Darwin childcare provider Goodstart wants parents to keep children at home amid staff shortages

Goodstart Early Learning centres in Darwin are struggling to find qualified staff to meet minimum educator-to-student ratios.
ABC Goodstart Early Learning centres in Darwin are struggling to find qualified staff to meet minimum educator-to-student ratios.

A Top End childcare provider that operates 10 centres across Darwin has asked parents to keep children at home if they can as it struggles to fill chronic staff shortages.

Goodstart Early Learning Darwin sent a letter to parents on Tuesday making the request as it tries to fill 17 permanent vacancies.

The company’s advocacy manager, John Cherry, said the centres were required to meet minimum educator-to-child ratios.

“We just have tried everything to try to get staff, so what we’re asking parents to consider is if they don’t have critical workforce issues, to talk to the centre about whether we might be able to shuffle their child on to another day, when they’ve actually got staff to cover for them,” he said.

“We support that quality regulation because it’s important for the learning outcomes for children, but certainly in Darwin at the moment we are having trouble meeting all those ratios all the time.”

He has urged parents who do not need their child to be in care on a particular day to see if there are quieter days they can move to.

“Around about one in 10 of the parents in Goodstart centres are not working and we support the right of those parents to have access to childcare because children do benefit from access to early learning,” he said.

“We’re saying in a priority situation like this where we are having trouble maintaining staff ratios for all our children we really do need to give priority to working parents.”

Mr Cherry said staff shortages for child care in Darwin had been a perennial issue because high-paying jobs in the resources sector were readily available.

“Child care is a fairly low paid industry, in comparison with many industries in Darwin and we’ve had difficulty trying to maintain all of our staff and all of our centres all of the time, for a long time,” he said.

But he was not sure that a proposed regional migration agreement for the Northern Territory would fix the problem in the short term.

“It takes a long time to get workers into Australia through the regional migration agreements,” he said.

“We’ve recruited overseas to get early childhood teachers but it is a long cumbersome process to get people into the country and get their qualifications recognised. What we’d prefer to do is recruit locally if we can.”

Hard to find childcare places in Darwin

Julie Sugden, a mother of three children at one of Goodstart centres in Darwin, said it could be difficult for new arrivals in the Top End to get a childcare place due to the transient nature of the population.

“When we first came in, I could only get a day. Thankfully over time I’ve been able to get five full days, but it is very difficult especially coming into Darwin to get full-time care,” she said.

“Fortunately at the moment I’m not working permanently so it is easy for me to say ‘Just let me know, not a problem’. But for full-time working mums to drop days it’s just not viable.

“I didn’t realise it was quite as dire throughout the whole of the Territory as it is.”

Overseas qualifications should be assessed for free: recruiter

Meanwhile, a Darwin recruitment agency has called on the Federal Government to boost financial incentives for early childhood educators.

The Territory manager for Randstad, Andy Batstone, says the Government should change the thresholds for employers to be able to sponsor employees from overseas.

“At the moment the current average wage for childcare educators in Australian is about $42,600 a year, however to sponsor a childcare educator they need to be earning $55,000 a year or more.”

“That’s a major area where we can find really good qualified staff to stay in the workforce, so we need the government’s help with that.”

He said international staff should also get their qualifications assessed for free, instead of paying the current $104 fee.

“We’re at a point where we’re screaming out for qualified educators,” he said.

“We need them throughout Australia, particularly for Darwin, particularly in the Northern Territory, and yet we’re charging people that earn a relatively low wage a fee to get those qualifications assessed.”

He said the childcare education sector also struggles to compete against the schools market.

“The schools market has a lot of benefits. One of those is that they pay higher wages, they offer more suitable hours for female workers which make up 97 per cent of the child care workforce, and they offer school holidays.”

Source Article from https://au.news.yahoo.com/local/nt/a/-/latest/24955293/darwin-childcare-provider-goodstart-wants-parents-to-keep-children-at-home-amid-staff-shortages/
Darwin childcare provider Goodstart wants parents to keep children at home amid staff shortages
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