Understanding the National Quality Standard for Early Childhood Education and Care Services

Posted on January 28, 2020
NQS

The National Quality Standard (NQS) includes seven areas under which child care services are assessed and rated by regulatory authorities in each state/territory. These ratings help families to identify quality child care services for their children.

Below we explain a little bit about the seven quality areas and how you can spot a quality service

QA 1 – Educational program and practice

Educators are required to create and deliver education and care programs based on the interests, needs, abilities and culture of each child at the service. Your child’s service program should mirror your child’s interests, meet their needs, and progress throughout time to support their developmental progress.

Each service will have different ways of meeting these requirements according to their circumstances, but there are some quality markers that you can look for:

  • each child has the opportunity to develop their particular interests
  • children are encouraged to express ideas and participate in decisions about their program
  • the educators recognise that your child is competent and capable even if they need some extra support
  • the diversity of the children at the service is reflected through learning opportunities
  • all aspects of the program, including routines, maximise children’s learning.

QA 2 – Children’s health and safety

Children need to be healthy in order to participate in a learning environment. Every reasonable precaution must be taken by educators and other staff to protect children from harm and hazards, illnesses and injuries, and children must be adequately supervised at all times.

Children should also have the opportunity to be physically active and practice new skills, both indoors and outdoors on a daily basis.

Children also need to have a strong sense of wellbeing and feel secure to be fully engaged in learning. Educators will help children learn about healthy lifestyles including nutrition, hygiene, physical fitness, emotions and social relationships in age appropriate ways.

Some quality markers that you can look for:

  • educators providing for children’s wellbeing and comfort e.g. appropriate opportunities to meet each child’s need for sleep, rest and relaxation.
  • communication with families about health practices and procedures e.g. if there is an outbreak of an infectious illness
  • physical activity built into the educational program every day
  • healthy menus
  • support for breastfeeding mothers.

QA 3 – Physical environment

Indoor and outdoor spaces should provide accessible and age-appropriate opportunities for each child to learn, play and develop their skills. They don’t need to be purpose-built, but should be suitable for the purpose of child care. Providing for children’s safety, furniture and equipment can be used in creative ways to meet children’s needs.

Educators also need to plan physical environments that support children to become physically capable, to independently explore their environment, and to learn through play.

Some quality markers that you can look for:

  • children exploring, experimenting and creating in indoor and outdoor environments
  • rooms and play spaces that are safe and in good condition
  • adequate materials and learning resources for all children.

QA 4 – Staffing arrangements

There are legal requirements related to both the qualifications of staff and also educator to child ratios to ensure adequate supervision for safety, welfare and wellbeing of children, including excursions, and allow each child’s learning and development needs to be met. The ratios are different depending on the age of the children, and some states and territory have different requirements.

A service’s quality also improves when staff practice open and transparent communication.

Some quality markers that you can look for:

  • suitably qualified and experienced educators, coordinators and staff members
  • staffing practices that reflect the philosophy of the service
  • educators treating one another with respect, and working well together.

QA 5 – Relationships with children

Relationships are critical to your child’s wellbeing, learning and development.

Educators should develop positive relationships with every child by being responsive to and respectful of their needs and ideas. All interactions should be warm and meaningful, building trust and self-esteem. The goal is for your child to feel secure, confident and included.

Children should also be supported to build positive relationships with each other. Children build problem-solving, negotiation and decision-making skills when they play and learn in groups.

Educators should role model positive behaviour and the development of strong relationships.

Some quality markers that you can look for:

  • an atmosphere that is generally relaxed and happy
  • children displaying kindness and compassion
  • educators and children engaged in genuine and meaningful conversations.

QA 6 – Collaborative partnerships with families and communities

A child’s family is their most important influence and their first teacher. As shown by multiple research studies when educators and families work together through positive and respectful relationships children’s developmental progress is enhanced greatly.   

Service should also be engaging with the local community to build children’s sense of belonging in the wider world.

Educators need to find out about your child’s interests, strengths and abilities and it’s important to give regular feedback about how well you feel the program is meeting your child’s needs.

Some quality markers that you can look for:

  • effective enrolment and orientation processes and access to current information
  • educators communicating respectfully with you
  • educators informing you about your child’s learning and development
  • families being involved in decision-making and being able to express concerns freely
  • educators supporting and empowering you in your role.

QA 7 – Governance and Leadership

Governance refers to the structures in place that support the successful management and operation of the service which are consistent with the service philosophy.

A service requires a skillful and engaged workforce, effective administrative and risk management systems, well documented policies and procedures, and a safe and healthy learning environment for children to ensure best outcomes.

A continual cycle of self-assessment, planning and review, which involves input from families, creates the opportunities for continuous improvement in children’s education and care. 

Some quality markers that you can look for:

  • a sense of pride and cohesion among management and educators
  • a Quality Improvement Plan with the services current goals and strategies for quality improvement policies and procedures that are current and available for families
  • documents displayed at the service. For example: service’s NQS rating, license, who the nominated supervisor is and any waivers
  • quick and effective responses to complaints.

For further information about the quality frameworks or your service’s rating please speak with the management team at your child’s service.

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