Minister put on notice

Your union has called on Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education Dr Anne Aly to consider a list of measures that would decrease the workload and improve the status of early childhood teachers if implemented.

Dr Aly met with IEU officers and members from NSW, ACT and Queensland at the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Reality Roundtable in November 2022. She listened as early childhood teachers shared heartfelt stories of dedication despite low pay, acute staffing shortages and onerous workloads. The list of actions that the union sent to Minister Aly is as follows:

1. Standardisation of terminology

What is the measure?

Standardisation of language used by the Department of Education, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) and the government in general to refer to early childhood teachers, educators, and the sector as a whole.


Language that underscores the fact that the sector provides education to young children increases the status of education and care in the community which then makes recruitment and retention easier.

Description of measure

That the Department, ACECQA and Ministers encode the appropriate language in all written and oral communications:

  • Teachers to be recognised as university qualified professionals - early childhood teachers as distinct from educators
  • The early education and care sector to be referred to as such, not as the childcare sector
  • Services to be referred to as early education and care services, not childcare centres

2. Provision of standardised forms and policies

What is the measure?

Development of a standard set of regulatory compliant forms and policies that can be adapted by individual services as required or adopted as is.


Eighty per cent of services in the education and care sector are run by providers who only operate a single service (normally these services have early childhood teachers as directors). This means that the directors of over 5700 services nationally (34 per cent of all services) must individually develop forms and policies, including undertaking the research to ensure they are compliant and reflect best practice.

Provide them with proformas and their workload instantly decreases.

Description of measure

ACECQA to develop standardised forms/policies for:

  • Enrolment
  • Required information display forms (with all required information that centres must display under the Regulations)
  • All policies required under Regulation 168 – policies that are fully compliant with the Law and Regulations and are considered best practice under the National Quality Standard rather than the existing “policy guidelines”

(from left) IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Deputy President Carol Matthews, Secretary Mark Northam, Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education Anne Aly, former IEU Early Childhood Services Vice-President Gabrielle Connell, IEU President Tina Ruello, and Early Childhood Education and Care Vice-President Michelle Thompson

  • Comprehensive Authorised Officer pre-visit checklists to enable services to have all material organised and on hand
  • A red alert newsletter to inform teachers/educators/ services when there is a regulatory change.

3. Additional National Quality Framework resource material

What is the measure?

Provision of additional resource material including videos and online training courses to assist Approved Providers to understand governance issues under the NQF. Provision of standardised courses for all training required to be held and renewed under the Regulations outside of qualifications.


Many of the union’s members work for not-for-profit services managed by parent management committees. As the governance impost on services has become more complex, our members have found they are having to spend additional time explaining governance to their employers. A range of additional videos and online training events could make this easier. Since the previous government abolished the funded professional development and resourcing program for the sector, accessing professional development for both their staff and for their management committees has rested on teachers/directors. The NQF requires that several micro qualifications be updated on a regular basis such as child protection qualifications, first aid, CPR, anaphylaxis, and asthma training. Recommended training also includes courses such as safe sleep training, food handling and work health and safety training.

Providing training and resources accessible from one location will instantly reduces teacher workloads in sourcing the relevant training and ascertaining if it is compliant.

Description of measure

Provision of a range of free training modules via ACECQA’s website which would meet regulatory required refresher training, training recommended under the NQS and governance training for Approved Providers.

4. Portability of long service leave

What is the measure?

Development of a long service leave portability scheme for the education and care sector.


The most recent workforce census showed that educators and early childhood teachers had an average of 7.2 years of experience in the education and care sector but the average tenure at their current service was 3.6 years. Few employees have access to long service leave even though they have had many years in the sector. Access to long service leave has been shown to reduce burnout.

Description of measure

The government to develop a long service leave portability scheme for the sector.

5. Making it easier to become an early childhood teacher

What is the measure?

Provision of easily accessible information to those wanting to upskill from Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications.


Promotion of early childhood teaching as a valuable career choice within the sector and providing easily accessible information about how to do it will make it more attractive for educators to upgrade.

Description of measure

ACECQA to be requested to develop a page on their website collating information about the value of early childhood teachers in services, and about institutions offering early childhood teaching degrees and the various pathways for people to upskill to become an early childhood teacher and any scholarships to do this from both state and territory and Commonwealth governments. Information also to be available about postgraduate courses for early childhood teachers.

6. Funding for practicum placements

What is the measure?

Provision of Commonwealth government funding to enable educators already working in the sector and studying to become an early childhood teacher to undertake practicum placements which are an important and necessary part of becoming an early childhood teacher.


Student members of the IEU report that having to self-fund practicums, while taking leave of absence from their own jobs, is a barrier to becoming an early childhood teacher. Removing this barrier would enable more educators to undertake a teaching degree and would remove a clear disincentive to do so.

Description of measure

A component of the Community Child Care Fund could be quarantined to provide funding for applications from services for:

Funding to employers to backfill educators’ positions while an employee is on study placement

Funding to employers to enable students to continue to be paid their usual income whilst undertaking practicums required by their studies.

7. Clarification of pedagogical documentation under the NQF

What is the measure?

ACECQA to develop guidelines for documentation of children’s learning requirements under the National Quality Framework.

These would include guidance on the quantity and frequency of observations, assessments, planning, and reflections required.


There is absolute confusion in the sector about what the National Quality Framework requires in terms of documenting children’s learning, especially amongst lower quality services. Clarification of this by ACECQA would address the issue reported to the IEU by members of employers demanding additional documentation that is not required under the National Quality Framework, and that which conflates marketing to families with pedagogical documentation and adds to teacher and educator workloads.

Description of measure

Sample documentation, deciphering in clear English as to what the planning cycle is and what the NQF expects in terms of quantum and quality of documentation to be developed by ACECQA, published on their website, and distributed widely.

8. Making early childhood teaching degreesmore attractive

What is the measure?

Reduction of Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debts for early childhood teaching degrees and reduction of accumulated HELP debt.


Ongoing attraction and retention of students studying early childhood education is a major concern for universities and ultimately for services, even more so than attraction and retention of students studying teaching degrees per se. There is declining higher education commencements, declining completion of degrees and increasing workforce demand. Current estimates according to ACECQA is that we will need an additional 7000 early childhood teachers by 2024.

Description of measure

This measure would involve extending the Reduction of Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debts for teachers in very remote areas program to all early childhood teachers, regardless of location.

9. Assisting the IEU to run another equal remuneration case

What is the measure?

Provision of funding to enable the IEU to run a second equal remuneration case for early childhood teachers under the government’s changes to the Fair Work Act.


Remuneration of early childhood teachers is a crucial factor affecting attraction and retention of early childhood teachers in some states and territories. The proposed changes to the Fair Work Act will ensure that the IEU can argue a case for equal renumeration, but because the union has already run (and lost) a case under the existing legislation, financial assistance would enable it to run a second case, and to test the changes.

Description of measure

Direct funding from the Federal Government to offset costs in running a test case in the Fair Work Commission under the altered legislation.

10. Provision of funded professional development

What is the measure?

Provision of funded professional development that would allow early childhood teachers to meet the accreditation requirements in their state or territory.


To maintain accreditation, early childhood teachers must participate in ongoing recognised professional development. IEU members report that sourcing recognised professional development is complex and takes time and professional development is a significant cost. Provision of funded professional development that is easily accessible would remove both issues.

Description of measure

Provision of easily accessible funded professional development that meets the requirements for Accreditation as an early childhood teacher in each state and territory via the ACECQA website.

At the roundtable, Dr Aly spent almost a full day listening to everyone from students to seasoned directors, preschools and long day care staff and for-profit and not-for-profit employees as they explained how workload, wages and workplace issues were affecting their lives.

The room was fraught with emotion as some teachers explained they were resigning from the profession they love because they could no longer cope.

During the roundtable one teacher, a single mum, said she would never be able to pay off her HECS debt, and relies on welfare to top up her income.

“I shouldn’t be in that position. I have five years of uni behind me. I’m a professional teacher.”

Another said she had worked as a nanny on Saturdays for many years “just to pay the rent”.

“I’m an absolute professional, yet I feel the shame of living in poverty. It’s a big challenge to my mental health.”

Another said: “You need a good partner with a good job to survive as an early childhood teacher. It shouldn’t be that way.”

Directors talked about the stress of having to negotiate their wages over and over with a parent committee; the difficulties in finding casuals due to the current worker shortage and having to cover for Cert III educators when no one else was available.

“People are losing their passion. Love does not paythe bills.”

IEU Early Childhood Sector Vice President Michelle Thompson said collective bargaining would give her sector a stronger voice, but right now it was “chronically haemorrhaging dedicating, qualified staff” and urgent action was needed.

Dr Aly said she had never encountered a room of such passionate, professional and dedicated people in all her years as a policy maker, a professor and a politician.

“I have seen the love for what you do and more importantly, the love for the children and the education you provide. It’s abundantly clear right here in this room and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share that passion with you. It is truly a privilege to meet you all.

“We’ve had a lot of tears, but I know where those tears are coming from. That’s a positive because it comes from such passion, experience and dedication.”

Dr Aly said the government’s Early Learning Strategy would reflect that early learning was part of the education journey. The government would focus closely on the 0-5 years, with Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth and Education Minister Jason Clare part of the process.

“We know what you do is not childcare. No child born into disadvantage should have to carry that disadvantage through life. The work that you do is fundamental to that, and that’s phenomenal.

“If you have spoken today about losing your passion because of the conditions under which you work, I ask you reflect on the difference you make each and every day to a child’s life.

“Give yourself a moment to look in the rear-view mirror and think about how important your work is.

“This is just a start. In five months, we can’t fix 10 years of neglect. We’ve hit the ground running but there’s more to do.

“We can’t do this alone; we need union support, and our state government counterparts must help.

“We recognise you are highly trained experts who want significant career pathways. Let’s keep talking.”