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Waite calls for reclassification of early-childhood teachers

Published:Wednesday | February 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Opposition Senator Basil Waite has called on the Government to conduct a salary reclassification for early-childhood teachers.

He said teachers in early-childhood institutions, commonly called basic schools, were severely underpaid and were not incentivised to remain in that subsector.

"Early-childhood teachers' salaries range from a low of $14,800 (per month), if they are paid, to a high of $25,645.32 for college-trained early-childhood institution teachers," he said.

Waite, who is the Opposition's spokesperson on education, was making his contribution to the 2009/10 State of the Nation Debate in the Senate last Friday.

He further urged the Government to rationalise the ownership, management and operational structure of community-operated basic schools, and implement a 'grandfather clause' for all grades one and two primary teachers to be certified as early-childhood trained. A grandfather clause is an exception that allows an old

rule to continue to apply to some existing situations, when a new rule will apply to all future situations.

Critical years

Noting the importance of early-childhood education, Waite said research has shown that the first three to four years were critical for the development of sensory pathways, social and emotional development, and the basic pathways for reading and mathematics.

"If these pathways are not adequately developed in the early years, tremendous human and financial resources must be expended to address deficiencies. Normal development is not often possible," he stated.

Early-childhood training is provided for children aged three to five years in infant schools, infant departments, and community-operated basic schools. There are also privately operated kindergartens/prep schools and more than 3,000 early-childhood institutions respon-ding to a demand of approximately 135,000 school spaces.

The Government subsidises 92 per cent of these institutions.