Inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning
Comments from people who work in education and care services
Included are only those comments received by 5 September 2014, for which the submitted gave their approval for use of their comment by the Commission. Some comments have been edited to remove information which the Commission considered could enable identification of the submitter.
As an EC Teacher who has worked for 25 years in the field, (& as a parent who has used childcare) I have seen many positive changes to the EC industry but I am greatly concerned about discussion to water down staff-to-child ratios and the lowering of educator qualifications. These actions will negatively impact on the high quality of care and education in services. They oppose the current research which acknowledges the benefits in having reduced staff-to-child ratios and highly qualified educators for children's optimal learning. Increased workloads that educators have due to EC reforms also need addressing. Funding to better support educators in meeting requirements (e.g. resources, time release etc.) is essential. As a society, let's invest in Early Childhood and give the best start to our children. The benefits are significant and long-lasting!
As a single mother I struggled with fees; now as an Educator fees have grown beyond what any single or low income earner parent can afford with rising costs and ratios reduced. There is not an Educator I have spoken to whom agrees on reducing ratios (despite what FDCA is saying) as this has increased costs to parents (6.50 per hour to now 8.50 per hour) and I am on the lower end of fees. When this idea first came in parents didn't object as their child was going to school by the time it was effective so they didn't appeal it (smart from Labour). Coalition stated it would insider this being overturned and nothing has happened. Disabled children that I have cared for over 6 years with funding being stopped from [locality] are now being told that FDC is not an option; where is continuity of care and common sence gone; 3000 for 48 care compared to 20 an hour in care always used; I care for these children for ?3.00 an hour now (sometimes 150.00 a week 24/7 care; peg fed; medications; limited mobility; because I have morals and values; being told to send them to DoCs is not an option for parents. Susan Ley now in power sits on hands and emails stating watch my confidentiality when Nother centre is charging a normal child 9000 per week and is still operating and proof sent with parents permission. Disgusting system for those who want to work and truly care for children; shame on the government. Current Affair bring this out to open; do your job Susan and save money by shutting down rosters of the system.
I strongly oppose the transitional regulations to go beyond 2015. It is hard enough using this provision as a stop gap for the lack of trained staff.
I strongly recommend the assessment and rating service to stay in place. Every child and family deserve the respect that they will be educated in a quality rated centre.
I strongly recommend that there be no delays in the proposed ratio changes.
There should also be an expedient completion of the kindergarten teachers collective contract.
I would strongly oppose the importation of cheap nanny labour.
These all go towards making Australia's early childhood education a quality area.
I believe in the importance of Early Childhoo teachers being fully qualified in order to be a teacher. Do not water down the skills and expertise of staff - we need qualified teachers. Instead, acknowledge the need for expertise in a crucial field. Instead provide more programs which provide mentors and in some cases onsite mentors.
I also believe the institutions providing the qualifications and passing students needs to be reviewed and institutions being expected to provide excellence in training packages, assessment and providing students with their qualifications. Many students I have mentored are lacking on the ground confidence and skills to take on the rigours of a stand alone preschool program and I am concerned for the children that will be in their services.
While I believe a rating and assessment system is a valuable tool. I am concerned that the lack of uniformity of this process is causing more distress and colleague dismay. If we are to provide a rich stage for reform and we truly want to support our services, children, families and staff, I believe the method and roll out should be honed, considered and the assessors be implementing the same core assessing attitudes and processes.
I am also concerned about how the rating system is being implemented and shared. Services should be provided with expectations, support, guidance. If the problem lies with the provider, why is it fair to include the staff. Staff are employed, guided, directed and qualified by others. If they are not performing to the highest standard then we need to look further afield to the institutions they attended and the service providers that employ them.
I am a strong advocate for the NQF and particularly the 'rating and assessment' process. I believe it has the capacity to improve the quality of service provision across the board and it will help to create more uniformity in practice. I would be devastated to see it scrapped. I have seen some pretty hideous programming and practice in ECE settings over time and some really require a good shake up.
I understand that some people are concerned regarding the possible competitive side-effect of publishing ratings BUT I think 'naming and shaming' may just be the only way to motivate some services into action. I am particularly referring to privately operated (for profit) LDC services here.
I have socialist views on the provision of educational services and really have my doubts as to whether a service that has been privately established with the aim of making a profit can truly have 'quality' service provision at the core of their philosophy.
The submission made by the 'Australian CC Alliance' is horrendous in potential and is clearly all about supporting the business owners in the LDC industry and their motivation is based on 'economics' NOT on what is in the best interests of the children LDC's serve.
Children deserve to be educated by a 4 year fully trained teacher and nothing less. I do not want to be operated on by a first year medical student, I want a fully qualified surgeon taking care of me. Simple.
This is about providing the best quality ECE education for our children and if the NQF and a rating and assessment process can do that, then bring it on I say!
Research and studies all point to how important early childhood is in achieving the BEST outcomes for children! Having people who aren't quickens in the sector undermines and de values our sector! Have you tried having 30 4 year old children in the room with two staff members? The ratios need to change!! One child just has to wet their pants and another need 1:1 help in an activity and bam the other 28 children are left to fend for themself! Early childhood is the foundation for the test of those children's life they deserve better and I deserve better work conditions! 1 :15 ratio is just to high and not achievable leaving the sector feeling stressed undervalued and overworked!!
Early childhood education and care teachers are exactly that ; qualified teachers. It should remain so if we believe in the importance of the early years as the foundation for future successful learning and social prosperity. If anything teachers should be required to reach higher standards of pedagogical practice and theory to cope with the many demands of this complex social domain.
We as a sector have worked so hard and given so many extra hours making our services perfect for rating and assessment. We have discussed as a team what we do and why we do it and how we can better serve the kindergarten community. For all our hard work to be thrown away as if to say it is not valued or important to improve the status of our profession makes me very disillusioned with what that achieves and who it is assisting. We as educators should be questioned about how we think the new system is working within centres and of we are happy with how it runs. We have worked too hard for it just to be all thrown away.
I am soooo angry about this.
The govt rolled out reforms without a plan as to how they do it, now they are dumbing down what a kindergarten teacher is to meet the demand. How can someone half way through their degree know what the f....k to do!
I've seen second year students, I've been a second year students - you know squat!
You are trivializing the role of a teacher if you think someone 1/2 way through the course has the knowledge required for the job.
I also didn't go to uni and work my but off to have a diploma be my equivalent.
There is so much confusion in the industry as to the names of courses that it is not helping.
The amount of providers offering dodgy courses makes the whole NQF a joke. I have people applying for jobs who can't read, speak or write English, yet they have a Diploma.
You wonder why qualified teachers are leaving the industry - read the above!
Really angry over this!
The rot has to stop now!
If schools can't hire a student teacher to teach, neither should kindergartens hire student teachers to be their Early Childhood Teacher.
All children deserve qualified teachers. We absolutely know that qualifications matter. I think parents (or the wider society) would not be very happy or should it be acceptable with a half trained teacher working at the early childhood sector.
Enough is enough.
Degree Trained Teachers have received a deep university education. This education takes a FULL four years not half of or three quarters of four years.
Do we allow partially trained doctors to be called doctors NO. We too are toying with children's futures.
There is a role for all Early Childhood Educators but there needs to be a deliniation between each level and Teachers need to be recognised and paid for their deep knowledge of Pedagogy and Theory.
Allowing partially trained teachers to be recognised and allowed to teach is not the answer to quality.
LEAVE THE QUALITY SYSTEM alone.
At long last there is a move towards high quality across all Early Childhood Education and there is proven research which shows the higher the quality the better the outcomes for our future, our children.
A major European study of a national sample of over 2000 children, from 114 different centres, from pre-school, private and local authority childcare centres on child development; found significant support for the benefits for quality early years education. The Effective Provision of Pre-school Education (EPPE) Project, A Longitudinal Study, funded by DFEE in England (1997-2003) gives evidence to support the following:
• Duration of attendance in early year’s education is important and early start (under 3 years) is linked to better intellectual development
• The number of months a child attends pre-school continues to have an effect on their progress throughout primary school
• High quality pre-school and early year’s provision combined with a longer duration had the strongest effect on child development
• High quality pre-schooling is related to and improves intellectual and social/behaviour development of children
• Settings where staff have higher qualifications, have higher quality scores and children make more progress
• Disadvantaged children benefit significantly from good quality pre-school experiences, especially where they mix with children from different social backgrounds
• Integrated centres (combining education and care) are more effective than other types of provision in promoting positive child outcomes
• Those children who had no pre-school experience were more likely to be at risk of Special Educational Needs.
Therefore evidence suggests that children need access to quality early learning experiences, with experienced and qualified staff. The implementation of the National Quality Framework (NQF) in monitoring and assessing standards is a requirement in maintaining and improving early years care and education. The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guidelines (QKLG), linked with continuous profession development (CPD) ensures positive outcomes for children and parents and guidance for staff, ensuring quality provision. In order to provide a holistic and quality service, which is fit for purpose, staff need to be qualified, staff are currently qualified using the Certificate III and Diploma in Children’s Services, which combines theory with practise, which is effective within the industry, for educators and senior educators, with a bachelor degree in early years education for early childhood teachers; in order to be competitive within Western society, we need to ensure and implement a solid early years education for the next generation.
A grievance within the industry is the pay scale for educators, senior educators, teachers and directors; there is little advance in wages between educators and senior educators, early childhood teachers are paid less than teachers within the school setting and directors are paid poorly within a management role. Staff are qualified, experienced and are offering a professional service, based on government guidelines, accreditation, curriculum, policies and procedures; we are offering a valuable educational experience, not a babysitting service to children and families. Staff turnover, within the industry is high, within our service there are only six original staff left from when the centre first opened in 2010, out of the twenty four staff. We are on our fourth director and fifth assistant director. Staff leave the industry due to pay, as staff say that they can work at the local supermarket, with less stress, no qualifications for the same pay; as in childcare and early years education, the pay does not reflect the professional service we offer and the demands of the profession, the importance of early years education is unrecognised and undervalued within the industry.
The effects of high staff turnover on the centre, staff, children and families are significant, as evidenced in the study, ‘Caring for a living’, A study On Wages and Working Conditions in Canadian Child-Care, conducted by the Canadian Childcare Federation and the Canadian Day Care Advocacy Association in 1991; with the following findings:
• High caregiver turnover erodes the quality of care
• Changing caregiver often greatly affects a child’s ability to form trusting, loving attachments
• Close to 40% of childcare workers need to be replaced each year.
• Compared to the general work force, childcare workers have a high level of education.
• Low wages, a lack of benefits and adverse working conditions make it difficult for many childcare workers to remain in the profession.
• High staff turnover can lead to negative effects on a child’s long term development and school performance.
The US National Chid-Care Staffing Study, conducted by the Child-Care Employee Project (1989), found that children in centres where there was a high staff turnover lead to low staff morale, low quality of care and found that children were less competent in language and development. Directors also noted that high staff turnover and finding qualified substitutes, is a major problem, as it takes time and money to find and train new employees; more than that there is the adjustment period between the staff, the caregiver and the children.
While poor wages are the major reason caregivers leave the field, a lack of benefits, poor working conditions, little room for career advancement and a severe absence of respect and recognition for the enormity of their job are citied as factors in the high turnover.
In order to maintain quality of service, which benefits the development and education of our children, the future of Australia, we need to maintain standards within childcare and early years education, by ensuring staff are qualified and experienced; maintaining that the profession is monitored by government bodies, through the NQF and positive outcomes are achieved through curriculum, assessment and guidelines (EYLF and QKLG) and staff feel valued, motivated to work in the profession long term, through fair wages, to reduce high staff turnover, which guarantees quality of service and care.
I have been working the industry now for over 12 years and in the last few years i have watched it changed for the better. we used to be labelled ‘baby sitters’ or just ‘childcare minders’, now through the support of the Early years learning Framework and the National Quality Framework and the training that is already provided for us by Goodstart and external companies we can now proudly call ourselves Early years Educators. This is a standard we proudly stand up for not only for our selves but for our children our families and our community. We deserve to be recognised for the hard work we do and the quality care that is provided for our Children. The early years learning framework allows us as educators to provide the support and needs of each child's development. Through Intentional teaching practices, child initiated activities and focusing on their interests and allowing them to explore the world around them. This then is documented and followed on to allow children to use their imaginations and learn from their experiences. The National quality Framework is a guideline to ensure our practices are up to standard to ensure our children are getting quality care. Everyday practices ensure our health and safety, staffing, relationships with children, Family and community involvement, programing, sustainability and management are being reflected and implemented to the highest standard. All educators are responsible for this, and being paid $18 - $24 for most educators doesn't justify for what we provide for the our children. We will end up losing Educators if this doesn't change. We are all very passionate about our career and want to provide the best for our children. We need to recognised for everything we implement for our children Parents and community.
Our Pre-School (Limited Hours, Type 2 Licence) offers part time workers, part-time care and pre-school for their young children. We feel strongly that this type of care should also be recognised as care for working parents - many of our parents are trying to offer their children the best of both worlds by working part time AND spending quality time with their children. Many of our mothers are afraid that if they don't keep their foot in the door, they'll become unqualified and inexperienced when the time comes for them to return to the workforce full time when their children are at school.
In order to encourage mothers to stay in the workforce, limited hour childcare/ occasional care/ pre-school/nannies needs to be also be considered a genuine form of care and must not be disadvantaged by not being able to access the same benefits of those working full time.
We know of many parents who put their children in full time childcare when they only work part time as they can't access assistance from any other type of more flexible childcare eg occasional care/nannies/pre-school/part time childcare services. If different, more flexible childcare options were more affordable (claimable) for parents, I would imagine that childcare places would be freed up and make room for those who genuinely need full days of care.
Thank you for you time.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE FORREST LEARNING CENTRE
Forrest Early Learning Centre, part of Forrest Primary School is situated 35 km south east of Colac in the Otway Ranges. The school has proudly served the rural community since 1885 and the Pre-School commenced operation in 2000. Prior to 2014, School Council held a service agreement to run Preschool and Occasional Care services. In 2014 our new centre based service agreement will alter to reflect the changing needs of the Forrest community, enabling more comprehensive childcare and educational service options.
The school, with a current enrolment of 38 students, has extensive gardens and grounds providing active and passive play areas, and several well maintained play equipment areas. The Early Learning Centre, current enrolment 11, is complete with safe and stimulating outdoor play areas suitable for children under school age. At Forrest we believe that children deserve the opportunity to fulfil their potential. We know this can best occur when children are actively engaged in learning tasks in a safe, positive and supportive environment. To realise these aims we encourage community support with active participation.
Educators work together in a purposeful and professional manner to plan and implement programs. Pre-School and Childcare programs are based upon the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF), which is designed to advance children’s learning and development from birth to eight years of age. The framework provides early childhood professionals with a common language for describing outcomes for children, and describes practice principles to guide early childhood professionals to work together, with children and with families to achieve the best outcomes for every child.
When the need to provide 15 hours of funded Pre-School was first broached with Department of Education and Early Childhood (DEECD) in term 4, 2013, we seized an incredible opportunity to consult with our community and overhaul services to best reflect community need. Many Forrest families had resorted to travelling with their children to childcare centres in both Colac and Birregurra (about 30 minutes by car). Previously Forrest had been used for “In Venue Family Day Care” but the Corangamite Shire withdrew this service in 2013. In 2014, the Birregurra “In Venue Family Day Care” service also closed, again displacing some families. Therefore we needed to act before our families found childcare and eventually a primary school out of Forrest.
Not only do we view our Pre-School and Early Learning Centre as an integral element of our learning community, but the building also facilitates Maternal and Child Health Nurse visits, adding another level of community support for new parents and babies.
Both physical location and social demographic affect our Early Learning Centre. Forrest is situated in the Colac Otway Shire and is considered significantly disadvantaged, as supported by the Australian Early Development Index data (33% of children deemed at risk in one or more of; physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognition, communication skills and general knowledge) and a DEECD determined Student Family Occupations density Index of 0.4274. The physical location of the Early Learning Centre and Primary School is within the DEECD location index level 0.19. The DEECD component determines our school funding levels, and also affects our Pre-School funding (small rural) levels.
PRE-SCHOOL- state funded educational program 4 YEAR OLDS (15 hours a week)
PRE-SCHOOL- locally funded educational program 3 YEAR OLDS (15 hours a week)
Cuddly Koalas CHILDCARE- care for before school aged children, capped at 4 places per session.
Friendly Frogs CHILDCARE- care for before school aged children, capped at 4 places per session.
Awesome Afters- Out of School Hours Care Program for school aged children 5-12years old.
OUR FEE STRUCTURE
Fees and charges have been set by school council, with Pre-School being state funded and OSHC subject to CCB. But in 2014 we have been required to temporarily lower fees for our childcare services to enable more parents to utilise these services which cannot attract CCB. This is not sustainable in the long term so we are looking for a workable solution now and would like to forward some suggestions to the Productivity Commission.
Unfortunately, due to limitations of facilities/ location/ staffing we are unable to offer under school aged childcare programs that attract the federal government Child Care Benefit (CCB). Luckily our Out Of School Hours Care service is registered for the CCB rebate lowering parents’ costs.
We cannot offer a Long Day Care service, which does attract CCB, as our centre is not able to operate for the necessary 8 hours a day, 48 weeks a year. Our limitations on this include; the space being used for our funded Pre-School program 3 days a week, the significant disadvantages of our physical rural location, facilities and the inflexibility of national childcare legislation.
The future is bright for Forrest Early Learning Centre but we need some assistance.
• Recently we were notified that we have been invited to submit a more detailed application for the Early Learning Facility Upgrade Grant 2013-2014. This process must be completed by the end of February 2014, and we await a successful outcome which will enable us to increase our level of capacity and programs and provide a more enriched learning environment.
• On a financial level we require certain legislative changes that will enable us to provide childcare programs which will attract the federal government CCB, therefore making childcare accessible to all families. Perhaps an exemption of service hours may be applicable to remote/ rural areas such as Forrest.
• If a Child Care Management System (CCMS) was integrated into our Departmental Administrative program (Cases21) it would mean less double handling and time wasted.
Thank you very much for taking the time to consider our situation at Forrest. We await your considered report and envision all childcare centres benefitting from this Productivity Commission process.