Written by Andigoni Kandias (Andi)
In recent times, there has been a noticeable increase in the normalisation of utilising casual staff to fill staff ratios in Early Childhood and Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) settings. This trend brings along a set of challenges and ongoing impacts that need to be addressed. Here are some key points to consider:
Limited Consistency in Staff
One of the most significant challenges is that children have limited consistency in their interactions with staff members. Consistency is crucial for children’s development and well-being, as it helps build trust, establish routines, and create a stable learning environment.
Bottom Line Impact
Relying heavily on casual agency staff can lead to overspending on staffing, impacting the organisation’s bottom line. Casual staff often come at a higher cost compared to permanent employees, which can strain the budget and limit resources for other essential aspects of the educational program.
High Turnover of Key Positions:
The lack of consistent support due to the utilisation of casual staff can contribute to high turnover rates among key positions such as OSHC Coordinators, Early Years Directors, Early Childhood Teachers (ECTs), and Room Leaders. Without the necessary support and continuity, these professionals may find it challenging to deliver high-quality programs to children consistently.
While there are challenges and impacts associated with relying on a casual workforce, it’s important to acknowledge that utilising casual agency staff also has its benefits.
Here are a few of the benefits:
Flexibility: Casual agency staff offers flexibility in staffing arrangements. They can be called upon to fill shifts on short notice, which can be particularly useful in situations where regular staff members are absent unexpectedly or when there is a sudden increase in demand. This flexibility helps ensure that staff ratios are maintained and that the educational program can continue without major disruptions.
Diverse Skill Sets: Casual agency staff often bring a range of experiences and skills to the educational setting. Their exposure to various childcare and education environments can contribute to a diverse knowledge base and fresh perspectives. This can be beneficial in promoting innovation, sharing best practices, and introducing new ideas to enhance the overall quality of the program.
Temporary Staffing Solutions: Utilising casual agency staff can serve as a temporary solution during peak periods or transitional phases. For example, if there is a temporary increase in enrolments or if permanent staff members are on leave, casual agency staff can help bridge the gap until a permanent solution is established. This temporary support can ensure that the educational network continues to operate smoothly during such periods.
It’s important to strike a balance between utilising casual agency staff and having a strong core of permanent employees. By recognising the benefits of casual agency staff and leveraging their flexibility and diverse skill sets when needed, while also prioritising the recruitment and retention of permanent staff, your education network can strive for a more stable and consistent workforce that meets the needs of children, staff, and the overall program.
To break this ongoing cycle, it is crucial to undertake a strategic review and implement ongoing workforce planning to fill staff ratios with permanent employees. This approach can help address the challenges mentioned above and create a more stable and consistent environment for both children and staff.
By prioritising the recruitment and retention of permanent employees, your education network can promote continuity, establish stronger relationships with children and enhance the overall quality of educational programs.