EC education suffers as heavy workload, low wages drive early educators out of teaching

A study on the workload of early childhood educators has revealed some alarming trends including long weeks, career uncertainty and high stress levels, potentially leaving the Victorian Government’s three-year-old kinder rollout in jeopardy.

The report shows that early childhood teachers are working eight unpaid hours every week which is contributing to a staggering 66.6 per cent of teachers considering leaving the industry.

AEU Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said the numbers were worrying but sadly not surprising as union members have been consistently saying their workload is having a negative effect on their ability to consistently provide high quality teaching.

“Seeing these numbers on a page is sobering, but this is not a new trend. Early childhood educators are working too many hours, and this is affecting the quality of teaching and learning Victoria’s children are receiving,” said Ms Peace.

The results of the survey, which were collected prior to the pandemic, should be troubling for the Victorian Government which needs to recruit an extra 4,000 early childhood teachers and 2,000 educators to support its statewide three-year-old kinder rollout.

“This report shows that heavy workloads, high stress levels, poor work life balance and low pay all make a career in early childhood unattractive. If the government is going to recruit more staff, it needs to respect and value the work of early childhood educators and provide the resources and conditions needed to support the workforce.”

The union is currently negotiating the early childhood sector’s enterprise agreements and has warned that conditions will need to improve if the sector is going to attract the workforce needed to successfully rollout three-year-old kinder for all Victorian children.

“Currently early childhood teachers and educators do the same work that teachers and support staff do in our schools, yet they are paid considerably less. This is a reminder that conditions need to be improved significantly to retain staff, let alone if we’re going to attract new people to the sector.”

Fairer bargaining agreements will not only support the Victorian Government’s key policy on three-year-old kindergarten, but will also create more jobs, particularly for women, as the state begins to re-build from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have obviously seen major job losses over the last six months, and we know that women have been disproportionately affected. As a predominantly female profession, and one that has been deemed essential during the pandemic, early childhood education presents a fantastic opportunity to help get women back into the workforce.

“If we can improve conditions for early childhood educators and offer attractive pay, conditions and work-life balance then we can not only fulfil the government’s three-year-old kinder rollout but can also get more women back into the workforce.”

The study also found that:

  • 71 per cent of teachers do planning and preparation work on weekends.
  • Just 13 per cent of teachers think their workload is manageable.
  • 43 per cent say their workload has a negative impact on the quality of their teaching.
  • 77 per cent of teachers were stressed in the last month.

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