The Independent Education Union, which represents more than 32,000 early childhood teachers, school teachers, principals and school support staff throughout NSW and the ACT, is warning that COVID-related staff shortages leading to early childhood centre closures are foreshadowing what’s ahead when schools re-open.

Early childhood teachers have been on the frontline of the COVID crisis since it began, staying open throughout the most recent NSW lockdown, with no option for remote learning. They are already open after a brief Christmas break.

Early childhood teachers cannot socially distance themselves from their young charges, many of whom are not vaccinated. The sector has been experiencing staff shortages for some years, and Omicron has only exacerbated the problem, forcing many centres to close while staff are furloughed.

Early childhood centres and directors are telling the IEU they feel abandoned by the government in the face of this crisis. Centres don’t know what’s happening from one day to the next, one early childhood centre director says, and this uncertainty is only amping up pandemic anxieties among staff, parents and children. “The rules keep changing, and we’re in a state of confusion,” the director told the IEU.

Photo: Marichka Eadie with Andrew at Yass Uniting Church Playgroup