3. The rating system
[ National Law & Regulations, Section 153 Regulations 57–62, 172(d) ] The rating levels under the National Law and Regulations are:
- Excellent rating (the criteria for this rating level is determined by ACECQA)
- Exceeding National Quality Standard
- Meeting National Quality Standard
- Working Towards National Quality Standard
- Significant Improvement Required.
Services that have not been assessed and rated hold the provisional rating of ‘Provisional – Not Yet Assessed’.
The rating certificate must be displayed at the service at all times.
What do the ratings mean
[ National Regulations, Regulation 63 ] Under the National Regulations, for a first full assessment and rating, an authorised officer of the regulatory authority conducts an assessment and rating visit:
- of the service premises at a centre-based service
- of one or more approved family day care venues or residences for a family day care service.
As part of the assessment and rating process, the regulatory authority must consider:
- the current QIP for the service
- any rating assessment history of the service, including any records of previous rating assessments made under the National Law
- the service’s history of compliance.
The regulatory authority may also consider a range of information when determining a rating, including:
- information disclosed by a government department, public or local authority, state or territory regulatory authority or the relevant Commonwealth department
- steps taken by the service to address matters identified during the rating assessment
- other quality assurance or registration process under an education law applicable to the service
- in the case of a service that provides education and care to children in their year before school, whether the service facilitates access to a preschool program.
[ National Law & Regulations, Sections 138-140, Regulations 63 (3), 66-67 ]
A regulatory authority may choose to reassess a service once it has been assessed and rated. Reassessments may be full reassessments or a reassessment of any aspect or element of the service (a partial reassessment). A reassessment may or may not involve a site visit. When reassessing a service, the regulatory authority may consider any of the information it would consider as part of a first assessment and rating. The regulatory authority may also consider any changes made to the service since the last assessment.
Regulatory authorities use partial reassessments as one method of assessing the quality of education and care provided by services. Partial reassessments are a valuable tool to facilitate risk-based regulatory efforts and enable accurate and current information about services’ quality ratings for families and the community.
Partial reassessments may typically be used by a regulatory authority:
▪ In response to trends and risks identified in the sector or within a service. These may, for example, be identified through monitoring of compliance and/or in response to complaints or relevant notifications.
▪ To apply more targeted quality assessment and rating for services that have earned this approach through demonstrated consistent compliance and high quality over a sustained period
▪ If there are changes to a service since it was last assessed (including changes in a service’s operations, management, leadership or physical environment). These may be identified, for example, through relevant notifications to the regulatory authority.
Where appropriate to do so, a partial reassessment may be undertaken without a visit by the regulatory authority to the service (via a desktop review). A desktop review would be appropriate where the required evidence includes documentation for sighting or discussions that can be conducted virtually. If the authorised officer needs to observe practice to collect evidence to inform a rating, then a physical visit will be required.
Procedure for partial reassessments
Partial reassessments can only be undertaken on services that have already been fully assessed and rated under the current NQS. Services that have not been assessed and rated and services that were assessed and rated under the previous NQS (2012 version) are unable to be partially reassessed.
The regulatory authority can choose to add more areas to a partial reassessment at any time during the reassessment process, including during any visit. The regulatory authority and approved provider may discuss whether additional areas of the NQS should be reassessed as part of the reassessment. The regulatory authority's scheduling of assessment and rating visits, including partial reassessments initiated by the approved provider or the regulatory authority, is influenced by many factors. For more information about scheduling, refer to the 'Frequency of the assessment and rating cycle' section.
Regulatory authorities consider the methodology for how ratings are calculated under the NQS when considering how broad a focus a partial reassessment should have. For example, when considering a ‘not met’ element, it may be appropriate for a regulatory authority to gather evidence that may be pertinent across all elements of the parent standard, to determine the rating for the standard. This is because, if all elements are found to be met (even if one or more of those elements was found to be met at a prior assessment and rating), evidence against the Exceeding themes would need to be considered in determining the standard’s new rating.
Determining ratings after a partial reassessment
After carrying out a partial reassessment, the regulatory authority will determine the ratings relevant to the partial reassessment. Previously determined ratings are carried forward for the remaining ratings. First and second tier reviews are only available for the ratings that were determined as part of the partial reassessment. The ratings certificate will include ratings from the partial reassessment and any other ratings that were carried forward from a previous assessment, and the overall rating.
Regulatory authorities maintain oversight of providers and their services in a variety of ways to assess and promote compliance with the National Law and Regulations. These may include physical visits, interviews, phone calls, emails, video conference, etc.
All of these forms of activity provide regulatory authorities with information about the quality of education and care provided to children and interactions with families.
All types of visits may be organised at short notice or without notice, and may focus on any aspect of service delivery under the NQF.
The form of activity is chosen by regulators based on an assessment of risk and the purpose of the contact, and may include a compliance visit, a partial assessment and rating, a full assessment and rating, or other regulatory activities.
Steps in the assessment and rating process
For a partial reassessment, the regulatory authority will use the most current version of the QIP that has been submitted. As part of the regulatory authority’s process, the authorised officer will analyse the available information about the service, including reviewing the compliance and rating history.
The following table outlines the steps and timelines in the assessment and rating process, including in relation to full and partial reassessments. The primary differences in process between an initial assessment and rating versus a reassessment are that:
- the first assessment and rating will always involve a visit to the service and will involve an assessment of all seven quality areas; and
- the service approval letter will explain that the service will need to prepare the QIP within 3 months. The first assessment and rating will typically occur within 9 - 18 months of operations commencing. It is expected that the provider will ensure the current version of the QIP is submitted to the regulatory authority via the National Quality Agenda IT System portal or via any other jurisdiction specific submission process.
These timeframes are guidelines only.
A. Notice to approved provider of assessment and rating
Approved provider is generally notified the assessment and rating visit (or conversation) will occur within 1-5 days. The notification may also include:
• the purpose of the assessment and rating process
• that the authorised officer will advise of any assessment and rating visit date
• guidance on how to source information on the assessment and rating process
• a request for the approved provider or their key contact person (usually a nominated supervisor) to be available at specific times during a visit, for example at the beginning and the end.
For family day care services, a visit will include attending the principal office of the family day care service and a sample of educators. The authorised officer will give notice of the educator sample to be visited either on the day of a visit or up to five days before a visit occurs. The provider may be asked to submit their family day care register to support this decision.
|Weeks 1 to 2||
B. Visit occurs
The authorised officer conducts any assessment visit and records observations and evidence. The authorised officer gathers evidence through a combination of observe, sight and discuss methods. If observations of practice are not required, this information may be gathered through sight and discuss methods.
The authorised officer may provide details about post-visit opportunities to provide information (including if the key contact persons are unavailable on the visit day).
The authorised officer may give some general feedback at the time of the visit but will not give an indication of the service rating.
The authorised officer also gives the approved provider, at the time of assessment or as soon as practicable afterwards, an indication of any minor adjustments that may be made at the service before the draft assessment and rating report is issued to the approved provider.
Any minor adjustments made by the service are included on the authorised officer’s notes and in the assessment and rating report.
C. After the visit
The authorised officer analyses the information gathered through the assessment and rating process, including whether there was any evidence of inconsistent practice at the service.
The authorised officer may arrange the collection of additional sight and discuss evidence by phone, email or video conference.
The authorised officer prepares the draft report with the proposed ratings. The authorised officer also:
Approx. 3–5 weeks after a visit
D. Draft report
The approved provider is issued the draft report and covering letter. The covering letter includes the contact details of the regulatory authority for providing feedback on any factual inaccuracies in the report and providing evidence to support their feedback. It also states that the draft report will become the final report if no feedback is received within ten (10) working days.
E. Consider feedback
The regulatory authority considers feedback received from the approved provider.
Approx. 8 weeks after a visit
F. Final report
The report is finalised, the final ratings are determined and the notice of final ratings is issued to the approved provider. The regulatory authority informs the approved provider and provides information about the review process, including:
The approved provider has 14 days to apply for a first tier review. The 14 day period commences:
Before the assessment and rating visit
Before the visit, the approved provider determines who should be the key contact person. For example, this may be the approved provider themselves, a person in a management or control or a nominated supervisor.
[ National Regulations, Regulation 63 ] Authorised officers will gain an understanding of the service before the visit by conducting a desktop review. For first full assessment and ratings, this review must include the service’s QIP (or self-assessment in NSW), assessment history and compliance history. Regulatory authorities will also review the service's QIP, assessment history and compliance history for reassessments. This desktop review contributes to the plan authorised officers develop for the visit.
Assessment and rating visit length
As a guide, it is expected that full assessment and rating visits for centre-based services will be for at least six (6) hours. There may be circumstances where this is not adhered to due to the size and configuration of the centre-based service.
For services providing multiple types of outside school hours care (e.g. before/after and vacation), it is likely that not all types of care will be visited in the assessment and rating process.
For family day care services, assessment and rating visits generally involve visits to:
- the service (scheme/coordination unit) at the beginning and or end of the assessment and rating visit
- a sample of one or more approved family day care venues or family day care residences. The regulatory authority will determine the sample from the register of family day care educators.
Frequency of the assessment and rating cycle
When regulatory authorities schedule quality rating assessments, the goal is to assess and rate the quality of services, drive continuous improvement and keep information for families and communities accurate and up to date.
To focus resources on services most in need of service improvement, the actions of regulatory authorities are responsive and risk-based. Services with a lower quality rating will be re-rated more frequently. Services with higher quality ratings will generally have a longer period of time between assessment and rating visits in recognition of their ability to operate above the NQS. Regulatory authorities may also schedule a service for a partial reassessment based on risk.
Regulatory authorities consider the following factors when managing assessment and rating schedules, including for partial reassessments instigated by the approved provider or the regulatory authority:
- The quality rating of a service when previously assessed, including results against the quality area, standard and element level – for example, services with three to five quality areas rated at Working Towards NQS may be reassessed more frequently than services with one or two quality areas rated at Working Towards NQS. Similarly, services rated Working Towards NQS in certain Standards, or for a higher number of Standards may also be reassessed more frequently.
- A change in service attributes that could be reasonably considered to affect the service’s quality – for example, changes in provider or service management.
- Changes in quality ratings over time.
- Events that occur at the service – for example, serious incidents, complaints or non-compliance with the National Law can indicate a change in quality and a higher scheduling priority. Unremedied breaches and patterns of non-compliance can also indicate a higher scheduling priority.
- Indicators that a service is failing to notify the regulatory authority of complaints or incidents.
- If the quality rating of the service conflicts with recent compliance history for a service.
- The length of time since the last monitoring or assessment visit.
- Service size - given larger services can have an impact on more children.
Each regulatory authority manages its assessment schedule in a responsive manner, making adjustments to the schedule as new information emerges and making best use of available resources.