An image of a colourful box of crayons, with a child seen drawing in the background. Photo: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

Accelerated degree to address staff shortages in early childhood sector

Accelerated degree to address staff shortages in early childhood sector

UOW partners with NSW Department of Education and ELACCA to remove barriers to study for early childhood educators

Staff shortages have placed immense pressure on the national early childhood sector in recent years, with the problem forecast to grow more acute in the years to come. It has been estimated that thousands of qualified early childhood educators are needed to address the shortfall, with a crisis in staffing leading to fewer spaces for children at a critical time in their development.  

A new accelerated degree from the University of Wollongong (UOW) aims to boost the numbers of early childhood teachers by removing barriers to study for those who are already working in the sector.

The Bachelor of Education – The Early Years (Accelerated) will be delivered over two years and is designed to build upon the rich sector experience of applicants through integrated work-based placement and innovative course delivery. The degree will increase the supply of early childhood teachers and target educators who are interested in taking their careers to the next level but who have faced financial or logistical challenges in undertaking a four-year course.

The Honorable Sarah Mitchell MP, the Minster for Education and Early Learning, announced the launch of the Bachelor of Education – The Early Years (Accelerated) on Wednesday (1 March).

The degree was developed by UOW in partnership with the Early Learning and Care Council Australia (ELACCA), in response to a tender issued by the Department of Education. UOW was the only university to have been successful in the tender process.

UOW and Early Learning and Care Council Australia co-designed the accelerated degree and will work together to deliver the pilot program to students. The first intake of students will be in July 2023, in the Spring Semester.

To be eligible for the degree, students must have completed a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care and have a minimum of two years’ work experience in an early childhood setting.

The Bachelor of Education – The Early Years (Accelerated) will be delivered online, ensuring that students are able to continue their work in the sector while undertaking their studies.

Early childhood teachers are degree-qualified with at least four years of tertiary study. Early childhood educators have completed a diploma or certificate in early childhood studies.

Associate Professor Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett, Academic Director of the Early Years at UOW, said the new intensive program is evidence-informed, contextually relevant, and sustainable, which strongly supports equity of access for participants.  

“Through the program design process, we collaborated with the sector and drew upon the important work we have been doing in Early Start – a UOW entity that was recently recognised as a national leader of research of Early Childhood,” Associate Professor Neilsen-Hewett said.   

“It will provide educators with a connected and valuable learning experience, to help them perform a vital function for children and families in NSW.

“Our project partner ELACCA will play a crucial role in the co-design of the program ensuring the offering is tailored to sector and accreditation needs. This is seen as a strength and essential to ensuring strong uptake and organisational support.

“We know that a high quality universal early childhood system is the foundation of any productive society, and ultimately, quality early childhood education hinges on the strength of its workforce.”

Associate Professor Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett, Early Start and School of Education Associate Professor Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett. Photo: Paul Jones

In addition to the accelerated course design and professional experience, students will be paired with a mentor from the early childhood sector, to provide them with guidance and support throughout their studies.

Elizabeth Death, CEO of ELACCA, said: “This is a unique opportunity to connect government, universities, and providers. It is our intention to use this process as a broader commitment to building early childhood workforce capacity and ensuring quality in our sector. We see the opportunity to participate in this pilot program as the beginning of a longer and substantial partnership. 

“A survey of members interest in the intensive program shows a strong appetite for engagement with this exciting new course. Importantly, we envisage the wrap around support for educators will enhance completion of their degree and retention within their workplaces.”

Professor Penny Van Bergen, Head of the School of Education at UOW, said the University was excited to be at the forefront of educating the next generation of early childhood teachers and breaking down the barriers that prevent educators from accessing greater study opportunities.

“The accelerated degree has truly been developed in partnership with the sector, responding to the needs and concerns of early childhood educators who want to upskill and pursue further training, but have faced challenges in doing so.

“UOW is proud to be working with ELACCA to address the problems facing the early childhood sector and helping to train more teachers, which will have a positive impact on the lives and outcomes of children across the state.”

To learn more about the Bachelor of Education - The Early Years (Accelerated), visit: