ECA survey illustrates the complexity of ECEC

Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has released the results from a comprehensive survey which paints a picture of an early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector that is exhausted and stressed, but joyful and hopeful when it comes to working directly with children.

The survey was conducted to inform the position that ECA CEO Samantha Page will take into today’s Jobs and Skills Summitwhere she will speak as a spokesperson for the early childhood sector.

Of the more than 700 ECEC professionals who responded to the survey, nearly 70 per cent said they were feeling exhausted on a daily basis. In brighter findings, 83 per cent said they regularly feel ‘happy’ and many are regularly ‘joyful’ or ‘hopeful’, indicating that they find working with young children to be satisfying and rewarding.

“Responses to the survey confirm that the early childhood workforce is under significant pressure, but remains committed to delivering positive outcomes for children,” Ms Page said.

“This level of workload stress is untenable and arises from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, the unprecedented rate of staff turnover, which ranges from 20 per cent to 60 per cent, as well as the number of positions. vacant, which are currently at an all-time high of over 6,000 nationally,” she added.

Respondents also ranked a range of measures to address workforce issues, giving the highest to improving pay and conditions through an immediate wage increase and longer-term reforms to address gender wage equity and better recognize the value of the work they do.

There was also a strong consensus that early childhood teachers (ECTs) deserve pay parity with teachers in the school system, while Diploma- and Certificate-qualified educators deserve professional wages comparable to employees in other professional sectors.

Some key positions that ECA will take to the Jobs and Skills Summit include:

  1. The development of a ‘critical response strategy’ that responds to the immediate workforce crisis, which could include bringing forward elements of the ‘Shaping Our Future’ national workforce strategy and implementing time-limited strategies that address the workforce and qualification supply issues.

  2. An immediate pay increase — funded by government via payments to employers — to ‘hold’ the workforce, improve retention and reduce the number of people leaving the sector completely, and to increase wages without a negative impact on affordability for families.

  3. Longer-term structural reform through the Fair Work Commission (wage equity review after the legislation has been changed) to address pay equity for teachers as well as for Certificate- and Diploma-qualified staff against comparable positions in schools and other education settings.

  4. A quality jobs initiative to work with employers to identify and share good practice to improve job security, working conditions, rostering practices, manageable workloads, professional development, etc.

  5. Continued government support for entry-level VET qualifications and upskilling programs: to upgrade Certificate to Diploma status and Diploma to Degree status, including streamlined access and intensive training options, where appropriate.

  6. Improving VET completion rates and support for students in workplaces, including targeted strategies for specific population groups, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, culturally and linguistically diverse students, people with a disability and those living and working in rural and remote locations.

  7. An ‘attract back’ campaign to re-engage people with early childhood education and care qualifications who are choosing not to work in the sector.

  8. Paid internships for students in their fourth year of their Early Childhood Teacher qualification.

  9. A community education campaign to drive understanding of the value of the work in early childhood education and care, correct language use and greater respect for the profession.

  10. Streamlining access to additional support for children with complex or additional needs to ensure that all early childhood services are inclusive and deliver equitable education outcomes for every child, recognizing the profession is calling for more support in this area.

For more information about the Jobs and Skills Summit, please see here.

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