Frequently asked questions
Answers to commonly raised queries
NQF Changes 2017 & 2018
Changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF) were made following consultation with the sector as part of a broader review of the NQF.
Key changes include:
- A revised National Quality Standard (NQS) to strengthen quality through greater clarity by removing conceptual overlap between elements and standards, clarifying language and reducing the number of standards and elements from 18 standards to 15, and 58 to 40 elements.
- Improved oversight and support within Family Day Care to achieve better compliance and quality across the whole sector.
- Removing supervisor certificate requirements so service providers have more autonomy in deciding who can be the responsible person in each service, and to reduce red tape.
- Introduction of a national educator to child ratio of 1:15 for services providing education and care to school age children. Transitional arrangements and saving provisions apply in some states and territories.
Ministers agreed to changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF) following a review of the National Partnership Agreement on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care.
The review found the NQF is an important and successful reform with strong stakeholder support, and some technical and operational improvements were required after five years of operation.
Decisions were made following consultation, and the Australian Government and state and territory governments thank the education and care sector, families and community for their feedback and commitment to improving and strengthening the NQF.
Find out more
- Read the Education Council's statement
- Download the Decision Regulation Impact Statement
- Download the Education and Care Services National Law Amendment Act 2017
- Download the Education and Care Services National Amendment Regulations 2017
After passage through the Victorian Parliament, legislative changes came into effect on:
- 1 October 2017 – National Law and Regulations changes commenced in all states and territories, except Western Australia. In Western Australia changes will commence by 1 October 2018 to allow for the legislation to pass through that parliament.
- 1 February 2018 – Revised National Quality Standard commenced in all states and territories, including Western Australia.
Some transitional and savings provisions apply, for example a 12 month transitional period will apply to NSW outside school hours care services to allow the sector time to prepare for the introduction of a 1:15 educator to child ratio. Visit your regulatory authority website for state and territory specific requirements.
All governments and ACECQA are committed to supporting the sector to understand and implement these changes.
A new Guide to the NQF provides up-to-date information on applications and approvals, the National Quality Standard (NQS) and operational requirements. There’s also a series of information sheets and resources available covering:
- responsible person requirements
- notifications, incidents and complaints
- how to transition to the revised NQS
- documenting programs for school age children
- requirements for family day care educators and providers
- new guidance on determining Exceeding NQS for standards and more.
Policies, records and documentation
The requirements for centre-based and family day care services are slightly different.
The approved provider of a centre-based service must ensure a staff record is kept that includes information about:
- the nominated supervisor
- staff members
- the educational leader
The information that must be kept in a staff record for centre-based services is set out at regulation 145 of the National Regulations.
The approved provider of a family day care service must ensure a staff record is kept that includes information about:
- the nominated supervisor
- staff members
- family day care educator assistants
- the educational leader
- volunteers and students.
The information that must be kept in a staff record for family day care services is set out at regulation 154 of the National Regulations.
The approved provider of a family day care service must also keep at the service’s main office a register of all family day care educators and any other person engaged to educate and care for a child as part of the service. Information that must be included on the register is set out at regulation 153 of the National Regulations.
When applying to be an approved provider, every applicant must demonstrate they are fit and proper to be involved in providing an education and care service. Each person who will have management or control of the service must demonstrate they are a fit and proper person.
It is the provider’s responsibility to determine who will be in management or control of the education and care service. For companies, this will generally include the directors. For committees and associations, it will usually include the executive members. People in other positions may also have management or control if they are responsible for delivery of the education and care service.
You can contact your regulatory authority if you need more information about how to decide who needs to demonstrate they are a fit and proper person.
Under the Education and Care Services National Law, anyone can advertise an education and care service as long as it is an approved service, or an application for service approval has been submitted to the regularity authority but not yet decided.
A family day care educator can advertise if they make clear they are part of an approved service. Any advertisement must show which approved service it is promoting and include contact details for that service.
Activities that are part of a planning process, such as gauging interest in the feasibility of a service, do not constitute advertising a non-approved service.
Health & safety
A 'medical condition’ is a condition that has been diagnosed by a registered medical practitioner. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency keeps national registers of practitioners at www.ahpra.gov.au.
The approved provider must ensure the service has a medical conditions policy that sets out practices for managing medical conditions including asthma, diabetes or a diagnosis that a child is at risk of anaphylaxis.
A full list of matters that must be covered by the medical conditions policy is at regulation 90 of the National Regulations.
A ‘medical condition’ is a condition that has been diagnosed by a registered medical practitioner. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency keeps national registers of practitioners at www.ahpra.gov.au.
There must be an appropriate number of first aid kits at each education and care service. When deciding how many kits are needed, approved providers must consider the number of children and staff, and where kits will be kept.
First aid kits should be checked regularly to make sure they are fully stocked and products have not expired. The Guide to the NQF has information to help decide what items to include and procedures for keeping kits current.
Child seats or restraints are not covered by the NQF. The national standard for car seats, restraints and booster seats is AS/NZS 1754 and each state and territory applies the standard under its own law.
For more information about Australian Standards, contact Standards Australia.
Regulation 117 sets glazing requirements for family day care (FDC) services.
If a glazed area of a family day care residence or approved venue is accessible to children and situated at or below the height specified by Australian Standard 1288- 2006, the following is required:
- safety glazing if required by the Building Code of Australia, or
- treatment with a product that prevents glass from shattering if broken (such as safety film), or guarding with barriers that prevent a child from hitting or falling against the glass.
For residences or venues approved before 1 June 2014, the above requirements apply where the glazed area is situated 0.75 metres or less above floor level.
For more information on safety, visit www.kidsafe.com.au
The approved provider, nominated supervisor and family day care educator must ensure that children have access to safe drinking water at all times and are offered food and beverages on a regular basis throughout the day. Food and beverages must be appropriate to the needs of each child.
The service must also take into account any specific cultural, religious or health requirements. Services must ensure that food and drinks are nutritious and that they provide enough for children. See regulation 79 of the National Regulations.
In addition, all services must have a medical conditions policy that sets out procedures for meeting children’s health needs, which can include information about any relevant special dietary requirements. A full list of matters that the medical conditions policy must cover is at regulation 90 of the National Regulations.
About prohibition notices
- A prohibition notice may be issued to a person by a regulatory authority if they consider that there would be an unacceptable risk of harm to children if the person was allowed to remain at an education and care service or provide education and care to children. [Section 182]
- A person who is subject to a prohibition notice is not allowed to work for an education and care service in any capacity. The maximum penalty which may be imposed by a court for non-compliance with a prohibition notice is $20,000 [Section 187]
Provider responsibilities when recruiting staff
An approved provider must not engage a person to work at a service in any capacity if the provider knows, or ought reasonably to know, that a prohibition notice applies to that person.
The approved provider must also not engage a person as a nominated supervisor if the provider knows, or ought reasonably to know, that the nomination would result in the person contravening a condition of a prohibition notice.
The maximum penalty for failure to comply with these requirements is $20 000 for an individual or $100 000 for an entity. [Section 188]
Approved providers are expected to take reasonable steps when recruiting staff to ensure they do not engage a person who is subject to a prohibition notice.
A robust recruitment process involves gathering information from the candidate and from other sources to verify what the candidate tells you. It is important that you record this information and keep it on file. This will help you to show that you have taken reasonable steps to comply with your requirements under the National Law.
Reasonable steps you might take to ensure you do not engage a prohibited person include:
- Ask the candidate to sign a declaration stating they are not subject to a prohibition notice and keep this declaration on file
- ACECQA has created a template declaration form for providers to use during the recruitment process. Download the template. PDF l DOC
- Conduct thorough checks of the candidate’s references, including their current and previous employers
- When undertaking reference checks, ask each referee if they are aware of any compliance action under the National Law or any other law in relation to the candidate
- Record referee responses and keep this information on file.
If after taking reasonable steps you are still concerned about the candidate’s compliance history, you may contact your regulatory authority and enquire if the person is subject to a prohibition notice in any state or territory.
The approved provider and nominated supervisor are responsible for ensuring children are adequately supervised at all times (section 165 of the National Law).
A number of factors may be considered when determining if supervision is adequate, including:
- the number, age, and ability and individual needs of children
- the number and positioning of educators
- each child’s current activity
- areas where children are playing, in particular the visibility and accessibility
- risks in the environment and of experiences provided to children
- the educators’ knowledge of each child and each group of children
- the experience, knowledge and skill of each educator.
Meeting the educator-to-child ratio requirements may not always mean there is adequate supervision. At times services may need to provide additional educators to ensure children are adequately supervised at all times, for example, when going on an excursion or when children are engaged in a water activity.
More information about adequate supervision is in the Guide to the NQF. Guide to the National Law and Regulations.
If a volunteer or student on practicum placement either holds or is actively working towards at least an approved certificate III level qualification, then they may be included in educator to child ratios (regulations 10, 13, 122-3 and 126).
What to consider if your service has volunteers or students on placement
There are several factors to consider in deciding how best to involve volunteers and students on placement at the service. The approved provider and nominated supervisor are responsible for ensuring children are adequately supervised at all times (section 165 of the National Law),and that they are protected from harm or hazard (section 167). Ratios are a part of ensuring effective staffing arrangements, but ensuring children are adequately supervised also involves considering each educator’s experience, knowledge and skills, as well as their knowledge of children at the service. Students on practicum placement are likely to be less familiar with children and their families, and have less knowledge about the service. This may also apply to people who volunteer at the service. Students on placement are attending the service to learn about providing education and care and develop their skills, and this should also be taken into account when considering whether they should be included towards ratios. Considering these factors when planning staffing arrangements will help ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children including adequate supervision.
It is also important to consider how the involvement of volunteers and students may affect children’s experiences and their learning and development. Continuity of educators is important for children’s wellbeing and development, enabling them to build trusting, secure relationships. When assessing a service against the National Quality Standard, authorised officers consider whether ‘every effort is made to promote continuity of educators and co-ordinators at the service’ (element 4.1.2 ). In addition, in assessing element 4.1.1 ‘the organisation of educators across the service supports children’s learning and development’, authorised officers may discuss how the service arranges rosters to support continuity of care and positive transitions. They may also consider whether there are strategies in place to ensure a regular pool of relief educators is available.
Taking these factors into account will help ensure quality education and care for children while also allowing opportunities for students and volunteers to participate at the service. It will also be useful for informing the service’s policy about the participation of volunteers and students on practicum placements (regulation 168(2)(i)).
The service must also have a policy on providing a child-safe environment (regulation 168(2)(h)), and this should include requirements that apply under your state or territory’s child protection and working with children laws. For example, if your state requires people working with children to have a check, you should keep the details of their check in the volunteer or student’s record.
Records for students or volunteers who are counted towards ratios should include evidence that they hold, or are actively working towards, an approved qualification. This is to allow the regulatory authority to check compliance with ratio and qualification requirements.
For students on placement, you will also need to consider any agreement between the employer and the registered training organisation. This includes making sure that the employer, student and the training organisation understand and agree on what the student’s role at the service involves. Work placements are an important part of a student’s training and supporting students to gain quality workplace experience helps students to succeed as educators and to contribute to quality outcomes for children.
Volunteers and students should only be counted towards educator to child ratios if they, and the training organisation, have consented to this. You should also check whether there are relevant requirements under industrial relations or work, health, safety regulations that apply in your state or territory.
A family day care (FDC) educator must not educate and care for more than seven children at a family day care residence at any one time.
There may be occasions when a dwelling could include two self-contained residences with an FDC educator operating from each residence. In all cases the approved provider of the family day care service is responsible for assessing and determining the suitability of residences. If the provider assessed a dwelling suitable for two educators, then a regulatory authority would expect to see two residences that are sufficiently self-contained so that there is clear separation of responsibility for the education and care of children in each. For example, there should be separate indoor facilities.
The health, safety and wellbeing of the children being educated and cared for is paramount.
An approved provider must ensure the maximum number of children is not exceeded during excursions.
Although the National Regulations do not specify a higher educator to child ratio for excursions, children must be adequately supervised at all time. A thorough risk assessment should determine whether the minimum ratios are sufficient to provide adequate supervision while attending an excursion.
To assist you, ACECQA has designed a template excursion risk management plan. More information on excursion ratios is contained in the Guide to the NQF
A centre-based education and care service must have at least one of the following people present at the service at all times the service is educating and caring for children:
• the approved provider, or
• the nominated supervisor, or
• a person placed in day to day charge.
This person is sometimes referred to as the 'responsible person' for the service.
For a family day care service, the responsible person must be available to provide support to the family day care educators.
Notifying state/ territory Regulatory Authorities
You must notify your regulatory authority of any changes that affect your service approval or provider approval. .
Read about notification types and timeframes.
View the Guide to the NQF for more information about notifications and timeframes for notifying your regulatory authority.
You can notify your regulatory authority using the NQA ITS.
The intent of the National Regulations is to ensure that regulatory authorities are notified of circumstances that pose a significant risk or negatively impact on the service's usual operation. This is separate from the requirement to notify a ‘serious incident’ involving a particular child.
Examples of circumstances that need to be notified:
- parents are unable to get to a service to collect their children because the service is in a flood affected area with the flood water rising
- land subsidence at the property adjoining a service. The service may be deemed structurally safe by experts and remain operational, but a large hole in the neighbouring property could potentially pose a risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of children.
Approved providers also need to notify the regulatory authority if their centre-based service is educating and caring for extra children in an emergency. The notification must be made within 24 hours from when the service starts providing education and care to the extra child or children. It must include a statement from the approved provider that they have considered the safety and wellbeing of all children at the service when deciding whether to provide education and care for extra children.
There are requirements to notify the regulatory authority in other circumstances. For more information see Notifications.
Applications and notifications can be submitted to the regulatory authority online using the NQA IT System
The intent of the National Regulations is to ensure regulatory authorities are notified of serious incidents, complaints and circumstances where the health, safety or wellbeing of children may have been compromised so that it is able to take appropriate action.
The definition of a serious incident from the Education and Care Services National Regulations (Regulation 12) is:
- the death of a child while being educated and cared for at the service or following an incident at the service
- any incident involving a serious injury or trauma while the child is being educated and cared for, which:
- a reasonable person would consider required urgent medical attention from a registered medical practitioner; or
- the child attended or ought reasonably to have attended a hospital e.g. broken limb*
- any incident involving serious illness of a child while that child is being educated and cared for by a service for which the child attended, or ought reasonably to have attended, a hospital e.g. severe asthma attack, seizure or anaphylaxis*.
- * NOTE: In some cases (for example rural and remote locations) a General Practitioner conducts consultations from the hospital site. Only treatment related to serious injury or illness or trauma are required to be notified, not other health matters.
- any emergency for which emergency services attended. NOTE: This means an incident, situation or event where there is an imminent or severe risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of a person/s at an education and care service. It does not mean an incident where emergency services attended as a precaution.
- a child appears to be missing or cannot be accounted for at the service
- a child appears to have been taken or removed from the service in a manner that contravenes the National Regulations
- a child was mistakenly locked in or locked out of the service premises or any part of the premises.
If the approved provider is not aware that the incident was serious until sometime after the incident, they must notify the regulatory authority within 24 hours of becoming aware that the incident was serious. For example, where a child hurts their arm at the service, but is in no obvious pain and continues to play. If the parent later advises that the child’s symptoms had worsened and a fractured arm had been confirmed, then the approved provider should report the incident as a serious incident.
If it is not practicable to notify the regulatory authority through the NQA IT System (because, for example, of the extreme urgency of the notification or difficulty getting the notification forms signed by the number of people indicated by the form) the notification can be made initially in whatever way is best in the circumstances. The important thing is for the notification to be made within 24 hours.
Notification would depend on the severity and scope of the serious illness affecting a child or children attending the service. If the illness is severe enough that a child is or should be hospitalised, or the service has to close or significantly reduce operations, then the regulatory authority should be notified.
A serious illness would be notifiable as a serious incident if it was an ‘incident involving serious illness of a child while that child is being educated and cared for by a service for which the child attended, or ought reasonably to have attended, a hospital’ (Regulation 12). Among the examples in the Guide to the National Quality Framework are diarrhoea requiring hospitalisation, bronchiolitis, measles and meningococcal infections. The approved provider must notify the regulatory authority of the serious incident within 24 hours (Section 174(2)(a) of the National Law; Regulations 12 and 176(2)(a)(ii)).
If the situation was severe enough for the approved provider to close the service or reduce the number of children attending, the approved provider must notify the regulatory authority of the incident within 24 hours (Section 174(2)(c) of the National Law; Regulations 175(2)(b) and 176(2)(b)).
Depending on the severity of the situation, the approved provider may determine it to be posing a risk to the health and wellbeing of other children at the service. In this case they must notify the regulatory authority within 7 days (under section 174(2)(c) of the National Law; Regulations 175(2)(c) and 176(2)(c)).
The intent of the National Law and Regulations is to ensure that regulatory authorities are notified of serious incidents, complaints and circumstances where the health, safety or wellbeing of children may have been compromised so that it can take appropriate action.
Assessment and rating
Under the National Quality Framework, assessment and rating of children's education and care services is one of the roles carried out by the regulatory authority in each state and territory. Contact your state or territory department for information about authorised officer employment opportunities
Authorised officers are responsible for assessing and rating services against the National Quality Standard and monitoring and enforcing compliance with the National Law and Regulations. Authorised officers are employed by state and territory regulatory authorities who determine the skills, experience and qualification requirements necessary for their employment. Contact the regulatory authorities for employment opportunities.
Authorised officers may consider the service’s history and planning records to gain a complete view of current performance.
The authorised officer may consider:
- provider approval
- service approval
- conditions on provider approval or service approval
- compliance action
- other intelligence
- previous assessment or accreditation visits (where relevant).
More information is available in the Assessment and Rating Process section of the Guide to the NQF
The regulatory authority will give between 0 and 5 days’ notice of the educator sample to be visited. As is the case for all service types, the regulatory authority will give the approved provider at least 5 work days’ notice of the date of the visit to the service.
Yes. If an outside school hours care provider is notified that a visit will be conducted during school holidays, it is important to let the regulatory authority know if:
• the service will be operating with significantly lower than usual numbers of children
• excursions are planned, or
• a number of key staff have scheduled leave.
These circumstances won’t necessarily result in a change to the assessment schedule, but you should make the regulatory authority aware of the relevant circumstances.
When developing the National Quality Framework (NQF), the Australian, state and territory governments agreed standards must be set very high and allow room for continuous improvement.
All services should aim to be Meeting or Exceeding the National Quality Standard (NQS). However, it is realistic to expect that some services will need to improve in certain areas.
If a service receives an overall rating of Working Towards, it means the service has not met at least one of the 40 elements in the NQS.
Working Towards does not mean that the service has failed to meet any of the requirements that pose a risk to the health and safety of children. In fact, a service may be Exceeding in a number of quality areas and receive an overall rating of Working Towards.
All services assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard must display their ratings at the service.
The rating needs to be clearly visible from the entrance of the service premises, including all family day care residences, venues and offices. Services that have not yet been rated need to display a ‘Provisional - Not yet rated’ certificate.
Services that were accredited by the National Childcare Accreditation Council (NCAC) but are not yet assessed under the National Quality Framework must display both their provisional certificate and their NCAC accreditation until they are assessed and rated against the National Quality Standard.
If you have questions about what certificates you need to display, contact your regulatory authority. In addition to the rating certificate, services can use their NQS rating logo. Find out how you can request your logo and promote your rating.