The quest for continuous quality improvement in Australian long day care services: Getting the most out of the Assessment and Rating process

Susan Irvine*, Lennie Barblett, Manjula Waniganayake, Fay Hadley, Rebecca Andrews, Maria Hatzigianni, Philip Li, Leanne Lavina, Linda J. Harrison, Belinda Davis

*Corresponding author for this work

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The National Quality Framework (NQF) was intended to drive continuous improvement in education and care services in Australia. Ten years into implementation, the effectiveness of the NQF is demonstrated by steady improvements in quality as measured against the National Quality Standard (NQS). The process of assessing and rating services is a key element in the NQF, drawing together regulatory compliance and quality assurance. This paper draws on findings from a national Quality Improvement Research Project investigating the characteristics, processes, challenges and enablers of quality improvement in long day care services, concentrating on Quality Area 1 Educational program and practice and Quality Area 7 Governance and leadership. This was a mixed-method study focusing on long day care services that had improved their rating from Working toward NQS to Meeting NQS or to Exceeding NQS. The study comprised three phases, and in this paper, we draw on Phase 3 to understand the contribution of the NQS Assessment and Rating (A&R) process to continuous quality improvement from the standpoint of providers and professionals delivering these services. Phase 3 involved qualitative case studies of 15 long day care services to investigate factors that enabled and challenged quality improvement. Data was collected during two-day site visits, using professional conversations and field notes to elicit the views and experiences of service providers, leaders and educators. In this paper, we look at how the A&R process is experienced by those involved in service provision, with a focus on the factors that enabled and challenged quality improvement. Recognizing the interchangeability of enablers and challenges, three broad themes emerged: (i) curriculum knowledge, pedagogical skills and agency; (ii) collaborative leadership and teamwork; and (iii) meaningful engagement in the A&R process. The study found that meaningful engagement in the A&R process informed priorities for ongoing learning and acted as a catalyst for continuous quality improvement. Apprised by stakeholder views and experiences of A&R, we offer a model to foster stakeholder participation in quality assurance matters through affordances of meaningful engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1207059
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Education
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2024. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • quality improvement
  • early childhood education and care
  • assessment and rating
  • meaningful engagement
  • long day care


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