National Quality Framework

Why are we investing in quality education and care?

The positive relationship between quality and virtually every facet of children’s development that has been studied is one of the most consistent findings in developmental science (Shonkoff and Philips, 2000, p.313)

Early childhood experiences are the foundations of an individual’s life-long capacities and behaviours. Key aspects of quality - including higher qualifications and standards and training, and low staff to child ratios with nurturing interactions - are linked to positive child outcomes (Waldfogel 2007).

In December 2009 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to establish the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care.

The National Quality Framework has three key elements:

  • a new National Quality Standard including new staff to child ratios and curriculum support frameworks
  • enhanced regulatory arrangements that integrate state and territory licensing and the national accreditation systems
  • a quality rating system to provide families greater information about the quality of individual services and to promote continuous improvements.

In practice this means that all state and territory licensing regimes and the current National Childcare Accreditation Council will be combined into one new national system which will regulate and assess the quality of early childhood education and care service.

The purpose of the National Quality Framework is to maximising children’s development through improving quality in early childhood education and care services. This will be achieved the following outcome:

  • Raising the requirements for staff qualifications and standardising low staff to child ratios
  • Adopting nationally consistent regulation across service types, and removing the variation that exists between services and jurisdiction that impact of service quality
  • Providing information for families about the quality of care available so that well-informed choices can be made
  • Removing the regulatory overlap in current licensing and accreditation system and where possible reducing the administrative burden for services.

The national system will formally commence on 1 January 2012.

Please refer to the following information for further details regarding:

  • The Scope of the National Quality Framework
  • How will the National System Work?
  • Key Changes for Services, and
  • When will this occur?

References: Shonkoff, J & Phillips, D (2000) From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. National Academy Press. Washington, DC. Waldfogel J (2007), Parental Work Arrangements and Child Development, Canadian Public Policy 33(2)

Scope of the National Quality Framework

The scope will in the initial stages has been limited to the types of services that accommodate the largest numbers of children and are the most regulated across the states and territories. These services are:

  • Long day care – centre based services in receipt of Child Care Benefit, provided all day or part time for children aged birth to 6 years of age
  • Family day care – coordinated schemes comprising of a network of home-based carers in receipt of Child Care Benefit, providing care for children aged birth to up to 12 years of age
  • Outside school hours care – services in receipt of Child Care Benefit, providing care before and/or after school and/or during school holidays and pupil free days, for school aged children
  • Preschool – services that provide an early childhood education program delivered by a qualified teacher, often but not necessarily located within a school.

Other ECEC services are out of scope at this stage, but this will be subject to review in the future. These services include occasional care and non mainstream services such as

  • Flexible/innovate services
  • Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Services
  • Indigenous OSHC and enrichment programs
  • Crèches, including Jobs, Education and Training (JET) crèches.
How will the national system work?

An overview and accompanying information of the National Quality Framework including frequently asked questions can be obtained from the DEEWR website.

In short, however, the National Childcare Accreditation Council will be ceasing and current licensing systems in all the States and Territories will be changing.

A new national body, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), will be established to oversee the implementation and management of the national system.

Each State and Territory will adopt legislation that will regulate and enforce the new National Quality Standard. Each State and Territory will have a Regulatory Authority to administer the legislation and determine the rating of each service. In the Northern Territory, the Regulatory Authority will be within the Department of Education.

The National Law Act can be found at

Information paper about the proposed content of the National Regulations

Key changes for services
  • New educator qualification requirements – Certificate III qualification will be introduced as a minimum for educators in long day care, family day care and OSHC services. Early childhood teachers will be required in all long day care and preschools services from 2014
  • More educators to look after children – The Northern Territory already meets the ratio requirements for 2-3 year olds and 3-school aged children. The only change will be the ratio for children under the age of 2 years, as of 2012
  • New quality rating system – All services will be assessed against the National Quality Standard (which will assess services in seven quality areas as well as providing an overall service assessment. Services will be required to display their NQS assessment rating and it will be published online
  • Early Years and OSHC Learning Frameworks – The new frameworks - Belonging, Being and Becoming: An Early Years Learning Framework for Australia and My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia - will ensure delivery of nationally consistent and quality programs throughout Australia. Information and key documents about the frameworks
When will this occur?

The new national system will commence formally from 1 January 2012, however various aspects are being introduced before and after this date to allow for implementation and adjustment.

The first changes started in July 2010 when some service voluntarily underwent assessment against the new National Quality Standard.

The Education and Care Services National Law is currently being adopted in each State and Territory; accompanying regulations care currently being developed and will be available for consultation in during early 2011. Guidelines for interpreting and implementing these requirements services will be developed during 2011.

State and Territory will have staged implementation for staff to child ratios and qualifications, where current ratios differ from the National Standard. For example, the required for a qualified teacher will not be introduced until 2014.

Services with existing conditions of licence and development plans will be allowed to carry them over when the national system comes into effect, where compliance timeframes have been dictated to be enforced after 1 January 2012.

Information forums and consultations regarding the proposed regulations will be conducted in the Northern Territory during March.

What’s happening in the NT?

In April 2010 Early Childhood Policy and Regulations facilitated the coming together of the Key Stakeholder Advisory Group for the NT. The group’s purpose is to be consulted on transition and implementation of the National Quality Framework including Universal Access and the Early Years Learning Framework and provide feedback on a range of documents and proposals. Feedback from the group is considered and relayed to the National Peak Consultation Group, the Early Childhood Development Working Group under the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth and be included in advice to the Minister. The group meets four times a year.

Membership of the group comprises of members representing:

  • early childhood education and care providers and operators
  • peak bodies representing Indigenous and disadvantaged groups
  • people with knowledge and experience of best practice and regulation
  • unions
  • parent representatives.

Organisation Representing
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, NT Australian Government
NT Branch Early Childcare Australia Early Childhood Australia
Australian Ed Union, NT Teachers union
Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, NT Childcare Industry Union
Darwin Family Day Care Family Day Care
Regional Remote Aboriginal Children Services Inclusion Support Services
Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Childcare
Charles Darwin University Universities
Catholic Education Office NT Non-government schools
Association of Independent Schools of the NT Non-government schools
NT Christian Schools Association Non-government schools
Childcare Association Australia Private Childcare sector
Nakara Outside School Hours Care Outside School Hours Care
Child Australia Child Inclusive Learning Development Australia Inc
Department of Education -
Palmerston, Rural and Arnhem School Cluster
Department of Education (schools)
Human Services, Training and Advisory Council Training bodies
NT Teacher Registration Board Teacher Registration Board

Consultation for the Education and Care Services National Law, National Regulations

The draft regulations were released on the Department Education Employment Workplace Relations website in December 2010. Consultation sessions will be held in the NT during March 2011.

An information paper is available for viewing at

The regulations cover the following areas:

  • Provider Approval
  • Fees, Operating an Education and Care Services
  • Service Approval
  • Monitoring and Compliance
  • Supervisor Certificates
  • Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority
  • Assessment and Ratings (Information and Privacy)
  • Review of Regulatory Authority Decisions.

Transitional and Saving Provisions

Individuals or organisations are invited to provide feedback on issues raised in the paper by 14 April 2011. This can be done electronically to or mailed to:

National Quality Framework Regulations Exposure Draft Submission
Early Childhood Quality group
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
Loc C17MR2. GPO Box 9879, Canberra ACT 2601

National Quality Framework Transition Project

This project covers a number of areas involved in the transitioning of all early childhood education and care settings from the current regulatory or quality assurance system to a national quality and compliance system.

In achieving this goal by Jan 2012 the National Quality Framework Transition team has been actively working with government and non government preschools, long day care, family day care and outside school hours care service providers delivering professional development on the Early Years Learning Framework, which is the national curriculum framework for all education and care setting as of the January 2012.

These sessions have been held in each of the NTs regions; Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs. These sessions will continue throughout 2012.

In preparing services for meeting compliance with the National Quality Framework a project involving the audit of government preschool buildings is about to be launched. This project with involve a qualified building architect working with regulatory officers to provide an informative report on the works recommended to bring buildings up to National Quality compliance standards.

For further information please contact Louise Bishell, National Quality Framework Transition Manager, on (08) 8901 1354.