The next National Jobs and Skills Summitto be held on 1 and 2 September, should focus on resolving the crisis in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, University of New England (A) said Dr. Marg Rogers, academic.
Although many families have welcomed the prospect of a cheaper ECEC in the middle of next year, Dr Rogers believes that starting the reforms sooner will have positive ramifications for the employment landscape, allowing more women to return to the workforce or increase their hours at a time when many organizations and businesses are struggling find workers.
To facilitate this, however, early childhood educators urgently need better compensation and recognition.
“At a time of record unemployment, political talk is cheap and many educators have given up waiting and left the profession,” Dr. Rogers said.
“It has left the sector scrambling to find casual workers and, in some cases, workers. Some services have been forced to close, adding to our babysitting deserts.”
In order to attract and retain ECEC professionals, policy makers need to think about the welfare of educators, she continued.
“If carers are well, happy and supported, they are much more likely to provide quality education and care to Australian children.”
Dr. Rogers’ previous work demonstrated the immense pressure that ECEC staff are under, with turnover by at least 30 percent, and with a recent study showing that 73 percent of educators interrogates planned to exit the industry within the next three years.
The welfare of educators for those who choose to stay is vital, she continued, as it affects the quality of their interactions with young children. The quality of exchanges is key to the quality education and care children receive during these crucial years.
Despite the negative results, educators were able to identify many ways for government agencies to improve the system, including:
- Provision of a local contact familiar with the service and providing advice.
- Allow flexibility in delivery.
- Increased ratios, reduced documentation required.
While the work of educators has been made much more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Rogers, the flaws in the system were already there. The pandemic has increased the pressurewith many services struggling to find enough staff.
“It’s time to radical change in the sectorincluding funding and usability,” Dr. Rogers continued.
“Unless we have real reform, the education and essential early childhood care of our children are at risk. Hopefully the Jobs and Skills Summit focuses on this vital sector.