Australian Early Childhood Teacher Education Network (AECTEN)

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Submission received

Submitter information


Australian Early Childhood Teacher Education Network (AECTEN)

Where are you located?

New South Wales

What type of area do you live in?


Are you an education professional?
(e.g. teacher, school leader, learning support assistant, teacher’s aide)


Elevating the profession

The actions proposed recognise the value teachers bring to students, communities and the economy.

Somewhat agree

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

We welcome the inclusion of early childhood teachers (ECTs) in the proposed targeted national campaign to raise the status and value the role of teachers.

We support all proposed initiatives, however, there is scope for the Plan to elevate the professional standing of ECTs by ensuring that each of these strategies include explicit attention to teachers who work with children aged birth-5 years, and in prior-to-school settings e.g., include an ECT stream in the proposed Australian Teacher of the Year awards; set ECT HALT targets.

The current limited attention to early childhood teachers in the Draft Plan, particularly those who are not employed in schools, reinforces an entrenched deficit positioning of ECTs and is contrary to the ‘One Teaching Profession’ promoted in the recent Review of Teacher Registration in Australia, which stated, “A consistent theme in our consultations has been that teachers want to be considered part of one profession” (p. i).

More explicit attention to ECTs and links to the Early Childhood Workforce Strategy in each priority area of the National Action Plan has much potential to elevate the status of all teachers.

Recognition of the value of the work teachers do needs to be tangible and reflected by improved wages and conditions. This remains a key omission of the Action Plan.

Improving teacher supply

The actions proposed will be effective in increasing the number of students entering ITE, number of students completing ITE and the number of teachers staying in and/or returning to the profession.

Somewhat disagree

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

We welcome the initiatives listed in this priority area.

There is scope for some tailoring of these initiatives to support the supply of ECTs employed to work with children birth-5 years, particularly those in prior-to-school settings. In particular, given that dual early childhood-primary (i.e. Birth-12) programs have been shown to provide birth-5 teachers with a pathway out of early years teaching, priority for CSPs and bursaries could be given to students enrolled in B-5, B-8, or primary and secondary degree programs.

There is an urgent need to attract and retain skilled ECTs in areas of disadvantage. We support an exploration of avenues to extend the High Achieving Teachers program to early childhood services in low SES, rural, and remote areas

Incentives are needed to support international student graduates to remain in Australia and work as a teacher. Anecdotal evidence suggests that having early childhood teachers on the priority skilled occupation list attracts international students to enrol in an ECT degree as a means to gain permanent residency, and not necessarily to ever work as an ECT.

For ECTs, there is a tension between the need for students to have practical experience in the classroom, and being able to afford taking time away from paid employment to meet these practicuum requirements. This tension is proving to be a key barrier in EC ITE students completing their degree, and in diploma-qualified educators upgrading their qualification to a degree. Paid professional experience placements will support preservice teacher retention and graduate supply.

Strengthening Initial Teacher Education (ITE)

The actions proposed will ensure initial teacher education supports teacher supply and quality.

Somewhat agree

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

We urge the Draft Plan’s working group to extend actioons to address issues specific to early childhood ITE. The Early Years Workforce Strategy intends to review requirements for ECT programs as a medium-term action. More urgent attention is needed.

AECTEN members hold strong concerns about policy shifts that are potentially compromising how well-prepared ECT graduates are to work with children birth-5. Specific concerns are:
• the fast tracking of degree programs without due consideration to graduate quality;
• the offering of dual birth–12 years ITE programs can be problematic due to: limited/inadequate coverage of early education specific to birth-five years; limited professional experience and internships with the birth-five age group; and the offering of a pathway away from early childhood non-school settings (birth-five) into schools.
* variable awarding of credit for previous study by higher education institutions to bachelor candidates with relevant diploma qualifications. Such credit ranges from two units to two years of study.
• teaching in EC programs being undertaken by academics with no qualifications or expertise specific to birth–five years and teaching in non-school settings.

- Review the efficacy of birth–12 ITE programs.
- Review professional experience requirements in all EC degree programs with a view to ensuring robust minimum placement days with children aged birth–two and three–five years.
- Pause further accrediting of abridged EC degree programs until a review of their efficacy and capacity to produce fit for purpose ECTs is established.
- Explore robust entry requirements for international students into early childhood ITE programs (IELTS requirements and how these are applied in practice).
- Explore partnerships between VET and HEIs for improved and paid articulation pathways
Introduce a nationally consistent approach to the approving of credits for diploma qualifications following a quality assurance review of RTOs and determine credit limits that support quality teacher graduates.
- Strengthen requirements in HE that requires EC teacher programs to be taught by qualifified EC academics

Maximising the time to teach

The actions proposed will improve retention and free up teachers to focus on teaching and collaboration.

Somewhat agree

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

While the early childhood sector is supportive of the National Quality Framework – Australia’s system of regulation and quality assurance for early childhood education services – associated administrative burden has been identified as impacting on the time ECTs have to work with young children .

The need to address administrative burden, and improve the time ECTs have to teach, is not addressed in the Early Childhood Workforce Strategy or the Draft Plan.

There is an urgent need for consultation with the early childhood sector to explore options aimed at maximising the time ECTs have to teach.

Better understanding future teacher workforce needs

How effective are the proposed actions in better understanding future teacher workforce needs, including the number of teachers required?

Moderately effective

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

AECTEN supports the need for national data to inform teacher workforce planning, including data that is specific to preservice and graduate ECTs.

The Early Childhood Workforce Strategy will, within the next three years, develop a national workforce census to be administered every three years. This data collection, however, will not include data on early childhood preservice teachers or early childhood ITE completion rates.

We support a national approach to teacher registration, noting that recommendations specific to ECTs from AITSL’s One Teaching Profession: National Review of Teacher Registration require attention:
that is, a unified national system of teacher registration that is inclusive of and relevant to early childhood teachers who choose to teach in non-school settings, and:
- Is overseen by AITSL and the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority
- Adopts inclusive professional teaching standards that are relevant to the practice of ECTs who work with children in the birth-5 years age group in non-school settings
- Provides ECTs employed in early childhood non-school settings with funding to access quality professional development and mentors
- Ensures national mutual recognition of graduates from Birth-5 ITE programs

In EC education, the National Quality Framework refers to the regulation and quality assurance of EC education services. Alternative nomenclature to guide teacher regulatory authorities is therefore preferable.

Research is needed to explore the influence of ATAR scores/academic performance at school on EC ITE course completion and graduate quality of early childhood teachers; those employed in schools and those in early childhood non-school settings. There is some evidence to suggest that motivation to teach, personal qualities and dispositions may contribute to teaching effectiveness and retention within the early childhood teaching profession, but again, further research in this area is needed. Why students enrol in early childhood ITE programs, why they leave or stay, and what factors support student retention and graduate quality, are being explored in a developing early childhood teacher workforce study.

Better career pathways to support and retain teachers in the profession

The proposed actions will improve career pathways, including through streamlining the process for Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher (HALT) accreditation, and providing better professional support for teachers to retain them in the profession.

Somewhat agree

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

While there are challenges to the recruitment and retention of specialist early childhood teachers in schools, these are heightened in early childhood non-school settings. Key barriers extending beyond initial teacher education prohibit attracting suitable preservice teachers and retaining them in the profession post-graduation, the most significant being low wages and poor working conditions. Early childhood teachers employed in early childhood non-school settings have long experienced a lack of pay parity with teachers employed in schools, earning up to $30,000 less than their primary and secondary counterparts despite having equivalent teaching qualifications and, in most jurisdictions, being professionally registered and accountable to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Until pay parity is established, attracting, and retaining qualified and experienced early childhood teachers will remain a critical barrier to the provision of high-quality early childhood education, irrespective of any other strategies that are put into place.