Identifying predictors of retention and professional wellbeing of the early childhood education workforce in a time of change

Karen Thorpe, Elena Jansen, Victoria Sullivan, Susan Irvine, Joanne Lunn, Jennifer Sumsion, Angela Ferguson, Mary Lincoln, Kate Liley, Pam Spall, Paula McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The international agenda for quality improvement in early childhood education and care (ECEC) has driven policies targeting workforce professionalisation. Increased training and accountability have been required, but without commensurate renumeration. Attendant staff turnover and educator stress threaten to undermine the achievement of intended policy goals. In a study of the Australian ECEC workforce, we conducted a national survey. We also longitudinally tracked staff turnover in a stratified sample of ECEC centres in remote, regional and urban locations, each with different populations and economic ecosystems. National survey data (N = 916) showed intended exit (22%) was associated with upgrading qualifications and positive motivations at entry to the workforce while intention to stay was associated with having a career role and personal satisfaction. The small variations in wages or work demands in the sector did not moderate these relationships but supportive workplaces increased intention to stay. In tracked centres (N = 98 staff), annual turnover (37%) was explained by personal (e.g., maternity) and workplace factors, both positive (promotion, removing unsuited staff) and negative (dissatisfaction). Highest turnover was in remote locations (47%). We conclude that long term sustainability should attend to appropriate reward of professionalisation. In the short-term supportive workplace culture is critical in retaining and sustaining educators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-647
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Educational Change
Issue number4
Early online date29 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2020

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