How to Choose the Right Early Learning Centre

Finding an early learning centre for your child is a big decision and it’s not uncommon for parents to feel anxious about making the right choice. Research shows the effect that the first five years have on a child’s future, therefore it is important to choose the right environment for your child to learn and thrive in when outside of the home.

While this can be daunting for parents and families, there are a few aspects to consider when finding a high-quality, early learning centre for your child. It is a good idea to start looking early and consider what days and times your family will require care for.


Building a positive relationship between educators and families will allow your child to be more comfortable within the learning environment. Relationships and trust are built over time; however, it is important to recognise positive and genuine interactions between your child and educators.


Young children learn best through play. High-quality early learning centres will have learning programs and curricula that are focused on play-based learning. While the curriculum is developed with a group of children in mind, it is important that early learning centres are also focused on the development of individual children who learn at different rates.


The early learning centre should feel welcoming and safe for children and families. While children play, they may create a mess however the centre should be well cared for overall.

National Quality Standard (NQS) and Ratings

Approved early learning centres across Australia are required to meet high national standards to ensure that children are safe and given opportunities to learn and develop.  Services are given National Quality Standard (NQS) quality ratings to help families choose the best service for their child and family.

Services are rated against seven NQS quality areas:

  1. Educational program and practice
    • Your child is supported to participate in play and learning
  2. Children’s health and safety
    • Your child is protected from illness and hazards
  3. Physical environment
    • Your child plays in a safe and well-maintained environment
  4. Staffing arrangements
    • There are enough qualified staff to give your child the attention they need
  5. Relationships with children
    • Your child is made to feel supported and welcomed
  6. Collaborative Partnerships with families and communities
    • Local community involvement and respect for the beliefs and values of families
  7. Governance and Leadership
    • Your child is cared for in a positive and well-managed environment

Significant Improvement Required

Service does not meet one of the seven quality areas or a section of the legislation and there is a significant risk to the safety, health and wellbeing of children.
The regulatory authority will take immediate action.

Working Towards NQS

Service provides a safe education and care program, but there are one or more areas identified for improvement.

Meeting NQS

Service meets the National Quality Standard.
Service provides quality education and care in all seven quality areas.

Exceeding NQS

Service goes beyond the requirements of the National Quality Standard in at least four of the seven quality areas.


Service promotes exceptional education and care, demonstrates sector leadership, and is committed to continually improving.

Services rated Exceeding NQS in all seven quality areas may choose to apply to the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) for the Excellent rating.


The service has not yet been assessed

A centre’s rating may appear as provisional as services are generally allowed 6 months or so after approval before being assessed, and during this time they show this rating.

You can find services and information regarding their NQS rating here:

What to look for at the centre:

  • Do you feel welcome within the service?
  • Do the educators take time to speak with you and answer your questions?
  • Do educators get to your child’s level and talk with them?
  • Are the educators engaging with other children in a warm manner?
  • Is the centre clean and hygienic?
  • Is the outdoor environment safe and inviting?
  • Are there child-sized equipment and resources available to children?
  • Are the educators happy to discuss what they’re doing to improve the quality of the service?

Questions to ask:

  • What are your operating hours?
  • What times are drop off and pick up my child?
  • Do you offer extended hours for care?
  • Do you close at any time throughout the year?
  • What are the procedures on public holidays?
  • What ages of children do you care for?
  • What is the ratio of staff to children?
  • What skills, qualifications and experience do the staff have?
  • Has your service been NQS quality rated and what is the rating?
  • What are the centre’s values regarding caring for children and helping them learn?
  • How much are the fees and am I eligible for any subsidies or other financial assistance?
  • Are there any additional fees I need to be aware of?
  • Do I need to provide anything for my child such as meals or nappies?
  • How is food and drink provided throughout the day?
  • How is medication administered?
  • Will I be able to visit or call my child at any time?
  • How can you care for my child if they have additional needs?
  • What are the procedures if my child is sick or has an accident?
  • What are the sleeping arrangements and what if my child doesn’t want to sleep?
  • What is the daily routine and activities provided for my child?
  • Will I be provided with updates regarding my child’s learning and development?
  • What is your approach to behavioural management?
  • What are your internal policies and procedures?

Each child and family are different and it’s important to find the right early learning centre that will best suit your child. Once you have gathered all the information you need, you will be ready to make your decision and take a big leap forward in starting your child’s education journey.

Every child deserves the best care possible

Curriculum that supports your child’s learning and development in the first 5 years of their life.
Programs designed to ensure learning is tailored to each child’s individual, family, and community needs.
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Inclusive environments to create positive learning experiences for all children and families.
Work together with your family to enhance your child’s full potential to give them the best possible start in life