Quality Area 1: Educational program and practice


Quality Area 1 of the National Quality Standard focuses on ensuring that the educational program and practice of educators are child-centred, stimulating and maximise opportunities for enhancing and extending each child’s learning, development and wellbeing. It recognises that a quality program that builds on children’s individual knowledge, strengths, ideas, culture, abilities and interests is likely to have long term benefits for children and for the broader society.

In all settings, the approved provider, nominated supervisor and educational leader are responsible for ensuring that programs for all children are based on an approved learning framework and delivered in accordance with that framework.

The National Quality Standard is linked to two national approved learning frameworks that recognise children learn from birth.

The approved learning frameworks guide:

  • the development of programs that promote children and young people’s learning, development and wellbeing
  • the pedagogical and critically reflective practices of educators
  • a planned and reflective approach to assessment, evaluation and planning for each child
  • educators to deepen their understanding and application of culturally responsive practice
  • the embedding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders perspectives in all educators' philosophy and practice (Early Years Learning Framework; Framework for School Age Care). 
Cultural responsiveness
Cultural responsiveness is a contemporary way to think about culture and enables individuals and organisations to be respectful of everyone’s backgrounds, beliefs, values, customs, knowledges, lifestyles and social behaviours. Being culturally responsive includes a genuine commitment to take action against discrimination in any form, embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in all aspects of the curriculum and working collaboratively with culturally and linguistically diverse children and families. The approved learning frameworks ask educators to move beyond cultural competence to cultural responsiveness. Cultural responsiveness is characterised by respect for cultures that are not your own, ongoing self-reflection, continued learning and a commitment to improving professional practice in this area. 

For further guidance on culturally responsive practice, see ACECQA's information sheets on Cultural Responsiveness

A quality educational program views children and young people as capable and competent learners who have agency and learn best through a play-based program. The learning frameworks also acknowledge the importance of intentionally including opportunities for children to progress towards the learning outcomes (for more information about learning outcomes, see Element 1.1.1.

Play provides a context and a process for learning through which children organise and make sense of their social worlds as they engage actively with people, objects and representations (Early Years Learning Framework).

Play-based learning and intentionality:

  • provides opportunities for multimodal play, and for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise, test theories and imagine
  • builds a sense of identity and enables expressions of personality and uniqueness
  • enhances thinking skills and promotes positive learning dispositions towards learning, such as curiosity and creativity
  • strengthens self-regulation, and physical and mental wellbeing
  • enables children to make connections between prior experiences and new learning
  • assists children to develop relationships and concepts
  • supports a sense of wellbeing and promotes a valuing of diversity (Early Years Learning Framework).

In school age care services, the educational program reflects an understanding of middle childhood. The program supports learning through play and leisure when educators act with intentionality to nurture the development of life skills and ensure that the program complements children’s experiences, opportunities and relationships at school, at home and in the community.

In all services, educators draw on their pedagogy, knowledge of individual children, the approved learning frameworks, the National Quality Standard and the underpinning law and regulations when designing contextual programs and considering practices they will use. With their knowledge of the children and families using the service, and the community in which they are located, educators make informed decisions about how to meet the Standards.

Educators take a planned and reflective approach to implementing the educational program by using an assessment and planning cycle and engaging with critical reflection to evaluate and improve the program and practice. Educators share the program with families and ensure families are informed of their child’s learning and development progress.

Services facilitate children and young people’s learning, development and wellbeing through play by providing:

  • educators with whom children can form attachments
  • educators who use a range of intentional practices and interactions to encourage children’s problem solving and thinking skills
  • welcoming and inclusive learning environments that are flexible, responsive and foster all children’s agency and engagement with the natural and built worlds
  • indoor and outdoor spaces, materials and resources that address barriers to learning and incorporate reasonable adjustments* 
  • opportunities for all children to learn on Country and seek information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander connections and relationships with Country (Early Years Learning Framework; Framework for School Age Care)
  • access to a range of resources that children can use in a variety of ways to enrich and extend their play
  • uninterrupted and prolonged periods of time to follow their interests.

*A reasonable adjustment is a measure or action taken by approved providers and educators to assist children with disability to participate in education and care on the same basis as children without disability.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, an adjustment is reasonable unless making the adjustment would impose an unjustifiable hardship on the person. In an education and care setting, a reasonable adjustment balances the interests of all parties affected, including the child with disability, the approved provider, educators and other children.

See ACECQA resources for more information about making reasonable adjustments, including examples in practice, and other obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.


Standards, elements and concepts

Quality Area 1 has three Standards that focus on the educational program, educational practice, and assessment and planning for each child’s learning and development. These Standards are crucial to delivering quality outcomes for children under the National Quality Framework because:

  • an educational program that is based on an approved learning framework, is child-centred and maximises learning opportunities strongly contributes to children’s development as competent and engaged learners
  • intentionality is a recognised approach to facilitate each child’s learning, development and wellbeing
  • responsive teaching values, scaffolds and extends each child’s strengths, skills, knowledge, interests and ideas, and child directed learning promotes children’s agency
  • evaluation practices, including critical reflection, informs the assessment and planning cycle and drives improvement in curriculum process and in educational program and practice, resulting in continuous enhancements to children’s learning
  • families who are informed about the program and their child’s progress are better equipped to engage with the service and collaboratively make decisions that strengthen their child’s learning, development and wellbeing.
Standard/ ElementsConceptDescriptor
QA1 Educational program and practice
1.1ProgramThe educational program enhances each child’s learning and development.
1.1.1Approved learning frameworkCurriculum decision-making contributes to each child’s learning and development outcomes in relation to their identity, connection with community, wellbeing, confidence as learners and effectiveness as communicators.
1.1.2Child-centredEach child’s current knowledge, strengths, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program.
1.1.3Program learning opportunitiesAll aspects of the program, including routines, are organised in ways that maximise opportunities for each child’s learning.
1.2PracticeEducators facilitate and extend each child’s learning and development.
1.2.1Intentional teachingEducators are deliberate, purposeful, and thoughtful in their decisions and actions.
1.2.2Responsive teaching and scaffoldingEducators respond to children’s ideas and play and extend children’s learning through open-ended questions, interactions and feedback.
1.2.3Child directed learningEach child's agency is promoted, enabling them to make choices and decisions that influence events and their world.
1.3Assessment and planningEducators and co-ordinators take a planned and reflective approach to implementing the program for each child.
1.3.1Assessment and planning cycleEach child’s learning and development is assessed or evaluated as part of an ongoing cycle of observation, analysing learning, documentation, planning, implementation and reflection.
1.3.2Critical reflectionCritical reflection on children’s learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, drives program planning and implementation.
1.3.3Information for familiesFamilies are informed about the program and their child's progress.