Latest ACECQA NQF Performance Report confirms ongoing quality increases and more in 2019
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Authority (ACECQA) have released their 2019 National Quality Framework (NQF) Annual Performance Report in which, amongst other things, confirms that the percentage of services rated as Meeting National Quality Standards (NQS) or above increased again, capping the seventh consecutive year of improvement since the NQF was introduced in 2012.
This year, 79 per cent of services were rated as Meeting NQS or above, up from 62 per cent five years ago, 73 per cent two years ago and 78 per cent last year.
Notably, this overall improvement in quality is replicated across all seven quality areas of the NQS, with the largest improvements over the last five years being for Quality Area 1 – Educational Program and Practice and Quality Area 3 – Physical Environment.
Commenting on the trend Judy Hebblethwaite, Chair of ACECQA, noted that one of the key benefits ACECQA has observed nationally since the introduction of the NQF is an increase in overall service quality.
Other important trends picked up in this year’s report include but are not limited to the following:
- Proportion of exceeding rated centres falls for first time in 2019 as new guidance introduced in 2018 starts to impact outcomes – Overall 31 per cent of all services were rated exceeding in 2019, down from 33 per cent in 2018 with the fall attributed to aspects of the new version of the NQS which came into effect on 1 February 2018 making it more challenging for a service to achieve a rating of Exceeding NQS.
- For the first time since 2013/14 more than half of FDC services now rated Meeting NQS or above – In the wake of efforts by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to address serious compliance breaches across the family day care (FDC) sector increased resource allocation to quality assessment and rating activity has driven an overall improvement in quality that is also evident across multiple areas of the NQS – (Page 9 of the report)
- Overall rate of serious incident and confirmed breaches ticks higher in 2018/19 although bright spots for LDC and FDC are evident – The rate of serious incidents increased to 102 per 100 approved services in 2018/19 up from 98 in 2017/18, with only long day care (LDC) able to avoid an increase this year and actually reporting the only decrease when measured on a per licence place basis. With respect to confirmed breaches FDC saw a decrease for the second year running but both Outside School Hours Care and Preschool/Kindergarten reported quite material year on year increases for the second year running.
- Quality Area 5 and 7 ratings strongest predictors of outperformance in Quality Area 1 – Standards 1.1 (Program), 1.2 (Practice) and 1.3 (Assessment and planning) remain amongst the most challenging standards in the NQS with 1.3 being the most challenging with 83 per cent of services rated Meeting NQS or above. That being said those services that tended to do better in standard 1.3 also performed well in Quality Area 7 which addresses governance and leadership, including the role of the educational leader.
- Services in the least disadvantaged areas report materially higher proportion of Exceeding NQS centres – Services located in areas defined as most and least disadvantaged as measured by the Socio – Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) showed marked differences in quality performance, particularly in the Exceeding NQS category. Overall 37 per cent of all services in the least disadvantaged areas were rated Exceeding NQS whereas only 28 per cent achieved the same rating in the most disadvantaged areas. (Page 35 of report)
- Awareness levels up but quality rating again found to be the least important factor for parents choosing an ECEC service – In the 2019 parents survey it was found that overall parents awareness of the quality rating system ticked up to 46 per cent signalling awareness up from 40 per cent in 2017 however when parents identified as being aware of the system a very high percentage, 80 per cent, noted that it was helpful or very helpful. That being said, the quality rating ranked last as an “important” factor for families when choosing a service. (Page 47 of the report).
- Location, cost and reputation are top three factors for parents making choices of service – Consistent with the 2017 survey, service location, service cost and service reputation in that order remained the most important factors for a family when evaluating an ECEC service for their children. Within settings there were variations with cost featuring as a key factor in OSHC and FDC but less so in LDC and Preschool / Kinder, the general “feel” of a service being important in LDC settings but less so in others and high quality program featuring very strongly in Preschool / Kinder but less so in others. (Page 46 of report.)
- Enrolments in Diploma qualifications show marked decreases with Cert III and teaching degrees broadly stable – The number of enrolments in educator qualification courses fell overall by 13 per cent in 2018, with a substantial fall, likely attributable to changes in funding and fee relief arrangements, of 22 per cent recorded in the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care qualification compared to the prior year. Cert III and ECT enrolments were down slightly on previous years but still lagging very materially the strong growth in new services opened over the last four years, particularly in the LDC setting. (Page 53 of the report).
The 2019 National Quality Framework (NQF) Annual Performance Report is released annually as part of ACECQA’s responsibility to evaluate and report on the implementation and administration of the National Quality Framework as detailed in the Education and Care Services National Law. Annual reporting also includes NQF Snapshots, national audits, occasional papers as well as the Annual Performance Review.
To read more of ACECQA’s reports please click here.
To read the 2019 National Quality Framework (NQF) Annual Performance Report please click here.