The National Quality Standard is accompanied by a national quality rating and assessment process that reflects a national approach to the assessment and reporting of the quality of education and care services.
Authorised officers from each state and territory Regulatory Authority are responsible for assessing and rating all early education and care services against the National Quality Standards. For more information please visit http://acecqa.gov.au.
Under the previous national scheme about 90% of services had reached the maximum possible rating. The new system raises the bar and asks all services to aim for even higher standards of quality education and care.
The new standards introduced last year cover a broader area and have a greater expectation of quality from services. A service who may previously have been meeting the old standards may now be rated as Working Towards. This doesn’t mean the service has dropped in quality it just means that the new standards have set the bar higher than ever before.
The government recognises it is important for families to be able to make informed decisions about the early education and care of their children. The publication of the ratings gives families important information about the quality of early learning and care provided at every service in the sector.
Publishing these ratings is also a really great way to recognise the services in the sector that are providing the highest quality early learning and care to their children.
The National Quality Framework
What is the National Quality Framework?
The National Quality Framework is the biggest single reform to happen in early childhood education and care across Australia in decades. All governments came together in 2009 and signed off the framework in support of improving early childhood outcomes for Australia’s children.
Under the new framework every early childhood education and care service will be assessed and given a rating against a set of National Quality Standards (NQS).
How does the National Quality Framework benefit children?
The National Quality Framework is designed to encourage continuous improvement of education and care services across Australia.
The major benefits for families and children include:
educators with increased skills and qualifications to support a child's learning and development
educational programs which take into account each child's strengths, capabilities, culture, interests and experience
support for each child to build and maintain sensitive and responsive relationships with other children and adults
the indoor and outdoor environments promoting independent exploration and learning through play
each child's health and safety is supported.
What are the National Quality Standards?
The National Quality Standard sets a new and higher benchmark for services. It describes the programs, practices and relationships that research tells us contribute to the best outcomes for children.
The National Quality Standards have been developed based on research and early childhood best practice. They are designed to ensure positive outcomes will be achieved for all children.
The National Quality Standards are separated into seven Quality Areas:
Educational program and practice
Children's health and safety
The physical environment
Relationships with children
Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
Leadership and service management
Within these Quality Areas are 18 standards and 58 elements.
Every service will receive a rating based on their assessment against these Quality Areas.
What is the Early Years Learning Framework and how does it relate to the Standards?
The Early Years Learning Framework is part of the reform agenda for early childhood education and care and is a key component of the Australian Government's National Quality Framework for early childhood education and care.
The Early Years Learning Framework describes the principles, practice and outcomes essential to support and enhance young children's learning from birth to five years of age, as well as their transition to school.
The National Quality Standard Assessment and Rating Process
What does Significant Improvement Required mean?
A Significant Improvement Required rating indicates that a service has significant areas to focus on before it can be rated as meeting the new higher National Quality Standards. Goodstart takes this rating seriously and implements changes as a matter of priority to improve the quality of the service. A service only needs to not meet one of the 58 elements in the seven quality areas to receive an overall Significant Improvement Required rating.
What is Goodstart doing to improve my centre?
In addition to each centre's QIP, which specifically outlines areas for improvement in the centre, Goodstart last year spent approximately $36million on quality improvement initiatives aimed at raising the quality of early learning and care we provide in our centres. This included supporting our staff to study for an early childhood qualification, increasing ratios in our centres, further incorporating the Early Years Learning Framework into our services and educational programs and refurbishing some of our centres and playgrounds.
As a not-for-profit any surplus we generate is reinvested back into our quality early learning programs so we can achieve better outcomes for Australia's children.
Will my centre be assessed again?
When your centre will be assessed again is based on the rating they were given.
Significant improvement required: Within short period
Working towards: 12 months
Meeting: 24 month
Exceeding: 36 months
These timeframes are in place to support centres to focus on continually improving the quality of services they provide.
Quality Improvement Plans (QIPs)
What are Quality Improvement Plans?
An important part of the standards is the requirement for services to develop ongoing Quality Improvement Plans (QIP).
The aim of a QIP is to help providers self-assess their performance in delivering quality education and care and to plan future improvements. The QIP also helps the regulatory authorities with their assessment of the service. A QIP helps providers to document the strengths of their services and to recognise areas for improvement.
Do all Goodstart centres have QIPS?
All Goodstart centres have comprehensive QIPS in place to support them to meet the requirements of the National Quality Standards. These QIPs identify specific focus areas for each centre which reflects the unique circumstances of the service and the community. Educators, children and families are involved in the initial self-assessment that is done to determine what should form a part of its QIP.
The Quality Improvement Plan must:
include an assessment of the quality of practices of the service against the National Regulations and National Quality Standard
identify areas the provider considers may require improvement
contain a statement about the philosophy of the service
Each centre should develop their QIP in consultation with families and children. Children are consulted for development of curriculum, activities and playground changes and parents are consulted in relation to events at the centre, feedback towards curriculum, playground/environment changes.
Area Managers, Early Learning Consultants, Educators and local schools, communities and councils also support each centre to develop their QIP.
In centres that are meeting the requirements of the NQS their QIP may focus on improving above and beyond the standards to deliver the highest possible quality of early learning and care.
Where can I get a copy of my centre's QIP?
If you are interested in finding out more about the Quality Improvement Plan in place for your centre contact your local Centre Director who will be more than happy to assist.