Child care has long been acknowledged as a necessary component in closing the gender wage gap in two important ways. First, the lack of affordable, high quality child care continues to limit women’s opportunities to participate in on-going, full-time work. Second, child care is still a firmly entrenched ‘female job ghetto’ in which the predominately female workforce continues to be underpaid and undervalued.
AECEO pre-budget submission to the Honourable Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance Ontario budget 2015
February 12, 2015
The AECEO is the professional association for Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) in Ontario. We support ECEs in their professional practice and advocate for the recognition and appropriate compensation of the profession. Our members are working throughout Ontario in programs for young children and their families, including regulated child care, full-day kindergarten, family resource programs and support services for children with disabilities, among others.
The AECEO has recommended that the government develop a comprehensive workforce strategy for ECEs in Ontario in order to address the systemic issues of low wages, inconsistent working conditions, high turnover, and job dissatisfaction. Investing in a workforce strategy for ECEs, with clear goals, targets and sustained funding would fulfill the objective of investing in peoples’ talents and skills presented in the government’s four point economic plan.
The work done by ECEs is directly tied to investing in people’s talents and skills in three ways:
- ECEs are often the ones who care for young children while parents/guardians continue to work or study in order to develop and use their own talents and skills.
- ECEs are working with young children in multiple programs that support a crucial phase of development in which children develop the basic cognitive, social and emotional skills used to thrive in learning and developing their own unique talents and skills.
- ECEs possess very unique talents and skills that are the key factor in supporting the quality of early childhood education and child care programs and, therefore, the outcomes of point 1 and 2.
ECEs are skilled professionals with a specialization in nurturing young children’s development and learning within the context of supporting the child’s family and their broader community. The value of this work has been clearly documented in an extraordinary body of evidence highlighting the importance of healthy child development and supports for families with young children. ECEs have continued to advance their profession through increased levels of professional preparation and on-going professional learning, as well as being regulated by the Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators. In addition, ECEs continue to face amplified pressure to implement a number of key programs offered by the government under increasingly higher quality standards and frameworks.
It has been well established through research and experience that a trained, professional ECE workforce with professional wages and working conditions is central to providing high quality experiences for the children and families using these programs. This is of course incredibly important, as we know that in order to achieve the intended benefits of early childhood education and care for children and families programs need to be of the highest quality.
Despite the increasing professionalization of ECEs and the mounting evidence pointing to the immense importance of their work, ECEs have seen a very slow and limited increase in professional recognition through improved compensation and benefits. Low ECE salaries (hourly and/or annually), inconsistent working conditions and now, increasing split-shift work as a result of the implementation of full-day kindergarten have resulted in poor morale, job dissatisfaction and high staff turnover. Particularly in regulated child care, early childhood educators are leaving the sector and replacements cannot be recruited, which has had an on-going negative impact on staff consistency and stability, and program quality.
There have been some positive developments for ECEs in Ontario, including funding for pre and in-service training and the new wage enhancement for ECEs and other staff in regulated child care. However, this piecemeal approach cannot address the systemic undervaluation of ECEs as professionals and the resulting low wages and inequitable working conditions across the various programs that ECEs play a vital role in delivering. Without a comprehensive approach that recognizes the professional status and work of all ECEs we will continue to see qualified and talented ECEs walk away from the field. The talents, skills and work of ECEs is of great public value and, therefore, is deserving of public resources to ensure that this work is compensated appropriately.
The AECEO recommends that the government develop and invest in a comprehensive workforce strategy for the ECE profession that includes:
- A provincially established salary grid along with base funding for child care and other family resource programs in order to equitably raise the salaries, working conditions and morale of all early childhood educators and child care workers. A standardized wage rate in the child care and family resource sector will ensure staff with equivalent education and work responsibilities are paid a similar rate of pay no matter where they work. These initiatives would further contribute to higher and more consistent quality across programs.
- We support the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care’s call for “an immediate $300 million fund (annualized) to address the immediate [child care] crises. In addition, to begin to address the shortfall of child care spaces, we recommend $100 million to increase spaces across the province. Funding should be tied to inflation”.
- A provincial mandate and supporting funding arrangement to make the Designated ECE position in full-day kindergarten a full-time, full-year position comparable to that of elementary school teachers.
- A system of data collection and evaluation to monitor the recruitment and retention of trained ECEs across the varying programs currently being delivered to support early childhood education and child care.
Toronto – January 20, 2015
Investing in our child care workforce is essential
Investing in our child care workforce is essential. Research shows that the quality of early childhood education and care programs is associated with the wages of the workforce and wages are a key factor in the recruitment and retention of trained early childhood educators.
We were therefore encouraged by the provincial government’s announcement to move forward to implement the wage enhancement of $1 per hour for eligible child care staff in the licensed child care sector. The goal of reducing the wage gap between staff in the licensed child care sector and those working in the public education system is laudable. Also to be applauded is recognition of the need to improve wages for the child care workforce while at the same time protecting parent fees.
As the wage enhancement is rolled out some questions will need to be addressed. How does this $1 dollar an hour increase fit with the current changes to previous wage enhancement grants as a result of the new funding formula for local service managers? How much discretion will local service managers have in distributing these additional funds? How will this wage increase be incorporated when new programs are opened or expanded? Additionally, how will the government ensure that money going to for-profit centres and agencies will be properly used to increase the compensation of program staff?
Today’s announcement is a positive step in the right direction for addressing the long standing workforce issues in regulated child care and we will continue to work closely with provincial and municipal governments to address the need for a comprehensive workforce strategy for the regulated child care sector. ECEs and the child care workforce are still facing a market based system that results in persistently low wages and inconsistent working conditions including limited access to benefits, pensions and ongoing professional development.
The AECEO will continue to advocate for a provincially established salary grid along with base funding for child care programs in order to equitably raise the salaries, working conditions and morale of all early childhood educators and child care workers. A standardized wage rate in the child care sector will ensure staff with equivalent education and work responsibilities are paid a similar rate of pay no matter where they work. These initiatives would further contribute to higher and more consistent quality across child care programs.
Professional pay for professional work continues to be a goal for registered early childhood educators who have a specialized body of knowledge in early childhood and are held accountable to the public through a regulatory body.
The Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO) is the professional association for Ontario’s early childhood educators and has actively advocated for a human resources strategy for the Ontario child care sector, which includes better wages and working conditions.
The AECEO is collecting reactions to the $1 an hour wage enhancement and will be monitoring the implementation of this new grant. We will continue to update this page as more information becomes available.
There are a number of resources on the wage enhancement that you can now access through the Ontario government :
We are heartened to learn the Ontario Government has moved to address the issue of low wages for ECE professionals and other front line child care staff. Research shows that the quality of early childhood education and care programs is associated with the wages of the workforce; in other words, if early childhood educators are well-compensated the quality of an ECEC program will be higher says Dr. Rachel Langford, President of the AECEO.
The Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO) is the professional association for registered ECEs and has actively advocated for a Human Resources Strategy for Ontario RECES which includes better wages and working conditions.
Today’s announcement is a positive step in the right direction for all staff working in child care settings. Professional pay for professional work continues to be a goal for RECEs who have a specialized body of knowledge in early childhood and are held accountable to the public through a regulatory body.
The AECEO will continue to dialogue with government on behalf of Ontario RECEs.
Dear Minister Sandals:
We are writing to communicate our concerns about the changes proposed to Ontario’s child care regulations. Specifically, we are concerned about the proposed reductions to adult: child ratios and increase in group sizes achieved by altering age groupings. We believe that these proposals are inconsistent with the Modernization paper’s Guiding Principle: “Commitment to quality programs for all children. Program quality must be a priority across service settings” and not in the best interests of children—or, indeed, any of us.
The response to your government’s Bill 143 has been quite positive. The early childhood community and the broader child care movement have been enthusiastic about its proposals to limit unregulated child care and to most of the other changes it contains.
However, we are concerned about the content and process of some of the proposed regulation changes. Research shows that the proposed ratios/group size regulations for the youngest children (1 – 2 years) are below even minimum recommended quality standards. This means that the most vulnerable children—for whom ratios and group sizes make the most difference—would be cared for by too few adults in too-large groups. We also believe that the number of young children proposed for regulated family child care —six two year olds in a private home with one caregiver—to be too high to constitute “quality” or even safety.
Staff and provider educational preparation requirements are strikingly absent from the proposals, which again contradict the Ontario government’s commitment to the Guiding Principle of high quality. Research clearly indicates the strong links between professionally educated staff or training for home child care providers and high quality. The current proposals will actually work to reduce the proportion of professional staff working in programs serving the youngest children.
The child care workforce, earning low wages and benefits, is already struggling in an environment offering little support. Research has shown the negative impact of poorer ratios and group sizes on staff morale, retention, working conditions and interactions with young children—factors that are at the heart of any quality child care program. A further decrease in working conditions will exacerbate service providers’ ongoing challenge to recruit and retain professionally educated early childhood educators in child care programs for younger children.
Further, the proposals fail to consider other key issues that would be negatively impacted by poorer ratios and group sizes. These include the inclusion of children with special needs and provision of high quality care for children and families in need of extra support, such as newcomers to Canada and low income families with limited resources.
One of our overarching concerns is the absence of a holistic approach to policy development, which we had hoped was signaled by the Modernization paper and the substantial new legislation. We suggest that changes to ratios and group size must be considered within the context of other policy elements — early childhood training, pedagogy, facility considerations, safety and financing—that is, within a full policy process with a goal of real transformation.
Ratios and group sizes have not changed in Ontario since 1983. At that time, there was a full consultation process including significant review and presentation of research, data and fact-gathering, dialogue and debate between Ministry officials and the child care community. We believe that to do justice to this important issue, a similarly robust process of reflection and consultation that is more than a one-way response to the proposed regulation changes is warranted.
Minister Sandals, we urge you to take more time to engage in a fuller consultation and policy development process. We will work with you to ensure the passage of Bill 143 and engage with you in a full policy process. We believe that this needs to include not only alternatives to the significant ratio reductions and group size increases now proposed but other key policy elements that will “build [the] comprehensive early learning and care system, including the successful extension of full-day kindergarten and child care” committed to by Premier Wynne in her Throne Speech last year. Only thus will child care be transformed into the accessible high quality early learning program envisioned in your ministry’s Modernization paper that can come to benefit all children and families in Ontario.
Thus, we the undersigned organizations, early childhood leaders, and child care service providers urge you to initiate without further delay a full policy process that may include regulation changes.
Erica Harris, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sheridan Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning
For over 60 years, the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO) has provided professional growth opportunities to early childhood educators in this province. As an organization the AECEO has made significant contributions in the areas of training, public awareness, certification, equivalency, networking, professional development and recognition for the profession.
In 1989, the AECEO spearheaded the establishment of a Legislative Recognition Committee to advocate for the implementation of a professional regulatory body for ECE professionals in Ontario. Almost 20 years later, and as a result of the commitment and dedication of countless AECEO member volunteers, the Early Childhood Educators Act, 2007, was finally enacted and the College of Early Childhood Educators (CECE) established. Since the inception of the ECE Act, the AECEO has continued to support registered early childhood educators in navigating and transitioning within the changing landscape of the profession. Working alongside sector stakeholders, the AECEO has helped to shape the new and evolving vision for the sector.
In continuing its mission to support registered early childhood educators, the AECEO has developed this position paper on professional learning. The purpose of the paper is to present the AECEO’s position on what makes professional learning opportunities of the highest quality.
A significant number of registered early childhood educators already regard professional learning as a vital part of their professional practice. The “You Bet We Still Care Study” reported that the majority of early childhood program staff respondents participated in some form of professional learning within a one year period (Flanagan, Beach & Varmuza, 2013). The main reason cited was the need to keep current in their field.
Since 2006, Ontario’s early learning curriculum framework has guided early childhood professional practice. The framework is designed to stimulate on-going discussion amongst registered early childhood educators regarding their values, theories, and beliefs about early learning and care and to provide these professionals with the pedagogical tools for rich early learning environments which reflect the framework’s vision and principles (Langford, 2012).
In the Ministry of Education’s Modernizing Child Care in Ontario Discussion Paper (2012) the government states that one of its objectives is “to develop tools, resources and training opportunities to support child care operators and caregivers as they implement…quality initiatives” (p. 10). More recently, the province’s Early Years Policy Framework (2013) states in the context of their guiding principle on high quality programs and services that “early years professionals must be knowledgeable, responsive, and reflective, and continuous professional learning opportunities should be encouraged” (p.7).
The College of ECE is currently undergoing a process to develop a continuous professional learning program to document its members’ accountability and adherence to the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice mandated for the profession. As stated in their consultation paper, “Continuous Professional Learning Program Development Process”:
As a regulatory body, the College must transform the concept of professional learning from something that members of the profession “just did” into an institutionalized construct with specified requirements of members. The continuous professional learning construct will include expectations for members outlined in government legislation and College by-laws, policies, practices, programs and compliance mechanisms (College of Early Childhood Educators, 2013, p. 2).
The current CECE program proposes a means by which members can document their professional learning using a self assessment and reflective model that reviews a member’s “recent professional learning activities, performance reviews, changes in relevant legislation, policy and procedures or other information relevant to … (an individual’s) continuous professional learning” (College of Early Childhood Educators, 2013, p.6).
However, “professional learning activities” are not defined by the CECE in the above mentioned document. Currently, professional learning activities accessed by registered early childhood educators range from single or multi-session workshops to educational and professional credentials such as certificates, diplomas and degrees. Professional learning activities are currently being delivered by a host of various organizations and institutions in the province, including, but not limited to, the AECEO, OCAAT Colleges, Universities, unions, and large multi-service employers. The wide array of activities, deliverers and formats presently available, creates a need to establish clear criteria to help identify professional learning opportunities of the highest quality.
I: Professional development vs. Professional learning
Traditionally, the term “professional development” has been seen as a one-time or “one-day-one-stop” only activity, that is, workshops and conferences in which the participant is a passive consumer of information. Loughran (2010) states that:
traditional professional development is often linked to the implementation of some form of educational change by doing something to teachers, that is, telling us about the change and expecting it to then be carried out. In this way mandated changes are presented, we are trained in those changes in terms of technical requirements (sometimes as simple as re-labeling existing curriculum and practice) and then we are expected to implement those changes (p. 200).
In contrast, Loughran (2010) maintains that professional learning “carries an expectation that we are able to bring our expert judgement to bear on how change might best be implemented in our own context and practice” (p.201). “Professional learning” is then viewed as a range of on-going activities in which early childhood educators are actively engaged in the processes of assessing and reflecting on their own learning and practice. In this model, learning becomes a back and forth interaction between practicing and thinking about practice that is supported by multiple stakeholders across the different stages of a professional’s career (Urban, 2008).
The College of ECE is proposing a continuous professional learning (CPL) framework for RECEs to adhere to as part of their renewal of membership criteria.
II: Guiding Principles
The College of ECE has a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice document to which all its members must adhere. The CPL as proposed is a tool in which its members are to reflect and document their professional learning. It does not outline accepted principles for professional learning to guide delivery or identify accepted institutions that will deliver it. The open-ended nature of this tool makes it imperative that guiding principles be established to ensure that the professional learning opportunities accessed by the individual RECE will allow her/him to successfully meet the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the profession.
III: Coordination of Services
The current fragmented delivery of professional learning by various stakeholders catering to the different stages of a professional career makes it difficult for individual registered early childhood educators to navigate and find professional learning of the highest quality.
IV: Wages and working conditions
The willingness of registered early childhood educators to keep abreast of their profession or the importance of on-going professional learning is not in question. However, according to the “You Bet We Still Care” study, hourly wages of program staff in all provinces and territories from 1998 to 2012 increased by 5-50%, with the exception of Ontario as the only province in which hourly wages decreased (Flanagan, Beach & Varmuza, 2013). The study also reports that in 2012 fewer staff reported access to paid preparation time, financial assistance and paid release time for ECE-related professional learning than in 1998.
The increasing demands of the profession in the past decade are incongruent with the financial compensation and working conditions faced by registered early childhood educators.
I: On Professional Learning vs. Professional Development:
The AECEO supports the use of the term, “professional learning”, rather than “professional development” because of the implications of life-long learning, self-reflection and active engagement on the member’s professional growth (Edwards & Nutall, 2009). It also implicitly denotes an understanding of oneself, and encourages interaction and reflection with others (peers, leaders, families, public), which promotes professional growth and learning.
II: On Guiding Principles
The AECEO believes that professional learning for registered early childhood educators should be guided by the following principles:
- Supports active participation
- Critically identifies, evaluates and challenges thinking about daily practice
- Poses questions about values and beliefs regarding why we do what we do and what we want for children, families, communities and society
- Introduces new and relevant ideas and topics
- Creates and supports a critically reflective community of practice that reciprocally interacts with the changing needs of children, families and society
- Promotes a sense of professionalism
- Easily accessible and affordable
- Delivered using a broad range of informal and formal strategies or activities
- Delivered using a range of formats including face-to-face, hybrid (combination of face-to-face and on-line), and on-line
- Promotes collaboration between all professionals who work in different early childhood education and care settings (i.e. child care, full day kindergarten, family support programs)
- Engages participants in reflection regarding their daily practice
- Provides diversity to be inclusive of all areas of RECE employment
- Supports participant choice with respect to timing, topic and mode of delivery
III: On Coordination of Services
AECEO recommends a coordinated effort by all providers to enhance the content and delivery of professional learning activities. The AECEO will work with Professional Resource Centres in local communities and other professional learning providers across Ontario to build capacity and establish a clearinghouse of all professional learning activities that reflect the principles outlined above.
AECEO members can access this on-line clearinghouse to fulfill the CECE’s program of “self-directed learning and personalized decision-making around enhancing their professional practice” (College of Early Childhood Educators, 2013, p.5).
The AECEO will also offer training in creating, building and updating a portfolio, which includes a self-assessment tool, professional learning plan and a record of programs, activities and/or strategies undertaken by the RECE. The College of ECE (2013) has identified portfolios as “a tool that assists members in being accountable for their own continuous professional learning” (p. 23).
For many years, the AECEO has provided a certification process and a significant number of AECEO members are currently certified. Moving forward, the AECEO will have a program in which members are assessed and certified through an e-portfolio.
IV: On Wages and Working Conditions
AECEO recommends that a professional learning framework be designed within a coherent early childhood human resources policy that provides sufficient funding and ensures adequate compensation and favourable working conditions to enhance the capacity of RECEs to undertake professional learning.
College of Early Childhood Educators. (2013). Continuous Professional Learning Program Development Process: Draft Design, Implementation Process and Member Resources for the Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) Program, Participant Feedback – Spring 2013.Toronto: College of Early Childhood Educators.
Edwards, S. & Nutall, J. (2009). Professional learning in early childhood settings. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
Flanagan, K., Beach, J. & Varmuza, P.(2013). You Bet We Still Care! A Survey of Centre-Based Early Childhood Education and Care in Canada: Highlights Report. Ottawa: Child Care Human Resources Sector Council.
Langford, R. (2012). Innovations in provincial early learning curriculum frameworks in N. Howe & Prochner, L. (Eds.), New directions in early childhood education and care in Canada (pp.206-228) Toronto: University of Toronto.
Loughran, J. (2010). What Expert Teachers Do: Enhancing Professional Knowledge for Classroom Practice. NewYork: Routledge.
Ministry of Education (2012). Modernizing Child Care in Ontario. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.
Ministry of Education (2013). Ontario Early Years Policy Framework. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.
Urban, M. (2008). Dealing with uncertainty: challenges and possibilities for the early childhood profession. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 16(2), 135-152.
By: Laurie Monsebraaten Toronto Star - Dec 28 2014
Imagine a big city daycare with a goat, a sheep and a flock of chickens. Real ones.
When Carolyn Ferns happened upon the children and their child-care teacher taking the goat for a walk, she knew anything was possible.
“I thought, what is this? This is fantastic,” recalls Ferns of the extraordinary scene in the Swedish city of Lund, where she was taking a university gap year in the early 2000s.
Ferns thinks about that daycare often in her new role as head of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, the voice of non-profit, affordable child care in the province.
Early Childhood Educators are the backbone of a national childcare program.
October 16. 2014
The Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO) welcomes the announcement made yesterday by Thomas Mulcair and the Federal NDP regarding their plan to implement a national high quality and affordable childcare program if elected.
We join our colleagues in the childcare community in applauding the NDP for establishing the foundation for a national conversation around early childhood education and childcare (ECEC) leading up to the 2015 election and for their commitment to making childcare affordable for families.Read more
Child care should be a public good to benefit all, not a business whose goals may have little to do with serving children, families and community.
Laurel Rothman/Martha Friendly, Toronto Star - Aug. 7, 2014