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Early childhood educator qualifications

Early childhood educators – such as child care workers and preschool teachers – have a key role in supporting your child’s learning. To do this important job well, they need to be well qualified.

Learning from birth

Children learn right from birth.

You might think that there’s plenty of time for learning once your child gets to school, but learning actually starts long before that – at home with you, and in other settings such as child care, preschool and kindergarten.

One of the key ways children learn in their early years is through play. Whether it’s reading books and singing songs, making animal noises or building a tower of blocks, it’s all learning.

Why qualifications are important

For early childhood education and care services to develop high-quality programs that support your child’s learning, they need skilled staff. Staff need a range of skills to give children opportunities to try new things, play games, ask questions, get attention and interact well with their educators and other children.

Like professionals in any other field, early childhood educators get their skills through training and qualification.

Good training and the right qualifications help staff to:

  • provide better care for your child 
  • support your child in learning how to think, manage feelings and get along with others
  • build positive, supportive relationships with you, your child and your family
  • respond to children and families from a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds.

If you’re thinking about an education and care service for your child, you might like to ask staff at the service about their programs and their staff qualifications.

Good-quality services will be able to tell you how they build positive relationships with children and how they encourage learning and development through play and other activities.

Educator qualifications and ratios

To make sure they’re giving children quality care, early childhood education and care services must follow rules about:

  • qualifications – how well educated and trained staff must be
  • ratios – how many educators there must be per number of children in a classroom or child care space.

The rules about qualifications that you should expect to see being followed in your early education service include the following:

  • From 1 January 2014, education and care services must employ an early childhood teacher. Teachers must have an approved bachelor degree qualification. 
  • At least half of educators in a service must have or must be working towards a diploma-level qualification.
  • All other educators must have or must be working towards a certificate-level qualification
  • From 2020, education and care services with 60 or more children must employ a second early childhood teacher.

The rules about ratios that you should expect to see being followed in centre-based services in most states and territories include the following. From 1 January 2016, there should be:

  • one educator to every four children aged 0-24 months
  • one educator to every five children aged 25-35 months
  • one educator to every 11 children aged 3 years up to and including preschool age.

From 1 January 2014, family day care services must have one educator to every seven children, with no more than four of those children being preschool age or younger.

Your education and care service will keep following the ratios in your state or territory until the new ratios come into effect.

There are some differences in these ratios across states and territories. To check the ratios in your state or territory, you can contact the appropriate state or territory regulatory authority.

Government plans and policies

Australian state, territory and local governments are supporting early childhood educators to build their skills and qualifications through two key plans:

  • the National Quality Framework
  • the National Early Years Workforce Strategy.

The National Quality Framework (NQF) aims to raise quality in early education and care services, and also to help services keep getting better at what they do.

The National Early Years Workforce Strategy aims to improve the skills of early childhood educators and make sure there are enough educators to give Australian children quality care and learning opportunities in the years before they start school.

Impact of government policy on child care costs
You might worry that the National Early Years Workforce Strategy means that education and care services will charge higher fees, because more highly qualified and trained staff will cost more to employ. 

If child care costs are an issue for you, you might be able to get financial help from the Australian Government. This help can reduce your child care costs a lot, so it’s worth finding out what your family might be able to get.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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