ACECQA 2019 Parent Survey gives insights into selection approach
In the recently released 2019 National Quality Framework (NQF) Annual Performance Report, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Authority (ACECQA) shared the results of their 2019 family survey in which parents were asked a range of questions including but not limited to subjects such as decision making factors, preferred information sources and quality awareness.
The survey results will be of interest to those in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector for their insights into the factors that contribute to parental decision making when it comes to choosing which service will educate and care for their child.
The 2019 survey was broadly similar to a survey conducted in 2017 (with the exception of two extra questions on rating helpfulness) and received 3,362 responses in total. The 2017 survey received 2,511 responses.
Location, cost and reputation – overall top drivers of choice but each setting differed
Parents were asked to rank in order of importance a set of eight factors they would consider when selecting an ECEC service for their child or children.
The factors were:
- location / accessibility of the service,
- the quality rating of the service,
- the extent of word of mouth / recommendations,
- the general ‘feel’ of the service,
- the presence of highly skilled educators,
- a high quality early learning program,
- the reputation of the service and its provider and;
- the service cost / affordability.
In a similar result to 2017, parents viewed location/accessibility as the most important factor, followed by cost/affordability and then the reputation of the service and its provider.
There were however differences when examining the results of the individual settings, with parents searching for long day care citing location / accessibility, the general feel of the service and a high quality learning program as the top three.
Interestingly, the general “feel” of the service moved to the second most important factor, replacing high quality program which was second in 2017.
For preschool families the most important factor was a high quality early learning program, followed by location and then cost. Those families choosing FDC families selected cost as the main driver, followed by reputation and then location.
In the OSHC sector, location was top, followed by cost and then reputation.
Notably, regardless of setting, quality rating featured as the least important factor to families when choosing a service.
Word of mouth extends importance of sources of information compared to 2017
As in 2017, respondents identified word of mouth as being the most important source of information when seeking to find out more about a service or if they were considering using a service in the next 12 months.
That being said the relative importance appeared to have increased in 2019 with 78 per cent signalling word of mouth as being the most used compared to 73 per cent in 2017.
Word of mouth is defined as information sought from friends and/or family, followed by educators at the service, other parents, and teachers at the school where a service may be located.
Awareness of quality ratings up 6% but more than 50% of parents not aware or unsure
In 2019, 46 per cent of survey respondents indicated that they were aware that ECEC services were quality rated. This compares to 40 per cent of respondents giving the same answer in 2017 and confirms that overall awareness is ticking higher.
That being said of the 1,530 respondents who indicated that they were aware that services were rated for quality 51 per cent knew their services rating, with 33 per cent not aware and 15 per cent unsure.
With respect to the additional questions asked in the 2019 survey these were centred on trying to understand how helpful parents found the quality rating of their service. Only respondents who were aware of their services rating were asked these questions.
Of the 786 responses provided 80 per cent said the ratings were helpful or very helpful.
The combination of the slip in service awareness relative to 2017 and a strong signal that parents that were aware found the ratings valuable may have been the catalyst for the New South Wales Department of Education’s “star system” pilot launched in November 2019 as well as a request to provide more detailed rating information to parents and families at enrolment from 1 July 2020.
For more information on the 2019 survey please refer to pages 42 to 47 of the 2019 National Quality Framework (NQF) Annual Performance Report which can be found here.
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