The Greens have today announced a new policy designed to get more qualified early childhood teachers into child care centres, in line with new national regulations requiring all centres to have at least one university-trained early childcare worker by the end of 2013.
The scheme would swap one year of university debt for each year of full-time work in the long day care sector. Teachers who work in regional and remote areas would receive two years of university debt waived for each year spent working full-time. The yearly reimbursement would be capped at $6000 per year.
The Government already offers a similar program of $3488 of university debt reductions per year for university graduates working in areas with acute need, including high density suburbs and regional and remote areas. The Greens are calling on the Government to expand this scheme in the May budget.
According to the Greens, the Treasury estimates the scheme will cost $2.5 million in 2013-2014, with a target of keeping at least 400 teachers in the long day care system. As the Bachelor of Early Childhood Education takes three to four years to complete, the hope is to keep teachers in the system for at least that long.
The long hours and low wages of childcare workers make keeping exceptional and qualified teachers in the centres difficult.
“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,” Greens’ early childhood education and care spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said in a statement. “This is all about keeping the best possible people in the childcare sector, looking after our kids across the nation.”
The Productivity Commission found that 15,000 more workers would be required in the early child care industry over the coming years. Of the 140,000 current employees, the commission found 70% had minimal or no qualifications. Thirty seven per cent of long day child care centres offer a pre-school program that requires a university-trained teacher.
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