The 446 childcare centres failing national standards


ALMOST 450 Queensland childcare centres are failing to meet national standards for quality care seven years after the ratings were introduced.

And parents are choosing childcare centres based on ratings that may not be accurate, with assessors failing to revisit some centres for as long as six years.

The situation has prompted advocates to call for an overhaul of the system, with time limits placed on how long a centre can continue to underperform and how long regulators can leave between checks.

The state's 2977 centres are assessed on "quality areas" including education and physical education programs, health and safety, staffing and governance under National Quality Standards introduced in 2012.

But an analysis of the ratings shows 446 childcare centres, family day care and after school care providers still are not making the grade.

Early Childhood Australia CEO Sam Page.
Early Childhood Australia CEO Sam Page.

A Cairns centre received the worst "significant improvement required" rating in April and 445 childcare centres are "working towards" the National Quality Standard.

Early Childhood Australia chief executive Sam Page said despite overall improvement, it was disappointing there were still so many centres not reaching the highest standards.

"(The) 'working towards' (rating) should be in the minority of services by now," she said.

Ms Page said another problem was that state governments weren't meeting targets to reassess centres every three years, meaning many ratings were outdated and parents were clueless about whether their quality had recently improved or even worsened.

While specific breaches of the "quality areas" are not publicly listed, assessors look at whether the environment is safe and suitable, the centre has experienced educators who safeguard children's health and that educational programs are appropriate.

But alarmingly, The Courier-Mail found about 150 centres that had not been visited since 2013.

Another 176 recently-opened centres are still awaiting their first assessment.

"I think we need to have a conversation about the frequency of visits," Ms Page said. "And there's been a discussion on tougher limits on how long centres should be able to be 'work towards'. Should we actually put a time limit on that and say we should be seeing progress, we should be seeing centres meeting those standards?"

According to the ratings, Queensland is still performing better than other states, with 79 per cent of services meeting or exceeding the standards. Just 10 Queensland providers have attained the coveted "excellent" rating.

Education Minister Grace Grace. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning
Education Minister Grace Grace. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning

Education Minister Grace Grace said an extra $26.5 million had been budgeted over two years for child care regulation after a Commonwealth funding agreement ended.

"The proportion of child care service providers who have been assessed and rated as meeting or exceeding the national quality standard has increased from 65 per cent in 2012/13 to 85 per cent in 2018/19," she said.

"I am confident that the Palaszczuk Government's increased investment in regulation will see more providers achieve this rating."

Ms Grace said a "working towards" mark was not a fail, and did not indicate a risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of children, rather that a service had one or more areas identified for improvement.

The Federal Education Department confirmed a review of the National Quality Framework was under way to consider whether it was current and fit for purpose.