Reality of life for early childhood teachers causes shock and awe at ALP conference

The expectations about what early childhood teachers will do compared to other teachers are vastly different.

Early childhood teacher/director and IEU ECS Council member Ariane Simon wishes she had had a video recorder in her hand to record the reaction of the audience when she discussed low pay for early childhood teachers at the NSW ALP Conference on 30 June.

Spelling out the difference between primary school and early childhood teachers’ pay, Simon said there were looks of shock, horror and disbelief in the audience.

Simon was representing early childhood teachers and the IEU on a panel to discuss the gender pay gap. Other representatives were: Narelle Clay, Australian Services Union, the superannuation pay gap; Bec Riley, Finance Sector Union, the gender pay gap in the finance sector; Tara Koot, electrician and Electronic Trades Union Organiser, supporting women in male dominated trades and Gwen Alcock, early childhood educators and United Voice member, on the Big Steps campaign.

Simon explained how, despite having the same degree, the same accreditation and the same HELP debt, first year preschool teachers could expect to earn $50,665 compared to $67,248 in primary school, a difference of $16,583. This difference widens every year until after nine years the preschool teacher earns $66,868 compared to $100,299 for the primary school teacher, or a gap of $33,431 per year ($641 per week).

She also pointed out that most early childhood teachers actually work in long day care, where they work 37.5 hour weeks with only four weeks annual leave per year – no school holidays.

“They were looking at me in shock when I told them this,” Simon said.

“The expectations about what early childhood teachers will do compared to other teachers are vastly different.”

She said when she had started in the profession 37 years ago, the pay was better in the early childhood sector than in primary schools, but over time the early childhood sector had been privatised and separated from the education sector.

“It’s all about productivity and getting people in the workforce rather than quality children’s education. Children are now seen as human capital.”

Simon’s initial career goal had been to join the Royal Australian Air Force.

“My dad said I had to do something in the six month wait to go to officers’ college, so I went to university and did early childhood. That’s when I discovered my passion. I realised that this was where I was meant to be, working with children and helping families and the community.

“Imagine if I had gone into the Air Force, how much better off I would be now in terms of superannuation, health funds, everything.”

Arianne also outlined the details of the IEU’s Equal Remuneration Case, for which she has provided a written statement.

“For too long we have been nice ladies complicit in our own oppression. No more.”