3.1 Assessment of the Implementation and Administration of the NQF
For the 2016-17 year, this assessment of the implementation and administration of the NQF uses a similar framework from ACECQA’s reporting in 2011-2016. It provides high level information regarding the education and care sector, the rate of quality assessment and rating, outcomes of the quality assessment and rating process, as well as waivers in place at services.
Previous reporting on the implementation of the NQF has been in accordance with the initial Implementation Plan under the first National Partnership Agreement on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care.
In line with the current National Partnership Agreement (2015-16 to 2017-18), ACECQA will provide an annual performance report to the Education Council that will include an assessment against the objectives and outcomes of the Agreement. After consideration by Education Ministers, the annual performance report will be made publicly available. During the 2016-17 financial year, we began research and analysis work required to produce the inaugural performance report, which will be provided to Ministers in December 2017.
There were 15,546 education and care services approved to operate under the NQF at the end of the 2016-17 financial year, representing an annual increase of one per cent.
- There were 14,661 centre-based services and 885 family day care services
- Over the past year, the number of approved family day care services has decreased by 20 per cent
- There were 7411 approved providers of services, most of whom (83 per cent) are approved to operate one education and care service.
Figure 8: The number of approved services under the NQF
[1. Centre-based services include most long day care, preschool/kindergarten and outside school hours care services. They do not include preschools in Tasmania or Western Australia that are outside of the scope of the NQF, or other services that aren’t regulated under the National Law.]
[2. Family day care services provide education and care in residences. They are sometimes known as family day care schemes and are administered and supported by central coordination units.]
The proportion of childhood education and care services assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard
Under the NQF, regulatory authorities in each state and territory quality assess and rate children’s education and care services against the NQS.
As at 30 June 2017, 14,106 services (91 per cent) had received a quality rating, up from 12,286 services (80 per cent) at 30 June 2016.
Figure 9: The number and proportion of services with a quality rating
Number of services
with a quality rating
Number of approved
Proportion of services with
a quality rating
Figure 10: The seven quality areas and five quality ratings of the NQS
Figure 11: Overall quality ratings by jurisdiction and nationally
Authorised officers from state and territory regulatory authorities assess and rate services against the seven quality areas, 18 standards and 58 elements that make up the NQS.
There are five possible overall quality ratings, as shown in Figure 10. These are Significant Improvement Required, Working Towards NQS, Meeting NQS, Exceeding NQS and Excellent.
[3. The Excellent rating is awarded by ACECQA and a service must have an overall rating of Exceeding NQS to be eligible to apply.]
Figure 11 shows that 73 per cent of quality rated services are rated Meeting NQS or above, up from 70 per cent a year ago.
As at 30 June 2017, 40 services had a quality rating of Significant Improvement Required. Regulatory authorities work closely with providers of services that have been rated Significant Improvement Required, using a range of regulatory measures to drive quality improvement.
At 30 June 2017, of the 2419 reassessments undertaken, 59 per cent resulted in an improved overall quality rating, with only six per cent resulting in a lower overall quality rating.
Figure 12: Overall quality rating changes for services that have been reassessed
Rating level change
Number of reassessments
Proportion of reassessments
[4. Reassessments include: i. Next assessment; ii. Partial reassessment and re-rating requested by provider; iii. Partial reassessment and re-rating instigated by the regulatory authority; iv. Full reassessment and re-rating requested by provider; v. Full reassessment and re-rating instigated by the regulatory authority.]
Figure 12 looks at the 1807 reassessments of services rated Working Towards NQS by overall change in element level performance. For example, if the same number of elements were met at the reassessment, then the level of change is ‘0’. If five more elements were met at the reassessment, then the level of change is ‘+1 to +10’. The figure only includes services previously rated Working Towards NQS because services rated higher than this already met all 58 elements of the NQS.
Figure 13: Element level changes for services that have been reassessed where previous rating was Working Towards NQS
Centre-based and family day care services
Family day care services are more likely than centre-based services to be rated as Working Towards NQS, as shown in Figure 14.
Figure 14: Overall quality ratings by service type
Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA+)
The Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA+) is a geographical approach to defining remoteness in Australia.
As shown in Figure 15, analysis of the assessment and ratings data for centre-based services by ARIA+ suggests that remoteness has an effect on the spread of quality ratings, at both the Working Towards NQS and Exceeding NQS rating level.
Figure 15: The proportion of quality rated centre based services by ARIA+
Working Towards NQS
Major Cities of Australia
Inner Regional Australia
Outer Regional Australia
Very Remote Australia
Ratings by quality area
Figure 16 displays the quality rating results for each of the seven quality areas.
The quality areas with the highest proportion of services rated at Working Towards NQS are:
- Quality Area 1 (Educational program and practice)
- Quality Area 7 (Leadership and service management)
- Quality Area 2 (Children’s health and safety)
- Quality Area 3 (Physical environment).
Figure 16: Quality area ratings
There are situations where a service provider is unable to meet legislated requirements in relation to physical environment or staffing arrangements, either on a permanent or temporary basis. In these instances, providers can apply to the regulatory authority in their state or territory for a waiver. Under the National Law, providers are able to apply for two types of waivers:
Service waivers - service waivers have no specified expiry date. Where a service waiver is in force, the education and care service is taken to comply with the specified element(s) of the NQS and National Regulations. A service waiver does not affect a service’s assessment and rating against the NQS and can be revoked by the regulatory authority either at its discretion or on receipt of an application from an approved provider.
Temporary waivers - temporary waivers apply for no longer than 12 months. Where a temporary waiver is in force, the education and care service is not required to comply with the specified element(s) of the NQS and National Regulations. Temporary waivers must specify the period for which the waiver applies and providers may apply to the regulatory authority to extend the period of a temporary waiver by periods of not more than 12 months.
As at 30 June 2017, six per cent (963) of education and care services across Australia had one or more waivers in place.
Figure 17: The number of waivers by requirement and type
Physical environment and staffing
Figure 17 shows that of the 606 temporary waivers, 87 per cent are for staffing arrangements. Of the 331 service waivers, 85 per cent are for physical environment arrangements.
Services in remote and very remote locations have a higher proportion of staffing waivers, reflecting ongoing challenges with recruiting and retaining staff in these areas.
Our NQF Snapshot reports provide analysis and information on the profile of the education and care sector, the progress of assessment and rating, and the quality ratings awarded to services, including examining the distribution of ratings by provider management type, service sub-type and geographically.
The range of data included in the online version of our NQF Snapshot continued to expand in 2016-2017, with additional analysis about the NQS quality areas, standards and elements for each service subtype, as well as additional analysis about service waivers.
NQS data for all services that have received a quality rating is also available to download as an Excel workbook.
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