Childcare staff shortage means more centers operating without enough qualified educators

Childcare staff shortage means more centers operating without enough qualified educators

“More services have been struggling with some of the requirements to have a certain percentage of your educators with a diploma qualification because there’s just not enough educators out there,” Cherry said.

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He said attrition was also a serious problem for the sector, with many qualified early childhood educators moving on to better paid careers elsewhere.

“The award rate for a teacher in early childhood is $10,000 to $20,000 less than the award rate for a teacher in the government school sector,” Cherry said. “So when you look at those numbers, you rapidly realize why we keep losing people – our rates of pay just aren’t where they need to be.”

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said finding enough early childhood educators to meet demand was a big challenge.

“We have a shortage of early childhood education and care workers now and this is expected to get bigger,” he said.

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Clare said the Albanese government’s fee-free TAFE and additional university places would help to train more early childhood education and care workers.

Early childhood educators are planning to strike on September 7, highlighting low pay and poor conditions. Hundreds of centers around Australia are expected to have to close on that day.

Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer, the foundation chair of Early Childhood Education and Development at Monash University, said qualified early childhood educators helped to set children up for a better start to school.

“There is such long-standing evidence that shows there is a qualitative difference in how a university-qualified early childhood educator interacts with children,” she said.

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Fleer said a failure to invest in early education was a failure to invest in the future.

“It’s a tragedy, really, that we can’t find the qualified early childhood educators to fill that growing gap,” she said. “The child misses out, the family misses out, and the community misses out in the end.”

Mitchell Institute education policy fellow Dr Peter Hurley said that if providers were to meet the demand that is predicted to be generated by the Albanese government’s cheaper childcare policy, it was inevitable that overall investment in the sector would have to rise.

“The thing about childcare is that investment pays off in other ways,” Hurley said. “By freeing up people who want to work, it means they earn more and generate more tax receipts, so it defrays the cost.”

The waiver data reveals that Victoria is the best performer with just 2.2 per cent of service providers in need of a staffing waiver.

In NSW, 8.9 per cent of services needed a waiver and WA was at 12 per cent, while Queensland was the nation’s worst performer with 13.9 per cent.

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