Wednesday 6th September is Early Childhood Educators’ Day – a special day to celebrate your critical contribution to our communities. When I talk to Educators, read comments on Facebook, or articles ECA WebWatch or The Sector it’s apparent that Educators remain under enormous pressure and continue to exit the sector at a steady pace.
There has been a marked increase in awareness of the need to invest in Educator wellbeing and mental health. Options such as job-sharing, working part-time or a 4-day week are being explored by many organisations.
Of course, pay parity and a decent living wage remain the elephant in the room.
From October 1, changes to the Education and Care Services National Regulations will require services to include an annual risk assessment as part of an existing ‘Sleep and Rest Policy’. There has also been increased attention given to safe transportation of children and establishing strategies to ensure children are not locked in – or out – of the service. Strengthening these areas of service delivery is designed to further protect the safety and wellbeing of children which, of course, is paramount to quality service provision. ACECQA has provided information and useful tools to support services to meet these requirements.
In addition, the approved national frameworks have been refreshed with changes coming into effect in early 2024. This is a welcome move: the EYLF has been substantially updated with a greater emphasis on equity, diversity, and cultural safety, in particular recognition of First Nations people and culture. The language used in the EYLF reflects the rigorous research and international best practice principles for the delivery of quality early childhood education and care.
Hopefully we will see a much needed new and updated addition of ‘Staying Healthy’, last updated in June 2013 and identify as ‘under review’ by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
More information about changes to the national approved learning frameworks can be found here.
Where to next?
Universities such as Deakin, Wollongong, Southern Cross, Australian Catholic University, University of Victoria, Swinburn online, TAFE NSW all advertise ‘fast track’ pathways to a degree or Diploma. The merits of fast-tracking are substantial for Educators who have an existing qualification and extensive experience. To be successful, fast-tracking requires the support of employers to accommodate paid study leave and provide opportunities to complete workplace assessments by providing paid, at-work study time.
Early Childhood Educators deserve the respect of the community and the financial support of a government willing to bite the bullet, step up to the plate by subsidising wages and providing funding for wellbeing and professional development programs during work hours. Governments also need to take a good hard look at the existing Certificate III and Diploma training packages in Early Childhood Education and Care, which no longer reflect the needs of the profession and offer limited opportunities to upskill through pathways that best meet the existing skills and knowledge of Educators.
To end on a positive note, enjoy Early Childhood Educators’ Day – have fun with the children, have some treats and be kind to yourself.
Karen Kearns (M.Ed (EC) B.Ed.(EC) Grad.Dip.Ed. (Spec. Ed.)
CEO, International Child Care College