A closer look at the National Quality Framework

The National Quality Framework is a national approach to regulation and quality improvement in early childhood education and care, and outside school hours care services across Australia. The National Quality Framework applies to most childcare providers and services, including centre-based day care, family day care, outside school hours care, and preschool and kindergarten.

The National Quality Framework is made up of the:

  • National Law and Regulations;
  • National Quality Standard; and
  • National Approved Learning Frameworks. 

The National Law and Regulations

The National Law and Regulations outline the legal obligations for providers and explain the functions of the state and territory regulatory authorities. They include things like requirements for staff qualifications and requirements for the number of staff working in services with children.

We have a self-assessment in SPP for the National Law and Regulations which ensures providers are aware of, and monitoring their compliance with, the sections and regulations of the National Law and National Regulations that are most relevant to each of the seven Quality Areas of the National Quality Standard.

The National Quality Standard

The National Quality Standard includes seven quality areas that form the basis of ratings and assessment. Services are assessed and rated against the seven quality areas:

  1. Educational program and practice
  2. Children’s health and safety
  3. Physical environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
  5. Relationships with children
  6. Collaborative partnerships with families and communities
  7. Governance and leadership

We also have modules in SPP for the National Quality Standard, including a stand-alone module which we developed in consultation with a provider of early childhood education and outside school hours care. Our module closely aligns with ACECQA’s self-assessment tool, and allows providers to track each requirement of the National Quality Standard, and make qualitative comments throughout.

The National Approved Learning Frameworks

Under the National Law and Regulations, services are required to base their educational program on one of the approved learning frameworks. There are two nationally approved learning frameworks:

  • Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia; and
  • My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia.

Self-assessments for both approved learning frameworks are available in SPP.

Update of the National Approved Learning Frameworks

Both frameworks are currently undergoing a consultation and review process, to ensure that they reflect contemporary developments in practice and knowledge. The review commenced in April 2021 and is being delivered over three stages.

Stages one and two have already been completed and included a literature review, surveys and stakeholder feedback. Some areas for improvement that came out of the discussion papers included strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives throughout the framework, strengthening the principle of ongoing learning, introducing a new sustainability principle and strengthening partnerships to include other professionals. 

Stage three, which is currently underway, involves practitioners piloting the potential updates in their services. We are monitoring this review process and we will update our existing modules in SPP when the updated Standards are finalised. For more information on the updates, you can refer to ACECQA’s website or the Approved Learning Frameworks update website.

Want to access our self-assessments for the National Quality Framework?

Policy development and implementation: working towards best practice

Whatever standards apply to the services your organisation delivers, they will require you to implement a core group of policies and procedures that cover both operations and service delivery. They will also require you to ensure that those policies and procedures are understood by all stakeholders, and are consistently followed across your organisation. 

These requirements are not just for the sake of compliance and ‘red tape’.  They are to help your organisation put in place procedures for the consistent delivery of safe, high-quality services for your clients, that are responsive to their individual needs.

So, how can you work towards best practice in policy development and implementation?

What drives new policy development?

The first reference point for policy development should be the regulations and standards that apply to your organisation.  You could create a list of mandatory policies and procedures based on these obligations – or if you use SPP, you will be prompted as you go through your self-assessment journey.

The next stage is identifying any gaps in your organisation’s policies and procedures. Gaps can be identified by undertaking regular detailed compliance checks against relevant standards and guidelines in SPP.

Gaps can also be identified through continuous quality improvement cycles. Feeding into CQI should be:

  • Regular reviews
  • Incidents & near misses
  • Feedback
  • Complaints

Policy development process

The process of good policy development involves:

  1. Issue identification: Awareness of a gap drives policy development – need may be identified through an incident or near-miss, feedback or regulatory requirements.
  2. Policy analysis/context: Determine the context in which a policy should be developed. Why is the policy needed? Who are the stakeholders? What is the targeted outcome?
  3. Consultation: Determine who should take responsibility; research and prepare a draft policy for wider consultation; revise the draft policy based on feedback.
  4. Decision: Present the final draft along with the implementation plan to the Board or management for approval.
  5. Implementation: Allocate appropriate resources to support broad implementation of the policy; ensure it is understood and consistently followed.
  6. Communication and promotion: Promote the policy broadly and regularly.  Make the policy available in different formats and languages (for accessibility).
  7. Review and evaluation: Review and update the policy regularly, usually annually. It is good practice to include review dates in a board governance calendar, as well as in the policy itself.

Policy contents

Organisational policies will vary depending on topic matter and purpose, but should be comprehensive, and should generally contain the following sections:

  1. Rationale or purpose statement:  Reason for issuing the policy and the desired effect or outcome.
  2. Scope or coverage statement: State who is covered and affected by the policy, and who may be exempt.
  3. Date: State when the policy comes into force.
  4. Definitions: Include clear and unambiguous definitions for terms and concepts in the
  5. Responsibilities: State who is responsible for carrying out individual policy statements.
  6. Policy statement/s: Specific regulations, requirements or modifications to organisational
  7. Procedures: Policies and procedures may be separate documents, however if you are drafting an operational policy, it should detail set procedures to be followed.
  8. Date of review:  Specify date set for review and frequency of reviews.

Organisational policy development: key considerations

Best practice approaches to developing and implementing policies include:

  • Accessibility: Ensuring policies are made widely available and in accessible formats.
  • Clarity: Ensuring policies are written in a clear, concise manner using plain English.
  • Accountability: Policies and procedures should set out who is accountable for implementing the procedures, and also accountability for updating/maintaining the currency of the policy.

Implementation: introducing policies to staff and implementing them across your organisation

Finalising a set of policies and procedures that govern how your organisation operates and delivers services is one thing – but implementation is even more important.  That is, ensuring that all workers understand and follow them consistently, and that your clients also understand them where relevant.

Boards play an important role, and should take ownership in promoting policies and ensuring that staff are aware of them.

Policies should be published somewhere accessible, e.g. staff intranet – and in a form that can be understood by the audience. Consider: do you have workers who speak English as a second language?

However, publishing is not enough. Implementation should include:

  • Onboarding and orientation for new staff, that includes briefing on organisational policies.
  • Refresher training for staff on organisational policies.
  • Keeping track of whether staff have read policies – this could be via a staff training register or a list of key documents that staff must read and sign.
  • Ensure that all current policies are centrally accessible, and updated policies are re-distributed to staff/stakeholders.
  • Hold a drill or run-through of procedures that involve staff/stakeholders.

What areas and requests are most popular?

We provide hundreds of policy templates and resources to our SPP subscribers. We develop new ones as regulatory requirements change, and also in response to popular requests. Here are some of the key areas community and health service providers are focused on currently:


  • Good governance is a cornerstone of a successful and productive organisation.
  • SPP hosts a broad suite of resources on governance and management to help organisations establish and maintain best practice leadership processes, including the Governing body meeting template and Governance and management good practice info sheet.

Easy English

  • A consistent theme throughout many standards is that information must be provided to clients in the language, mode of communication and terms that the client is most likely to understand.
  • In response to requests from providers, we’ve developed easy English policies on incidents, child rights, client rights, complaints and privacy.

Emergency and disaster management

  • We’ve recently released a selection of new and updated resources in response to an increased focus on emergency and disaster management across a number of Australian health and service standards.

Child safety

  • Any organisation providing services to, or interacting with, children should have child safe policies and procedures in place that are consistent with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (and state Child Safe Standards, if in NSW or VIC).

How can Standards and Performance Pathways assist?

  • Gap analysis: SPP performs an automatic gap analysis, generating ‘Action Texts’ for providers to address, where they are not meeting a requirement.
  • Linked resources and templates: Access policy templates and resources throughout the self-assessment journey, relevant to gaps in compliance.
  • Sector updates and new resource alerts: PDF updates available within the platform keep organisations informed of relevant updates.

For a summary of this blog post, click here to access our ‘Best Practice in Organisational Policy Development’ slide deck.


Seeking further guidance on policy design and implementation?