New star rating system will spotlight under-performing childcare centres

The Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) NSW has responded in disillusionment following the announcement by the NSW Government of a new star rating system to be imposed on July 1st 2020 in over 5,500 New South Wales-based early childhood education and care services. It has raised its concerns about the inconsistencies and subjectiveness of NSW’s assessment and ratings process, leading confused parents to question why their services were given the ratings they were given.

Currently, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is the independent national authority that assists state governments in administering the National Quality Framework (NQF) for children’s education and care. Childcare Centres across Australia are now regularly assessed, with a rating based on the centres policies, procedures and practices. ACECQA then can decide if the Centre meets or has reached the ACECQA standard or is still working towards it.

All Centres are judged on 7 criteria, from environment to programming in practice, health and safety, leadership, management and their relationships with the children. This includes whether services have effective illness and injury management and hygiene practices, whether they have adequate safety and supervision measures in place and whether their program aligns to the early childhood curriculum. It is thorough and takes 1-2 days to assess.

It’s reported that approximately 50% of the NSW centres meet the ACECQA criteria and 25% exceed the requirements. However 25% are doing worse and although this ACECQA rating system is meant to be a National Quality System, each state is administering it slightly differently. For example, not a single Western Australian childcare centre is rated as exceeding the standards. However NSW, which spends less money in this area, scores itself better than other states. This difference is often just due to the fact that different people are assessing and interpreting the standards differently.


The new star rating system has been introduced by the NSW State Government to start July 1st 2020.  Advocated by the parents of a child who died in a Childcare Centre this year, the star rating system is something consumers are used to seeing and it’s something that is a visual aid to understanding the rating system. All Centres are already required to display for the public, whether they are “excellent”; “working towards”, “meeting” or “exceeding” the national standard; or require significant improvement.

The proposed new star rating is intended to replace the words-based rating that is currently on public display with one-to-four different coloured stars. A red star for services rated Significant Improvement Required, a yellow star for Working Towards, a green star for Meeting and a blue star for Exceeding. A fifth star can be obtained through an additional application to the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority.

The new system should simplify the rating system and require services to display this star-based information so parents know where the Childcare Centre stands after it has been assessed.

“The NSW government is investing an additional $8 million to help providers in improving the quality of their services”, NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said.

And the NSW Government can also impose penalties of up to $2,000 if approved providers falsely represent their ratings.

Parents and carers can check their current local Childcare Centre ratings on the ACECQA website by postcode. It is also suggested parents should spend time in a Centre and assess the relationship between teachers and the children.

Australia has an existing rating system administered by ACECQA that the general public can use to check the standards at their chosen Childcare Centre but not many parents are aware of it.