What the national workforce strategy needs to get right

As many IEU members will know, our union has been involved in consultations arranged by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) on the new National Workforce Strategy, set to be endorsed and published by the end of 2021. Journalist Jessica Willis explains what the strategy needs to get right.

While there are many aspects of the new National Workforce Strategy that are important for the early childhood education sector’s success, attracting and maintaining qualified and experienced early childhood education teachers and assistants is essential for the future of the profession and the sector.

This is the central point of our union’s advocacy at both a state and federal level.

What is the strategy?

The new National Workforce Strategy is, according to ACECQA, a proposed 10-year plan to “ensure that Australia’s children’s education and care sector has a sustainable, high-quality workforce that meets the needs of children and their families, the requirements of the National Quality Framework (NQF) and promotes positive education and developmental outcomes for future generations”.

It will also aim, according to the organisation, to ensure “careers in the sector are engaging and rewarding”.

Funding and pay key

If the new strategy is to be a long-term success, it is going to have to ensure two things:

  • consistent and guaranteed federal funding for the sector; and
  • the appropriate remuneration of early childhood education teachers and assistants.

Independent Education Union of Australia Acting Assistant Federal Secretary Christine Cooper (pictured) said without these, the sector would continue as it is now.

“The Federal Government needs to implement a guaranteed and consistent funding model for early childhood education, so the sector can actually implement long-term planning,” Cooper said.

“Quality early childhood education has been proven to be a significant factor in the future wellbeing and academic success of young children; the early years (one to five years old) being an essential time for development.

“Early childhood education teachers and assistants are highly qualified and highly experienced in fostering this complex development and growth – it is no small task.

“It is just as (and in some cases more of) an important period of learning compared to Prep to Year 12, so it should have federal funding guaranteed to ensure the best possible outcomes for students.

“This kind of funding would also provide longer-term job securityfor staff.

“Further, economists have shown that every dollar invested into the sector yields double in return, potentially adding trillions of dollars to the Australian economy through better outcomes for students, better financial security for workers and more opportunities for parents to return to work.

Quality conditions = quality education

Countering high employee turnover also requires appropriate remuneration and working conditions for teachers and assistants.

“The current high turnover of employees in the sector is a significant concern but is easily fixed,” Cooper said.

“When employees have appropriate remuneration – which reflects the significance and complexity of their roles – and working conditions, they will not only stay in their roles but also perform to the highest standards.

“Our union’s position is that remuneration and working conditions for early childhood education teachers and assistants must be comparable to those which exist in primary and secondary schools.

“This is what the new national workforce strategy needs to address,” she said.

Our union will continue to advocate for members in the ACECQA consultation meetings and will keep you informed on any updates to the strategy.

Members can access further information on the ACECQA website https://bit.ly/33j885T.