When you ask the Director of a child care centre, “Are the staff in the room qualified?” what do you expect ‘qualified’ to mean? A university degree? A TAFE diploma? A certificate from TAFE? All of these could be construed as ‘qualified,’ they are all a qualification, though the degree to which each of these teaches a person to be suitable prepared to care for and educate young children, or even run a child care centre, varies greatly. It is important that parents familiarise themselves with the types of qualifications required of child care centre staff in their state, what they are called, and how much/what type of training each entails; this places parents in a position to ensure that what they might consider ‘qualified’ is what the centre also calls ‘qualified.’
Let me provide you with an example. I directed a child care centre in NSW for six years. In NSW (at the time), child care qualifications included;
University degree (usually a Bachelor of Education or Teaching, specialising in Early Childhood): teaching degrees in Australia involve four years of fulltime study and supervised practice within a range of early childhood settings. The course covers all areas of teaching and learning, everything from developmental psychology to programming methods, assessment methodology to practical studies of each area of child development.
Diploma of Children’s Services: a one year (at approx. 22 hours per week) TAFE qualification which qualifies the individual to work in centre-based and family day care, and supervise other staff and volunteers. The course covers care for babies and children, health and safety, child development, programming learning experiences and working with families and includes supervised work placement. You must have a Certificate III of Children’s Services (see below) before entering the Diploma course.
Certificate III of Children’s Services: a one year part time (approx. 10 hours per week) TAFE certificate, the course covers child development, health and safety, family and culture, play and creative experiences and includes supervised work placement.
My point is not to say that one qualification is better or worse than any other (though personally, I would love to see more qualified teachers attracted to the industry), rather I wish to inform parents that differences do exist and it is important to clarify the types of qualifications that the people responsible for your child’s early education and care hold.
The ABC of Child Care series of posts aims to illustrate for parents what quality child care looks like in practice as both a tool for parents looking for child care for the first time and as a resource for all parents with children in care. As someone who ran a high quality centre for many years, I believe we all share a responsibility to ask questions and expect results when it comes to the environment and people caring for and educating our youngest and most impressionable citizens. Find the other posts in the series here.