NQS Quality Rating gains steady for 3rd consecutive quarter as post COVID bump stalls
The percentage of all early childhood education and care (ECEC) services rated as meeting or exceeding the National Quality Standard was steady for the third consecutive quarter according to the latest Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) NQF snapshot.
86 per cent of services were rated meeting or exceeding the NQS as at 31 December 2021, the third such reading in a row and an indication that the most recent burst in quality improvement that saw the percentage of services rated meeting or above increase five percentage points has come to an end.
Although it is difficult to pinpoint what precipitated the jump in quality over that period it is understood that a number of the State and Territory Departments of Education, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland, had embarked on targeted initiatives that proved successful in supporting working towards services in particular to improve their rating levels.
Eastern seaboard states stabilise at high level, Western Australia improving fast
The improvement in individual State and Territory overall quality levels follow an ongoing trend of improvement with four of the larger jurisdictions namely; NSW, VIC, QLD and SA achieving between 86 per cent and 89 per cent of services meeting or exceeding the NQS.
Evidence of significant progress has been limited over the last three months with the big driver of performance prior to that, NSW, stabilising although WA has been strong throughout last year with the State demonstrating an ability to sustain momentum in reducing the overall level of working towards centres.
Stabilisation trend evident across settings, not just geography, with preschool best
The percentage of services rated meeting or above the NQS from a setting perspective shows a very similar to trend to that when viewing the data through a regional lens with a moderation in the rate of change of improvement in LDC, OSHC and FDC evident since Q1 2021 and slightly before that for preschool, although there overall quality levels are higher than their peers.
Looking from the perspective of governance types once again the moderation is evident although there is a bit more variance to the results with for example; community run not for profits ticking up one percentage in the September quarter to 89 per cent of services rated meeting or above after two consecutive and; for profit run services increasing one percentage point to 84 per cent in the last quarter.
Reassessment trends confirm that not just newly opened centres impacting
Notably, the percentage of working towards services maintaining their working towards rating after Assessment and Rating has been steady for the last three quarters after a run of falling months which ended in Q4 2021.
Indeed, it is also notable, and perhaps encouraging that the percentage of services moving from working towards to exceeding has stopped its decline, perhaps indicating a floor has been reached and providing scope for there to be an increase going forward.
Overall, it is clear that the strong improvement gains across the sector that commenced towards the end of 2020 in earnest have now moderated and in its place the sector’s gains have stalled somewhat, albeit at a higher level.
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