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NSW Staff Shortages And Staff Absences What ECEC Services Can Do

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NSW Staff Shortages And Staff Absences What ECEC Services Can Do

With the impact of COVID -19 and well as shortages of ECT and qualified Educators, what do services do when an Educator is absent or when a temporary replacement of ECTs is required due to staff shortages or illness.  The following explains how to ensure staff ratios are compliant when an ECT is absent, no ECT is present at the service, an ECT has not completed their qualification and more. 

National Regulation Requirements Regarding Early Childhood Teacher Requirements

Scenario 1: 

We are a small service and we are having difficulty meeting ECT requirements because we cannot find an ECT to be physically present in our service.

If you are a centre-based service:

  • of fewer than 25 approved places for children preschool age or under; or 
  • with 25 or more approved places for children preschool age or under, but your service is educating and caring for fewer than 25 children; or 
  • you are a centre-based service in a remote or very remote area and you are educating and caring for 25 to 29 children preschool age or under 

You are required to have access to an ECT working with the service for at least 20 per cent of the time that the service provides education and care (regulation 130(1), regulation 131(2) and regulation 239A(2)).  

This period can be calculated on a quarterly basis (regulation 130(3), regulation 131(2) and regulation 239A(4)).  

This means that if your service is educating and caring for children for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, then you are required to have access to an ECT working with the service for at least 12 days per quarter.  

If an ECT cannot be physically present at your service for this required time, the ECT may work with your service through the means of Information Communication Technology, such as video-conferencing (regulation 130(2), regulation 131(2) and regulation 239A(3)).  

If you are educating and caring for fewer than 25 children preschool age or under, a record should be kept of the period that an ECT is working with your service in accordance with regulation 130 or 131(2) as well as the periods that the ECT is working directly with children and not working directly with children (regulation 152).

Scenario 2:

We are finding it difficult to replace ECTs when they are absent from the service due to short-term illness or leave.

If you are a centre-based service educating and caring for 25 or more children preschool age or under and an ECT is absent because of a short-term illness or leave, you may replace this ECT with an educator who holds an approved diploma level qualification, or a teacher who holds a qualification in primary teaching (regulation 272(6)).  

You can make this replacement for a maximum of 60 days in any 12-month period (regulation 272(7)). In the case of a part-time ECT, 60 days is to be calculated on a pro-rata basis (regulation 272(8)).  

You do not need to apply for a waiver or notify the regulatory authority in making this replacement. 

However, a record must be kept of the period that an ECT is in attendance at your service (regulation 152).

Scenario 3: 

We cannot find ECTs who have completed their approved qualification.  

A person may be ‘taken to be an ECT’, if the person:

  • is actively working towards an approved early childhood teaching qualification; and  
  • provides the approved provider with documentary evidence that the person - 
    • has completed at least 50 per cent of the course; or  
    • holds an approved diploma-level education and care qualification (regulation 242). 

If you are a centre-based service educating and caring for 1 to 29 children preschool age or under, you do not need to apply for a waiver or notify the regulatory authority in employing a person ‘taken to be an ECT’ to meet the ECT requirements under regulations 130, 131 or 272(1A). You must, however, keep a record of the period that an ECT is in attendance at your service (regulation 152). If you are unable to employ a person ‘taken to be an ECT’ in accordance with regulation 242, you may apply to the regulatory authority for a temporary waiver, which will be assessed and considered on a case-by-case basis. 

If you are a centre-based service educating and caring for over 29 children, you may apply to the regulatory authority for a temporary waiver if you are unable to meet the ECT requirements under regulations 272(2) to 272(5), which will be assessed and considered on a case-by-case basis.  

If Educators are 'actively working towards'  Certificate III, Diploma or ECT qualification you may be counted towards qualification requirements: Actively Working Towards A Cert 3, Diploma Or ECT Qualification

How Can Services Address A Shortage To Operate Within Ratio?

The National Regulations set educator-to-child ratios to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children while attending the service, including during excursions. The below questions may support your service in making an informed decision when faced with workforce shortages: 

  • Have you contacted an agency for extra staff? 

  • Have you contacted universities, TAFEs or other training institutions? 

  • Could you combine rooms temporarily? 

  • Have you contacted families? 

  • Could children be dropped off late or collected early to address a shortage that is occurring for less than a day e.g., a staff member has gone home sick? 

  • Are there any children not attending due to illness or otherwise that may address a shortage that is occurring for at least a day? 

  • Do you need to close the service temporarily? 

Further Reading: 

Educator to Child Ratios In Early Childhood Services - The Education and Care Services National Regulation sets out the minimum educator-to-child ratio requirements services must adhere to while caring for children.

Educator To Child Ratio Calculator To Calculate Minimum Number Of Educators Required - The Educator To Child Ratio Calculator calculates the minimum number of educators and ECT requirements, in a centre-based service must have based on a given number of children at any point in time and the age mix.

NSW Staff Ratios and Adequate Supervision - Educator ratios must be maintained at all times when a service is operating. These requirements apply to all locations where service is operating, not just individual rooms or areas, and include times where children are being transported under the care of the service.

Reference:
Staff Shortages Or Absence: Support Measures To Meet Your Regulatory Requirements, NSW Department Of Education

Last modified on Friday, July 8, 2022
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