Assessment and Rating FAQ

This information is current as of 11 October 2017.

How does the assessment and rating process work?

Education and care services operating under the National Quality Framework are assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard and the requirements of the National Law and National Regulations.

Assessment and rating visits are announced. Services receive notification that the assessment and rating process has commenced, and notifying them of the four week period in which the assessment and rating visit will occur (between weeks 5-8 of the process). At this time you will also be asked to submit the service’s quality improvement plan to the Regulatory Authority.

The National Regulations and the National Quality Standard are organised around seven quality areas. The seven quality areas are informed by best practice and the way in which high-quality education and care is delivered.

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
  7. Leadership and service management

The 7 quality areas are further pided into 18 standards with two or three in each quality area. The standards are high level outcome statements. Under each standard sit elements that contribute to the standard being achieved. There are 58 elements in total. During the assessment and rating visit, education and care services are assessed against each element and rated against each of the 18 standards of the National Quality Standard.

This assessment is conducted by authorised officers who spend time observing practice in the service. They will also discuss the operation of the service with staff members and educators and may ask to see documentation.

Approximately three to five weeks after an assessment visit, services will receive the proposed (draft)assessment and rating report, a rating against each of the seven quality areas and an overall rating. The approved provider will be given ten working days to provide feedback on the draft report.

For more information about the assessment and rating process please see the Assessment and rating fact sheet series. Information about the assessment and rating process is also available from ACECQA.

Who conducts assessment and rating visits?

In Victoria, authorised officers employed by the Department of Education and Training (Regulatory Authority) conduct assessment and rating visits. Authorised officers are required to complete a comprehensive national training package in the assessment and rating process and key skills and pass reliability testing prior to being able to assess and rate services against the National Quality Standard.

What are the ratings that services can achieve?

The ratings that can be achieved by education and care services are:

  • Excellent (awarded by ACECQA)
  • Exceeding National Quality Standard
  • Meeting National Quality Standard
  • Working Towards National Quality Standard
  • Significant Improvement Required.

 How is the overall rating decided?

Services must meet each element for 18 standards across the 7 quality areas in order to receive an overall rating of Meeting National Quality Standard. As a result, services may take time to achieve an overall rating of Meeting National Quality Standard. Inpidual quality areas or standards may be rated as Exceeding National Quality Standard, regardless of the overall service rating.

Education and care services performing well across a number of quality areas may receive an overall rating of Working Towards National Quality Standard.

Services rated overall as Exceeding National Quality Standard may apply to ACECQA for the Excellent rating. The criteria and guidelines for an Excellent rating have been approved and are available on the ACECQA website.

A rating of Significant Improvement Required is given when a service fails to comply with regulatory requirements in a way that poses an unacceptable risk to the health, wellbeing or safety of children. The Department will work with the service to resolve the relevant issues immediately.

How can a service achieve a rating of Exceeding National Quality Standard in Quality Area 1?

Where an education and care service is educating and caring for children in the year before they attend prep at school an Exceeding National Quality Standard rating may only be given for Quality Area 1; Educational program and practice, if the service either:

  • provides a preschool program; or
  • has a documented arrangement with an approved provider of another education and care service to provide a preschool program and informs parents of this arrangement.

This requirement applies to any service including a family day care, long day care or outside school hours care service educating and caring for children who are in the year before they attend prep at school. (regulation 62(2)).

If the service has arrangements to transport children to a preschool program more information is available in the Transporting children fact sheet. Further information is available by phone on 1300 307 415 or via email at licensed.childrens.services@edumail.vic.gov.au

What are the criteria for the Excellent rating?

The criteria for the Excellent rating are:

  • the service exemplifies and promotes exceptional education and care that improves outcomes for children and families
  • the service demonstrates leadership that contributes to the development of a community, a local area, or the wider education and care sector
  • the service demonstrates commitment to sustained excellent practice through continuous improvement and comprehensive forward planning.

How can our service receive an Excellent rating?

The approved provider of a service that has achieved a rating of Exceeding the National Quality Standard may apply to ACECQA for the Excellent rating. Guidelines and the application process for the Excellent rating available on the ACECQA website.

Where are ratings published?

The rating for each quality area and the overall rating for each service will be published on the ACECQA and MyChild websites. For services not yet assessed and rated the rating is Provisional Rating – Not Yet Assessed.

The register of approved education and care services published on the ACECQA website also includes the rating for each quality area and the overall rating for each service.

What other information about education and care services may be published?

The register of education and care services published by ACECQA includes details of any conditions that have been imposed by the Department on the provider or service approval of each service operating under the National Quality Framework.

Conditions may be applied to the service approval of a service for a range of reasons. Conditions may be used by the Department to require services to take additional action in order to provide a service in a way that ensures the safety, health and wellbeing of children being educated and cared for (e.g. for services listed on the Department’s Bushfire At-Risk Register to close on a declared Code Red day).

The Department also publishes a range of enforcement actions on the Regulation and Quality Assessment section of the Department's website. Published information may include information about conditions or other amendments to service approvals, compliance notices, prosecutions, enforceable undertakings and suspension and cancellation of approvals and certificates, among other matters. Information published on this page relates only to those enforcement actions permitted to be published under the National Law and National Regulations.

What should services do once they have received their rating and report?

On completion of the assessment process the service will receive an assessment and rating report and a notice of rating outlining the current rating level for each quality area and overall rating. This notice must be displayed so that it is clearly visible from the main entrance of the service premises, including all family day care residences venues and offices (section 172).

Assessment and rating reports provide services with a focus for continuous improvement and aim to assist services to identify areas for improvement that should be reflected in the services quality improvement plan.

Education and care services should give careful consideration to communicating with families about the ratings received by the service, and about the areas where the service is performing strongly and those areas prioritised for continuous improvement.

What should I tell families in my service about ratings?

The overall service rating and rating for each quality area are likely to be of interest to families and the community. Education and care services should give careful consideration to communicating with families about the ratings received by the service, and about the areas where the service is performing strongly and those areas prioritised for continuous improvement.

Discussing the outcomes for each quality area may assist in this process, by drawing attention to areas where the service is performing strongly and areas for continuous improvement. Open communication about both areas of strength and areas identified for continuous improvement, and how the service intends to address these, is likely to be valued by parents.

The following are points to consider in communicating with families if a service achieves a rating of Working Towards National Quality Standard:

  • achieving a rating of Working Towards National Quality Standard, including where the service was previously assessed as ‘High Quality’ by the National Childcare Accreditation Council, does not mean that the service has dropped in performance. The result reflects that services are being assessed against a new and more challenging set of requirements, particularly in the areas of educational program and practice and service leadership
  • all services are required to meet the minimum standards of the National Law and National Regulations and are monitored by the Department for compliance with these requirements.

Quality Area 6 of the National Quality Standard recognises the importance of education and care services developing respectful, supportive relationships with families and providing families with opportunities to be involved in the service and contribute to service decisions. Consideration should be given to consulting parents and families in developing and reviewing quality improvement plans at all stages, including after an assessment and rating visit.

What does it mean if my service has been rated as Working Towards National Quality Standard?

Services must meet each element of the National Quality Standard for all 18 standards across the 7 quality areas in order to receive a rating of Meeting National Quality Standard. Education and care services performing well across a number of quality areas may receive an overall rating of Working Towards National Quality Standard.

If a service achieves a rating of Working Towards National Quality Standard, it may not mean that it has dropped in performance. The result reflects that services are being assessed against a new and more challenging set of requirements, particularly in the areas of educational program and practice and service leadership.

The assessment and rating process represents an opportunity for education and care services to receive feedback about their performance against the National Quality Standard and to consider priorities for continuous improvement.

How can I be confident that a rating is accurate?

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) was engaged by the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood (SCSEEC) to evaluate the validity and reliability of the assessment and rating process and ensure there is national consistency with the application of ratings.

The evaluation confirmed that the assessment and rating process is a valid and reliable measure of service quality as implemented nationally. The evaluation also found that the majority of services and authorised officers found the assessment and rating process to be a positive experience.

Authorised officers are required to complete a comprehensive national training package in the assessment and rating process and key skills and pass reliability testing prior to being able to assess and rate services against the National Quality Standard.

Can a rating be reviewed?

Following an assessment and rating visit, the approved provider will receive a provisional (draft) assessment and rating report and ratings for each quality area and an overall rating. The approved provider then has ten working days to provide comment, discuss the assessment report and request that the report is amended if necessary.

The approved provider has 14 days after the final ratingg is considered to be final to ask for a review of the rating by the Department. If the approved provider still wishes to review the rating, they may apply to ACECQA for a second review. Applications should be made using the application forms available at the ACECQA website.

What information about ratings do services need to display?

Education and care services that have received their final ratings are required to display their ratings for each quality area and overall rating so that they are clearly visible from the main entrance of the service premises, including all family day care residences, venues and offices (section 172).

Education and care services that have not yet been assessed and rated rated will be required to display the notice of provisional rating for the service. For services that have not been assessed the provisional rating is Provisional Rating – Not Yet Assessed. If the service was accredited by the National Childcare Accreditation Council the service must continue to display that accreditation as well as the notice of provisional rating (section 313).

How does the National Quality Framework improve quality?

The requirements in the National Law, National Regulations and National Quality Standard work together to promote high quality education and care. Meeting the minimum standards is the foundation that services build on to progress towards meeting the National Quality Standard.

The National Quality Framework promotes continuous improvement in the quality of education and care provided by services. Each service is required to develop a quality improvement plan that is reviewed at least annually and that identifies specific improvements for the service.

The National Quality Framework builds on Victoria’s approach to the regulation of education and care services. A number of key requirements under the National Quality Framework, particularly relating to educator to child ratios and educator qualifications, were in place under the Victorian children’s services legislation prior to the commencement of the National Quality Framework.

What is a quality improvement plan?

A quality improvement plan must be developed by each education and care service (regulation 238) that: describes a self-assessment of the quality of the practices of the service against the National Quality Standard and the national regulations that identifies areas for improvement, and contains a statement of the philosophy of the service (regulation 55).

The quality improvement plan needs to be reviewed at least annually and, when directed by the Department (regulation 56). The quality improvement plan must be kept available at the education and care service premises or at the principal office of a family day care service and must be available for inspection by the Department or prospective families of the service (regulation 31).

When is a new or transferred service required to submit a quality improvement plan to the Department?

For newly approved or transferred services, the approved provider must submit the quality improvement plan to the Department on request (regulation 55(2) and 56(2)).

When is my service required to submit a quality improvement plan to the Department?

From 1 June 2014, quality improvement plans do not need to be submitted to the Department until requested. Prior to an assessment and rating visit the Department will request a service submit their quality improvement plan.

Is there a template for the quality improvement plan?

The Guide to Developing a Quality Improvement Plan and Quality Improvement Plan Template is available on the ACECQA website.

Providers can choose to develop their own quality improvement plan format (including using an existing plan), provided the plan includes the required information and addresses all seven quality areas of the National Quality Standard.

Can the development of quality improvement plans be a shared task?

A quality improvement plan must be developed by each education and care service that: describes a self-assessment of the quality of the practices of the service against the National Quality Standard and the national regulations; that identifies areas for improvement; and, contains a statement of the philosophy of the service (regulation 55). The plan needs to be reviewed at least annually and, when directed by the Department (regulation 56).

Quality improvement plans are most effective when responsibility for their development and review is shared among educators and others. The Guide to Developing a Quality Improvement Plan recommends that services collaborate widely when developing the plan, including among educators and staff members. It is anticipated that all educators a service will contribute to the development and revision of quality improvement plans for each education and care service.

What are the timeframes for reassessment of services?

The rating received by a service will determine when the next assessment and rating visit will be due.

The reassessment cycle is based on principles of earned autonomy. Services with a Working Towards National Quality Standard (NQS) will generally be rated more often than those rated as Meeting and Exceeding NQS.

Reassessment of those services assessed as Significant Improvement Required will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Where a service’s current quality appears to be lower than that of the service’s rating, this may result in a reassessment and re-rating of the service.

An approved provider may also apply for the reassessment and re-rating of a service, or for any aspect or element of a service that can be rated against the National Quality Standard or the National Regulations. An application for reassessment of a service may be made by an approved provider once every 2 years and a fee will apply.