Learning from birth
Children learn from birth. And the first few years of learning – at home with you, and in child care, preschool and kindergarten – help 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 explore the world around them and figure out how things work. In a high-quality early childhood education and care service, well-trained and qualified educators give your child plenty of play-based learning opportunities.
Why qualifications are important in early childhood education and care
Early childhood education and care services need knowledgeable and skilled educators to develop high-quality programs that support your child’s learning.
Early childhood educators need to understand how children learn and develop. They must also know how to work with families. And they need a range of skills to give children opportunities to try new things, play games, ask questions, get attention and interact well with others.
Like professionals in any other field, early childhood educators build their knowledge and skills through training and qualification.
With good training and the right qualifications, staff can:
- provide better care for your child
- help your child learn how to solve problems, manage feelings and get along with others
- build positive, supportive relationships with you, your child and your family
- support 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, educator qualifications and professional development opportunities.
Good-quality services will be able to tell you how they build positive relationships with children, encourage learning and development through play and other activities, and continually improve staff skills and knowledge.
Qualifications in early childhood education and care services: rules
To make sure they’re giving children quality education and care experiences, early childhood education and care services must follow rules about qualifications – that is, how well educated and trained staff are.
Most early childhood educators have at least one qualification, like a certificate, diploma or degree.
You should expect these rules about qualifications to be followed in your child’s centre-based care:
- Services must have an early childhood teacher available for at least part of the week. Like school teachers, early childhood teachers must have approved bachelor degree qualifications or equivalent early childhood teacher qualifications.
- At least half of the educators in a service must have or be actively working towards approved diploma-level qualifications or equivalent.
- All other educators must have or be actively working towards certificate-level qualifications.
- Services with 60-80 children must employ a second early childhood teacher for a maximum of 3 hours per day.
- Services with 80 or more children must employ a second early childhood teacher for a maximum of 6 hours per day.
Family day care services
These services don’t need to employ an early childhood teacher. But family day care educators must have or be working towards a certificate III qualification. A family day care coordinator must have or be working towards a diploma-level qualification.
To check rules about qualifications for centre-based care and family day care, go to Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority – Qualification requirements.
Outside school hours care services
Rules about qualifications for outside school hours care vary across states and territories. You can contact your state or territory authority for more information about the rules where you live.
Centre-based care, family day care and outside school hours care services must always have at least one person on site with a first aid qualification, anaphylaxis management training, and emergency asthma management training.
Ratios in early childhood education and care services
To make sure they’re giving children quality education and care experiences, early childhood education and care services must follow rules about ratios – that is, how many educators there are per number of children at the service.
Rules about ratios in centre-based care vary across states and territories.
Family day care
These services must have 1 educator to every 7 children, with no more than 4 of those children being preschool age or younger.
To check rules about ratios for centre-based care and family day care, go to Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority – Educator to child ratios.
Outside school hours care services
Rules about ratios for outside school hours care vary across states and territories. You can contact your state or territory authority for more information about rules where you live.
Occasional care that isn’t provided by an education and care service must be safe for your child but doesn’t have the same rules about ratios or qualifications. That’s because these places don’t aim to provide an educational program for your child. This includes creches at gyms and neighbourhood houses.
Government plans and policies for educator qualifications
Australian state, territory and local governments support early childhood educators to build their skills and qualifications through these key plans:
- The National Quality Framework (NQF) aims to raise quality in early childhood education and care services. It also aims to encourage services to continually improve what they do.
- The National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy aims to improve the skills of early childhood educators. It also ensures there are enough early childhood educators to give 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.