Time to lift our game

A new report, endorsed by all the states and territories, has called on the Federal Government to provide adequate and permanent funding for early childhood education.

Lifting Our Game, is the final report of a national education review on early childhood services – and backs continued investment in the early years to ensure Australian children do better at school and later in life.

The review, commissioned by state and territory governments, calls for a greater emphasis on education and to have the area better incorporated into education policy.

The Lifting Our Game report said the Commonwealth’s significant investment in early childhood education is “predominantly directed to facilitate parental workforce participation”.

“The review considers this to be a missed opportunity,” the report said.

“It is possible to reap a double dividend from this investment, to support a child’s learning and development as well as a parent’s workforce participation.”

The report also recognises the importance of a skilled and stable workforce in delivering a high quality early childhood education, and it points to the disparity of wages between early childhood teachers and their colleagues in school, and wages not reflecting the highly skilled and professional job performed by the early childhood workforce.

State governments should use the report to put a case for a long term agreement and commitment to funding from the Commonwealth, rather than short term packages.

This is an opportunity for the early childhood community to mount a campaign for ongoing funding.


Equal pay case progresses

The IEUA lodged evidence and submissions to support its equal remuneration claim for early childhood teachers just before Christmas. This is the latest step in the IEUA case that has been running before the Fair Work Commission since 2013. The evidence in the case will be heard by the Fair Work Commission in late July and early August this year, with final submissions in late September.

The case is quite separate from the case run by United Voice on behalf of child care educators who hold qualifications below university level. The IEUA claim is based on comparisons with university qualified male employees – male teachers in primary schools and male engineers.

The claim only affects a small proportion of the overall number of staff in preschools and child care services and the Union calculates the impact on costs would be relatively small. Many not for profit services are already paying rates close to the IEUA case. However, a large number of for profit services pay at or only slightly above modern award rates. The claim affects both stand alone services and those attached to schools.

Almost all early childhood services attached to schools pay the same rate as applies to teachers in those schools, but a small number of services pay early childhood teachers less than the rate received by teachers in the same schools.

The Union considers that parents would not necessarily bear the brunt of these increases. The sector is already funded by state and federal governments to the tune of billions of dollars. Governments should also fund fair pay rates for university qualified teachers as they are so important to children’s development.

Drawing leads to writing

Most kids starting school in 2018 will come to learning to write with a solid foundation built through their preschool drawing.

In a new book, Understanding and Supporting Young Writers from Birth to 8, Associate Professor Noella Mackenzie explains how children start with talking and drawing and if we value these two modes of communication we can build on them.

“Learning about writing starts long before children start school,” Associate Professor Mackenzie said. “The ways that kids make meaning and record their worlds through drawings is an important step in developing writing and therefore in developing literacy.”

The key message of the book is that educators need to build on what children already know and can do when teaching them to write. “Teachers need to integrate children’s prior experiences into the learning process,” she said.

“One of the strategies I describe in the book is called ‘Draw, Talk, Write’. Through this system, we value and utilise existing systems of communication that children possess, and writing becomes an extension of these existing forms rather than a replacement.

“Sometimes children get the message that writing with words on paper or a screen are more important than their other forms of communication, but this isn’t the case. These are essential building blocks for writing in a conventional way.”

All contributors to the book are Australian and the book covers a range of strategies that can be used to build children’s writing skills from birth through to age 8. All strategies are informed by research and written for early years’ teachers, early childhood educators and teacher education students.

“Writing is a key literacy skill for children to learn, and we need to ensure that teachers have the skills to develop that literacy in our children – they need to understand the importance of those foundations that children will be entering the classroom already possessing,” Associate Professor Mackenzie said.

Mackenzie N & Scull J eds 2018 Understanding and Supporting Young Writers from Birth to 8. Oxfordshire: Routledge, UK.


KU agreement to provide fair salaries for early childhood teachers

In NSW, negotiations for a new KU agreement started in early February. As an indication of their commitment to ensuring that their early childhood teachers’ salaries are close to parity with teachers in schools, KU have increased salaries and allowances by 3% from January 2018.

A four year trained teacher at the top of the scale in a KU service will now receive $96,610 if working in a preschool and $100,471 if working in a long day care centre.

KU teachers’ salaries are some of the highest salaries in the sector in NSW. The Union does have a number of agreements where early childhood teachers’ salaries are the same as teachers in schools.

While the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch welcomes the increase, KU teachers have raised a number of workload issues that they want addressed in the new agreement, including:

  • increases in allowances, including director’s allowance
  • a limit on after hours meetings for preschool teachers
  • non contact time to be timetabled and teachers replaced with relief staff
  • professional development days for teachers
  • limit on meetings and parents’ nights, and
  • domestic violence leave.

  • The Union looks forward to negotiating a fair and reasonable outcome for all teachers and directors.

    Process issues with C&K directors’ non contact time

    In early 2017, members of IEUA-QNT were successful in securing a provision for 10 hours of non contact time for directors in C&K kindergartens as part of their collective agreement.

    Late last year it had become clear to our Union, however, that this new provision – which members fought for and won – was not being implemented correctly by C&K employers, with members expressing difficulty regarding the application process.

    IEUA-QNT Senior Industrial Officer John Spriggs said in a meeting with the employing authority, C&K accepted that the process to apply for the directors’ non contact time was new, and had experienced some ‘teething’ issues, with proposals to change the process being identified.

    “Following correspondence from our Union, C&K appear to be approaching the issues constructively and expressed regret in relation to some of the examples provided by our Union.

    “However, our Union will continue to monitor this situation to ensure members are able to access this provision which they fought for and rightly deserve,” Spriggs said.

    Spriggs said directors should continue to apply for the non contact time where such time is justified, but should monitor their applications and advise our Union of any issues which arise.

    “Where any further issues are identified, these will be the subject of a further meeting with C&K,” he said.

    Queensland members experiencing difficulty with the process of applying for non contact time are encouraged to contact our Union on freecall 1800 177 937.

    National kindergarten starting age to be considered

    A recommendation to move to a national standard age for entry into kindergarten has been proposed by the Australian Primary Principals’ Association (APPA).

    The proposal would see entry to kindergarten at the start of the school year if children turn five on or before April 30 of that year.

    Currently, the starting age of kindergarten students differs between states and territories:

  • Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia require children to have turned four by 30 June to start kindergarten
  • Victorian and Australian Capital Territory require children to have turned four by 30 April
  • New South Wales requires children to have turned five by 31 July
  • South Australia requires children to have turned four (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are required to have turned three), and
  • Tasmania requires children to have turned four by 1 January.
  • The APPA noted the proposal takes into account the fact that families are already choosing to delay their children’s start due to lack of social and emotional skills.

    The change is said to reduce the age disparity among kindergarten children in a classroom.

    It is understood that state and territory ministers have been provided with evidence to consider making the change.

    Our Union would welcome the opportunity to provide input into discussions surrounding this issue and the impacts it may have for members working in kindergartens and primary schools.