A great improvement in the quality of children’s education and care

Library Home  >  Child Care CentresGovernment Policy & Quality Standards
  Published on Wednesday, 31 March 2021

A great improvement in the quality of children’s education and care

Library Home  >  Child Care CentresGovernment Policy & Quality Standards
  Published on Wednesday, 31 March 2021
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Every quarter, ACECQA’s National Quality Framework Snapshots provide an overview of the Australian children’s education and care sector, and the latest report is a good one!

According to the Q4 2020 Snapshot, two-thirds of the children’s education and care services that were previously rated ‘Working Towards National Quality Standard’ are now ‘Meeting’ or ‘Exceeding’ it.

Here, we explain what this means, and highlight the main findings of the new Snapshot.

How does the National Quality Standard rating system work?
In Australia, children’s education and care services are assessed and rated by their regulatory authority against the National Quality Standard (NQS). Services receive a rating for each of these seven quality areas:

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities, and
  7. Governance and leadership.

Once they’ve been rated in the seven areas, each service is then given an overall NQS quality rating:

Excellent The service promotes exceptional education and care, demonstrates sector leadership and is committed to continually improving.

This rating is awarded by ACECQA, and services rated Exceeding NQS in all seven quality areas may choose to apply for this rating.
Exceeding National Quality Standard The service goes beyond the requirements of the NQS in at least four of the seven quality areas, with at least two of these being quality areas one, five, six or seven.
Meeting National Quality Standard The service meets the NQS. It provides quality education and care in all seven quality areas. 
Working Towards National Quality Standard The service provides a safe education and care program, but there are one or more areas identified for improvement.
Significant Improvement Required The service does not meet one of the seven quality areas or a section of the legislation and there is a significant risk to the safety, health and wellbeing of children.

The regulatory authority will take immediate action.

Each service’s overall NQS rating must be displayed at the service at all times, and the quality ratings are also published on the national registers. These registers are updated daily and allow families to easily search for the NQS ratings of different services (seeing their ratings in the seven quality areas and overall).

Should we be alarmed if a service is rated Working Towards NQS?
ACECQA says the NQS, ‘Sets a high bar for services and is designed to encourage continuous quality improvement in every service.’

As a result, a very small number of services have an Excellent rating (just 0.3 per cent), and those services with a Working Towards NQS rating are not considered ‘failures.’

ACECQA explains that many services rated Working Towards NQS are close to being rated Meeting NQS, and reassessments can result in a higher quality NQS rating.

The latest Snapshot shows that 11,845 quality rating reassessments have taken place. Almost half of these reassessments were for services rated Working Towards NQS, and the good news is that 66 per cent of these services succeeded in improving their overall quality rating after being reassessed.

What does the Snapshot say about the quality of children’s education and care services in Australia?
The Q4 2020 Snapshot shows that 84 per cent of services are rated Meeting NQS, Exceeding NQS or Excellent – and there’s been a marked increase in quality over time (with only 57 per cent rating this way in 2013).

When we look at centre-based care specifically (long day care, outside school hours care (OSHC) and preschool/kindergarten), we can see that:

  • 54.3 per cent of centre-based care services are rated Meeting NQS
  • 30 per cent are rated Exceeding NQS, and
  • 40 services (0.3 per cent) are rated Excellent.

All the Excellent rated services are centre-based care, and New South Wales has the highest number, with 15 Excellent rated services. Queensland and South Australia are next, with eight each, followed by Victoria with six.

It’s particularly heartening to see that 60 per cent of preschools/kindergartens are rated Exceeding NQS.

All in all, ACECQA says this latest Snapshot, ‘Shows that services across the country are continuing to improve their programs and practices to deliver positive outcomes for children.’

A large majority of services are meeting the NQS and providing quality education and care in all seven quality areas. So, even if your child’s service doesn’t have the coveted Excellent rating, you can rest assured that they’re doing excellent things for your child’s learning, development and care.

To read the full Q4 2020 Snapshot, click here.

Further reading
Some services have been rated Excellent twice, and one of them is Clarendon Children’s Centre Co-op in central Melbourne, which you can read about here.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 29 March 2021

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