ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
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Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal

 

Staff Pay and Workforce Retention: Results from the 2020 Early Childhood Education National Survey - Q9: What proportion of staff stay in their job for 2 years?

Article Index

QUESTION 9:  WHAT PROPORTION OF ECE TEACHING STAFF HAVE STAYED IN THEIR JOB FOR AT LEAST TWO YEARS? 

Answer
Fifty-six percent of staff who had been in the sector for at least two years had not changed jobs within the last two years, 27% had moved to a new job, and 17% had made two or more job changes.

 turnover

Job changes were made for career advancement, because they were employed on a temporary contract that ended, for family reasons such as relocating to a new city, for travel and OE and after coming back from this, and because their workplace closed permanently. These are reasons for staff churn that can be expected in any industry or sector.

But there were other reasons too. Around three-quarters of staff who changed jobs within the last two years did so for reasons such as: inflexibility in their terms of appointment, low pay, problems in their workplace, and because of not liking the way they were treated. Here is a small selection of what people said as to what caused them to leave:

  • “I had baby and she was not allowed in same centre so I found another centre to work at that would let us be together.”
  • “Work were unprepared to allow me to shorten my hours to look after my child.”
  • “I left my first centre due to moving out east. Left the second centre due to them changing my hours from regular part-time days to only lunch cover. Now at my third centre and loving it.”
  • “Was poached by another centre offering better money and hours. The centre I was at wasn't willing to change payrate or shift hours to match.”
  • “Left my job after one year - pay was terrible and the teacher-child ratios.”
  • “High staff turnover over recent years made me felt burnt out and in need of a change.”
  • “Service sold and new owner was not nice. I left to seek better pay and for a happier situation – not bullied, and a safer environment for self and children.”
  • “Normally moving up the ladder is why I leave, but the last job I left was due to a horrible workplace culture where bullying occurred. As a team leader I voiced my concerns about what was occurring with younger teachers and I became the target. Seven of us finished on the same day.”
  • “I left the first time because of the new manager bullying all staff. We all left within 6 months. We were not supported by the governing board regarding this or the manager’s poor teaching standards. The second time I left was because of working conditions. No tea/meal breaks, and over ratio with children in room that I worked in.”
  • “I worked in a __ centre - unrealistic ratios/ and illegal ratios. The centre manager changed and had lots of teachers leaving. They struggled to get more, so lunches were not covered properly. No support for teachers - my colleagues were writing reflections and asking for support but the organisation failed to address them. I lasted 3 months. (I have 14yrs experience in childcare). Following job was with a service with two centres. We had a high staff turnover and hired full-time unqualified relievers. The managers were bullying them with what they were doing wrong every day in emails and then set up a meeting to display "disrespect" to teach them their lesson for not being respectful. A mid-forties lovely woman who was our reliever was left with a bruise on her wrist from being pulled around from her chair and had her face smooshed. Management just had no strategies for keeping and working with staff.”
  • “Not wanting to be involved in a centre that accepted poor practice and misleads families about the care being provided to their child.”
  • “Not being supported by centre manager. Centre manger choosing to overlook staff member who grabbed a child due to not having enough registered teachers. Job being highly stressful. Not best quality care being given due to CM limiting staff and resource budget so she can get her bonus.”

Discussion
A small amount of staff churn can be expected and is a good thing to bring in new people with different skills and recent training into the ECE service. But staff churn is high in the early childhood sector.

The results suggest that better pay, work conditions and support would likely result in fewer staff changing jobs less often. Why is this important? It is important because having a stable staff is linked to child outcomes in the psychological literature on ECE quality. Children who form strong caring reciprocal relationships with their teachers have improved outcomes. But, when staff turnover is high babies, toddlers and young children can struggle to form trusting caring relationships with their teachers. Constantly changing teachers means low quality education for children because it takes time to get to know each child well – their interests, needs, personalities, and learning dispositions.

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