What does it mean to be ‘Working Towards’ the National Quality Standard?

This content was originally published in Belonging Early Years Journal, please click here for more information and to access the original.

In November, ACECQA released its 27th NQF Snapshot, analysing the performance of services against the National Quality Standard (NQS). Gabrielle Sinclair, Chief Executive Officer at ACECQA discusses what it means to be rated Working Towards NQS.

Of all the quality ratings, it is the ‘Working Towards’ rating that generates most media attention and discussion. Put simply, is the rating a failure or not?

The Education and Care Services National Law and National Regulations govern the minimum standards and requirements that all providers of regulated services must meet in order to operate. The National Quality Standard is then used by all state and territory regulatory authorities to assess and rate services.

To be rated Meeting NQS, all elements across each of the seven quality areas must be met. This means that a service may be rated Working Towards NQS based on not meeting a single element or not meeting all elements.

Looking beyond the overall rating provides a much better idea of a service’s performance. The figure below provides the breakdown of the number of elements not met for the approximately 3100 services rated Working Towards NQS.

Approaching 1000 services (31%) are rated Working Towards NQS based on not meeting three or fewer elements of quality, with almost 300 of these services not meeting just a single element.

At the other end of the spectrum, more than 300 services (11%) are rated Working Towards NQS having not met 20 or more elements of quality.

By examining the element level performance of services rated Working Towards NQS, we get a much better idea of what, and how much, work needs to be done, and how close services are to meeting the high standard set by the NQS.

Returning to my original question, a rating of Working Towards NQS is not a failure, not least of all because the quality assessment and rating process is not designed as a pass-fail system. It is not a test that governments adjudicate and provide a pass or fail mark.

Rather, it is a process that examines a broad range of quality measures and encourages reflection and continuous improvement. It also recognises high performance, as evidenced by the fact that almost 300 services rated Working Towards NQS overall receive a rating of Exceeding NQS for one or more of the seven quality areas.

An objective of the NQF is to promote continuous quality improvement. With more than 8000 reassessments undertaken, there is increasingly strong evidence that the sector has embraced and embodied this objective. This is typified by the fact that around two-thirds of services rated Working Towards NQS improve their quality rating following a reassessment.

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