards National Quality Standard

If your service receives an overall rating of Working Towards it means the service has not met at least one of the 58 elements in the NQS. It may have a mix of higher and lower ratings across the seven quality areas.

It may take time for some services to meet each element in these standards, which is why the Working Towards rating is important.

Working Towards does not mean that the service has failed to meet any of the requirements that pose a risk to the safety, health or wellbeing of children.

Significant Improvement RequiredThis rating is given when a service fails to meet requirements in a way that poses an unacceptable risk to the health, wellbeing or safety of children. Services which receive this rating must work with a Regulator to immediately improve their quality otherwise they will have their operating licence withdrawn.
ProvisionalA service that is yet been assessed against the National Quality Standard.

How are services assessed?

Each state and territory has a Regulatory Authority responsible for assessing the quality of your child's service and for investigating complaints. Officers from these Authorities have been trained to observe and make consistent judgements about the quality of care available in the service being assessed.

Child care services have been assessed against the NQS since January 2012 and services that have already been assessed are required to display their ratings on premises. The government hopes the rating system will make it easier for parents to choose child care by ensuring they have the information necessary to make an informed decision.

CareforKids.com.au child care ratings and reviews also offer parents a valuable and reliable source of information about the experiences other families have had with their child care service.

Click here to read the latest parent ratings and reviews or share your experiences with other parents by searching for your service and posting a rating.

A Note on Services Not Covered by the National Quality Framework

Under current legislation not all early childhood education and care providers are covered by the National Quality Framework. These ‘Out of Scope' services include some occasional care providers, the care offered in holiday resorts, mobile services, and many others.

Many of these Out of Scope services are covered by state regulations but some are not and if you have any questions about this then you should check with the provider or with your relevant state or territory authority. It's important to note that some of these providers may be covered by the NQF in the future.

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