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 and development. 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. These are:

The approved learning frameworks guide:

  • the development of programs that promote children’s learning and development
  • the pedagogical practices of educators
  • a planned and reflective approach to assessment and planning for each child.

A quality educational program views children 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 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, p. 6).

Play-based learning:

  • provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise, test theories and imagine
  • enables expressions of personality and uniqueness
  • promotes positive learning dispositions, such as curiosity and creativity
  • 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, p. 9).

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 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’s learning and development 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 children’s agency and engagement with the natural and built worlds
  • 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.

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
  • intentional teaching in early childhood settings (and intentionality in school age settings) is a recognised approach to facilitate each child’s learning and development
  • responsive teaching values, scaffolds and extends each child’s strengths, skills, knowledge, interests and ideas, and child directed learning promotes children’s agency
  • critical reflection informs the assessment and planning cycle and drives improvement in 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/ Elements





Educational program and practice



The educational program enhances each child’s learning and development.


Approved learning framework

Curriculum 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.



Each child’s current knowledge, strengths, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program.


Program learning opportunities

All aspects of the program, including routines, are organised in ways that maximise opportunities for each child’s learning.



Educators facilitate and extend each child’s learning and development.


Intentional teaching

Educators are deliberate, purposeful, and thoughtful in their decisions and actions.


Responsive teaching and scaffolding

Educators respond to children’s ideas and play and extend children’s learning through open-ended questions, interactions and feedback.


Child directed learning

Each child's agency is promoted, enabling them to make choices and decisions that influence events and their world.


Assessment and planning

Educators and co-ordinators take a planned and reflective approach to implementing the program for each child.


Assessment and planning cycle

Each child’s learning and development is assessed or evaluated as part of an ongoing cycle of observation, analysing learning, documentation, planning, implementation and reflection.


Critical reflection

Critical reflection on children’s learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, drives program planning and implementation.


Information for families

Families are informed about the program and their child's progress.