10 August 2019
Exploitation of teachers in ECE is rife in the sector and unqualified teachers are by no means excluded from this exploitation.
The workload and expectations placed on unqualified teachers by employers has risen to an unacceptable level.
Unqualified teaching staff commonly work for the minimum adult wage of $17.70 an hour, or slightly above.
They can also be expected to take on the responsibilities of teachers, and even head teachers due to service providers either not being able, or willing, to take on a qualified teacher for the role.
The reasons for this can only be speculated upon but may be driven by factors such as inability to find suitable qualified teachers, a desire to make greater profit, and a need to reduce staffing costs to fund other costs over which a service may have little control, like rising property rates and insurance premiums.
There is no shortage of passion and dedication from unqualified teaching staff. They are incredibly hard workers with a strong work ethic and many remain loyal to their employers for 5, 10, or more years.
However, they can be seen to deserve to “put up with what they get” regarding pay and working conditions due to the fact that they are unqualified.
Unqualified teaching staff are in a vulnerable position because if they complain they may have their hours of work reduced or even lose their job.
Hayley* (an unqualified teacher) describes a situation where she is given extra responsibilities, fulfilling responsibilities of a qualified teacher and more.
“I'm head teacher of my room whilst attending to another room’s responsibilities. On occasions where the manager is away, I am left dealing with expenditure, new inquiries, enrolments and managing the team. A lot of responsibility for an "unqualified" right?
“There are teachers who have been at the centre longer than me, a lot longer, yet I have all that responsibility! I know I didn’t study for the right to be a teacher, but I know I do a darn good job but guess what I get paid... all because I haven't gone to university? Not more than $21”.
Situations such as Hayley’s also bring attention to whether services are complying with legal requirements.
When questioned, Hayley was unsure of who the ‘person responsible’ was, for her service.
Regardless of the availability of qualified teachers in the service, this indicates that Hayley has been taking the role of ‘person responsible’ while not having the necessary qualifications.
Another unqualified teacher Cherie* found herself in the position of opening the service alone and having sole responsibility for two to three under-2s for half an hour until a qualified teacher arrived, thereby breaching the requirement of an early childhood trained teacher being on site, placing her as an unqualified teacher in a position that is both illegal and unfair.
Highly competent but unqualified teaching staff can find themselves undervalued while helping student teachers and those who are qualified to develop their skills on the job.
Hayley has dedicated many extra hours of hard work, professional development and self-directed study to improve her practice and develop a high level of competency.
However as for obtaining the bit of paper that says she is qualified, Hayley says:
“Long term. It's not teaching unfortunately. If I’m going to get a student loan and dedicate to studying it’s going to be something else. I think teaching is a dying career. Over worked under paid.”
Hayley is not alone in her situation.
Many unqualified teachers are finding themselves in situations where they are overworked for little reward.
And, there is little incentive to become qualified given the cost of training and the fact that after qualification pay may still be as little as only $22 - $23 an hour.
While Hayley herself acknowledged that it is her choice to remain unqualified - employers have an obligation to either give higher responsibilities to teachers who are qualified or pay unqualified staff members the wages they deserve if they are taking on higher responsibilities.
Are you an unqualified teacher who is experiencing a similar situation?
* real names have not been used to protect people's identity.