A key focus of the National Quality Framework (NQF) is to promote continuous quality improvement of early childhood education and care services through the national quality assessment and rating process.
A new service will receive a full assessment and rating approximately 9–18 months after the service begins operating.
The Regulatory Authority may choose to reassess a service after it has been assessed and rated. This includes ‘full’ reassessments of all quality areas or ‘partial’ reassessments of a selection of quality areas, standards or elements.
A partial reassessment can only occur once a service has undergone a full assessment and rating under the 2018 National Quality Standard.
The assessment and rating process has 4 steps:
- self-assessment and reflection
- improvement planning
- assessment rating visit
- publication of ratings.
Self-assessment and reflection
Services should conduct a self-assessment to determine the quality of current practices against the National Quality Standard (NQS) and the linked regulatory standards.
Services should identify their strengths and where quality improvements can be made and how they can be implemented. This should be informed by the self-assessment and documented in a
Quality Improvement Plan (QIP).
Approved providers are encouraged, wherever possible, to make their most recent QIP available to the Regulatory Authority in the
National Quality Information System.
The Regulatory Authority will use this QIP when assessing and rating the service.
Assessment and rating visit
An authorised officer may conduct a visit to the premises and use ‘observe’, ‘sight’ and ‘discuss’ techniques to gather information and evidence that supports the service’s assessment against the National Quality Standard, and the National Law and National Regulations.
If the authorised officer is completing a partial reassessment and direct observation of practice is not necessary, a visit to the service may not be required and the authorised officer may instead gather evidence through ‘sight’ and ‘discuss’ methods only.
Learn more about partial reassessments in the
Guide to the National Quality Framework (PDF, 4MB).
Notice to approved provider of assessment and rating
From 1 July 2023, approved providers will receive 1–5 days’ notice from the Regulatory Authority that the assessment and rating process, which includes the service visit, has commenced.
For a ‘full’ assessment and rating, most approved providers will receive 5 days’ notice. For some services, such as those in rural and remote locations and single educator models, longer notice will be required to enable appropriate access to the service and allow for the authorised officer’s travel to be booked.
For a ‘partial’ reassessment, the approved provider will receive between 1–5 days’ notice depending on the scope of the assessment and whether or not a visit is required.
The Regulatory Authority may also commence an assessment and rating reassessment in response to compliance issues identified at the service. Where there have been compliance issues at the service and swift regulatory action is needed, the regulatory authority may commence the assessment and rating without notice.
When commencing an assessment and rating, the Regulatory Authority will first attempt to contact the approved provider via phone to notify them that the assessment and rating process has begun and advise of the planned date for the service visit.
The approved provider and service will receive a letter via email confirming the visit date, type and scope of the assessment and rating (‘full’ or ‘partial’), and name of the authorised officer.
The authorised officer will also request a list of specific documents for submission to the Regulatory Authority before the visit, including the most recent copy of the service’s Quality Improvement Plan. Services may choose to make this available to the Regulatory Authority via the
National Quality Agenda Information Technology System.
Feedback on draft report
Following the visit, the authorised officer will review what they have observed, discussed and sighted against each standard of the NQS and related regulatory requirements.
The authorised officer will then prepare a draft assessment and rating report with provisional ratings, including an overall rating for the service, which will be submitted to the approved provider. The authorised officer will arrange a draft report discussion with the approved provider to clarify and answer questions in relation to the draft report findings.
The approved provider has the opportunity to provide feedback on any factual inaccuracies in the report and additional evidence for consideration before the final report is issued.
Learn more about
providing effective feedback.
Notice of ratings
The authorised officer will consider the feedback provided and finalise the assessment and rating report and notice of ratings.
The service is required to display the notice of ratings, which they will receive from the department.
Learn more about the
display of information.
Ratings of assessed services are published on the
Starting Blocks websites.
The frequency of ongoing assessment visits is based on the principle of 'earned autonomy'. That is, the higher an overall rating of a service, the less frequently the service will be assessed.
The assessment visit is only one part of the process of assessing and monitoring services. It is important services continually reflect on the quality of education and care being provided to ensure high quality outcomes for children.