Operational changes to how the Queensland Regulatory Authority will assess and rate early childhood services will change from 1 July 2023.
Browse the frequently asked questions below to help providers, services and families understand the changes to the assessment and rating process.
If you have any additional questions in relation to these changes, please contact the Regulatory Authority through
Assessment and rating changes
What is changing in assessment and rating (A&R)?
- There is a shorter notice period of 5 days for most A&R visits.
- An enhanced focus on the service’s self-assessment and Quality Improvement Plan (QIP).
- An increased use of partial reassessment and ratings (only applicable to services rated under the 2018 version of the National Quality Standard).
Why is the change occurring?
The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) published operational refinements to the process for A&R under the National Quality Framework (NQF) in late 2022. To understand the changes, the sector can review the ACECQA information sheet:
making quality assessment and rating more effective (PDF, 780KB).
How are services being supported as this change is implemented in Queensland?
To prepare for the changes, the sector can review ACECQA’s published
information sheet (PDF, 780KB) and the updated content published in the
Guide to the NQF, page 322, including further guidance on best practice self-assessments and maintaining a current QIP.
The Queensland Regulatory Authority conducted a reduced notice period pilot to ensure that any changes to the A&R process continue to support both the approved provider and service staff to be appropriately notified of the upcoming A&R visit. Findings from the pilot indicated:
- little or no impact on ratings awarded
- enabled authorised officers to observe typical practice at a service
- did not change the remaining stages of the A&R process, including provision of feedback to the draft report by the approved provider
- provided greater flexibility in the scheduling of A&R visits
- reduced the duration of any nerves and pressure service staff felt about their A&R visit.
When providers and services are contacted by an authorised officer to notify them of the upcoming A&R visit, they will be encouraged to ask any questions about the change in notification period and how to prepare for the visit. It is important to note that the time spent on a visit and the development of a detailed A&R report is unchanged. The only change in the process is to the notification of the date of the visit.
How do I prepare my service for the change?
Providers and services can prepare for the reduced notice period by:
- maintaining an up-to-date QIP informed by a thorough self-assessment. The QIP is designed to be a dynamic, evolving document that enables continuous improvement, self-assessment, and self-reflection
- communicating to your service community (staff, children, and parents) about your upcoming A&R visit
- ensuring the contact phone number for the approved provider in the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQAITS) is accurate, as a phone call from the authorised officer to this number will commence the A&R process.
The notice period for A&R visit
How is the reduced notice period different to the previous notification period?
In the event that a ‘full’ A&R is being conducted, the Queensland Regulatory Authority will provide 5 days’ notice that a site visit will occur, instead of 6 weeks. When giving notice, the Queensland Regulatory Authority will consider the context of the service and whether typical practice can be observed at the service on the visit day. For a centre-based service, documentation requested prior to the visit will be limited to only:
- a current staff roster
- a current staff scheduling, listing qualifications (including first aid, asthma management, anaphylaxis and Working with Children Check)
- current routines for each session/room, including approximate times
- the service’s most recent QIP.
For a family day care service, further information will be sought to allow the selection of educators to visit.
Is the reduced notice period process the same for all service types?
The notice period given to centre-based services for a ‘full’ A&R will be 5 days in most cases.
The notification timeframe for rural and remote services and single educator models (i.e. family day care) may exceed 5 days to allow for the authorised officer’s travel arrangements to be made and allow time for family day care approved providers to notify all educators of the upcoming A&R visit.
Fewer than 5 days’ notice may be given in circumstances where a targeted ‘partial’ reassessment and rating is planned or there have been compliance issues at the service which require a swift regulatory response. The more targeted that reassessment will be, the fewer number of days’ notice will be given.
How will the reduced notice period for A&R impact the authorised officer observing ‘embedded’ practice (exceeding theme 1) during an A&R visit?
The authorised officer is able to identify high quality practices that are ‘embedded’ in service operations when they are occurring consistently, frequently and intentionally as part of an ongoing process that is understood and implemented by all educators across all aspects of the program.
When high quality practice is genuinely embedded, it is evident and reflected across the service’s operations and systems, regardless of the number of days’ notice given before an authorised officer visits.
What if a key contact person at the service is unavailable on the visit day/s?
If a key contact person is on leave at the time of the scheduled A&R visit, the authorised officer can proceed with the planned visit and gather evidence through a combination of observe, sight and discuss techniques.
If further discussions are needed with a key contact person who was not able to be present during the visit, the authorised officer will schedule a mutually convenient time after the visit to have these discussions.
In circumstances where a key contact person is on leave or not available during the A&R process, the authorised officer will make a decision about whether ‘typical practice’ can still be assessed and if not, reschedule the A&R. ‘Typical practice’ is practice that is generally representative of an ‘ordinary day’ at a service. Extended absences of key contact personnel are not grounds to reschedule an A&R, as services should have processes in place to ensure the quality of education and care provided to children is maintained while staff are on extended leave.
How much time does an authorised officer spend at the service collecting evidence?
As a guide, it is expected that the time spent in a centre-based service for a ‘full’ A&R visit will be at least 6 hours. There may be circumstances where this varies, due to the size and configuration of the centre-based service.
Evidence may continue to be collected after the in-person visit to the service via further discussions with service staff and through reviewing the service’s documentation.
What happens if my QIP is not up-to-date when I receive notice of an upcoming A&R visit?
A service’s QIP must be updated at least annually and may not have been updated in the weeks or months leading up to the A&R visit. Therefore, it is important that the QIP submitted to the Queensland Regulatory Authority before an A&R visit is dated, so that the authorised officer is aware of how recently it was last updated. There is no requirement for a service to update their QIP in the days leading up to the A&R visit, as the authorised officer will provide opportunities for service leadership and staff to discuss the service’s QIP during the A&R process and share any quality improvement initiatives that are not yet documented in the QIP.
Partial reassessment and ratings
What is a ‘partial’ reassessment and how does it differ from a ‘full’ A&R?
Regulatory Authorities use partial reassessments as one method of assessing the quality of education and care provided by services. Partial reassessments are a valuable tool to ensure the A&R process is responsive to changes in services, supporting accurate and current information about services’ quality ratings for families and the community. Partial reassessments can only be undertaken when services have already been fully assessed and rated under the 2018 version of the National Quality Standard.
The Regulatory Authority can choose to add more areas to a partial reassessment at any time during the reassessment process, including during any visit. At the time of announcing the start of the A&R process, the approved provider will be informed of the intended ‘focus areas’ of the partial reassessment and will be able to discuss whether any additional areas of the National Quality Standard should be reassessed as part of the reassessment.
Will the reduced notice period be applied to partial reassessment and re-ratings instigated by the Regulatory Authority?
Yes. The reduced notice period will also be implemented for partial reassessment and re-ratings.
For partial reassessments that involve a service visit, the Queensland Regulatory Authority will provide 1–5 days’ notice, with fewer days’ notice given for more targeted assessments.
For partial reassessments that do not require a service visit, the Queensland Regulatory Authority will provide 1–3 days’ notice that a conversation will occur instead of a visit. A desktop review may be appropriate where the required evidence includes documentation for sighting or discussions that can be conducted over the phone. A desktop review will not be sufficient if the authorised officer needs to observe practice to collect evidence to inform a rating.
What is the timeframe for conducting the partial reassessment and re-rating at the service?
There is no specific timeframe in which the Queensland Regulatory Authority must reassess and re-rate a service. Given the reassessment may be at the request of the approved provider, the standard timeline for A&R may not need to be applied (e.g. the Queensland Regulatory Authority may not give the provider as much notice of the assessment visit). The service may be reassessed sooner if circumstances permit, for example, if the application for reassessment is for only 1 Quality Area.
Can additional elements/standards be added to a partial reassessment?
Yes. The Queensland Regulatory Authority can choose to add more areas to a partial reassessment at any time during the reassessment process, including during any visit. The Queensland Regulatory Authority and approved provider will discuss whether additional areas of the National Quality Standard should be reassessed as part of the reassessment.
Can an 'exceeding' rating be awarded for a partial reassessment for a particular standard?
Yes. Authorised officers will determine the rating of each standard by considering each theme in relation to each standard descriptor. They will consider if the quality of practice they observe, sight or discuss is at the Exceeding National Quality Standard level.
Have there been any changes to the application by the approved provider for a reassessment and re-rating?
No. An approved provider can apply to the Regulatory Authority for a reassessment and re-rating of a service. A fee applies and an application for reassessment can only be made once every 2 years.
Information on reassessment and re-rating can be found within the
National Law (sections 138–140) and
National Regulations (regulations 66–67).