How Safe are Early Childhood Education Workplaces? Survey Results

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How Safe are Early Childhood Education Workplaces?  Results of a Dec 2014 Survey

Full reference:  Alexander, S. (2016).  How safe are early childhood education workplaces? Survey results.  Wellington, NZ: ChildForum. Retrieved from 

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The information contained in the following report was gathered during a survey of early childhood education services carried out by ChildForum which included questions about the quality of ECE services, job satisfaction and employment conditions.

These specific findings in relation to workplace injuries, illnesses and stress-related issues are being released now following the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) coming into effect in April 2016, requiring employers to take health and safety issues more seriously.

More than 700 people took part in the survey from a range of private and community-based ECE services including centre-based and home-based services across New Zealand.

Summary of findings

  • Workplace related injuries, mental health and physical problems were suffered by close to one-third of staff (29%) over a 12 month period.
  • High to extreme levels of stress over a typical week were reported by close to one-quarter of staff (23%).
  • Bullying was experienced by one quarter of all staff surveyed (25%) and by as many as 34% of qualified teachers working in general teaching positions at kindergartens and childcare centres. Most bullying took the form of staff being at the receiving end of personal nastiness and prejudices, being made to feel their job was at risk if they did not comply with what they viewed as unfair or unrealistic expectations, and not having control over matters that impeded the quality of their work with children.
  • Workloads were described as being excessive by about one-quarter of staff (24%) while 44% indicated their workloads were just bearable.

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General observations

Although many staff reported suffering physical injuries or work related mental health issues, their comments suggest they often attributed this to being something that was part and parcel of working in an ECE setting and therefore while the risks were known there was little focus on managing or reducing these risks. 

Some staff felt that they could not let on that they had an injury or health issue in case of negative response, and this, combined with reports of bullying suggests that not all early childhood services have a culture of inclusion and respect, and also some may have little real staff involvement in health and safety matters and decisions.

There was no significant difference between reports of health and safety issues for workers at private/commercial and public/community-owned early childhood services.  

A smaller proportion of staff at Home-based ECE agencies reported harm (19%) compared to kindergarten staff (28%) and childcare centre staff (30%). 

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