parent opinion

'I'm an Early Childhood Educator. I don't know if I have another year of this in me.'

I am an Early Childhood Teacher, working in a system under complete pressure.  

This pressure is not unique to our sector and I am certainly not oblivious to that faced by health care, hospitality, transport and so on.   

We are in a situation that only Hollywood could have written a script for. While I acknowledge the challenges faced by all other sectors, I have to advocate for mine.  

Watch: Characters who would OWN the pandemic. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

Early Childhood Education and Care is a complex workplace.  

Long day care settings are funded through federal chains, as well as parent fees.  

'Stand alone' Kindergartens are funded by state and federal measures, along with parent fees.  

Individual centres within all of these funding arrangements may be managed by private owners or businesses, cluster managed by organisations such as YMCA, managed by local councils or, in my situation, a volunteer Committee of Management made up of parents whose children attend.  


My employer changes yearly. Unlike teachers in school settings, our employment is localised.

Our sector is under pressure from this virus, compounded with loss of staff due to fatigue, retirement or leaving the sector, often due to burnout.  

I know that feeling well and am holding on right now. We are trying to recruit new staff and have so few applicants, it’s going to be a challenge to employ someone.  

The staff challenges are real. So real, in fact, that teachers in the secondary school system are being invited to undertake a Certificate III in ECEC (a minimum qualification for the sector) so they can then teach in early childhood settings.  

This doesn’t help the education sector overall and undermines the importance of study and knowledge of early childhood development in order to work effectively with children, families, colleagues and employers.

We are regulated by a national system, which gives responsibilities to the states and territories to maintain compliance.  

In Victoria, this is the Department of Education and Training.  

We’ve previously been part of Health and Human Services.  We used to be under the Ministerial responsibilities of the Minister of Education, however now have a Minister for Early Childhood.

For two years, I have lead a small team of educators who have been as equally dedicated to keeping children and families safe as I have.  


We have followed every direction (even when others weren’t, which created anger and angst among families, particularly when their children were attending more than one centre).  

We have waited and waited for support and direction from Department of Education and Training.  

Announcements would be made at press conferences and the calls and emails from families would begin, however the details from DET were often received days later.  

Unlike our school counterparts, we were not provided with actual materials for cleaning or PPE.  

We did receive grants to purchase these, but just like rapid antigen tests, sanitiser, gloves and masks were beyond challenging to find during the initial phase of the pandemic.    

Unlike our school counterparts, we were not teaching solely remotely.  

We were on site with children of permitted workers (which was the vast majority in my case in 2021, very different to 2020), while also supporting a small cohort at home.   

It certainly wasn’t fair to disengage with children whose parents weren’t able to complete permits or who were choosing to keep their children home out of concern for their health and the health of their community.  

We were creating curriculum and learning opportunities for children on site and at home. It truly was a double workload.


Much of the discussion about early childhood in the last two years has revolved around parents’ needs.   

I am a parent and I totally understand the complexities of trying to support children at home, while continuing to work.  

There was some focus and discussion about children (predominantly about not being as adversely affected by the virus as adults).  

There has been little to no discussion about the impact on the early childhood staff.

As we enter a new “phase”, with Omicron, the challenges continue and yet are vastly different.   

The vaccine has been available for teenagers for some time and is becoming available for primary school-aged children.  

The children I work with are not eligible for vaccines and remain vulnerable to COVID-19, in all its variants.  

Add to that, these children can not socially distance! (Nor is that even something that is appropriate during these vital early childhood years, where connection with peers is so important for every aspect of development.)  

These children are at risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it.

So, for now, we will begin our year with continued pressure to keep our communities safe.  

Our environments are not considered to be “close contact”, despite spending over seven hours a day with the groups we teach.  


A positive case in a group of children will not see the whole group of staff at home isolating. 

 The continued discussion about using RATs is problematic, given their ongoing scarcity. We really are trying to fend off the inevitable.

We have moved most of our programs to the outdoor learning environment. However, it’s also not always safe or practical to be outside due the layout of various spaces.  

During arrival and departures, we need to be inside at our centre. Going into the year, where we regularly see temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius and extreme UV, keeping children outside for 7 hours is a safety issue also.  

We are continually faced with making decisions about the welfare of children, with little or no support from regulatory bodies.  

The communication is generalised and, on occasion when I’ve tried to seek clarification or more detail it’s taken a few days for contact to be made and then I was told “it’s up to the individual centre”.  

We need a supportive and collaborative space. We need backup.

We are doing everything we can, but I feel very alone. And, in all honesty, I’m not sure I have another year of this in me.  

I love teaching. I love the children I work with. The community we build through the year is a highlight of my job.  


The ongoing jibes about the “holidays” are farcical. I’ve spent much of my “holidays” trying to arrange new staff, managing changing enrolment situations for families and liaising with a brand new Committee of Management about all of this.  

I don’t actually remember the last day I didn’t think about or do work, but I know it has been at least three years.  

This job has become more about managing requirements and misdirected parental anger about government directives, than teaching and learning.  

We don’t have a “director” or administrative person to deal with this. The teaching staff do it all.

When you return to your early childhood setting with your child this year, please keep in mind that we too are under pressure.  

We are planning to welcome new families and build the sense of community that underpins our practice.  

We want our Kindergarten space to be as inviting as it can be, providing the superb learning opportunities that strengthen children’s existing opportunities, while collaborating with families for future learning.   

We just can’t keep doing all of that, manage the regular regulatory responsibilities and the ongoing and ever-changing requirements in relation to coronavirus without consequence for our sector.

Feature Image: Getty.

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