Quality divergences between states and territories increasingly evident latest NQF Snapshot shows
After several years of tracking almost in lock step, divergences at state and territory level in the percentage of early childhood education and care (ECEC) services meeting or exceeding the National Quality Standard (NQS) are starting to appear, the latest NQF Snapshot shows.
Since early 2017 the percentage of services meeting or exceeding the NQS across the six larger jurisdictions were all largely tracking higher with some, such as New South Wales and South Australia, making very significant improvements over the course of the following five years.
However, since the middle of 2022 divergences between the best performers began to appear with the generalised quality improvement breaking down into two distinct groups, those that have managed to maintain momentum and those that have not.
The key standouts in the latter category are South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (which reported 85 per cent, 82 per cent and 80 per cent respectively,) all down at least one per cent from their previous high levels with all three now trending lower, not higher, as has been the case for many years.
A deeper dive into meeting and exceeding performances across the six regions reveals quite clearly that all regions have been struggling to maintain their relative proportion of exceeding centres over time.
The impact of the revised “assessing exceeding guidance” introduced by ACECQA in early 2018 had a direct impact on the percentage of exceeding centres across the ECEC sector with the more challenging criteria for achieving an exceeding rating reflected in a higher proportion of exceeding centres being re-rated downwards to meeting.
However, although all regions are experiencing challenges with sustaining the percentage of exceeding services in their jurisdictions, only three of the six have also seen a fall back in overall quality levels, suggesting that the number of working towards centres in these areas must be increasing, not decreasing.
This is most evident with South Australia and Western Australia, with the former adding two per cent more Working Towards services than six months ago and Western Australia one per cent.
It is unclear what is driving this pairing back in quality improvement in these two areas, especially given their strong performances over the last several years but regardless of reasons it is clear that the long period of universal improvements in quality across the ECEC sector is coming to an end.
To review the latest snapshot please click here.
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