The National Quality Framework
In 2009, all Australian governments agreed to establish a National Quality Framework (NQF) for early childhood education. The framework aims to improve the quality of early childhood education services, which include long day care, family day care, preschool/kindergarten and outside school hours care. Quality improvement will be achieved through a legislative framework, National Quality Standards, a national quality and rating process and a new authority (ACECQA) responsible for assisting with implementation. The NQF took effect in January 2012 and sets requirements for qualifications, educator-to-staff ratios and other staffing arrangements. The quality standards test each service on seven areas including relationship with children, health and safety, education programs and practices, relationships with children’s, families and communities.
There are five rating levels within the national quality rating and assessment process:
|Excellent rating – awarded by ACECQA||the Excellent rating is the highest possible rating and can only be awarded by ACECQA|
|Exceeding National Quality Standard||A 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 Standard||An 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.|
|Significant Improvement Required||This 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rating must work with a Regulator to immediately improve their quality otherwise they will have their operating licence withdrawn.|
Despite a majority of services in NSW failing to meet the national standards, almost a quarter of children’s services fail to meet the health and safety standards and more than a third are ‘working towards’ the new standard for education programs and practices. Forever Family Day Care was rated over all ‘Meeting’ the national quality standards and ‘Exceeding’ in Relationships with children.