Planning to open an education and care service? See the below guide to help you understand the requirements before you get started.
What do you want to do?
Understand the legislation
Before you consider opening a new service, it is vital to understand what regulatory and funding requirements apply to children’s education and care services.
Having an understanding of how these rules apply in your state or territory is important for planning a new business and working out the costs involved. This page has information about the National Quality Framework (NQF) regulatory requirements and quality standards. Other relevant legislation and regulations in your state or territory that you need to be aware of include:
- local government planning controls
- working with children checks and child protection laws
- health department rules
- food safety requirements.
There are also funding programs that provide subsidies to families using child care. These are mostly administered by the Australian Government.
Understand the National Quality Framework
The National Quality Framework (NQF) is a national system designed to provide transparency and accountability in education and care in Australia.
The framework includes:
Understand your service type
Which service type are you planning to operate?
- Long day care
- Outside school hours care
- Family day care
- Vacation care
Most long day care, family day care and outside school hours care services are regulated under the NQF. The NQF also applies to preschools (or kindergartens), except in Western Australia and Tasmania.
The information sheets ‘Who is covered’ and ‘Who is not covered’ have more details about the types of services regulated under the NQF.
If the service you are planning to operate is covered by the NQF, you will find information about applying for approval and regulatory requirements below.
Services that are not covered by the NQF may be regulated under local law. Information on seeking approval to operate one of these services is available on the website of your local regulatory authority.
To operate your own service, you will need to apply for provider approval and service approval. You can apply for these online after registering an account on the NQA IT System (NQA ITS). Lodging notifications and applications through the NQA ITS offers reduced processing times.
Alternatively, use the paper based PA01 Application for provider approval and PA02 Declaration of fitness and propriety forms.
Note that the NSW and Victorian regulatory authorities only accept applications and notifications submitted online using the NQA ITS.
Understand regulatory requirements
All services must be operated in accordance with the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations which have detailed requirements for services, including:
- staffing requirements
- health and safety
- ensuring adequate indoor and outdoor space
- policies and procedures
- record keeping.
In addition, all services must have an educational program that is based on an approved learning framework.
The nationally approved learning framework for children preschool age or under is Belonging, Being, Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). The nationally approved learning framework for children over preschool age is My Time, Our Place – Framework for School Age Care. Other approved learning frameworks may also apply in your jurisdiction.
Understand the National Quality Standard
All services are assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard (NQS).
The NQS is a key part of the NQF and sets a national benchmark for children's education and care services in Australia. The NQS has seven quality areas, each containing standards and elements. More information is available in the Guide to the National Quality Standard and the Guide to Assessment and Rating for Services.
If you are granted service approval, you must prepare a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) for your service within three months. Developing a QIP helps providers self-assess their performance in delivering quality education and care and to plan future improvements. The QIP also helps the regulatory authorities with their quality assessment of the service.
Who to contact
Visit our who to contact page for a handy chart on government and state bodies that will support you.
Regulatory authorities in each jurisdiction are responsible for assessing most applications and notifications. In most cases your regulatory authority is the first point of contact.
The Department of Education website has information about registering a childcare service for Child Care Benefit (CCB).
The Child Care Services Handbook is an operating guide for approved services that provides practical information for you to think about when opening and managing a centre, including information about the Child Care Benefit and contacts for your particular state or territory.
You may also find useful information about setting up and running a service from your local council and state or territory government agencies responsible for health and child protection.
For information and resources on business planning and the steps for setting up a new business, visit www.business.gov.au.