In 2014 the Australian and State and Territory governments began a Review of the National Quality Framework (NQF) for Early Childhood Education and Care Services (the Review) to ensure the goal of improving quality in early childhood education and care services is being met in the most efficient and effective way. The Review will identify what is working well, areas for improvement and any unintended consequences that have resulted from implementation of the NQF. Established in 2012, the NQF applies to most long day care, family day care, preschool/kindergarten and outside schools hours care services.
The purpose of the Review is to assess the extent to which the objectives and outcomes of the National Partnership Agreement on the National Quality Agenda have been achieved. In particular the Review will examine whether the NQF has improved the efficiency and cost effectiveness of regulation of services and reduced the regulatory burden for providers and regulatory authorities. The Review will examine the effectiveness of the assessment and rating process. The Review will also examine governance arrangements for the NQF including the role of the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).
Since the NQF came into effect in 2012, all governments have been working together to examine its implementation and operation and to take steps to address issues that are causing administrative burden for services.
The Review provides a timely opportunity to take a closer look at how the NQF is operating, and to consider whether further changes should be made to ensure its objectives can be achieved in the most practical and effective way.
The Review is not about winding back the NQF. It is about ensuring the quality of care is maintained, while reducing unnecessary administrative elements that do not add value to a child's development. The issues and requirements of the NPA Review can be found in the National Partnership Agreement on the Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care.
Key focus areas
The Review will focus on four key areas including:
- a review of legislation, regulations and operational processes underpinning the NQF and how well the legislative framework is supporting the policy intent of the NQF
- an assessment of the extent to which the assessment and rating process is measuring quality and driving continuous improvement in education and care services and recommendations for improving and streamlining the assessment and rating process
- a review of the governance of the NQF and the efficiency and cost effectiveness of regulation
- consultation with the education and care sector, families and interested stakeholders.
A particular focus of all governments is streamlining existing processes within the NQF, without reducing the quality of education and care services. The Review will also examine the extent to which the NQF has so far reduced regulatory burden for services.
The outcomes of the Review will provide confidence to families that the regulation of services catering to their children, at the most vulnerable stages of their lives, is rigorous and effective.
The consultation undertaken as part of the Review provides an opportunity for educators, service providers, families and interested stakeholders to contribute ideas to enhance the existing system.
As part of the 2014 Review, a consultation process was undertaken from May to July 2014 with the education and care sector, families and interested stakeholders to seek input about the implementation and operation of the NQF to date. Woolcott Research Pty Ltd facilitated the public consultation process on behalf of the Australian and State and Territory governments. This consultation process sought feedback on the individual components of the NQF and its implementation including:
- the strengths of the NQF and what is working well
- what is not working well or could be improved
- opportunities for streamlining processes, clarifying requirements, and reducing regulatory burden without reducing quality.
The consultation process included face to face consultation sessions in each state and territory, in capital cities as well as regional centres. Representatives from the Australian and State and Territory governments were present at the sessions and available to answer questions. In addition, an online consultation was undertaken, which enabled interested parties to provide feedback on the NQF. This included a short survey for services and parents as well as the facility to provide a formal submission or a comment.
A summary of the feedback received through this initial consultation process can be viewed on the Woolcott website, as well as the written submissions received during the consultation.
Following the initial consultation process, the sector and broader community were invited during November 2014 – January 2015 to participate in a secondary stage of consultation around the proposed options for changes to the NQF using a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS).The RIS tested options for proposed policy and legislative changes to the NQF, with a focus on how the changes will affect the sector and the community. The specific options presented within the RIS were developed using the findings of the initial consultation process as well as input from jurisdictions where it was revealed there was potential for refinement.
Similar to the initial consultation process, this secondary consultation phase included face-to-face consultation sessions in each jurisdiction and an online consultation website enabling interested stakeholders to submit a formal written submission, provide a comment or complete an online survey. In Western Australia, consultation sessions were held in Perth, Bunbury, Port Hedland and Kalgoorlie. This consultation phase closed on 16 January 2015.
More than 1700 people attended the 58 face to face consultation sessions that were held in all capital cities and a selection of regional areas within states and territories. The community also provided 113 written submissions, 106 online comments and 670 survey responses to the consultation RIS.
Overall, feedback was generally supportive of the NQF and the increase in quality service provision since its implementation.
The sector was receptive to some of the proposed changes in the consultation RIS especially those that sought to remove unnecessary or ineffective administrative and regulatory burden e.g. the removal of the supervisor certificate requirements.
The non-confidential written submissions are available for public viewing on the Deloitte Access Economics website.
Additional targeted consultation sessions with several peak bodies and large providers were undertaken in April 2015 to gather further feedback regarding proposed changes to Family Day Care and the National Quality Standard. Feedback gathered at these sessions encompassed both comments about the proposed changes and their implementation.
The feedback provided through the consultation process is being used to recommend changes to the NQF. Substantial work has been undertaken by all jurisdictions on the 2014 Review. Consensus on final recommendations has been reached in relation to many significant matters.
A Decision Regulatory Impact Statement (Decision RIS) is being prepared to outline the key changes to the NQF to ensure stakeholders are informed of the rationale for decisions and their likely regulatory impact. The Decision RIS will be released once agreed to by all Ministers.