Building a career structure for Educators : The element that must be considered first

You and I need to talk – which is good because talking to people interested in Educators is one of my favourite things. Educators and their future needs to be discussed, with Educators. Educators are learning how to articulate what it is they want. New ideas are coming through now. Now is the time to listen closely – if we actually want to keep any of them that is.

I was talking to a group of Educators recently. They came from a group of differently owned services, covered a span of ages and cultural groupings, and had a range of different qualifications. In this sense, they were typical of the 130 000+ Australian Educators (estimated from ROGS 2020 [1]).

The question placed before them was “What is the most important thing that the people who are working on ideas for the future of early childhood, need to know”. Meeting, Educators, October 2020

Educator 1: I want a career. My career. I want my career to grow. I am expert in what I do. You may not pay me enough. You may not respect my work. You may not respect my qualifications. You may not respect my choice of workplace. None of those things changes the fact that I am expert in what I do – and you need me. [Masters in Education]

Educator 2: If you are working on the future of my profession, and you haven’t ever done my work, let me ask you this – would you treat doctors or teachers this way? Would you assume that you are expert in their role? No? Then why do you think you know enough about my role? I am a professional, you want me to be professional, and in return I want a career. [Bachelor of Science. Masters in Early Childhood (pending)]

Educator 3: I want to go on to do a degree. I am held back by a low salary. Right now I can’t afford a degree. If I want a career here in early childhood it has to pay better. [Diploma in early childhood]

Educator 4: Please come and spend a day here. Then when we go home you can carry my work to my car for me – the work I do at home each night. I am a professional whether you like that or not. I follow the rules of my profession. Every time you change the rules, you just land it on me and then go. Then you talk about my [our] failings in the news like it is all our fault. You ask, yet you don’t support me to achieve. [Certificate III in Early Childhood. Degree in Chemistry.]

Educator 5: Tell them that when I come in to my room in the morning I:

  1. assess each child (using my early childhood development knowledge),
  2. talk to parents (using my parenting studies, social work type skills, often using my health knowledge),
  3. review and amend plans for the day (understanding the principles of practice, project management),
  4. arrange for play experiences and daily life experiences at the level needed for each child, that is led by their growing interests and understandings (using my child development knowledge, Reggio knowledge, Early Years Learning Framework knowledge),
  5. allocate and support staff ( HR knowledge, coaching and mentoring skills, how to solve issues),
  6. monitor and support learning (pedagogical understanding and practice knowledge),
  7. support behaviours (early childhood development knowledge, resilience training, self-regulation systems knowledge, trauma knowledge)
  8. support child and parent health, safety, child protection, nutrition, movement, psychology (knowledge in all of these areas),
  9. analyse learning that happened during the day (pedagogical theory, Learning Frameworks knowledge, National Quality Standards knowledge, policy implementation knowledge, professional teams processes),
  10. and sometimes, I get lunch.

So, what is the one element that must be considered above all others – by those working on a solution for the future of early childhood? According to Educators… a deep knowledge of what they do, why they do it, and what they want in return for it. Otherwise any work in this area will not provide the right solutions, and we will be right back at the beginning again.

Why is this so important?

Educators need a career structure. A recognised career structure will attract Educators, hold up Educators, protect their identity as Educators, and grow Educators to be great Educators. Otherwise – why should we stay? Why would we stay?

‘E’ Educator 1 year.

What is in a Career Structure?

Each Educator’s day with your child, and with other’s children, will be framed and supported by the elements of their career structure.

Can we afford it?

Concern that any increase in Educator employment costs flowing on directly to parents has applied an active brake on any action in this policy area. This brake is applied at government level as well as through the sector owners, as well as in Centres with Educators who have been afraid to ask for more, lest it negatively impact on ‘their’ parents – yet one of the largest parent organisations in the country is an active campaigner for an professionalisation of the sector and increasing Educator remuneration:

“The women and men who teach young children in early childhood education are some of this country’s most dedicated professionals. But right now, educators are paid as little as $22 an hour.

We should pay early childhood educators a professional wage, one that reflects their skills, dedication and the role they play in nurturing and teaching our youngest minds”.[2]

Educators deserve a pay rise (theparenthood.org.au)

Indeed it is often cited that professional recognition and pay increases for Educators will be immediately and irrevocably be passed on to parents. There is a direct line of sight from this thinking to media stories on the impact of Australia’s high education and care fees. Australian childcare costs outstrip increase in government subsidy | Childcare Australia | The Guardian [3] This thinking assumes that there is only one way that education and care can ever and will ever be funded. We know that this is not true – we know what is possible – look at Education.

Is it really possible to make this change in what is an incredibly complex system? From policy and governance perspectives, concern about the potential impact of any increase in employment costs of Educators also comes from the view that the system of funding education and care is so complex that it cannot be changed. We know that this is not true. 2020 provided us with the evidence that substantial change can happen. Coronavirus response-Free child care – Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au) [4]

Summary

  • We know we need to change our thinking.
  • We know that Educators need a career structure and we know what that career structure might look like (see last week’s blog).
  • We know that this will be good for Educators and for children.
  • We know a lot. It’s time to start doing.

Where do we start?

Next week: How we will finally move forward.

References:

1 3 Early childhood education and care – Report on Government Services Productivity Commission (pc.gov.au)

2 The Parenthood The Parenthood is a movement of 68,000 parents, carers and supporters working together to make Australia the best place in the world to be a parent.

3. Media article 2020: The Guardian Newspaper. Australian childcare costs

4. Parliamentary Library Paper: Australian Parliament 2020: Arrangements for free child care.

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