Win for preschool teachers

By undertaking negotiations as a collective and working hard, a group of preschool teacher/directors on the NSW south coast have won themselves pay parity with public school teachers.

The Far South Coast Collective Teachers Agreement covers Tathra, Beramagui, Pambula, Bega and Cobargo Preschools.

Despite being run by separate management committees, all the preschools have been covered by a single enterprise agreement since 2010. Recent negotiations saw them achieve a 3% salary increase and improved allowance and personal leave provisions over 2020-2022.

IEU Organiser Tina Smith said the south coast cluster provides a model that preschools around NSW could emulate.

“By becoming a collective these individual preschools have given themselves extra bargaining power and achieved an improved enterprise agreement,” Tina said.

The south coast cluster was formed in 2011. The group’s teacher/directors provide each other with professional and social support as well as industrial strength.

Tathra Preschool Director Jane Courtney said payparity has been made possible with the support of the IEU and the partnership between the preschools and management committees.

Pambula Preschool Director Lynn Bray said “a huge amount of thanks must go to the founding teachers who put in many years of hard work and advocacy for which many teachers on the far south coast will benefit. Thank you all, and many thanks to the IEU for your support and backing”.

Even though we love teaching and educating children at the start of their educational continuum, it is nice to be acknowledged and financially remunerated for the work we do.

Bermagui Preschool Director Narelle Myers (pictured left with IEU Organiser Tina Smith) said: “as preschool teachers we have an extremely important job. It is widely acknowledged that the preschool years are the most important for learning and yet we get paid less, sometimes as much as 20 percent less, than any other teacher.

“Research shows what happens during the first five years plays a critical role in our success throughout life. A quality and stable early childhood education needs to be delivered by highly skilled and qualified teachers.

“That should be enough for society to appreciate and pay those in charge of our children’s most valuable years what we deserve, yet our most important teachers are also the least paid and most overworked.

“People still often view preschool as just babysitting, yet we work just a hard as public school teachers – usually for a fraction of the pay, fewer benefits and little paid time off.

“We often have more paperwork, reports, lesson plans, staff supervision, meetings and training to jam into our days, all while educating and caring for children.

“We do all of this with warm hearts and smiling faces, no matter how exhausted we are, because we want to provide the best in early childhood education. We often have so much on our plates, we feel like we’re neglecting our own families, struggle with paying bills and forget to look after ourselves and own wellbeing, yet we stay for the children and the work we love.

“Our community values the role preschool teachers have. We have collaboratively worked with our fellow teachers, parent representatives and the IEU to negotiate the work agreements that better reflect the nature of our work.

“Even though we love teaching and educating children at the start of their educational continuum, it is nice to be acknowledged and financially remunerated for the work we do.”

Jane said: “I remember the very first meeting chaired by Tina Smith and held at Tathra Preschool back in 2009. All the preschool were represented by their management committees and teachers were all present.

“It was unique to have the opportunity to witness how highly our communities value their preschools, early childhood education and their teachers.

“Community based preschools are often the heart of small rural communities and I feel lucky to work at Tathra Preschool and be surrounded by a network of amazing early childhood professionals dedicated to best practice and continuous improvement.”

Sue Osborne and Monica Crouch