The ins and outs of Assessment and Rating: An educator’s guide
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > The ins and outs of Assessment and Rating: An educator’s guide

The ins and outs of Assessment and Rating: An educator’s guide

by Freya Lucas

April 23, 2023

Being told that your early childhood education and care (ECEC) service will undergo assessment and rating (A&R) can be a daunting experience. 


For educators, leaders, those new to the sector, and even those who are more experienced, knowing that someone will be coming in to examine your practice, ask questions, and seek to learn more about the service before giving it a rating against the National Quality Standard can make ECEC professionals feel a whole range of emotions from excitement to dread. 


To support those working in the sector to feel more comfortable and familiar with the A&R process, we have prepared the following guide, based on information from the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). 


Why do we have to be assessed? The children and families are happy! 


ECEC services – whether they are long day care, family day care, preschool/kindergarten, pr outside school hours care – are assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard (NQS) to: 


  • ensure compliance with the national laws and regulations
  • promote continuous improvement in the provision of quality education and care
  • improve knowledge and access to information about the quality of services to help families make informed decisions about their child’s education and care.


The NQS is part of the National Regulations and includes seven quality areas that are important to children’s learning and developmental outcomes.


What’s the A&R process? 


Here is a summary of the steps in the Assessment and Rating process:


1. Self-assessment and quality improvement


Approved provider conducts a self-assessment to determine the quality of current practices against the NQS and linked regulatory requirements.


Approved provider identifies strengths and where improvements can be made which is documented in a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP).


2. Notice of visit


Regulatory authority provides written notice to approved providers that the A&R process has commenced. The QIP is submitted to the RA prior to the visit, along with any additional information requested.


3. Assessment and rating visit takes place at the service.


4. Draft report

Regulatory authority provides the approved provider with a draft assessment and rating report.


5. Feedback on draft report

Providers can give feedback on any factual inaccuracies in the report and evidence to support feedback.


6. Final report and notice of final ratings is issued to the provider

Feedback considered before the final report is issued.


7. Final report

Approved providers may choose to apply for a review of final ratings within the set review period.


8. Ratings published on national registers

Once the review period has ended, the final ratings are published on the national registers on the ACECQA website and on the Starting Blocks website.


Who conducts the assessment? 


An authorised officer from the regulatory authority (RA) conducts each assessment and rating experience. 


The regulatory authority for each state and territory is different. 


What are the possible outcomes? 


When a service has completed A&R they will be given one of five quality ratings: 


  • Excellent: Available to services who get a rating of Exceeding the NQS can apply to ACECQA to be awarded the Excellent rating.

Excellent services “promote  exceptional education and care, demonstrate sector leadership, and are committed to continually improving.

  • Exceeding: an exceeding service is one which “goes beyond the requirements of the NQS” in at least four of the seven quality areas.


  • Meeting: meeting services meet the NQS, and are places which provide quality education and care in all seven quality areas.


  • Working Towards: a service rated as working towards the NQS provides a safe education and care program, but there are one or more areas identified for improvement.


  • Significant Improvement Required: in a service with a rating of Significant Improvement Required there is an identified significant risk to the safety, health and wellbeing of children and immediate action will be taken to address issues.


Why do some services have a ‘provisional’ rating? 


Services that haven’t ever been assessed or rated under the NQS will hold a rating of ‘Provisional – Not Yet Assessed.” 


This does not, however, mean that services can open and operate with no oversight. In order to open a new service, ECEC providers must undergo many processes and approvals in order to be approved and to operate under the National Quality Framework (NQF). This is also a way of ensuring quality and compliance prior to their assessment and rating.


The service will receive a rating when it is assessed and rated by the RA.


How often are services assessed and rated?


The RA is responsible for determining the schedule of A&R visits. In order to ensure that the services most in need of support and oversight are supported, services with a lower quality rating will be re-rated more frequently, while services with higher quality ratings will generally have a longer period of time between visits in recognition of their ability to meet the NQS.


Each RA will also make adjustments to the schedule as new information emerges to make best use of their available resources. It usually takes a regulatory authority a total of 10 weeks to assess and rate a service.


Other measures such as monitoring, spot check and compliance visits are taken in between A&R visits to ensure the service is operating within the national legislation.


Want to know more about what to expect during A&R? Here are some more insights from Rhonda Livingstone, National Educational Leader from ACECQA. 


Information in this article was drawn from this fact sheet from ACECQA. More resources about A&R from ACECQA are available here.

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button