One of the key things that you’ll most likely look into during your childcare hunt is a centre’s rating. Parent reviews you’ll find on different online platforms are great and can be quite insightful, but it’s just as important for you to look at a centre’s official childcare ratings, known as the National Quality Ratings.
Most centres in Australia (including long day care, kindergarten, outside school hours care, and family day care services) are formally assessed and rated by their state or territory regulatory authority. The assessment and rating system is based on the National Quality Standard.
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National Quality Standard (NQS)
The National Quality Standard sets a national benchmark for the quality of education and care services and is developed to help you make informed choices about which service is best for your child. National Quality Standard takes into account several factors to determine the quality of a childcare centre, bringing together seven areas against which to assess and rate centres:
- 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
The five rating levels
Each childcare centre is rated against each quality area, and the results add up to an overall rating. There are five possible ratings:
Excellent - This is the highest rating a centre can achieve, indicating that the centre is a leader in the industry, providing exceptional education and care.
Exceeding National Quality Standard – This rating means the service goes beyond the national standard in at least four out of the seven quality areas.
Meeting National Quality Standard – This indicates that for each quality area, the service is rated at least meeting the national standard. The centre may receive “Exceeds NQS” in some areas but not sufficient for it to get an overall rating of “Exceeding NQS”.
Working Towards National Quality Standard – This means that a service provides a safe education and care program, but has one or more quality areas which are not meeting the accepted standards.
Significant Improvement Required – This is the lowest rating for a centre, indicating that the service does not meet the standard for any of the quality areas, causing a risk to the children’s health, safety, and wellbeing. The regulatory authority will be monitoring and working closely with the service to help resolve the issues. If there are no improvements, the centre’s license to operate might be withdrawn.
All centres are re-assessed every one to three years, depending on the level of rating that they have received. The higher the rating, the longer the timeframe for the reassessment process for the centre.
Where to find ratings
You can easily access the rating for a childcare centre on the ACECQA and MyChild websites. Once a centre receives a rating, it must display the rating clearly for families to see. So when you’re visiting centres, don’t forget to check their ratings. Be sure to ask the centre director if you can’t find it on display.