Understanding the child care ratings

By Jessica Manifold, Starting Blocks

The early years of life are regarded as one of the most important growth phases in terms of brain development. Children learn through a range of play-based activities, from playing peek-a-boo with a baby to pre-schoolers playing dress-ups.

All of these activities build a strong foundation for the development of children’s social, emotional, physical, cognitive and language skills. Building a strong foundation in the early years increases the probability of positive outcomes for children in school and through to adulthood.

Getting ready for child care, preschool or kindergarten can be an exciting and overwhelming time for everyone, but especially new families. It is extremely important to start getting ready for child care as early as possible. Start thinking about your options before you need it, including the days and hours you might need it for. Simple research into the types of child care available and placing down your child’s name at local services could reduce stress in the future.

Up until recently, parents searching for child care had to rely on a range of research measures to support their choice of service. Families generally used word of mouth advice, internet searches or their gut feeling after visiting a local provider to help them make a decision.

Some families are still unaware that child care services are assessed and rated under the National Quality Standard (NQS), which can help inform them about a service before they make their choice. This assessment and rating process is conducted by a services’ local regulatory authority in each state and territory. Assessors will visit each service to rate it against the seven quality areas of the National Quality Standard. The quality areas are made up of standards and elements that describe what research shows are the most important parts of a quality early education and care service. Services receive a rating for each of the quality areas and an overall rating based on these results.

This assessment and rating process aims to improve the quality of early childhood education and care services in Australia. Providing children with quality experiences early in life can lead to better health, education and employment outcomes, building a productive and fair Australia.

The NQS is a system rates services across the following seven quality areas:

1. Educational program and practice; children are supported to participate in play and learning

2. Children’s health and safety; children are protected from illness and hazards

3. Physical environment; children play in a safe and well maintained environment

4. Staffing arrangements; there are enough qualified staff to give children the attention they need

5. Relationships with children; children are made to feel supported and welcomed

6. Partnerships with families and communities; local community involvement and respect for the beliefs and values of families

7. Leadership and service management; children are cared for in a positive environment.

Most services will receive one of the following service ratings based on how they rated against all of the 7 quality areas;

  • Working Towards the NQS,
  • Meeting the NQS or
  • Exceeding the NQS.

The overall rating a service receives should be displayed clearly for families and visitors to see upon entering the service. These ratings can help families choose the right service for their child. It is important to look at the rating for each of the seven quality areas as well as the overall rating. It is also important to discuss the ratings with the service provider to learn how they are working to meet the National Quality Standard, even if the service has not yet been rated.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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