'It's not fair': Childcare alliance hits back at ratings
THE Australian Childcare Alliance Queensland has hit back at the latest Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority data, arguing the assessment process is flawed.
Debate has raged since the Daily reported the figures released by the authority, which found 44 local operators were still working towards meeting national standard.
ACA Queensland president Jae Fraser said he'd been inundated with calls from operators and explained some of the difficulties they faced as part of the assessment process.
He said the assessment rating process was backlogged and that some centres had been assessed as working towards national standards years ago and were waiting to be reassessed.
He also said the assessment process could be interpreted differently or relatively subjective and varied depending on which assessor was conducting the review, making it tough for service providers to find consistency.
The alliance submitted a 46-page response to mooted changes to the assessment framework in January last year.
Key to the alliance's submission was the removal of the 'excellent' rating, which must be applied for and paid for by service providers who are judged to be 'exceeding national quality standard'.
Application fees range from $216 to $649 for the rating and Mr Fraser agreed the 'excellent' rating was used more as a marketing tool by operators, saying he didn't apply for them for his own centres, happy an 'exceeding national quality standard' rating was strong enough.
The alliance's main concerns with the 'excellent' rating, in its submission, were that services that received the rating had a "distinct advantage" over more than half of services still awaiting assessment.
It was also concerned that the determination of an 'excellent' rating was not rigorous enough, particularly given there was no additional visit to the service before a decision was made.
The alliance also believed removing the rating would not discourage services to become sector leaders, and that leading services were those passionate about achieving outstanding results for the benefit of children, not to achieve a rating.
"The rating system isn't really fair," Mr Fisher told the Daily.
"We've got a government assessor coming out for two days every five years, it's not really enough time to critically judge a centre.
"A lot of it can be up for interpretation."
Bli Bli's Little Sprouts Early Learning Centre is one of a number of services ranked as working towards the national quality standard.
Owner Natalie Casten explained that rating was given only four months after they opened and the centre is now more than four years old.
She said their current rating, which won't be updated until July next year - when they expect to be moving into the exceeding national quality standards range - was not a true reflection of where the centre was at now.
"Some of these centres with working towards were actually assessed four years ago," she explained.
"That rating and assessment they received will stay until they go through the rating and assessment period again."
That usually happens every five years.
Ms Casten felt a rating and assessment process undertaken every three years may work better but acknowledged the Department was also strapped for resources.
She was supportive of some changes already introduced which sees new centres not assessed within the first 12 months, enabling services to get up to speed in all criteria, including forming bonds, often difficult to do with children and families in the early days of a new centre.
"If you don't meet one particular area than straight away you're into 'working towards'," she said.
"The Department and childcare centres are wanting to work together... it needs to be a partnership where we've got the children's best interests at heart."
The Daily has put questions to the authority this afternoon.