Parent awareness of NQS and quality ratings still very low according to new ACECQA report
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has released its final report of the Families Qualitative Research Project which confirms that parental awareness of the National Quality Standards and quality ratings remains very low.
ACECQA commissioned the report to understand more deeply the extent to which families used the NQS and quality ratings to inform decision making about which early childhood education and care (ECEC) services was right for their children.
Key findings of the report were as follows:
- Parents were not aware of the NQS or quality ratings but appreciated their usefulness when informed
- Parents understood the importance of the early years for children’s development but found selecting a centre stressful and emotive
- Parents confirmed the decision making process was multi layered; firstly, do we seek formal care; secondly, what type of care is suitable; thirdly, what centre do we choose?
- Parents relied heavily on subjective sources such as other parents, family members and social media to support decision making
- Parents assessed “quality” on an intuitive level focussing on safety, belonging, growth, connection and stability related factors
- Parents were not aware of the Starting Blocks website despite having conducted meaningful online research in the early stages of their search
In addition, it was noted that parents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children found the process of selection generally more straightforward than the average parent. Their selection focus was primarily on family and community links and as a group there was less interest in the NQS ratings.
As the report notes “these research findings point to several opportunities for ACECQA to progress towards its remit of improving families’ and the wider community access to and understanding of information about education and care service quality.”
These include becoming a trusted, independent source of parent support, a leader in centralised, independent, service information provision and a pioneer in developing quality literacy in the community.
To achieve these opportunities four main areas of focus have been recommended:
- Raising awareness of NQS and Starting Blocks primarily through advertising as quickly as possible
- Engaging parents by focussing on their priorities through targeted messaging around the value of the NQS and the Starting Blocks website when making decisions
- Developing messaging that resonates with parents in a way that encourages families to engage and use the support that is available
- Building trust in the NQS ratings via a campaign focusing on the process to determine ratings and their link to the Government and Starting Blocks website
The findings from this report build on those highlighted in previous bodies of work such as Families Research Project Pilot Study (2014, Hall & Partners) and ACECQA Families Research Stage 1 Quantitative Survey (2017) which is contained in Chapter 4 of the National Partnership 2017 Annual Report.