Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.

The problem with rating quality.


It’s been a while since I’ve applied for a job. But I wonder if I did, would I look up that service’s quality rating and would they look up the quality rating of the services I had worked at previously? What would I find out and what would they find out? Probably very little.

There has been this thing bugging me about the way we judge the quality of early childhood services. An authorised officer comes in for two days, watches, asks, reads and decides the quality rating the service will wear for the next three years.

Some time ago, I worked at a terrible service. Not everything there was terrible, but there were many things that I couldn’t ethically be part of. It was rated as ‘exceeding’ the national quality standard. And I thought… who can ‘feel’ that rating?

When a centre is rated as exceeding, or meeting, or working towards, or even excellent, does that mean that every child, every family, every staff member, every director, every owner, every community, every possible person involved with the service understands and feels and agrees with this rating of quality? I don’t think this is possible to know. And because this is not possible to know, what does the rating actually mean and who does it mean it for?

Some people say that you can feel the quality of a service when you walk in. I would like to believe that, but I can’t. I’ve accepted some terrible jobs where I thought the feeling was ‘right’ when I walked in. I’ve accepted some brilliant jobs where the feeling wasn’t quite ‘right’ when I walked in. What we consider to be “quality” depends on our racial and social cultural lives, our genders, our personal beliefs and values, our childhoods, our families, our political beliefs, our relationships…. Whether you like the EYLF and the standards services are rated against or do not or like parts of it and not others, it is a historically, politically and culturally influenced document. It is not a factual statement on what quality looks like that can be applied in any place, at any time, with any person. And yet, it’s treated like it is.

Our understandings of quality and the ways in which we care and educate are historically, politically and culturally shaped. And because of this, quality can never be judged objectively. It can never be seen and understood in two days, not enough to give a three year rating. It must be asked whether quality can, in fact, be “seen”- does it have a visible presence? And if we think it does have a visible presence, then do we accept that our visions of quality are subjectively shaped?

There is a brilliant book by Gunilla Dahlberg, Peter Moss and Alan Pence- “Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Services”. It asks all these questions and more. If we are committed to providing ‘quality’ services in early childhood, then we need to ask how do we understand quality. And most importantly, we need to ask- demand- whether this system of rating quality is actually what we need.

© 2014 Awilda Longstocking           Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates             All Rights Reserved


One comment on “The problem with rating quality.

  1. Narelle Nettelbeck
    June 10, 2014

    So refreshing to read your thoughts. I agree absolutely!

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