One in two inspected childcare centres urged to shape up by new quality agency

Nearly half of the childcare centres assessed under new government guidelines failed to meet the standards set, according to figures released today by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).

It is the first time the government body has publicly released ratings for childcare centres, which showed 44% had achieved a ‘working towards’ assessment.

However, ACECQA chair Rachel Hunter says this was “not surprising given the more challenging benchmarks services must reach.”

“The NQS has been designed to make services ‘reach’ – to strive for continuous improvement in quality,” she says.

“The initial spread of ratings indicates the NQS has struck the right balance between being enough of a stretch for most providers – so that we will see the quality improvement we are all hoping for – while not being so much of a stretch that no one can reach the top rung of the ladder.

“The snapshot shows more than half of the services assessed – over 55% – are meeting or exceeding the more challenging standards set.”

Intended to operate along similar lines to MySchool, the quality survey allows parents to search online for the performance of their childcare centre.

Around 1,600 centres have been assessed and have their ratings available at the ACECQA website. Eventually all 12,800 childcare services regulated under the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care will be assessed. Assessed centres will be required to display their rating on the premises, but have no legislative deadline to improve their rating if they do not meet the standards.

Childcare centres are assessed across seven areas: education, health and safety, the physical environment, staffing levels, their relationships with children, their partnerships with the community and their leadership. A failure in any one of these criteria leads to a ‘working towards’ rating.

Most providers achieved a rating showing they were meeting or exceeding the quality standard.

To achieve the highest rating, childcare providers need to apply to be considered. The ACECQA opened applications for the ‘excellent’ rating today.

“The “Excellent” rating recognises providers who are champions of quality improvement and that are raising the bar on what quality education and care looks like,” Hunter said.

However, Australian Childcare Alliance president Gwynn Bridge told News Limited the ratings were very difficult to meet, especially given the shortage of childcare workers in Australia.

“The bar is set very high and we’ve had such little time to implement (the changes),” she said.

“All the bells and whistles don’t necessarily make a centre the best one for education and care”.

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