Early childhood sector updates

Elections for Early Childhood Services (ECS) Council members

Elections of three ECS Council positions for country sub branches opened in October. Biographies of each candidate have been sent to early childhood members with voting instructions. The three members successfully elected will join ECS Councillors Amy Martin, Michelle Thompson, Natalie Leeson and Jane Courtney. Gabrielle Connell remains the ECS Vice President.

Teacher accreditation

NESA has advised the IEU that all teachers who are overdue or due to complete their Proficient Teacher or maintenance of accreditation requirements in Term 3 or Term 4 2021 have been granted an extension until 4 March 2022. This includes teachers who were due to finalise their maintenance on 17 July 2021. Please disregard the current due date in your NESA eTAMS account as this will not be updated to reflect the extension.

For further information, please see NESA’s Coronavirus Advice page: educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/about/news/covid-advice

National Workforce Strategy

The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) recently surveyed staff in the early childhood sector and received 3800 survey responses. This sounds like a lot but Australia-wide there is a workforce of 150,000. Regional and remote areas were over-represented – while 73 percent of services are located in major cities, just over 56 percent of the respondents indicated they worked in cities. Some 95 percent of respondents were female and over 40 percent of respondents were aged 46 or older. Long day care was over-represented, with 67 percent of respondents, less than 18 percent from preschool, less than 10 percent from outside school-hours care and less than 5 percent from family day care.

Unsurprisingly, the focus area (FA) 1 Professional recognition was nominated as the most important focus area, closely followed by FA 2 Attraction and Retention and FA 4 Wellbeing; then FA 3 Leadership and Capability and FA 5 Qualifications and Career, with FA 6 Data and Evidence a distant last. The most important overall actions were:

1 investigate options for improving professional standing, and workforce pay and conditions, including examining the associated barriers and constraints

2 promote the importance of a career in children’s education and care through a national communications campaign, including highlighting career opportunities in a growing sector

3 agree and consistently use contemporary terminology to describe the children’s education and care sector, and its workforce (eg from ‘childcare’ to ‘education and care’)

4 investigate options for improved wellbeing supports, including affordable and coordinated access to an employee assistance program, supporting service providers to have a strong mental health, resilience building and wellbeing culture, and examining the associated barriers and constraints to accessing wellbeing supports.

Pay and conditions were raised as important issues when asked to provide feedback on focus areas (FA) 1, 2, 3 and 4, even though these were only officially part of FA 1 – demonstrating how vital it is to address these issues in an expedited manner.

Respondents were asked to rate how likely they would be to recommend a career in early childhood education and care to friends or family. Promoters are those who give a rating of ‘extremely likely’ (9 or 10). Detractors give scores from ‘not at all likely’ (0 to 6). Passives sit between these groups (6 to 7). A combined score of 10 to 30 is considered good and over 50 is considered excellent. A score of minus 10 should be seen as a warning sign. The results were disturbing, with an already very poor ‘net promoter’ score of minus 25 in 2019 falling to an even more shocking minus 39 in 2021.

I’m sure you will not be surprised to read teachers and educators were unlikely to recommend a career in the sector because of pay, working hours and conditions, training, responsibility, wellbeing, lack of respect, stress and heavy workloads.

Working in early childhood education and care contributes significantly to the lives of children, families and wider society. However, there needs to be a balance between the important work staff do and appropriate remuneration and recognition.

If you’re looking for a new position in the sector, ask about pay and working conditions before you accept an offer of employment.

Lisa James