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  • Writer's pictureCassandra Hyland

A brief guide to the Assessment and Rating process

What are the ratings criteria?

Early childhood education and care services (long day care, family day care, preschool/kindergarten, outside school hours care) are assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard (NQS) to:

  • promote continuous improvement in the provision of quality education and care

  • improve knowledge and access to information about the quality of services to help families make informed decisions about their child’s education and care.

The NQS is part of the National Regulations and includes 7 quality areas that are important to children’s learning and developmental outcomes.

1 Educational program and practice

2 Children's health and safety

3 Physical environment

4 Staffing arrangements

5 Relationships with children

6 Collaborative partnerships with families and communities

7 Governance and leadership

What are the quality ratings? There are five quality ratings that a service can be awarded: A service must apply to the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), which Starting Blocks is a part of, to be awarded the Excellent rating. EXCELLENT - Service promotes exceptional education and care, demonstrates sector leadership, and is committed to continually improving. EXCEEDING - Service goes beyond the requirements of the National Quality Standard in at least four of the seven quality areas. MEETING - Service meets the National Quality Standard. Service provides quality education and care in all seven quality areas. WORKING TOWARDS - Service provides a safe education and care program, but there are one or more areas identified for improvement. SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT REQUIRED - There is an identified significant risk to the safety, health and wellbeing of children. Immediate action will be taken to address issues.

Who rates services? Services are assessed and rated against the NQS by the state or territory regulatory authority (RA) and given a rating for each of the seven quality areas and an overall rating based on these results. The quality ratings are published on the national registers on the ACECQA website and on the Starting Blocks website. Continuous Improvement It may take time for new services to meet each element required in the standards, which can result in a Working Towards NQS or Meeting NQS rating. To find out more about how your child’s service is striving to achieve quality, you can ask to see the service’s Quality Improvement Plan (QIP). A QIP is the document which records the service’s self-assessment of the quality of its practices against the NQS and National Regulations. It also identifies any areas for improvement and contains their statement of philosophy. Educators, children, families and the community should all be involved in the development and maintenance of the service’s QIP.

How often are services assessed and rated? When regulatory authorities schedule quality rating assessments, the goal is to assess and rate the quality of services, drive continuous improvement and keep information for families and communities accurate and up to date. To focus resources on services most in need of service improvement, the actions of the RA are responsive and risk-based. Services with a lower quality rating will be re-rated more frequently. Services with higher quality ratings will generally have a longer period of time between assessment and rating visits in recognition of their ability to meet the NQS. RA’s consider the following factors when managing assessment and rating schedules:

  • The previous quality rating of the service, including results against the quality areas, standards and at the element level.

  • A change in service attributes that could be reasonably considered to affect the service’s quality – for example, changes in approved provider or service management team.

  • Events that occur at the service – for example, serious incidents, complaints or non-compliance with the National Law can indicate a change in quality and a higher scheduling priority.

  • The length of time since the last assessment – for example, over time a quality rating can lose its currency and value for families.

Each RA manages its assessment schedule in a responsive manner, making adjustments to the schedule as new information emerges and making best use of their available resources. It usually takes a regulatory authority 10 weeks to assess and rate a service. The rating report or rating certificate should be made available to families. How do RAs ensure that services keep delivering quality after receiving their rating? RAs make unscheduled and scheduled visits to services in addition to assessment and rating visits. These include monitoring, spot check and compliance visits to ensure the service is operating within the national legislation. Summary of the steps in the Assessment and Rating process

  1. Self-assessment and quality improvement Approved provider conducts a self-assessment to determine the quality of current practices against the NQS and linked regulatory requirements. Approved provider identifies strengths and where improvements can be made which is documented in a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP).

  2. Notice of visit Regulatory authority provides written notice to approved provider that the assessment and rating process has commenced. The QIP is submitted to the regulatory authority prior to the visit, along with any additional information requested by the regulatory authority.

  3. Assessment and rating visit takes place at the service.

  4. Draft report Regulatory authority provides the approved provider with a draft assessment and rating report.

  5. Feedback on draft report Provider can give feedback on any factual inaccuracies in the report and evidence to support feedback.

  6. Final report and notice of final ratings is issued to the provider Feedback considered before final report is finalised and issued.

  7. Final report Approved provider may choose to apply for a review of final ratings within the set review period.

  8. Ratings published on national registers Once the review period has ended, the final ratings are published on the national registers on the ACECQA website and on the Starting Blocks website.


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