Picking an early education centre? Here are the 4 things to check first.
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Last week, my phone rang twenty minutes into my son’s first official day at his new early education centre. I picked up as my heart dropped into my feet and I braced for them to tell me to come back and get him.

“I’m just calling to tell you that he’s already very happy, settled, and playing with his friends.”

The soothing voice of the lead educator (whom I’ve decided is an angel sent from heaven) washed over me, and I went back to reapplying my tear-stained mascara on the train. 

Picking the right place to send my son was an all-consuming mission filled with teary phone calls to my husband and mum, and about 12 separate centre tours. During my hunt for the perfect centre, I second guessed myself at every turn, but the process doesn’t have to be like that for you.

I spoke with Michael Petrie, a General Manager from the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) to get his advice on how parents can take the confusion out of choosing the right early education centre to suit their family.

1. Narrow down your search 

It turns out I could have saved a lot of time if I’d spoken to Michael months ago. I drove myself crazy trying to whittle down the pros and cons of each centre. So, for those who are just starting their search, he recommends jumping onto as a first step. 

“It’s a prime source of information for parents, particularly when they’re in that investigative stage of looking at services and comparing and contrasting the different types that are available in their area," he says. 


Once there, start with the Find Child Care Tool, where you can search for places near you, filtering by things like your child’s age, the service type, National Quality Standard (NQS) quality rating, vacancies and more. You can also check out the Fees Estimator, which Michael tells me is a fantastic resource for parents to get a feel for any subsidies available from the Australian Government and their potential out-of-pocket costs. The website also has resources to help families prepare for their start at a centre, and tips on helping children settle in.

It's the perfect tool to help parents narrow down a shortlist of centres to visit for a tour. 

“From there, parents can then go into the centre, have a look around at the environment, speak to the educators and the teachers, and even have conversations with other parents who’ve used the service. All of this helps shape a parent's decision," says Michael. 

Image: Supplied.


2. Check NQS quality ratings

“The NQS, or National Quality Standard is a set of standards that sets high national benchmarks for early childhood education services and outside of school hours care services across Australia.” Michael explains. 

It has seven quality areas that cover educational and health outcomes for little ones, which includes everything from health and safety standards, physical environment, staff management, and relationships with children. 

Michael says that each of the approximately 17,000 approved services across Australia are assessed and given a rating against seven quality areas, followed by an overall rating. 

“This is what gives an initial indication to parents of the quality that’s being offered in the service,” Michael says.


He also assures parents that in Australia, “We have quality ratings, but parallel to the quality rating system is a very comprehensive compliance and monitoring system that’s run by state and territory regulatory authorities,” and flags that services that receive a lower rating are not necessarily providing substandard care. 

“If a service has a 'working towards national quality standard rating', they are providing a safe educational care program for children. It just means there are some areas that need to be further improved.”

3. Compare what facilities are important to you 

“The learning environment and the resources made available to stimulate learning and growth are really important,” Michael explains. 

He suggests checking out both the indoor and outdoor environments, “to ensure that the resources that are made available, for example, the learning equipment that the children are going to use, are going to help engage them and support their creativity and curiosity.”

He suggests that parents think in terms of their own child’s age range and interests, for example, “For babies, you want the environment to be interesting and rich with lots to look at, lots of different surfaces and textures, objects to help with muscle development, push, and pull activities, balls, etc." 

"Conversely, for pre-schoolers, you want to look for a more organised environment that promotes concentration and engagement in tasks. And for the educators to have resources that help with communication and social interaction.”


Image: Supplied.

4. What should parents be looking for?

After only a week at my son’s early education centre, I’ve already had a phone call to tell me he was bitten by another child. But Michael reassures me that it’s very normal to encounter incidents like these, and it’s all about how the centre deals with them.


“Health and safety are really important.” Michael says, “Services should have policies on sleep and rest, nutrition and dietary requirements, sun safety administration of first aid, as well as policies on how they deal with incidents, trauma, procedures around illnesses and infectious diseases.” 

Quality children's education and care services add so much to a child’s life and learning. The programs at the service are designed to encourage physical, cognitive, emotional and language skills. It’s far from just 'baby-sitting' – a quality children's education and care service will play a huge role in a child’s development, making what they experience in the early years especially significant.

The great thing is, we’re very lucky in Australia when it comes to choosing the right place for our children. 

“The quality of the educators and teachers in this country is fantastic,” Michael says. 

“They are all highly qualified and are required to hold either early childhood degrees, diplomas or certificate three level qualifications. So, it really is a sector that is closely regulated to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children."

Find quality children’s education and care services to give your child the best start with the website. 

Feature Image: Supplied. provides parents with information about early childhood education and care.

Use our free government website to:
- find early childhood education and care services, view fees and quality ratings, and estimate out of pocket costs.
- understand what to expect from an early childhood education and care service
- get tips on what can be done at home to encourage your child’s learning and development. is brought to you by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).