10/11/2021 - 08:00

More pay key to retaining childcare staff

10/11/2021 - 08:00

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Improving pay for Australia’s early childhood education and childcare workers will be among the sectors’ highest priorities over the next three years, according to an independent, 10-year strategy for building a sustainable workforce for the industry.

More pay key to retaining childcare staff
Lifting pay rates for childcare workers is seen as a high priority for policymakers.

Improving pay for Australia’s early childhood education and childcare workers will be among the sectors’ highest priorities over the next three years, according to an independent, 10-year strategy for building a sustainable workforce for the industry.

The report, produced by the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority, comes after the country’s education ministers agreed in 2019 to develop a national workforce strategy.

ACECQA’s final document recommends 21 actions to be undertaken in the next 10 years, with improving pay, creating a childhood teacher register in every state and territory and enhancing mentoring for new teachers to be progressed with the highest urgency.

One case study put forward was a new enterprise agreement, implemented by Goodstart Early Learning for its 16,000 staff in July.

That agreement, designed in negotiations with the assistance of employee surveys, provides for pay rates 5 per cent above the current award rate, additional non-contact time, six weeks of paid parental leave, discounts on services and flexible working arrangements and improved rostering.

Samantha Page, chief executive of Early Childhood Australia, is quoted in the report as saying early childhood educators have been historically undervalued.

“Professionals working with young children since the 1930s have struggled with the misunderstanding that they are merely caring for young children to allow parents to work when in fact they are providing rich early learning experiences that have lifelong benefits,” Ms Page said.

“That misunderstanding is the basis of why pay rates for qualified teachers working in early education settings are typically well below parity with other parts of the education sector.”

Jay Weatherill, chief executive of Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five initiative, said the report was an important document that outlined a vision for the future of Australia’s early learning workforce, but urged governments to match its findings with funding and a plan for implementation.

“Unless the immediate workforce crisis is addressed, there will be flow-on impacts across our economy as parents face higher barriers to returning to work and children lose the benefits of a high-quality, early-learning experience,” Mr Weatherill said.

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