ACECQA highlights 21 actions in long awaited for ECEC Workforce Strategy release
The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has released “Shaping Our Future”, a new ten year strategy to ensure a sustainable, high quality children’s education and care workforce.
The strategy, which was originally endorsed by the Education Council of State and Territory Ministers in December 2019 and has been coordinated by ACECQA, contains an overview of the workforce challenges currently facing the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, as well as a roadmap of key areas of focus and actions designed to overcome said challenges.
The strategy also contains a multi-phase monitoring and evaluation framework to ensure key stakeholders would be informed on progress with updates regularly published for the broader ECEC community to review.
Strategy informed by extensive consultation, pay and conditions cited as top priority
The “Shaping Our Future” strategy was informed by extensive consultations with national sector stakeholders and government representatives including service providers, education and training providers, peak associations, and regulatory authorities all of which highlighted the initial areas of focus and potential actions that could alleviate the challenges currently faced by the sector.
In May 2021, a national public consultation was launched allowing teachers, educators and other ECEC community members to provide their input as to which of the actions were the highest priority for resolution.
The majority of respondents indicated that investigating options for improving workforce pay and conditions was a high priority, with 95 per cent of respondents strongly supporting (76 per cent) or supporting (19 per cent) the initiative.
With respect to this action the strategy commits to commissioning research to explore and identify structural barriers to, and strategies for, improving pay and conditions in the sector.
Other actions cited in the strategy that received over 90 per cent support in the public consultation phase included areas that focused on teacher and educator wellbeing and teacher and educator leadership and capability.
Execution the responsibility of all stakeholders, collective action is key
Importantly, the call to action section of the strategy states that no single stakeholder group can or should be responsible for all of the actions contained within this strategy, and that all stakeholders have a role to play, with interlinking responsibilities, to advance the goal of a sustainable, highly skilled and professionally valued workforce.
Collective action and an ongoing commitment to progress are the key tenets underpinning stakeholder responsibility, with the monitoring and evaluation framework embedded within the strategy providing the means to evaluate progress over the course of the strategy’s ten year timeframe.
The document, however, provides no indication as to how the various initiatives will be resourced although Elizabeth Death, CEO of the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) noted that they “expect all governments to follow through with the required resourcing of the Strategy.”
Range of actions across key focus areas, but funding to support remains unclear
A set of 21 actions, across 6 focus areas, were identified through the consultation and co-design process.
Each action contains a set of rationales and also a clear indication of what needs to be done to address or achieve the action via specific initiatives which it is understood largely fall under the purview of ACECQA and the respective state and territory governments.
That being said, the list of focus areas and actions are as follows:
Focus Area 1 – Professional Recognition
Action 1 – Investigate options for improving workforce pay and conditions
Action 2 – Implement early childhood teacher registration in every state and territory
Action 3 – Enhance mentoring and induction support for new teachers
Action 4 – Promote the importance of a career in children’s education and care through a national communications campaign
Action 5 – Agree and consistently use contemporary terminology to describe the children’s education and care sector, and its workforce
Action 6 – Develop options for a national registration system for educators who are not teachers
Focus Area 2 – Attraction and Retention
Action 1 – Review and develop targeted programs to support studies and placements for specified groups of potential educators and teachers
Action 2 – Review and streamline existing application and approval processes for overseas trained educators and teachers
Action 3 – Develop an accessible suite of resources highlighting the careers and career pathways available within the children’s education and care sector
Focus Area 3 – Leadership and Capability
Action 1 – Develop an accessible suite of resources highlighting the careers and career pathways available within the children’s education and care sector
Action 2 – Investigate options for a national professional practice network for educators and teachers
Action 3 – Improve access to an increasing range of micro-credentials for educators and teachers in areas of identified need
Focus Area 4 – Well being
Action 1 – Investigate options for improved wellbeing supports
Action 2 – Promote wellbeing resources for educators and teachers
Action 3 – Initiate and promote research monitoring the wellbeing of educators and teachers
Focus Area 5 – Qualifications and career pathways
Action 1 – Continue the ongoing focus on the quality of vocational education and training
Action 2 – Review staffing and qualification requirements under the NQF, with a focus on early childhood teachers and outside school hours care educators
Action 3 – Review requirements for early childhood teaching programs under the National Quality Framework
Focus Area 6 – Data and evidence
Action 1 – Undertake a national workforce census at least every three years
Action 2 – Commit to an evaluation plan for the national workforce strategy
Action 3 – Develop options for a live national workforce database
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