Department of Education figures confirm staffing crisis in ECEC

Department of Education figures confirm staffing crisis in ECEC

by Freya Lucas

February 10, 2022

Recently released figures from the Department of Education have shown that over 11 per cent of early childhood education and care (ECEC) services have waivers in place allowing them to remain open despite not having the required staff needed under the National Laws and Regulations. 

 

These statistics, when paired with the “extreme” high vacancy rate of unfilled ECEC positions paints a picture of a sector in crisis, and one which Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill says is affecting the quality of ECEC services and the accessibility of essential early learning for children and families.

 

“There is a workforce crisis in the early childhood education and care sector, with thousands of job vacancies, high staff turnover and inadequate pay and conditions for educators,” he said.

 

In 2013, the number of centres granted waivers for staffing was just five per cent. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, it was just over seven per cent.

 

“Omicron has ramped up existing, long-term workforce shortages, with additional pressure from furloughed staff driving room closures and now shortages in key team leadership positions,” he added.

 

Speaking with the ABC service Director Maria Routsis said dealing with rolling COVID-19 cases at her service has “been challenging as a service. It’s been challenging as an individual. It’s been challenging as a director”. 

 

She would like to see more Government funding to pay staff wages that are attractive enough to retain them in the sector. Ms Routsis said that she appreciates the value of her service in the local community and understands the impact of closures.

 

“We do have a lot of frontline workers [as clients]. We’ve got teachers, we’ve got nurses, we’ve got some doctors, we’ve got a very wide community of families [who] attend the service and they need our doors to stay open,” Ms Routsis said.

 

In response to its concerns, Thrive by Five is calling on the Federal and state governments for an urgent response to the early learning workforce crisis, including:

 

  • Establishing a taskforce as a matter of urgency to address the workforce crisis;
  • Immediate allocation of direct funding to centres to cover waived gap fees so that they can continue to pay their hardworking educators; and,
  • The designation of early childhood wellbeing as a National Cabinet priority to pursue the long overdue reform of the early learning sector.

 

To read the ABC coverage of this story, please see here. Image credit: Thrive by Five

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