Employers push to reduce ratios for early childhood teachers

The Australian Childcare Alliance NSW (ACA NSW), the peak body representing for profit or long day care employers in the early childhood sector, has made a submission to the Effect of Red Tape on Child Care Commonwealth Senate Committee, calling for a reduction in ratios.

Under current legislation in NSW, one teacher must be employed for 25 to 39 children (centres with less than 25 children must have access to an early childhood teacher 20% of the time), two teachers are required for 40-59 children, three teachers are required for 60-79 children and four teachers are required for 80 or more children. In all other states there is a requirement to employ only one early childhood teacher regardless of the number of children in attendance until 2020. ACA states that in NSW four degree qualified teachers are required to be employed where one can be employed for the same number of children in all other jurisdictions.

ACA also states that in 2016 changes to staff: child ratios (in particular for two to three year olds) increased the cost of provision of early childhood education and care. It also states the shortage of qualified early childhood teachers is adding to the strain on centres, with services being forced to employ inexperienced teachers from overseas and rely on diploma qualified educators ‘’with experience instead, to lead their educational program and teach children”.

The IEU argues strongly against any reduction in the number of teachers required to be employed, in light of the extensive international research which highlights that children demonstrate significantly better social and educational outcomes, as does society as a whole, if they are taught by degree qualified teachers. The UK Effective Provision of Preschool Education clearly demonstrates the need for children to attend services where the educational program is led and/or implemented by degree qualified teachers.

This is particularly so in low socio demographic areas. The benefits in productivity long term outweigh any extra costs associated with employing highly qualified staff, the Lifting Our Game report argues.

The committee on red tape, led by Senator David Leyonhjelm, is calling for the dismantling of the regulatory system that has governed early childhood education since 2012, (ie he is seeking to remove or water down the National Quality Framework) on the basis that it costs employers money.

Watering down regulations including staff: child ratios and the National Quality Standards would lead to lower quality services (as demonstrated in the US where quality standards are optional) and can ultimately place children in danger, as regulations are designed to keep children safe. The IEU opposes any reduction to regulations or quality standards in the early childhood sector.

See report: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Red_Tape/Childcare/Interim_report

Lifting Our Game: https://www.education.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/1159357/Lifting-Our-Game-Final-Report.pdf

Sue Osborne