There are lots of factors to consider when picking a child care centre and sometimes it can seem overwhelming to compare one to another. When it’s your first child, knowing what to look for when you hand over their care to someone else can be overwhelming.
Luckily, there’s a national body that regulates and assesses child care centres. The ACECQA has created Australian-wide regulations and assesses all centres so parents know what they’re signing up for.
All childhood education and care providers in the country are given star ratings that are easily reviewed and compared by families, giving you more transparency when looking for a day care centre.
What Is ACECQA?
What is ACECQA? It’s the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority. This is an independent organisation that is responsible for helping the government to create a framework for Australian children’s education and care.
Based in Sydney, ACECQA’s three main roles to benefit children all across the nation are:
- to improve the education and care of children up to 13 years old
- to make sure laws surrounding education and care are being followed in each state and territory
- to support the education sector to improve opportunities for all children
Two of the major parts of ACECQA’s function are to help create the National Quality Framework and the rating system for childhood education and care services.
They also rate centres, provide information to help state and regulatory bodies and has also set up the startingblocks.gov.au website to assist parents.
What Is the National Quality Framework?
The National Quality Framework (NQF) is a way to make sure that kids all across Australia are given the same opportunities in life. It applies to education and care options for pre-school and before/after school options in all states and territories. This includes long day care, family day care and kindergarten.
The framework was introduced in 2012 and was established to improve conditions for all attendees. Since it was established, it has improved the ratio for educators to children, created learning frameworks and material, provided information for parents in national registers and set guidelines for the qualifications needed by educators in child care centres.
Combined, all these factors help to provide a safe and positive experience for all kids. On top of all this, the ACECQA has created a rating system to give parents clear information when comparing child care centres.
How Does The ACECQA Rating System Work?
Every education and care service in Australia is tested and rated by a certified regulatory service.
Child care centres are judged on seven factors that are considered to be the most important for the children attending. These areas are:
- Educational program and practice
- Children’s health and safety
- Physical environment
- Staffing arrangements
- Relationships with children
- Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
- Governance and leadership
Based on how well the centre is judged, they are given an overall rating on a sliding scale that goes from:
- Significant improvement required
- Working towards National Quality Standard
- Meeting National Quality Standard
- Exceeding National Quality Standard
The most recent ratings must be displayed at the centre at all times, and can be found on various websites online too. For parents, these ratings are a valuable tool in deciding where to enrol their children.
Who Determines The Rating of a Child Care Centre?
Every child care centre in Australia is rated by state and territory governments, specifically the department of education, according to the NQS and NQF set out by the ACECQA.
Although these authorities all use the same system to rate a child care centre, they may have different ways of displaying the information. In New South Wales, each day care centre must display a certificate somewhere easy for parents to see it. This certificate has a four-star format depending on the centre’s rating — although a fifth star for excellence can be obtained by applying to the ACECQA.
What Is The Purpose of The National Quality Standard?
The National Quality Standard (NQS) is put in place by the ACECQA as a benchmark to ensure that all day care centres and early childhood education opportunities are run to the same high level all across Australia.
Every centre in the country is rated and assessed by the same standard. All locations looking after children must be approved and continue to meet these standards.
Centres that fail to meet an acceptable standard can have their authorisation revoked and face fines. There are two tiers of penalties:
- Fines up to $1000 are applicable to centres with problems relating to records, policies and/or procedures
- Fines up to $2000 are applicable to centres with risks to the health, safety or wellbeing of children.
How Do I Know The Rating of A Child Care Centre?
There are a few different ways for families to find out the rating of a child care centre.
The first is to visit them. All child care centres in the country are obligated to display their ratings in a prominent location. If you can’t see it, ask a member of staff about it.
Another way to know what the ACECQA rating of a centre is, especially to see if it’s excellent, is to go to the authority’s website. On this page, you can see all the excellent-rated services in the country.
One of the easiest ways to do it is on the Space website. Simply put in your postcode and you’ll see all the nearby centres. Each will show you what its ACECQA rating is, with a breakdown of what it scored for each of the seven categories. You can also see useful info like opening hours, number of places available for children and its address.
Once you’ve found one that you like the look of, you can make an enquiry and get one step closer to enrolling your child in a day care centre.