March 1, 2020

Call for action on ECE working conditions

Aotearoa’s early childhood education and care sector (ECE) is facing longstanding, complex challenges, including; lack of pay parity, high teacher to child ratios alongside a growing teacher shortage. Thousands of companies and not-for-profit organisations provide ECE services across Aotearoa, leading to a spectrum of service, pay and working conditions for ECE teachers.  

Healthy Families Waitākere is coordinating a strategic working group of organisations involved in the sector to understand and support the wellbeing of ECE kaiako (teacher). Healthy Families Waitākere Lead Systems Innovator, Catherine Powell, explains. 

“Through existing relationships with community, the group undertook a series of interviews with ECE teachers to understand what supports their wellbeing as well as the current challenges they face every day. Key themes emerged at a personal, organisational and national level which we are working to systematically address.” 

To support ECE teacher wellbeing at a personal level, the Heart Foundation (a group member), are delivering a workshop series in West Auckland designed to support ECE teacher health and wellbeing. The workshop series aims to provide information on increasing physical agility to reduce instances of injury (from picking up children etc.), improving nutrition to sustain energy levels and improve sleep patterns, and gardening practices for mindfulness and nutrition.  

In addition, group partners involved in ECE initial teacher education (ITE) are coming together with other ITE’s to research student teachers current understanding of health and wellbeing during their time studying. Catherine continues. 

“The work of Auckland University of Technology, University of Auckland, Unitec and Open Polytechnic will inform the group how students connect their health and wellbeing with their choice of career, offering rich insight into what can be done to support trainee teachers during their time either during study or when entering the workforce.” 

Nationally, Healthy Families Waitākere and South Auckland are looking at ways to influence better working conditions for ECE teachers. Pay parity, teacher to child ratios and the physical environment were identified as high priorities by ECE teachers, seeing the group investigate opportunities across current teaching standards Our Code, Our Standards, and the Ministry of Education’s Early Learning Action Plan. Catherine explains. 

“The current Our Code, Our Standards is entirely student-centric. As a strategic working group, we would like to see more discussion within this document of teacher wellbeing and support mechanisms in place. As it stands, the Early Learning Action Plan is more plan than action. We would like to see a budget and a timeline set against this plan, so goals can be set and gains can be celebrated.”