Thousands of parents across Australia rely on supervised care for their children while they work.
In 2022, an estimated 1.275 million children received care of some kind, encompassing nearly 70 percent of all children aged 0 to 5 in the country. Each facility takes its responsibility as a care provider extremely seriously to ensure children aged six weeks to 5 years are looked after appropriately in the absence of a parent.
But an early learning centre is responsible for much more than basic care. By combining community, curriculum and quality, a carer has the potential to create an optimum learning experience for each child under their supervision. The National Quality Framework helps childcare providers understand how to create the right environment and learning programme for children to thrive – just as children at Kids Club do!
Read on to learn about the NQF in our guide to the National Quality Framework and meeting the National Quality Standards in childcare.
What is the National Quality Framework – and why does it matter?
The National Quality Framework – or NQF – was introduced by the government in January 2012 to regulate and assess the quality of childhood Educators and care providers across Australia.
We are more aware than ever of the importance of delivering quality learning experiences during children’s early years. It’s when they adopt all kinds of life skills – like how to communicate, socialise, build resilience, and stay healthy.
The NQF gives significant recognition to the importance of the quality of experiences for children in their early years to ensure their present and future health, development and well-being. With a consistent approach across the childcare industry, it aims to raise the quality of early childhood education and care in long day care, preschool, occasional care, outside school hours care and vacation care services.
The legal requirements and standards within the framework apply to all Educators and care facilities – long day care, family day care, preschool/kindergarten, and outside school hours care services. Providers are individually assessed and given a rating, which helps them to make improvements where required and gives parents guidance about what they offer.
The benefits of the NQF for parents and children are multiple and include:
- improved Educator to child ratios in most services
- greater individual care and attention for children
- Educators who are highly skilled and qualified
- better support for children’s learning and development
- a deeper understanding of the quality of care that providers provide
What Areas Within Childcare Does the National Quality Framework Assess?
The main component of the NQF is the National Quality Standards (NQS), which sets out the areas for assessment under the NQF.
There are 18 standards and 58 elements in total, which fall under seven quality areas – as follows:
1. Educational program and practice
This area focuses on ensuring that provider’s educational program and practice is stimulating, engaging and enhances children’s learning and development.
2. Children’s health and safety
All centres and staff must demonstrate their methods of protecting all children’s health, safety and well-being, which are assessed in this second area.
3. Physical environment
The approved provider must ensure that the premises and equipment used in the care facility are safe, clean and in good repair to provide a rich and diverse range of experiences that promote children’s learning and development.
4. Staffing arrangements
This area looks at the staff numbers and deployment of suitable qualified, and experienced Educators, coordinators and supervisors and their capability to develop warm, respectful relationships with the children.
5. Relationships with children
Here, the assessor looks at how the provider takes reasonable steps to ensure that the children being educated and cared for are given opportunities to interact and develop respectful and positive relationships with each other and with the staff members.
6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
This area examines how the provider collaborates with families and the community to build critical partnerships that achieve quality outcomes for the children.
7. Leadership and service management
This area looks for effective leadership and management that creates a positive organisational culture by empowering others, recognising and addressing conflict, and managing changes that improve the children’s learning and development.
How Are Early Learning Childcare Centres Assessed by the NQF?
The regulatory authority for the NQF is the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).
To assess each early learning and childcare provider fully, ACECQA member attends the facility to complete their review. The process involves an observational and visual assessment, plus a discussion with staff members about the learning environment, equipment, team structure and the care programme delivered.
Prior to their visit, the assessor gives a notice period of attending, generally within the next week, during which time the care provider submits a Quality Improvement Plan – an ongoing document detailing the quality measures already in place. The assessor reads and refers to this document during their visit.
The assessment can take place in just a few hours or over one or two days, depending on its size and the extent of its care programme. Once completed, the assessor sends their draft report to the care provider within 3-5 weeks. The provider has ten working days to provide feedback on any inaccuracies within the report before it becomes final.
After the assessment, the care provider receives one of the following ratings by the ACECQA:
- Excellent rating
- Exceeding National Quality Standards
- Meeting National Quality Standards
- Working Towards National Quality Standards
- Significant Improvement Required
Kids Club: Exceeding National Quality Standards in Childcare
Our Kids Club families know we provide something special for their children, helping them to navigate the beginning of their learning journey successfully. Parents do an incredible job telling others about our excellent work – and formal assessments tell a compelling story too!
The word ‘assessment’ stirs anxiety in many people. It was certainly the case momentarily at Kids Club when we received notice of the ACECQA visiting our centre in Elizabeth Street, Sydney. At the same time, our team felt confident the measures used to deliver high-quality care and learning experiences to our children would be viewed positively.
Thankfully, the nerves quickly disappeared as our assessor began their 2-day visit, and we were able to showcase our education, care experiences and philosophy. A few weeks later, we were thrilled to receive the news from the ACECQA of our rating: Exceeding the National Quality Standards under the National Quality Framework.
Only a handful of care providers receive this accolade; we are extremely proud to be among them, having achieved this rating and provide an optimum choice for parents evaluating where to send their child for early years education and care.
While it is a considerable achievement for Kids Club, we are already working towards Excellence in Education and Care which currently, only twelve centres in NSW have been awarded.
If you want to learn more, call Kids Club Early Childhood Learning Centres or book a tour now of your closest Kids Club Early Learning Centre, click here to view your closest Centre.
As the leading provider of early childhood care in Australia we always put your child first. We are committed to 7 National Quality Standards.