Choosing a service

Parents and carers can choose an early childhood education service which meets the child’s needs and aligns with practical considerations such as proximity to home, work schedules and the needs of other family members.

Overview

The type of early childhood education you choose and the number of days you enrol your child is up to you, with the majority of children enrolled for two or three days per week. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds gain the greatest benefits from participation in quality early childhood education. The number of days or hours your child participates will depend on their individual circumstances and your family requirements, as well as other factors like the child's response to the new environment.

Evidence suggests that just 15 hours per week, or 600 hours per year, of participation in a quality preschool program in the year before full-time school can benefit your child.

Quality and Safety

All approved services in NSW are monitored, regulated, assessed and rated by the department to ensure children are kept safe and secure.

Using Quality Ratings to choose a service for your children

Education and care services support the healthy development of children in their formative years. The quality of a service is an important consideration for families in choosing an education and care service that best meets their needs. That is why Quality Ratings are so important.

Quality education and care

The Department of Education's central priority is to ensure safety and quality within children's education and care services.

A robust National Quality Framework has been in place since 2012 to ensure the highest safety standards are in place for children attending these services.

The department works closely with the Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), an independent national authority, to implement the National Quality Framework (NQF). The ACECQA Board is accountable to the Education Council.

Long day care, preschools, outside school hours care and family day care are regulated under the Children (Education and Care Services) National Law and the Education and Care National Regulations.

Occasional care and mobile services operate under the Children (Education and Care Services) Supplementary Provisions Act 2011 No 70 and Children (Education and Care Services) Supplementary Provisions Regulation 2019.

What Quality Ratings mean

It is a requirement of the National Quality Framework that children's education and care services are assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard. The NSW Department of Education is the regulatory authority responsible for conducting these assessments. Quality ratings are given along a spectrum. An overall quality rating is given to each service, as well as a rating against each of the 7 Quality Areas that make up the National Quality Standard.

Ratings breakdown

Significant Improvement Required - Service does not meet 1 of the 7 quality areas or a section of the legislation and there is a significant risk to the safety, health and wellbeing of children. The regulatory authority will take immediate action.

Working Towards National Quality Standards - Service provides a safe education and care program, but there are one or more areas identified for improvement.

Meeting National Quality Standards - Service meets the National Quality Standard. Service provides quality education and care in all seven quality areas.

Exceeding National Quality Standards - Service goes beyond the requirements of the National Quality Standard in at least four of the seven quality areas.

Services are required to display their quality rating, providing families with important information about the service's strengths and areas for improvement.

Importantly, Quality Ratings are not a pass/fail system, they're designed to provide information about all aspects of the service and to promote continuous improvement.

NSW Quality Ratings Certificate

The NSW Children's Education and Care Quality Ratings Certificate provides user-friendly information.

The coloured star graphic gives 'at-a-glance' information to inform family choices about a service.

Services are given a clear view of their National Quality Ratings in all areas, which promotes discussion on continuous quality improvement.

Childrens Education and Care Quality Ratings
Image: Children's Education and Care Quality Ratings

Quality Ratings video for families

Duration 00:38

Quality Ratings video for families

Voiceover

Choosing a quality education and care service for your family is a big decision.

Visual

The screen opens with an NSW Government logo and the heading: ‘The NSW Department of Education - Education and Care Quality Ratings’.

Followed by an illustration showing young couple with child on a tablet researching day care centres. White thought bubbles appear in background containing the words Educational Program, Safety, Interactions & Environment.

Voiceover

Understanding the quality rating of a service is an important step in your decision-making.

Visual

Screen shows graphic displaying the ratings system with the four stars.

Each star is a different colour with pink representing ‘Significant Improvement Required,’ Yellow representing ‘Working Towards National Quality Standard,’ Green representing ‘Meeting National Quality Standard,’ Blue representing ‘Exceeding National Quality Standard’ and Multi Coloured tick representing ‘Excellent rated by ACECQA.’

Below the stars the criteria on which the centres are judged are listed:

1. Educational program and Practice

2. Children’s health and safety

3. Physical environment 

4. Staffing Arrangements

5. Relationships with children

6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities

7. Governance and leadership

Below that there is a bar chart showing the rating level the centre has achieved for each category of the star standards. The first bar shows the centre has ‘Significant Improvement Required,’ the second bar ‘Working Towards National Quality Standard,’ the third bar ‘Meeting ‘National Quality Standard’ and the fourth bar ‘Exceeding National Quality Standard’.

Voiceover

Services are assessed and rated along a quality scale. In NSW, this scale is represented by a coloured star graphic, giving you important information about a service’s strengths and areas for improvement.

Visual

Visual displays the full NSW Department of Education Children’s Education and Care Quality Rating system detailing the different colour stars and what they stand for, ’ Yellow representing ‘Working Towards National Quality Standard,’ Green representing ‘Meeting National Quality Standard,’ Blue representing ‘Exceeding National Quality Standard’ Each one is highlighted in turn. Below the stars the criteria on which the centres are judged are listed:

1. Educational program and Practice

2. Children’s health and safety

3. Physical environment 

4. Staffing Arrangements

5. Relationships with children

6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities

7. Governance and leadership

Below that there is a bar chart showing the rating level the centre has achieved for each category of the star standards. The first bar shows the centre has ‘Significant Improvement Required,’ the second bar ‘Working Towards National Quality Standard,’ the third bar ‘Meeting ‘National Quality Standard’ and the fourth bar ‘Exceeding National Quality Standard’.

Voiceover

Quality ratings are not a pass or fail system, they’re designed to promote continuous improvement.

Visual

Visual displays the full NSW Department of Education Children’s Education and Care Quality Rating system detailing the different colour stars and what they stand for, ’ Yellow representing ‘Working Towards National Quality Standard,’ Green representing ‘Meeting National Quality Standard,’ Blue representing ‘Exceeding National Quality Standard’ Each one is highlighted in turn. Below the stars the criteria on which the centres are judged are listed:

1. Educational program and Practice

2. Children’s health and safety

3. Physical environment 

4. Staffing Arrangements

5. Relationships with children

6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities

7. Governance and leadership

Below that there is a bar chart showing the rating level the centre has achieved for each category of the star standards. The first bar shows the centre has ‘Significant Improvement Required,’ the second bar ‘Working Towards National Quality Standard,’ the third bar ‘Meeting ‘National Quality Standard’ and the fourth bar ‘Exceeding National Quality Standard’.

Voiceover

Find out more, ask a service about their quality rating.

Visual

NSW Government logo and to learn more go to: education.nsw.gov.au/early-childhood-education

Driving continuous quality improvement

All services are required to have a ‘Quality Improvement Plan’. Services are encouraged to talk to families about their continuous quality improvement journey that is documented in their self-assessment and improvement planning. It is important that families have the opportunity to play an active role in future improvements, raising and maintaining quality in the education and care sector.

The Quality Ratings Guide provides education and care services with a clear understanding of how their service quality measures against the National Quality Standard. Services are required to display their service rating in a prominent place where families can clearly see it.

The National Quality Framework sets a high benchmark so that services strive for excellence in their journey for continuous quality improvement.

The NSW Government is supporting services to improve quality

The NSW Government has committed $13 million over two years (2019 - 2021) to support continuous improvement for the sector.

This investment funds programs that provide a range of support for services, including professional development opportunities for educators, and one-on-one support for services rated ‘Working Towards’ the National Quality Standard.

Other resources

Further information and resources for families, educators and services on the National Quality Framework and Standard can be found at the ACECQA website.

Types of services

There are a wide range of early childhood education and care options available to suit family needs. The different service types in NSW are listed below, which are monitored, assessed and regulated by the department in accordance with National and State Laws and the National Quality Framework.

Long day care is usually provided in purpose built premises and mostly operates between 7am to 6pm. To suit working families and carers, children can attend all or part of the day. Some long day cares offer preschool programs. A preschool program is a 'structured, play-based learning program delivered by a degree qualified teacher aimed primarily at children in the year or two before they commence full time schooling.'

Children attending long day care can be aged from six weeks to six years old and are often grouped into rooms according to their age; for example, nursery, toddler and preschool.

Some centres also provide additional education and care services for limited numbers of primary school children before and after school and during school holidays.

Many offer lunch, and morning and afternoon tea with the menu available for parents to review.

Long day care centres are run by local councils, community organisations and individuals as well as for profit and not-for-profit organisations.

Preschools can operate in a range of settings for children who are mostly aged between three and five years of age.

The services generally open between 9am and 3.30pm, though individual services are responsible for setting their own hours. Usually services also operate in accordance with the NSW schools calendar and holiday schedules

Most preschools are community based, not-for-profit services. They employ qualified teachers and educators who run their programs and manage the preschool in collaboration with members of the management committee who are often parents and caregivers.

Family day care (FDC) services offer flexible, home based care through a network of authorised FDC educators.

Up to seven children - with a maximum of four under preschool age - can be cared for in the residence of an approved educator.

Occasional care is mainly provided in centre based services.

For children up to school age, occasional care can be accessed on a flexible regular or irregular basis.

Services are run by community and not-for-profit organisations as well as local councils or private organisations, and may be run either independently as a standalone service or co-located within another service such as a long day care service.

Mobile services are designed to travel to areas where centre based delivery is not readily available.

They can include preschools, toy libraries, play sessions and playgroups and generally work with children between 0-6 years old.

Finding a service

Families looking for community preschools can find a service in our list of preschools in New South Wales. Preschools in government schools can be found here.

Families looking for other options including long day care, family day care and outside school hours care can visit the Commonwealth Government's Child Care Finder or contact the Child Care Access Hotline on 1800 670 305. The Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority's also provides a comprehensive find child care tool.

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