EARLY childhood centres have been left grasping for skilled workers after a $30,000 salary difference drove teachers towards more gainful education sectors.
The Independent Education Union will soon lodge an equal pay claim to the Fair Work Commission on behalf of all university-qualified early childhood teachers in a hope to close the gap.
Early childhood teacher and director of three Newcastle early childhood centres, Emma Martin, said the sector’s ‘‘poor conditions’’ of long hours, short lunch breaks (or none at all) and four weeks’ annual leave were not compensated by the low pay.
‘‘Early childhood teachers aren’t going to come to us with this huge pay gap,’’ she said.
Ms Martin said early childhood teachers were often seen as ‘‘babysitters’’, as opposed to teachers, and were remunerated accordingly, despite needing the same qualifications as a primary school teacher.
She said it was understandable graduates took their skills to other sectors with shorter hours, more holidays and a higher salary.
‘‘I have a family too; I know where I’d rather be.’’
However, a love of her work has kept her in the job.
She said it was sad the sector had lost some of its most passionate because of unequal pay, and feared children’s development would be compromised if the federal government did not better the conditions in the early education sector soon.
Research has shown 85percent of a child’s brain development occurs before the age of three and that early education during this period puts them in a strong position for their future.