How good are the child care services Australians rely on?

How good are the child care services Australians rely on?

By William Cowie

If you’re a parent, at some point you’ll probably have to rely on someone else to care for your child. It’s probably easy to trust family and friends with your precious children; you’ve known them for years, you know they care and they might even have had kids of their own so they’re experienced.

However, formal child care arrangements such as long day care or family day care can be a much more challenging proposition for you and your children. Leaving your child in the care of relative strangers for hours, perhaps the whole day, can be a traumatic experience for parent and child alike.

Historically there has been limited information available to families to help you choose the best service for your child. However, that has changed with the introduction of the National Quality Framework (NQF) for Early Childhood Education and Care.

From the 1st of January 2012, most long day care, family day care, preschool and out-of-school hours care have been operating under this new quality framework. Perhaps knowing a little more about these regulations will help you make the best decision about finding a child care service for your child and alleviate a little of the worry about leaving them in care.

The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care

The National Quality Framework is an important reform to Australia’s child care system. It is designed so that your children receive a higher standard of care in critical areas such as education, health and safety. It also provides clearer and more comprehensive information for families so you can choose the best service for your child.

Key components of the NQF include:

1. New national oversight body

The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is the new independent statutory authority created to monitor national consistency and assure the quality implementation of the NQF.

Their focus is improving the quality of early children’s education and care services across Australia. They are guiding and supporting the work of state and territory regulatory authorities as they introduce the NQF in their jurisdiction.

Karen Curtis is the Chief Executive Officer of ACECQA and the organisation is guided by a 13 member governing board.

2. New quality rating system

The National Quality Standard is a new benchmark for early childhood education and care providers in Australia. There are 7 key areas that have been identified as indicators of high quality child care:

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environments
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
  7. Leadership and service management

Each child care service will be assessed against the 7 key quality areas above and will be given an overall rating:

Excellent Indicates that a service demonstrates excellence and is recognised as a sector leader.
Exceeding National Quality Standards Indicates that a service is exceeding the National Quality Standard.
Meeting National Quality Standards Indicates that a service is meeting the National Quality Standard.
Working Towards National Quality Standard Indicates that a service is working towards meeting the National Quality Standard.
Significant Improvement Required Indicates that a service is not meeting the National Quality Standard and the regulator is working closely with the service to immediately improve its quality (otherwise the service’s approval to operate will be withdrawn).

It’s going to take several years to review every child care service in Australia. However the process has begun and the results will begin to be published on the Government’s MyChild website later in 2013.

3. More educators to look after children

A key component of the NQF is reducing the number of children each carer is looking after at one time. The maximum ratio depends on that age of your child and the type of care service you’re using.

For centre-based care services

Age of children Educator to child ratio Date requirement applies
Birth to 24 months 1:4 1 Jan 2012 – All states and territories
Over 24 months and less than 36 months 1:5 1 Jan 2012 – in ACT, NT, NSW, TAS1 Jan 2016 – in NSW, QLD, SASaving provision applies in VIC
Over 36 months and up to and including preschool age 1:11 1 Jan 2012 – in NT1 Jan 2016 – in ACT, VIC, QLDSaving provision applies in SA, NSW, TAS, WA
Over preschool age No national ratio has been set (state and territory ratios may apply

For family day care services

Age of children Educator to child ratio Date the requirement applies from
Birth to 13 years 1:7 with no more than four children preschool age or under 1 Jan 2012 – in QLD, SA, VIC, ACT1 Jan 2014 – in NSW, WA, NT, TASTransitional provision also applies in SA

Some states and territories have made provisions to the educator to child ratios. You can find more information about these provisions in chapter 7 of the Education and Care Services National Regulations.

4. New educator qualification requirements

Introduced between 2014 and 2020, carers and educators working with your children in centre-based day care and preschools will have a range of new minimum standards of training.

In short, from the 1st January 2014, everyone working in day care centres and family day care services will need to have (or be working towards) at least an approved Certificate III level qualification in early childhood education and care (or equivalent).

Some staff will also need to hold, or be working towards, an approved Diploma level qualification in that field. Centre-based day care services will also need an early childhood teacher working with children at least part of each week.

You can find full details about the new qualification standards on the ACECQA website.

5. Early years and school age care learning framework

The NQF recognises that the first five years of your child’s life shapes their future. Their lifelong health, learning and social development are all heavily influenced by this first handful of years of life.

The Early Years Learning Framework for early childhood educators is designed to enrich and extend your child’s learning from birth to the age of five and help their transition into school. It has been designed with input from the early childhood sector, early childhood academics and Australian state and territory governments to ensure that all children in early childhood education and care get to experience quality learning and teaching.

The key focus of the Early Years Learning Framework is play based learning to develop your child’s communication and language skills, early literacy and numeracy, and social and emotional development, while working in partnership with your family.

6. Each state and territory is a regulatory authority

Each state and territory will have a role as a regulatory authority under the NQF. They will have responsibility for granting approvals, assessing and rating child care services and monitoring compliance with the legislation.

For more information

If you have more questions about the National Quality Framework, visit the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority website. You can find it at It contains just about everything you’d ever need to know about the National Quality Framework and all its elements.

 About the Author: William Cowie is part of the blogging team at Inspire Education, one of Australia’s leading providers of vocational training and child care courses.  When not blogging, he loves to read, fish and walk.


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