Union wonders where educators will come from to meet NSW demand post Budget

Union wonders where educators will come from to meet NSW demand post Budget

by Freya Lucas

June 17, 2022

The NSW/ACT branch of the Independent Education Union (IEU) has cautiously welcomed the recent announcement by the NSW Government that it will provide $5 billion over 10 years to early childhood education, including a plan to build more centres in so-called ‘childcare desserts’ in suburban, regional and rural NSW, expressing concern about how the services will be staffed. 


As a representative of a number of early childhood teachers, the Union also posed questions about what guarantees would be put in place to ensure the funding directed at for-profit centres would be used to improve low salaries and attract and retain staff, rather than to increase profits. 


“At the end of the day, unless the fundamental problem of low salaries for early childhood education staff is addressed, the persistent problems of shortages in the sector will continue,” NSW/ACT IEU Secretary Mark Northam said.


“Existing preschools and long day care centres are struggling to find staff to cover their rosters right now, so I am baffled about how the proposed new centres will be managed,” he added.


Unless action is taken to encourage and incentivise more people to work in the sector, he continued, and to stay working in the sector long term, the current crisis conditions are likely to persist. 


While part of the NSW Government package includes $25,000 scholarships for applicants to study early childhood degrees, the IEU asked what incentives would be in place to encourage graduates to choose to work in ECEC settings once qualified, when conditions and pay in school based settings are much more attractive. 


“Until we recognise that degree qualified early childhood teachers must be paid the same as their colleagues in schools, the drain from early childhood centres to primary schools will continue,” Mr Northam said.