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Government response to Early Childhood Royal Commission mostly positive but has one major flaw

The State Government should be commended on its focus on 3-year-old universal access to pre-school. We know that 80% of development occurs before the age of five and a child’s readiness for school is a major indicator for later school success.

The Royal Commission (RC) gave this the gravitas it deserves, and whilst the IEU supports the vast majority of the RC’s recommendations, there was one area that we are disappointed the government and the Education Minister (Blair Boyer) has decided to implement.

The creation of a ‘3-year teacher qualification’ has the potential to further undermine the community standing of the Early Childhood teachers as there will be an identifiable difference in their qualifications compared to teachers working in schools. It also has the real risk of entrenching the disparity in salary and conditions that is already a feature of the Early Childhood Sector.

The premise of a 3-year degree was clear – as voiced by an employer at the RC Roundtable – when they said that they needed a mechanism to keep teachers in early childhood to prevent moving into school settings. Their solution was a ‘birth to five (B-5)’ degree which would restrict those teachers to early childhood (pre-school settings).

Whilst we are not opposed to a B-5 degree, it should have the same rigour and standing as other teaching degrees and should be a minimum university level qualification. Anything less will see that standing further degrade.

It was also suggested that a shorter degree will have teachers in the classroom faster. This of course is only true for the first cohort, so it only shortens it by one year.

When we are already seeing record numbers of Special Authorities being granted by the Teachers Registration Board of South Australian for 4th year student to begin work, the gain is marginal.

The IEU strongly argues that the way to keep teachers in early childhood settings is to:

  1. Pay them a competitive salary.
  2. Provide competitive or equal conditions, and,
  3. address the professional restrictions Early Childhood Teachers face — such as contact with other teachers, access to mentoring relationships and ongoing professional development

Only then will we move to a leading Early Childhood Sector where all children truly benefit and ALL teachers become the best that they can be.