Providing quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) is absolutely dependent on a highly skilled workforce of early childhood educators. The Government’s Jobs for Families changes being implemented from 2 July 2018 ignores educators, who are at the heart of the early learning sector.
Educators are furious that the government’s changes have not included the funding of professional pay.
Educators are angry that the government’s policy changes are just tinkering with the sector, and aren’t tackling the real challenges with real reform. Australia should have a world class ECEC system in which all children are given the best possible start in life through equitable access to quality early education delivered by educators earning more than poverty-level wages.
Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary of United Voice, the early childhood union, says, “The Government has been talking up extra investment in the sector, but they have once again failed to invest in the backbone of the sector – Australia’s early childhood educators.
“The changes are just tinkering around the edges. Simon Birmingham and Malcolm Turnbull have not delivered the reforms needed to address the workforce wage crisis. They are making constant demands on the workforce, yet pay rates remain at $22.00 an hour.
“We can’t have a world class system when educators only stay in the sector, on average, for just over 3 years and 1 in 4 educators plan on leaving the profession within 12 months. Every time an educator leaves their position or the sector altogether, the impact is felt by dozens of children. Close, ongoing relationships between educators and children are crucial to children’s learning outcomes; engaging stimulating interactions between educators and children are the most important determinant of quality in ECEC.
“To value every child, we need to value every educator and that means government funding of professional pay for the professional work educators do.
“The extra red tape that comes with the government’s new IT system is just throwing more work and expectations at educators and centres.
“This is not the big picture reform that educators and Australian families need.”
Educators are also unhappy that the activity test leaves families in need behind. Educators want to be able to deliver early education services to the benefit of all Australian children. The government has delivered an ECEC system that as well as failing to deliver professional pay, also leaves 25% of families worse off.
Ms Gibbons says, “The activity test is harsh and complex, cutting access to early learning for children who stand to benefit the most. Disadvantaged, low income and families in insecure work are negatively impacted by the activity tests. These policy changes hurt families and ignore educators.”
This Government proved yet again at Budget time, that they don’t value our youngest citizens and early childhood education. Funding was cut to the National Quality Framework that ensures high quality ECEC so parents can be confident in our system. This is yet another example of not just tinkering on the edges, but going backwards in ECEC reform when clever governments around the world are doing the exact opposite.