Fantastic things are happening in Victoria – is 2022 your year to make the move?
Early childhood educators and teachers across the country are looking back on the year that was. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many reflecting on what’s truly important in life, and placing a renewed focus on the ever elusive “work/life balance.”
For those who are considering making a shift to a place where their work is truly valued, and where early childhood education is front and centre of policy making and government investment, Victoria is truly leading the nation.
The scale of investment and reform in the Victorian early childhood sector is an Australian first. From School Readiness Funding, which supports the outcomes of educationally disadvantaged children and builds the capability of educators and families to respond to the needs of children at the service, to the Three-Year-Old Kindergarten Teaching Toolkit, educators are being guided and supported to give children the best outcomes. This is backed by free professional learning, mentoring support, leadership forums and learning networks as part of Victoria’s $174.2 million broad-reaching strategy to support the attraction, retention, and quality of the early childhood workforce.
When all these factors are considered, Victoria is shaping up as the place to be in 2022 and beyond.
Three-Year-Old Kinder means opportunity for all
From next year, three-year-old children across Victoria will be able to attend at least five hours of funded kindergarten (also known as preschool) a week. It’s a significant milestone on the road to a 15-hour per week program for Victorian children by 2029. And it’s teachers and educators who will make it a success.
This support starts with career starters, as the Early Childhood Scholarship Program provides up to $25,000 towards an approved bachelor qualification or up to $18,000 towards an approved postgraduate qualification. Higher amounts are available for Aboriginal pathways scholarships.
Financial support to make a shift
Location Incentives of between $9,000 to $50,000 are available for early childhood teachers taking up roles in selected regional, rural and metro services that need extra staff as they offer new kindergarten programs in 2022.
New Individual Incentives of $9,000 are available for qualified early childhood teachers taking up a role at any service offering Three-Year-Old Kindergarten and who are ‘joining or rejoining’ early childhood education after working in a different field or industry, or who are moving from interstate or New Zealand to take up a role.
All incentives are paid in instalments, at the start of employment, and at the end of a teacher’s first, second and third years. Best of all, teachers may be eligible for more than one type of incentive, meaning that moving to Victoria can have financial as well as lifestyle benefits.
Meaningful and measured – Megan’s Story
Early childhood teacher Megan Ellard is one of many who have seized the opportunity the incentives provide, making the move from inner Melbourne’s St Kilda to the South Gippsland community of Fish Creek at the start of 2020.
While moving has been a big change, it’s one which she says has not only benefited her financially, with relocation costs and her bond being covered by the incentives provided, but also in terms of her teaching practice, which she says is more meaningful and measured in her new home.
Having space to move around the community has also opened up her pedagogy and practice, which is thriving in the nature based program she runs.
“I’ve had more space to really think about my teaching practice,” Ms Ellard explained. “I feel like when you live in a big area like St Kilda, you’re just busy all the time, and that’s not at all what life is like in a regional area.”
Supported all the way
The support offered by the Victorian Government doesn’t end once teachers and educators have made the move. Mentoring, coaching and professional development opportunities are abundant.
There are dedicated supports for teachers in their early careers once you start in a role. These are designed to help you develop your practice and build your professional identity. These include tailored coaching supports, dedicated Communities of Practice, free professional learning and Beginning Teacher Conferences.
Alongside additional free professional learning to support all teachers and educators to implement the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF),professionals in the sector will also benefit from access to a unique Three Year Old Kindergarten Teaching Toolkit, which includes professional learning, as well as online and hard copy evidence-based practice and pedagogy resources, and is developed to support the planning and delivery of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten programs across Victoria .
2021 Victorian Early Years Awards finalist, Ariel Liddicut, is a prime example of where a passion for the early years and an issue close to the heart can combine.
In her current Masters studies, she has focused strongly on supporting gender-expansive children and their families, while her classroom focus blends practicality with evidence-based practice to develop children to be strong custodians of the land.
“I’m passionate about quality early education as I see it as the basis of a more equitable and kind society. A society who respects individuals and the environment without question” said Ms Liddicut.
The sky’s the limit
Many educators who are looking to upskill (to become teachers), career changers and primary school teachers are taking advantage of the scholarships, supports and pathways available to them as a result of Three-Year-Old Kinder rolling out.
For those interested in becoming early childhood educators, initiatives such as the Free TAFE campaign are opening up the door to a future in early childhood education – and there’s never been a better time.
Kym Williams is among the first 85 early childhood educators to upskill through Deakin University’s accelerated program, and has found the experience both rewarding and highly valuable, with a noticeable improvement in her practice.
‘I find that I am constantly applying the learnings from my study to curriculum decision making and my approach to teaching more broadly,” she said.
‘It’s definitely given me more tools to work with and given me more ideas and resources to draw on to be a better educator.’