Letter to the editor - Mobile early childhood services under extreme pressure

I work in a mobile preschool, working with about 40 children a year. There is about 150km between our two outermost venues. I have a number of children at risk of falling into that 22 percent that start school developmentally vulnerable.

We have worked hard to develop transportation to move children between venues, so that they can access the recommended 15 hours per week of preschool education. Many of our children require speech or occupational therapy but cannot access regular services.

The barriers we face in our everyday operation are enormous. We work in five venues across the week:

  • a school library (so cluttered with resources and not really a good space for our 15 students)
  • a church hall that contains asbestos (so the pressures of checking for maintenance and even obtaining the documentation is challenging)
  • a town hall, that is not at all suited to preschool – so we venture into the community to create the needed experiences
  • a CWA room, that is reasonably well suited with the exception of the toilet location and no office space, and
  • an old town hall supper room, that is very challenging to work with and again, contains asbestos.

We bring our equipment, travel long distances (three hours driving for me each Wednesday) and have to do our own cleaning. It is tough – very tough.

We have to deal with five different management groups, think about vermin control and fire extinguisher tests and ensuring we have the documentation for each venue, as well as do five lots of transportation risk assessments, just to get to the venues and then more risk assessments to go anywhere – which we need to do often because our facilities are so poor.

We have five lots of ambulance subscriptions to pay $800 per year, compared to one centre subscription for the same number of children.

I still teach three days a week.

We have created a wonderful learning environment, with an excellent program and the children are doing well. Parents are happy. But I am exhausted and will leave the position shortly.

What is expected of me is not realistic. The requirements of the National Quality Framework are huge. Then there are the different bodies that we are asked to deal with. I deal with J at the capital works team. I deal with C from a regulatory perspective. I deal with V as the assessing officer and S on the agile team. Then there’s the Deloittes team and what is required in the funding review.

And that’s without even adding the National Workforce Census, the desire to progress reconciliation and the need to be abreast of the current information. I subscribe to CELA, CCSA and ECA and do my best to read information. I was doing this after dinner at night, but I have learned that going to bed with my head buzzing is not conducive to a good night’s sleep. Given that I am driving long distances, with children in the car, I have stopped doing this.

I have tried completing the Be You online workshops and reading the mountain of information on wellbeing, but it’s hard to find the. Access to a quality early childhood program is what is most important for these children and some only get 40 single days a year. (Casual teachers are not available in the places I go to.)

We still program, write up our observations and liaise with parents, for these are the things we enjoy and are trained to do.

Judging by the amount of information I see on teacher wellbeing I am not alone. Yet, the load never gets lighter.

On top of all of this, I am employed by a council. So there’s plenty of red tape.

I hope this helps you understand the barriers that people are facing in helping some of our most vulnerable children.

Nominated Supervisor of a NSW Mobile Service