National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care

In December 2009, all Australian governments agreed to a new National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care (the National Quality Framework), which took effect on 1 January 2012.

The new system replaced existing state and territory licensing and national quality assurance processes. The National Quality Framework applies to most preschools (kindergartens), long day care, family day care and outside school hours care services.

Introducing the National Quality Framework

The National Quality Framework (NQF) is the result of an agreement between all Australian governments to work together to provide better educational and developmental outcomes for children using education and care services. 
The NQF introduces a new quality standard to improve education and care across long day care, family day care, preschool/kindergarten, and outside school hours care.

The need for a national approach

Quality education and care shapes every child’s future and lays the foundation for development and learning. The early years are critical for establishing self-esteem, resilience, healthy growth and capacity to learn. Research shows quality education and care early in life leads to better health, education and employment outcomes later in life. Children need quality care and attention that meets their individual needs. The two main influences on the quality of care are:

  • caregiver qualifications, and
  • lower staff to child ratios.

These factors are particularly beneficial for very young children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Better caregiver qualifications

Substantial research shows higher qualified educators improve outcomes for children. The higher their qualifications, the greater their understanding of child development, health and safety issues. These educators are better equipped to lead activities that inspire children and help them learn and develop. Read more about higher qualifications.

Educator to child ratios

Improving educator to child ratios allows staff to give more individual care and attention and contributes to better social and learning outcomes for children. Educators are able to develop more effective and meaningful relationships with children, resulting in more engaged, happy and relaxed individuals.

About the National Quality Framework

The National Quality Framework aims to raise quality and drive continuous improvement and consistency in education and care services, with a focus on outcomes for children. The National Quality Framework includes:

  • a legislative framework consisting of:
  • the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (the National Law) and
  • the Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011 (the National Regulations)
  • a National Quality Standard, used to carry out a national quality rating and assessment process
  • approved learning frameworks, including the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and the Early Years Learning Framework
  • bodies responsible for implementing the National Quality Framework.

The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the National Quality Framework. Each state has a Regulatory Authority with responsibility for:

  • approving and monitoring education and care services in accordance with the National Law and National Regulations
  • assessing education and care services against the National Quality Standard and providing a national quality rating.

In Victoria, the Regulatory Authority is the Department of Education and Training (DET).
Some requirements of the National Quality Framework are being phased in. For example, by 2016, educator-to-child ratios will be 1:11 for children aged 36 months up to and including preschool age.

The National Quality Framework in Victoria

Most funded kindergarten programs in Victoria are now offered in approved education and care services operated by approved providers under the National Quality Framework, and assessed by the Regulatory Authority (the Department) against the National Quality Standard to receive a quality rating.

A small number of services providing kindergarten programs are not covered by the National Quality Framework and are instead licensed by the Victorian Children’s Services Act 1996 (Victorian Act) and Children’s Services Regulations 2009 (Victorian Regulations) or the Education and Training Reform Act 2006.11 A small number of services, including Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Services and some mobile rural kindergarten services, are excluded from the National Quality Framework and are instead licensed in accordance with the Victorian Children’s Services Act 1996 (Victorian Act) and Children’s Services Regulations 2009 (Victorian Regulations). Preschool (kindergarten) programs delivered in a composite class in a school (that is, where the program is delivered in a class or classes where a full-time education program is also being delivered to school children and the program is delivered to fewer than six children in the school), are excluded from the National Quality Framework and are instead regulated under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006.

The Department operates a Licensed Children’s Services Enquiry Line to provide Information about the National Quality Framework. Services can phone: 1300 307 415 or email: licensed.child.services@edumail.vic.gov.au

Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework

The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework advances all children’s learning and development from birth to eight years. It does this by supporting all early childhood professionals to work together and with families to achieve positive outcomes for all children.

The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework is an overarching framework, which works in conjunction with the Victorian Essential Learning Standards and the Australian Curriculum (AusVELS) for schools, the Maternal and Child Health Service Key Ages and Stages Framework, and Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECIS) Information.

The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework:

  • identifies five early years learning and development outcomes for all children aged from birth to eight, which provide a shared language for all early childhood professionals and families to use when planning for children’s learning and development
  • describes the most effective ways for early childhood professionals to work together and with children and families by identifying eight practice principles for learning and development, categorised as collaborative, effective and reflective
  • emphasises the importance of supporting children and families as they transition within and across services throughout the early childhood period.

The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework is an approved learning framework under the National Quality Framework and shares its outcomes with the National Early Years Learning Framework. Visit the Department’s website to download a series of guides to the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework practice principles for learning and development.

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Mail: PO Box 416 Mooroolbark 3138
Phone: 03 9726 0439
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