Frequently asked questions

What is the Quality Ratings initiative?

The NSW Department of Education has introduced the Quality Ratings initiative to improve awareness and access to information about service quality. This empowers families to use this knowledge when making decisions about what services to choose.

The NSW Education and Care Quality Ratings is an easy-to-read graphic to display the quality ratings of early childhood education and care services in a family-friendly way.

The overall quality rating of a service is represented with a coloured star graphic. Achievements against each of the quality areas are displayed as progress bars, giving families ‘at a glance’ information to inform their choices about children’s education and care, as well as helping families more clearly understand how each service measures against the National Quality Standard.

Why has NSW changed the look of the quality rating certificate?

Awareness of quality ratings of education and care services amongst families is low, with research showing that the National Quality Standard and service ratings are not well understood when families make a decision when choosing an education and care service.

Key research findings include:

  • 49% of families were not aware that education and care services are rated and given an overall quality rating (ACECQA National Partnership Annual Performance Report, 2017, page 58).
  • Almost half of parents reported not knowing the rating of their child’s service (Early Childhood Education Families research, 2018, page 9).

Key recommendation following research findings:

  • Raising awareness of the National Quality Standard ratings will be critical to expanding the impact of the National Quality Framework and National Quality Standard ratings amongst families (ACECQA Families Research Stage 2, 2018, page 7)

What consultation was undertaken in developing this initiative?

Nationwide consultations on the value of quality ratings were conducted from April to June 2019, as part of the National Quality Framework (NQF) Review.

Over 2,500 people attended the 79 face to face consultation sessions held in all jurisdictions around Australia. The NQF Review website had nearly 17,500 visits and 1,769 survey responses were received. 17 written submissions were received from a variety of peak organisations, providers and individuals.

The 2019 NQF Review consultations indicated significantly low awareness of the National Quality Standard quality ratings system amongst all surveyed stakeholders.

Less than half (46%) of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the quality ratings are easy to understand.

Will other jurisdictions introduce similar graphics?

NSW is currently working together with all Australian jurisdictions to consider options to improve the quality ratings system under the 2019 NQF Review. Governments are considering all suggestions raised during the 2019 public consultations to recommend options for change. Proposed options will be published in a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (CRIS) in 2020.

Over the next year, there will be regular opportunities to find out more, provide feedback, and receive updates on the options being considered by governments for national changes.

The NSW Department of Education will continue to keep services informed about any proposals or changes that may impact on them in the future.

What will services be required to do to get on board with this initiative?

All early childhood education and care services are required to display the overall rating of the service as well as the current rating level for each quality area. The quality rating certificate includes the information required to be displayed.

By simply displaying the certificate in a prominent place at your service that is visible to families, it will support you in discussing your service quality during the enrolment process and assist families in the decision making process when choosing services.

Services will also be asked to engage in discussions with families about the National Quality Standard, their rating against it, and their approach to continuing to improve quality.

When will services be required to display the family-friendly ratings certificate?

Quality ratings packs will be distributed to services in stages from mid 2020. Each service will receive a kit of information relevant to the quality ratings, including the family-friendly graphic of the service’s current quality rating.

It is recommended that services replace their existing certificate with the new graphic as soon as it is received.

Services should display their rating using the current certificate until they receive the new quality rating certificate. Services can begin discussions with families about their service’s quality improvement journey right away. Services can find out more about the NSW Quality Ratings initiative by:

Do services have to use the newly designed certificate?

Services have always been required to display their quality rating (s172 National Law). There is no change to any regulatory activity associated with this requirement. During the transition to the new design, services should display their rating using the current certificate until they receive the new quality ratings kit.

The new design does not change the quality rating or provide new information to families that wasn’t previously available but it shows the service rating in a more easy- to-understand format providing greater accessibility to all families.

Can I use a different format?

The Department does not support this approach. It is important for clear messaging to families and communities that all services use the same format of ratings certificates. Using a format that is not approved or supported by the Department will undermine the efforts of the sector to build understanding and awareness with families of what quality and the ratings mean.

What if a service has not yet been rated? What are they required to display?

If a service has not yet been assessed, the NSW quality rating ‘Provisional’ certificate is to be displayed at the service. This is also an opportunity for services to start the conversation about the National Quality Standard and quality areas with families, and how the service plans to continually self-assess in order to demonstrate how they are meeting each of the quality areas, in preparation for their assessment.

How is the Department supporting services in quality improvement?

The NSW Quality Ratings initiative is a partnership between the Department and the early childhood education and care sector to improve community awareness of the importance of quality education and care and drive quality improvement across the sector. The initiative also provides self-assessment options, re-rating incentives and $13 million in sector support to promote continuous improvement.

What quality initiatives are included in the $13 million?

In partnership with ACECQA, the Department has invested $5 million in the Quality Support Program, assisting services rated Working Towards the National Quality Standard to improve their quality and meet the National Quality Standard. This program was designed to enhance children’s safety and outcomes, reduce regulatory risk, and drive quality and continuous improvement. Evaluation of the program demonstrates significant success, with participants much more likely to improve their rating following participation in the program.

A further $8 million will be invested over the next two years to deliver quality support initiatives assigned to lift service quality, improve efficiency in quality assessment processes and boost the early childhood education workforce. These initiatives have been co-designed in consultation with the sector and will be introduced gradually over the coming period.

How can services participate in the Quality Support Program?

Expressions of interest are open now for services currently rated Working Towards the National Quality Standard who are wanting to participate in the program.

To do this, services can visit ACECQA's Quality Support Program page.

What initiatives is the Department undertaking to improve the assessment and rating process?

The Department is committed to ensuring consistency and efficiency in the assessment and rating process and lifting the service quality in early childhood education and care services. Following consultation with the sector, NSW has introduced self-assessment practices as part of the assessment and rating process. Self-assessment guides services to reflect and identify the practices that demonstrate how they meet the National Quality Standard and supports services to effectively engage with the assessment and rating process.

A dedicated quality support team has been made available at the Department to guide services undertaking assessment and rating to use the tool. You can contact this team by calling the information and enquiries line on 1800 619 113 or email ececd@det.nsw.edu.au.

How are services scheduled for assessment and rating?

Services are scheduled for assessment and rating based on a number of risk factors including:

  • For new services – usually scheduled for first rating following a post approval visit and approximately 12 months of operation. The first rating for a service may be scheduled sooner than 12 months from approval if risks are identified.
  • For services with an existing rating a range of factors are considered in scheduling the re-rating including;
    • Current rating and NQA risk rating
    • Length of time since last rating
    • Compliance and complaints history
    • Service type (e.g: preschools are not generally scheduled over Dec - Jan period).

What if a service wants to request a re-rating?

Under section 139 of the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010, an approved provider may apply to the Regulatory Authority for a reassessment and re-rating of an approved education and care service. An application under this section can only be made once every 2 years.

A fee for the application is payable based on the size of the service.

Centre-based service

Number of approved places small (24 or less) medium (25 to 80) large (81 or more)
Application fee for reassessment and re-rating (s139(2)(c)) $454 $682 $910

Family day care

Number of educators engaged by or registered with service small (5 or less) medium (6 to 20) large (21 or more)
Application fee for reassessment and re-rating (s139(2)(c)) $454 $682 $910

The Department is offering and encouraging services rated Working Towards National Quality Standard to apply for a full or partial re-rating of the Quality Areas currently not meeting the NQS. Where services opt to provide self-assessment information as part of the assessment and rating process, the fee associated with this application will be waived. The service will work with the Quality Support Team as part of the reassessment and rerating process.

How will the Department support the increased demand for assessment and rating?

The Department is working to increase the number of Authorised Officers to meet the expected demand from this initiative and other Government priorities such as the Before and After School Care program of work.

What does it mean if services are rated as Working Towards the National Quality Standard?

When services are formally assessed, they are reviewed against the seven Quality areas of the National Quality Standard. Services must meet all elements of the seven Quality areas to be rated as Meeting the National Quality Standard. A service is rated as Working Towards if there are 1 or more elements or areas identified for improvement. For example, a service could be rated as Meeting, or even Exceeding in any number of the Quality areas, but if one area requires improvement, the final rating will be Working Towards. This is because the National Quality Framework sets a high bar so that services strive for excellence in their journey for continuous quality improvement.

Why is this initiative being introduced ahead of the NQF review being finalised?

NSW believes that better promotion of quality ratings is required now to ensure that NSW families are able to make an informed choice about education and care services, and to promote continuous quality improvement within the sector. The NSW graphic has taken into account the views presented by the sector at the Department roadshows during April – June 2019, and the consultation feedback from the 2019 NQF Review.

NSW believes that the initiative provides a consumer-friendly visual representation of the National Quality Standards that will increase family understanding of the quality of education and care services.

Why is it important for services to talk to families about their service’s quality improvement approach?

Supportive, respectful relationships with families are fundamental to achieving quality outcomes.

Families are the primary influence in their children’s lives and they often have strong beliefs and values regarding the education and care of their children.

A key aim of the NQF is to provide families with better information for making choices about their child’s education and care.

Services’ self- assessment against the National Quality Standard is an important process in assessing how services are delivering quality education and care, and to plan for future improvements.

Communicating the services’ practices and the services’ continuous quality journey is an important step in engaging families to better understand the unique features each service offers and encouraging them to take an interest and active role in future improvements, raising and maintaining quality in the education and care sector.

This is also opportunity for services to demonstrate “exceeding” practice in engaging with families and the community.

Where can families go for more information on the NSW Early Children’s Education and Care Quality Ratings?

Families can find out more by:

References

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