Early childhood education and care is not babysitting — and never will be

Educators across Australia have certainly enjoyed a period of more elevated recognition in recent months and years, but the true extent of just how vital the educator profession is to children, the community and society at large is still vastly under-appreciated. Many still don’t understand that early childhood education and care is not babysitting.

This is despite more and more evidence from researchers confirming the developmental benefits of engaging with early learning, coupled with the steadily increasing number of children participating in early learning programs. 

So why is one of the most valuable professions in Australia, and the role educators play, still perceived in many instances as ‘nothing more than babysitting?’ And what is being done to change this inaccurate portrayal?  

As a central partner to early learning organisations and a crucial interface between thousands of families and their children in care, Xplor Education has long been working towards creating solutions that ensure that passionate and engaged educators can deliver high-quality education more efficiently day in and day out. 

Early learning is skilled work

To be a successful educator, an individual doesn’t just have to obtain a qualification. 

It’s not quite as simple as that. To be a successful educator, an individual must also gain valuable experience and be prepared to learn about not only caring for and educating children but also communicating each child’s journey effectively to families. 

The combination of skills required to be a genuinely effective educator extends well beyond what has historically been a babysitter’s role. 

Documentation, observations, activity setting, communications, system awareness, compliance and regulations, collaboration, innovation, teamwork and empathy are just some of the skills and qualities required. 

“What this means is that beyond gaining a formal qualification, early childhood professionals must also commit to a culture of ongoing professional learning. This takes time, money and effort, but ultimately leads to a more skilled and effective workforce—a workforce most certainly deserving of professional recognition…and pay!” Sarah Louise Gandolfo, Founder—Learning to Lead in Early Childhood said. 

How can anyone not understand that early childhood education and care is not babysitting? 

A young boy plays with blocks at a childcare centre

The pay problem

Part of the reason could well be that educators’ pay levels are still well below a level deemed to be professional in the eyes of the public. 

For example, the average salary for a cashier, as determined by Indeed, is $26.30, but a Level 3.1 Certificate III qualified educator receives just $26.18. And that’s only after finishing the necessary coursework, which costs several thousand dollars and takes at least six months to complete. 

How can that be fair and equitable? 

In short, it’s not. The historic underpayment of educators has undoubtedly contributed to widespread community perceptions of early learning as being nothing more than babysitting. This has likely significantly contributed to the workforce shortage that has gripped the sector since COVID-19. 

But is there anything being done about this? Is there change on the horizon? Fortunately, the answer to that question is yes. 

Wage negotiations are likely to see ECEC Award rates step higher

In mid-2023, a group of unions lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission to begin wage negotiations with employers across the ECEC sector. 

The intention was to reach an agreement with providers to raise the base rate of educator wages by a fixed amount, similar to what occurred in the Aged Care sector in 2021. 

At this juncture, the results of the negotiations have yet to be made public, but the sector broadly anticipates an increase will be agreed upon, with support from the Government to fund it. 

Should it be successful, educators may see their wages rise by as much as 15 per cent and put an end to the historic underpayment that has prevented hardworking educators from being appropriately recognised for their work. 

But it doesn’t end there. 

Organisations like Xplor Education continue to work on supporting quality early education 

Importantly, efforts to raise the profile of educators don’t just end with unions and associations advocating behind the scenes. 

Companies like Xplor Education, which have significant reach and impact within the ECEC community, are continuously looking at ways to innovate to reduce administrative burdens and provide educators with the tools they need to do what they love doing more efficiently. 

That’s why, during Xplor Education’s free OSHC Week virtual event, which runs through 15 March, experts from the OSHC sector will provide educators with tailored webinars to facilitate knowledge sharing and networking among OSHC/OOSH providers. 

Coordinators, assistant coordinators and educators at OSHC/OOSH services are invited to attend one or more of these practical webinars to discuss real-world solutions shaping how their services operate.

For more information on Xplor Education’s efforts to support the ECE sector, please book a demonstration