Same pay, same conditions. That’s the recommendation from UniSA’s education experts for a new preschool teacher workforce ahead of the final report from the Early Childhood Royal Commission.
Due to land before the end of August, the Royal Commission will provide clear recommendations for children’s education in the early years prior to starting school.
But while the State Government has committed to providing preschool for children aged from three years, this is set against the backdrop of an already stretched preschool teacher workforce, making it challenging to attract future teachers.
Statistics report that less than a quarter of current teachers would recommend a career in teaching, and that seven in ten say that being overworked and stressed is stopping them from thriving at work.
Program Director for UniSA’s Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and Master of Teaching (Early Childhood), Dr Susie Raymond, says the turbulent teacher conditions makes it hard to draw people into the profession.
“It’s no secret that teachers continue to be under significant stress. They have excessive workloads and high levels of burnout,” Dr Raymond says.
“They also work well above the hours for which they are paid, so when we’re talking about making the profession more appealing, there’s a long road to travel.
“The starting point must be recognising, acknowledging, and valuing early childhood teachers who are already in the profession. And a big part of this is ensuring they are supported properly.”
While the Commission’s interim report recognises the significance of a child’s first five years to their learning and development, experts say a dedicated birth-five degree is needed to appropriately cater for our youngest citizens.
“In South Australia, UniSA is the number one provider of education and we’re in the top 100 globally for education. And despite our degrees being recognised as world class, there is no degree solely dedicated to the birth to five age group.
“We certainly have the experts to teach a birth to five early childhood education, but this requires the Teacher Registration Board of SA to work with ACECQA to accredit this degree and in turn register graduates.
“Such a degree would ensure that graduates have the knowledge and passion for working specifically with young children in the prior to school sector.
“Importantly, it would ensure graduates could be employed by Government preschools and childcare centres with the same pay and conditions as any other teacher in SA, specifically primary and secondary trained teachers.
“If we want to improve the outcomes for young children, then we must start with how we attract and train early childhood education teachers at university.
“While this may seem a challenge, it’s really an opportunity for SA to again become the leaders in how we think about and prioritise early childhood education for our youngest citizens.”