Childcare benchmarks promote quality
If you have young children in an early learning centre, you may have noticed recent media coverage about the National Quality Standard (NQS).
The National Quality Standard is a key aspect of the National Quality Framework and sets a high, national benchmark for early childhood education and care services in Australia.
Early learning services are rated by their regulatory authority against the NQS and given a rating for each of the seven quality areas and an overall rating based on these results.
The seven quality areas are:
- Educational program and practice
- Children’s health and safety
- Physical environment
- Staffing arrangements
- Relationships with children
- Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
- Leadership and service management
There are 58 elements that centres must meet across the seven quality areas. If a centre does not meet just one of the 58 elements, it must be rated as “working towards”.
To be granted an excellent rating, which is the highest rating, the centre must be assessed as exceeding at least four of the seven quality areas by assessors.
About 70 per cent of long day care centres in Australia have been assessed as ‘meeting’ the National Quality Standard, including 28 per cent assessed as ‘exceeding’ the standard.
Good news for Goodstart Early Learning
The great news for Goodstart Early Learning is that 98 per cent of the not-for-profit’s centres that were assessed in the last quarter, were meeting the criteria and 57 per cent have been rated as exceeding. This was well above the sector average.
Goodstart Early Learning also has 28 centres that have achieved the remarkable feat of being rated exceeding in all seven quality areas, including in the last few months, Glendale, New South Wales, Brighton Cochrane St and Beaumaris, Victoria, and Western Australia’s Banksia Grove.
Quality Improvement Plans
All Goodstart Early Learning centres have Quality Improvement Plans in place to support them to meet the requirements of the NQS.
The plan needs to:
- Identify areas the provider considers may need improvement
- Contain a statement about the philosophy of the service
- And include an assessment of the quality of the practices of the service.
But it’s not all about the educators making improvements at their centres. At each Goodstart Early Learning centre, educators develop their QIP alongside their families and children. Children are asked for their feedback on curriculum, activities and playground changes and parents help with events at the centre.
How are centres assessed?
Best of the best
- 58 elements are assessed with each rated either as met or not met
- Each standard is rated either significant improvement required, working towards, meeting or exceeds. If just one element is rated as not met, then the standard is rated working towards.
- Each quality area is rated either significant improvement required, working towards, meeting or exceeding.
- The overall rating is determined.
At Goodstart Elizabeth Vale, a strong commitment to the local community by working with Oz Harvest to help provide their children with a healthy, varied diet, and to send food parcels home with parents.
The centre has an excellence rating, meaning it has exceeded expectations in all seven NQS categories.
“We got our exceeding rating about two and a half years ago and have worked really hard to get the excellence rating. It was well worth the work and we’re thrilled with our centre,” Ms Chapman said.
Caboolture Smiths Road centre director Tess Barry said her exceeding rating came about through hard work and great connections with the families and the community.
“I think having a great centre is all about using your budgets to ensure all resources are the best possible that you can afford,” Ms Barry said.
"From outdoor plants and soil, to indoor toys and equipment, it’s essential that all children have plenty of activities.”
The team at Caboolture Smiths Road also focus on their communication with families, ensuring parents are well informed about what is happening, how their children are going, and what they got up to during the day.
“We email the parents a bit of a blurb about their child for the week and attach photos, and make sure we have a consistent roster, because they want to see the same faces every day.
“We see the parents as part of a family so building those relationships is important, as is staff retention so that we’re all on the same page.”