It has never been so important to support Australia’s early childhood workforce. The challenges of COVID-19 have caused many early childhood educators to consider leaving the sector, placing the availability of early childhood education and care (ECEC) at risk. The crisis has also shown how highly Australians value ECEC as an essential service for the economy and society.

Back in February 2020, the Mitchell Institute brought together 33 researchers with expertise in ECEC workforce development to a national roundtable to generate evidence-based policy ideas. This report presents these ideas, to inform the National ECEC Workforce Strategy due for release in 2021.

The policy proposals cover four stages of an ECEC career, from making the decision to enter the ECEC sector, through to ongoing professional learning and career development.

They include:

  • a national approach to achieving professional pay and conditions for all early childhood educators, including co-investment models between governments and employers
  • a national campaign to promote ECEC careers, emphasising the benefits of ECEC for children’s learning and development, and for Australia’s economic productivity
  • high-quality education and training for all educators, including better consistency in vocational education and training, and university courses that prepare teachers to work with all age groups
  • additional support to beginning educators, as well as to those who may require additional support with English language, literacy or numeracy to reach their full potential
  • new national standards for educator wellbeing to ensure that ECEC services look after educators’ physical and emotional health, and set clear expectations for educators’ workloads
  • investment in professional learning, leadership development, and specialisations (such as working with vulnerable communities), to enable educators to pursue rewarding careers.

The policy proposals in the paper are designed to help governments develop and implement the National ECEC Workforce Strategy, and consult with the ECEC sector, families and communities.

Authors

Jen Jackson
Education Policy Lead, Mitchell Institute