Learning from birth

Children learn right from birth. And the first few years of learning – at home with you, and in child care, preschool and kindergarten – shape how your child will learn in the future.

Quality learning experiences in the early years lay good foundations for learning at school, and for the rest of your child’s life.

Children in their early years learn through play. Play lets children experiment with the world around them, and figure out how things work. In a high-quality early childhood service, well-trained and qualified educators give your child lots of play-based learning opportunities.

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 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 solve problems, 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 early childhood 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 are
  • ratios – how many educators there are per number of children in a classroom or child care space.

Rules about qualifications
You should expect these rules about qualifications to be followed in your early childhood education and care service:

  • Services must have an early childhood teacher available for at least part of the week. Teachers must have an approved bachelor degree qualification.
  • At least half of the educators in a service must have or must be actively working towards a diploma-level qualification.
  • All other educators must have or must be actively working towards a certificate-level qualification.
  • From 2020, services with 80 or more children must employ a second early childhood teacher.

Rules about ratios
You should expect to see rules about ratios being followed in centre-based services. There are some differences in these ratios across Australia, but in most states and territories there should be:

  • 1 educator to every 4 children aged 0-24 months
  • 1 educator to every 5 children aged 25-35 months
  • 1 educator to every 10-11 children aged 3 years, up to and including preschool age.

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.

You can check ratios on the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority website.

Government plans and policies for educator qualifications

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 childhood 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.

Some states and territories have also developed their own early years workforce strategies.

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