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Greens to HELP childcare workers stay in the industry



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MEDIA RELEASE

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Greens to HELP childcare workers stay in the industry

The Greens have announced a Treasury costed scheme today that would help to attract hundreds of teachers into childcare centres around the country, while also encouraging them to stay in the industry.

The scheme would see a year of HELP debt waived for every year that tertiary educated teachers remain in the long day care sector (more information on the scheme is included in the media briefing attached).

“Treasury’s analysis has shown that this scheme is affordable, that it will help to attract highly qualified teachers to the childcare industry and that it will encourage them to stay for longer,” the Greens’ early childhood education and care spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said today.

“It is essential that we keep costs as low as possible to help mums and dads who are struggling to make ends meet and this scheme, which adds to the wages of early childhood teachers, will improve the quality of care without increasing the cost to either centres or parents.

“This is all about keeping the best possible people in the childcare sector, looking after our kids across the nation.

“It is a cost effective scheme and, as a nation, we can’t afford not to invest in our children.

“There is a looming and serious shortage of qualified childhood teachers around Australia and the Greens are doing all they can to help create and support those professionals that the industry so desperately needs.

“The Productivity Commissioner’s report into the childcare industry found that 70% of the 140,000 people caring for our children have minimal training or none at all.

“Currently dozens of childcare workers leave the sector each week, and it’s not surprising when you consider that many people who work in the centres are paid less than those who clean them.

“As parents, we expect that the people caring for and educating our children to be qualified.

“Currently this just isn’t the case and it needs to be fixed.

“Considering how important it is to attract people to the industry, and encourage them to stay, I am calling on the government to support this scheme.”

Media Contact: Noah Schultz-Byard 0427 604 760

Media Briefing

The Greens’ Rewarding Quality Early Childhood Teachers Scheme

The Greens have today released a Treasury costing of their new HELP waiver scheme - Rewarding Quality Early Childhood Teachers.

The scheme is designed to attract and keep tertiary qualified early childhood teachers in the Long Day Care workforce, where they are so critically needed with the introduction of the National Quality Framework.

The Greens understand that affordable, flexible childcare is essential for parents, and especially mothers, who want to participate equally in the workforce. In announcing the Rewarding Quality Early Childhood Teachers scheme we are helping to attract and retain highly qualified workers to the childcare industry, without increasing the costs for Australian families.

How the scheme will work

From 1 July 2013, graduates of a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) who have a HELP debt will receive a waiver of a year’s worth of their debt for every year they continue to teach full time in a Long Day Care centre. This would keep them in the Long Day Care workforce for at least four years and reduce their principle HELP debt by around $6000 per year.

ECEC workers who go to high need areas, such as regional and remote Australia, will have two years’ worth of HELP debt waived for each year spent working in long day care.

Treasury has estimated this initiative will keep at least 400 teachers in Long Day Care in the first year alone, at a cost to the government of just $2.5 million in 2013-2014. The rate of attraction and retention of teachers is expected to rise thereafter.

Crucially, this scheme will encourage 160 ECEC employees to remain in disadvantaged, remote and regional areas that are regularly the hardest to staff.

This scheme will also encourage many more graduates from ECEC degrees to choose to enter the Long Day Care sector after graduating, whereas now more than half of them may be choosing to work in different fields.

Why do we need more Early Childhood Teachers?

Australia is currently embarking on reforms to improve the quality of early childhood education and care by rolling out compulsory national standards.

One aspect of these standards is to phase in higher minimum qualifications for staff in preschool and Long Day Care centres.

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By the 1 January 2014, every preschool and long day care service must employ at least one early childhood teacher. The hours or days that the teacher must be working at the centre increases if the centre cares for higher numbers of children.

The Productivity Commissioner’s December 2011 research report stated that 29% of current childcare workers in Australia are not qualified to meet the National Quality Standard standards by 1 January 2014. Attracting and keeping early childhood teachers is known to be the most difficult part of the skilling-up process, and this scheme will give the sector a significant boost at the right time.

The roll out of the National Quality Standards through to 2020 could require up to 3000 more qualified teachers, many of whom are needed in Long Day Care, but centres currently struggle to hold onto them because they are often underpaid and leave for work in other places such as primary schools where conditions are better.

The Facts

- The Productivity Commissioner’s report has showed that, of the 140,000 people employed in the long day care sector, 70% have minimal or no qualifications.

- 15,000 more employees will be needed and the average level of workers’ qualifications will also need to be increased.

- The demand for qualified early childhood teachers in Australia’s 5500+ long day care centres will increase over coming years, but it will be especially dire in the lead up to 1 Jan 2014. This scheme will substantially fill the gap in the short term.

- Early childhood teachers were on the National 2011-12 Skills Shortage List at March 2012.

- 37% of Long Day Care centres around Australia deliver a pre-school program, which will require them to have a qualified teacher with 4 year bachelor degree. The Greens’ new scheme announced today provides a solid incentive for quality teachers to enter, stay in the workforce and deliver those programs.

- In 2009 there were 2300 graduates from ECEC university courses - so by retaining at least 400 to start with, the Greens are securing a potential workforce the equivalent of nearly a fifth of a graduating class.

- The Productivity Commission’s 2011 report noted that wages were the critical aspect of attracting and retaining early childhood teachers. This scheme acts as a wage subsidy without any cost to parents or centres.

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- The Productivity Commission’s 2011 report into the childcare sector found that the

government’s existing HELP/HECS benefit for early childhood teachers is not achieving its goal of attracting early childcare teachers to the industry, because as a $1600 subsidy it is not generous enough to displace the competing attraction of primary teaching. The existing benefit is also only available to teachers in certain postcodes.

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