318 – Equality is not equity: Challenges facing early childhood teachers

Presentation - ECV2022-318

Equality is not equity: Challenges facing early childhood teachers

Anne McLeod, Charles Sturt University, Australia (anmcleod@csu.edu.au)

Background: The discussion of equity in education continues as a contentious debate around funding, expectations and transparency, with numerous government reports published on these topics since the early 2000s. This research examines equity—in terms of employment conditions of early childhood teachers and school teachers.The concern for equity between the two sectors of the same profession is not contained to the payment of wages but also the conditions of employment.

Aim: The primary focus was to understand the obstructions for equity to be achieved for those working in early childhood education and care (ECEC) as early childhood teachers.

Method: Data collection involved reviewing school records, policy documentation and political and historical commentary including using archival data from records or documents that are related to a specific group. Furthermore, in line with the current access to digitisation, it used online communication, documentation and media as data sources to provide a clearer understanding of the concept or cluster of data being examined. It also used the work of Johnson and Standing to understand the impact of workplace issues which included pay and working conditions, and professional standards,including accreditation and registration.

Results: In Australia, funding availability is directly affecting how schools and services are being catered for, both in personnel and physical resources. To fully understand the impact of remuneration, the terms wage and salary provide an insight into the contrast in the pay and working conditions for those in early childhood, and those in schools. The use of the term wage is only used in the early childhood sector, whereas in the school environment, even teaching assistants are permanently employed and paid a salary. This links to a reliance on the market to drive the system. This in turn has led to more privatisation of early childhood services alongside the growth in out of hours care for those children attending school.

Conclusions: While renumeration, conditions and community perception contribute to the inequity of early childhood teachers it is the failure of the government to support and engage in discussions to seek answers for the growing need of affordable and sustainable early childhood education within Australia that is clearly noted. These comments and realisation draw close to the early childhood teacher being classified as the ‘precariat’. It is however noted that the accreditation and registration of early childhood teachers in NSW are aligned to those in schools.

Implications for children and families: You need early childhood teachers and educators to provide ongoing care and education for your children. Likewise you need to be able to afford this and know with confidence you have the best people educating and caring for your children

Implications for practitioners: Your expertise and drive for equity is seen and applauded. You have a voice and passion and striving to make a difference; you are not alone.

Key words: equity, professionalising the profession, equality, early childhood teachers, teaching, educator, school teacher

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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