Retaining Early Childcare Educators.
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Long day childcare (LDC) services provide education and care for children under 5 years of age in Australia. Those who work in these services are poorly paid and their efforts are undervalued. To support the emotional, social, intellectual and physical needs and interests of children, LDC staff are working physically, exercising vigilance in order to fulfil their duty of care, monitoring their interactions with children and regulating their own emotions. Perhaps for these reasons, the retention of early childhood (EC) educators is significantly lower than of other care-based professions. However, little attention has been given to the impact of legislative requirements upon the workplace factors beyond pay and conditions that are likely to affect staff retention. This instrumental case study thus investigated workplace factors that personally or professionally affected EC educators' work in their LDC services. The study involves observations and interviews with EC educators (N = 28) from four South Australian LDC services. The results show that current legislative, structural and operational requirements constrain the ability of participants to collaborate across the board and to enhance the quality of their educative care. These concerns were amplified by the funding of their LDC service and the difficulty the participants found in achieving a work–life balance. The implications of the way in which LDC services are perceived and operate in liberal market economies are discussed.
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