Childcare phone ban put forward in review

A phone ban for childcare workers has been recommended to Australia's governments to improve learning and safety in the classroom.
Phone ban for childcare workers

An independent report has recommended Australian governments enforce a ban on early childhood education workers carrying their personal phones during work hours.

The proposed ban was included in a 106-page report identifying new measures to support child safety at early education centres.

Childcare regulations

Since 2012, early childhood education has been regulated by the National Quality Framework (NQF). The NQF sets out minimum health, safety and wellbeing requirements.

The NQF is jointly governed by the federal, state and territory governments, and managed by an independent authority, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).

In May this year, the ACECQA began a review of the NQF, at the request of the Federal Government.

What did the review find?

The review found an increase in reports of inappropriate discipline methods by educators, and flagged concerns about the rising use of cameras in classrooms.

It issued 16 recommendations focused on improving child safety to the federal, state and territory governments.

Phone ban for childcare workers

The review found that educators are under increasing pressure from parents to document children’s learning and participation.

It said this can infringe on the child’s choice to be photographed and take away from their actual education. The report also said there was a “very real risk” of inappropriate photos being taken and circulated to a mass audience.

In these situations, early childhood centres have no way to control what images are being taken and shared by workers on personal devices.

Personal phone ban

The review asked for new laws to ban early childhood education workers from keeping a personal phone or other electronic device with them during work hours.

It suggests only devices approved by care providers should be used.

The report also recommended national regulations that require parents to consent to their children being photographed or recorded.

Inappropriate discipline

Educators are banned from using physical or unreasonable punishment on students under national laws. However, the proportion of confirmed breaches of these laws doubled from 2016 to 2023.

The report suggested that current laws be expanded to include “inappropriate interactions” as an offence. A definition for this wasn’t put forward.

There was concern that educators were inappropriately disciplining students in front of a colleague. In response to this, it suggested an expansion of mandatory child safety training, where educators would be taught what is inappropriate.

Abuse complaints

The report recommended shortening the window for reporting a physical or sexual abuse allegation from one week to 24 hours.

They found that the current period under the national regulations was too long, and didn’t offer the opportunity for the earliest possible intervention. Only incidents that could be a breach of national law or considered serious abuse currently need to be reported within 24 hours.

It also asked the governments to consider directly penalising educators who fail to report incidents within the correct timeframe.

What’s next?

The report was given to the Education Ministers of each government last week. Advice about its implementation will come early next year.

Federal Early Childhood Education Minister Anne Aly said the report showed the NQF “can be better”. Aly said all governments were “committed” to upholding a safe culture for children in early learning settings.

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