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Reflections Magazine : Issue 50
The NQF is backed by significant Australian Government investment of $23.1 billion, which includes funding for families, services and the workforce. It commenced on 1 January 2012 and introduced uniform ratios for educators (1:4 educators to babies between 0 and 24 months). Additional ratios and qualification requirements will come into force between now and 2020. To support the NQF, the Australian Government has worked in collaboration with states and territories to develop the national Early Years Workforce Strategy for early childhood education and care. The Strategy was released on 10 September 2012 by the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood (made up of relevant Ministers from the Commonwealth and all states and territories) and is available on the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) website at the following address: http://deewr.gov.au/early-years- workforce-strategy The Strategy demonstrates a commitment by all Australian governments to work in collaboration with the early childhood sector in order to address the immediate priorities for the ECEC workforce, aiming to deliver a sustainable, highly qualified and professional workforce that is flexible and responsive to the needs of children and families. The Strategy aims to ensure that workforce members have the skills to work with other early childhood development professionals, including health and family services, in order to promote a holistic and integrated way of working. A focus on the workforce The Strategy provides the first commitment by all governments to an agreed vision and long-term framework for the ECEC workforce. It will assist in building a highly skilled and capable workforce, therefore fostering high-quality services and improved outcomes for children. Priorities in the Strategy are: • supporting a professional early childhood education and care workforce; • ensuring a growing workforce to continue to meet community demand; • aiding early childhood educators to gain the qualifications and skills the workforce needs to continue to provide high quality care; • fostering the creation of a responsive workforce, one which can address the needs of all children; and • facilitating collaboration amongst members of the broader early childhood development workforce including early childhood educators and teachers. Responsibility for developing a sustainable ECEC workforce is shared between service providers, early childhood educators, peak bodies for the sector (which include unions, the Australian, state, territory and local governments), training providers and families and communities. Through working in collaboration with one another, these stakeholders can drive change and contribute to workforce development for the sector. To ensure that the priorities of the Strategy are achieved, all governments agreed to develop Implementation Plans outlining the available funding and programs for the ECEC workforce. These plans reference a number of initiatives which tackle jurisdiction-specific workforce issues. Over time the plans will be updated in order to include changes or updates to current initiatives, or programs and initiatives which may be developed in the future. The plans are available on the DEEWR website. Key Australian Government initiatives The Australian Government already has several significant programs in place to help educators to acquire and up-skill their qualifications, including: • Providing support for over 8000 people per year, including existing early childhood educators, to gain a vocational education and training qualification in early childhood. Funding has been provided to remove the regulated course fees for Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas in Children's Services, delivered by TAFE institutes, or other recognised government training providers. • Committing $9.2 million in funding over four years for the Recognition of Prior Learning initiative (RPL) aimed at improving the quality and uptake of RPL assessments for early childhood professionals. In recognition of the additional barriers that early childhood educators located in rural and remote areas face in accessing RPL, the initiative will provide additional assistance to existing early childhood educators in inner regional, outer regional, remote and very remote locations wishing to obtain or upgrade their qualifications. • Funding the HECS-HELP Benefit which reduces the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debt of early childhood teachers working in areas of high need, such as regional and remote areas, Indigenous communities and areas of high disadvantage, based on postcode location. The Australian Government Implementation Plan will be released in early 2013.
Reflections Magazine Issue 51