A day to celebrate all that is fabulous about people working in the Early Childhood Sector. This day is to acknowledge all the hard work, educational planning and programming, love, nurturing and laughter that goes into working in ECEC.
And as this day approaches maybe it is time to look at the industry and work out why as a society we cannot retain amazing Educators?
Recent statistics show that thousands of early childhood teachers are quitting in Australia, abandoning their profession due to low pay and a lack of professional recognition.
Estimates suggest that around one in five are leaving, just as demand for their services is soaring: almost 300,000 more children will need a government-subsidised childcare place in 2019-20 than in 2016-17.
The future achievement of Australian children is at stake with this statistic. Well-qualified early childhood teachers are essential for quality early years education. Not all teachers in Australia have taken further training or gained an early childhood degree. But, alarmingly, those who have recently upgraded their qualifications are most likely to leave– when regulations are going to be requiring more in the near future.
Perhaps this is unsurprising. Around 70% of early childhood educators rely on low minimum wages, compared to only 20% of the broader Australian workforce. This works out at around half the average earnings for all occupations; many would be earning more by working in supermarkets at night or tending to shelves – how can this statistic be right?
As well as struggling with low pay in some parts of the sector, teachers regularly complain of feeling undervalued professionally. Unlike teachers in primary and secondary schools, preschool educators — especially those in childcare — can sometimes be perceived as “glorified babysitters”.
Around 85% of early childhood educators describe their work as a profession, not a job, but struggle to get this recognition more broadly.
In a profession which is 94% female, such views are strongly gendered. Perhaps the problem is that this notion of ‘caring’ is often associated with mothering, as opposed to an important part of childhood education, According to recent survey data, the majority of early childhood educators felt their work was undervalued by the broader community.
Far from babysitting, early childhood educators play a key role in children’s brain development: by the age of five, a child’s brain is nearly full-grown. The growing brain in the early years is “experience-expectant”, meaning a child’s experiences — including with a teacher — shape their brain capacities.
It is noted that learning also hinges upon children and their families developing secure and trusting relationships with educators. And if there is a constant turnover of teachers and educators in services, that’s disrupting those attachments and in turn disrupting children’s learning. The sector needs to retain quality Educators.
Australia’s problems are not unique. Issues within early childhood services exist in various countries including the UK, US, Canada and New Zealand, causing similar workforce issues and wage divides.
Other countries have realised the need to raise wages through government, and offer study incentives, and Australia has tried – but are they trying hard enough?
Early childhood is recognised to be the foundation for a quality education system, it needs to be treated in an equitable way.
Early Childhood Educators’ Day recognises and celebrates the work of Australia’s educators in early learning services for their wonderful contribution to the wellbeing and healthy development of the young children in their care. It is a chance to say thank you to Australia’s early childhood educators on a very personal level by service operators, families and their children, as well as collectively at the national level.
How will your service recognise your contributions? Know that the team at TEG are very thankful for your contribution to society each and every day.