- the Education and Care Services National Law 2010 and the Education and Care National Regulations 2011;
- the National Quality Standard and assessment and quality rating process;
- national approved learning frameworks;
- a regulatory authority in each state and territory responsible for the approval, monitoring and quality assessment of services in their state or territory;
- a national body – Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), which guides the implementation of the NQF and supports regulatory authorities, service providers and families.
- safety, health and wellbeing
- the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
- family day care
- quality ratings
- fees within the NQF system
- oversight and governance of services and providers.
1. What is the 2019 National Quality Framework Review (the NQF Review)?
The National Quality Agenda (NQA) for Early Childhood Education and Care was developed by all Australian governments with the goal of creating a national quality strategy for the early years, to ensure the wellbeing of children throughout their lives, and was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in July 2009.
The NQA established the National Quality Framework (NQF) that was introduced in 2012 and aims to raise quality and drive continuous improvement and consistency in education and care services through:
The NQF is guided by the following objectives:
a. to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children attending education and care services;
b. to improve the educational and developmental outcomes for children attending education and care services;
c. to promote continuous improvement in the provision of quality education and care services;
d. to establish a system of national integration and shared responsibility between participating jurisdictions and the Commonwealth in the administration of the national education and care services quality framework;
e. to improve public knowledge, and access to information, about the quality of education and care services;
f. to reduce the regulatory and administrative burden for education and care services by enabling information to be shared between participating jurisdictions and the Commonwealth.
The NQF Review provides an opportunity to ensure that the NQF remains current, fit for purpose and able to continue meeting its objectives.
On 14 December 2018, the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) Education Council approved the NQF Review to occur and endorsed the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the NQF Review. The ToR outlines the scope of the review and establishes the range of issues that will be reviewed.
The NQF Review is a consultative review process that involves governments engaging with stakeholders about issues within the ToR which will, in turn, result in governments determining necessary changes to the NQF to be implemented.
2. How will stakeholders in the education and care sector get to contribute to the NQF Review?
The NQF Review is a consultative review process, involving two major rounds of consultation with stakeholders before Education Ministers decide which changes will be made to the NQF.
Stakeholders had the chance to provide feedback on the Issues Paper in 2019. This feedback was used to develop a 'Consultation Regulation Impact Statement' (CRIS), which proposes a number of options for regulatory change to the NQF.
3. What is the process of the NQF Review?
The NQF Review has four major stages:
1. Stakeholder consultation on the ‘NQF Review: Issues Paper’
The ‘NQF Review: Issues Paper’ seeks stakeholder feedback on a range of issues within the ToR of the NQF Review. We are currently in this stage.
2. Stakeholder consultation on a Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement
Following collection of contributions from stakeholders, options will be developed on the issues raised and presented in a ‘Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement’ (CRIS) for a further round of stakeholder consultation.
3. Development and agreement between governments on required changes
Analysing contributions to the CRIS, governments will decide on options and how they would be implemented as part of the NQF. This information will be presented as recommendations within a ‘Decision Regulatory Impact Statement’ (DRIS), and requires agreement between all members of the Education Ministers Meeting (EMM) before any changes to the NQF can be implemented. The members of EMM are government Ministers responsible for Education and Care regulation across states and territories, and the Australian Government.
4. Implementation of changes into the NQF
The final stage of the NQF Review will be the implementation of the changes outlined in DRIS as agreed by governments.
4. Why is there another NQF Review?
The original National Partnership on the National Quality Agenda (NP NQA) for Early Childhood Education and Care that created the NQF was signed by the Australian Government and all State and Territory Governments on 9 December 2009. The NP NQA envisaged a review every 5 years to ensure that the NQF was achieving the objectives and outcomes as agreed by all governments, resulting in the 2014 NP NQA Review.
Although the subsequent NP NQA is no longer in force after expiring on 31 December 2018, regular review of regulatory frameworks is necessary to ensure that the NQF remains contemporary, fit for purpose and consistent with ‘best practice regulation’, particularly while the education and care sector continues to evolve since the last review in 2014. As a result, all governments support the 2019 NQF Review occurring, as endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments’ Education Council on 14 December 2018.
5. How long is the NQF Review expected to take?
While titled the ‘2019 NQF Review’, ‘2019’ refers to the year the review begins. From its commencement to implementation, the entire NQF Review process is expected to run from 2019–2023.
You can find a list of significant milestones and their expected timeframes for delivery here.
6. What issues will the NQF Review consider?
While it has now been five years since the last review commenced, some regulatory changes resulting from the 2014 Review only became operational in February 2018. The 2019 NQF Review is therefore not intended to consider major changes implemented from the previous review. For example, the 2014 Review led to a revised NQS. As a result, the NQS and other changes implemented from the 2014 NQF Review are out-of-scope for the 2019 NQF Review.
The Terms of Reference (ToR) for the 2019 NQF Review as approved by the Council of Australian Governments’ Education Council outlines the scope of the review and issues to be considered.
There are 21 issues in the NQF Review covering a wide range of areas in the National Quality Framework. These include:
7. What are the key milestones in the NQF Review?
April–July 2019: Begin consultation with stakeholders on the ‘NQF Review: Issues Paper’ (the Issues Paper).
July–December 2019: Analysis of stakeholder feedback by governments on the Issues Paper and development of a ‘Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement’ (CRIS) that will propose different options for change to the NQF using earlier feedback collected from stakeholders.
First half of 2021: Consultation with stakeholders on the CRIS.
Second half of 2021: Development of the final recommended changes to the NQF that are presented to Education Ministers for agreement and endorsement.
2021–2023: Implementation of agreed changes into the NQF.
8. Why is consultation with stakeholders important for the NQF Review?
Since the NQF Review will result in changes to the NQF that will impact the education and care sector, it is important that stakeholders are given an opportunity to provide feedback on the issues under review. As the education and care sector continues to evolve, it is also appropriate that stakeholders have a forum to bring important issues to the attention of policymakers.
9. Why was the Review delayed?
The Review was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
10. What is the new timeline for the Review?
Following the release of the CRIS, public consultation took place from 1 March to 30 April 2021 where stakeholders were able to provide feedback on the options for proposed changes to the NQF.
Following this consultation process, governments will work to develop final recommendations in a Decision Regulation Impact Statement (DRIS) for Ministers’ consideration and endorsement.
All feedback will be carefully considered, and endorsed options will be implemented through changes to the national law and regulations.