Advancing Support for Well-Being and Appreciation of Early Childhood Educators
01 Sep 2021
In line with the Government’s continued efforts to improve the Early Childhood sector, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) announced new initiatives today to enhance the well-being of early childhood educators.
2. The Occupational Health and Safety Assessment (OHSA) for the Early Childhood (EC) sector was commissioned in 2019 to study ways to improve the well-being of educators. In collaboration with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council, the assessment evaluated the work roles and environments of preschool staff and identified factors that impact their well-being, with the support of 10 preschools selected for the pilot. The initiatives announced today cover efforts to enhance human resource (HR) practices and working environments in preschools to improve the well-being, job satisfaction and productivity of our early childhood staff.
Recommendations and Initiatives Arising from the OHSA
3. Arising from the OHSA, four key recommendations have been identified to help preschools enhance the well-being of early childhood staff. ECDA and partner agencies have accordingly developed support for preschools in four key areas:
a. Enhancing workplace health and safety capabilities – Centres are encouraged to review their own environments and/or processes for improved workplace health and safety of their staff. The WSH Council provides resources which centres can tap on as they work towards improving workplace safety and health processes for staff and educators. For example, free programmes such as StartSafe will help preschools identify workplace health and safety risks, and bizSAFE will help centres build workplace health and safety capabilities.
b. Building more staff-friendly workplace design and environment – Centres are encouraged to provide ergonomic elements such as adult-friendly furniture and rest areas, to help early childhood staff maintain better posture and reduce discomfort. The Association of Early Childhood & Training Services (ASSETS) will support this effort by making available ergonomic products with bulk discounts on ASSETS' EzMart portal.
c. Facilitating the use of technology to improve work processes – Centres are encouraged to adopt centre management solutions to help ease staff work in areas such as administrative functions and portfolio management and allocate non-contact time1 for educators in their work scheduling. ECDA will avail funding to encourage operators to adopt SMART centre management solutions and other digital tools as part of the Industry Digital Plan (IDP). Details will be provided in 3rd quarter of 20212.
d. Promoting physical and mental well-being of staff – Centres are encouraged to consider efforts such as health and wellness programmes, and annual flu vaccination to promote the physical and mental well-being of staff. To encourage healthy lifestyles, the HPB offers health programmes tailored for staff at preschools. These may include physical activities, health screening, health coaching, as well as health talks and workshops tailored for educators, covering topics such as nutrition and mental wellness.
1 Time outside of developmental and care duties with the children where educators can exercise professional autonomy to plan and prepare for their lessons and other duties.
2 More details on these solutions and funding support for eligible operators is available on www.ecda.gov.sg/Operators/Pages/SMART-Solutions-for-Preschools.
4. More details on the OHSA findings and support available for EC educators and operators can be found in Annex A.
5. All 10 centres involved in the study have since started to implement solutions and adopted workplace health programmes to create more supportive work environments, promote staff well-being, and encourage healthy lifestyle practices. For example, NTUC First Campus’ (NFC) My First Skool now allocates two hours of non-contact time per week for lesson planning and ensures that every centre is equipped with a Teacher Resource Room conducive for staff to rest or prepare for their lessons. It has also adopted a suite of technological solutions to help educators with administrative tasks such as attendance-taking, communication with parents and preparation of e-portfolios. Other centres are encouraged to also implement such best practices for their staff.
Teachers’ Day Appreciation for Early Childhood Educators
6. In conjunction with Teachers’ Day, which falls on 3 September this year, Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Masagos Zulkifli visited My First Skool at Yung An virtually to share his appreciation for all EC educators in Singapore. He said, “Preschool educators are the child’s first teachers, developing them in core life skills and building foundations that will last them throughout their lives. During the pandemic, preschool educators have also worked tirelessly to keep our children safe, as part of our national efforts to fight against COVID-19. I want to thank all preschool educators for their contributions and sacrifices in protecting our young children. The Government is fully committed towards growing the sector and will continue to uplift the profession. I hope more will be keen to join the sector, as there will be continued demand for educators in tandem with us building more preschools for families. Once again, I would like to thank all educators for their dedication, hard work and contributions into building the lives of our next generation. I also hope that children, parents, and the wider community will join us in showing gratitude to our preschool teachers in their own ways not only on Teachers’ Day, but on every day of the year.”
7. Parents and the general public are also encouraged to show their support and appreciation for preschool teachers via our social media platforms –@BeanstalkECDA on both Facebook and Instagram.
8. This year, all preschool teachers can look forward to receiving Special Treats comprising sponsored gift items, promotions, as well as complimentary self-care and wellness workshops. Into its sixth year, Special Treats is a ground-up initiative by the Association for Early Childhood Educators Singapore (AECES) and Preschool Market3 that was introduced in 2016 to celebrate the passion and dedication of early childhood educators in nurturing our children.
Career Opportunities as EC Educators
9. As the Government continues to expand the provision of affordable and quality early childhood services, more dedicated and passionate EC educators will be needed. Those who are interested to join the sector, including mid-career jobseekers, can explore training and career opportunities at the Early Childhood Virtual Career Fair from 4 to 29 October 2021, organised by ECDA in collaboration with e2i. There will also be a series of webinars organised by prospective employers and training agencies. More information is available on our Shape Our Tomorrow website at www.ecda.gov.sg/shapeourtomorrow.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ASSESSMENT FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS AND SUPPORT
About the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment (OHSA)
The aim of the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment (OHSA) is to improve the health and well-being of staff working in preschools by enhancing HR practices and working conditions in preschools. The OHSA is a collaboration effort between the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council.
A total of 10 selected centres4 and more than 280 staff, from varying sizes, premises and operator types participated in this study, which started in late 2019. The assessment involved an anonymous Basic Health Survey (BHS) of staff (aged between 20 – 69), a Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) questionnaire and a walk-through assessment of the selected centres. Two of the ten centres also went through an ergonomic study.
4 The 10 centres that participated in the study are - Star Learners @ Yung Ho Pte Ltd, Star Learners @ Sembawang Pte Ltd, Iyad-Perdaus Child Development Centre (241 Jurong East St. 24), Kidz Meadow Childcare & Development Centre (173 Yishun Ave 7), Sunflower Childcare and Development Centre Pte Ltd (215 Bedok North St. 1), E-Bridge Preschool Pte Ltd (217 Compassvale Dr.), My First Skool @ Yung An, MY World Preschool (338 Anchorvale Crescent), PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Marsiling and Skool4Kidz Centre @ Anchorvale Crescent.
In summary, the findings for the study are:
a. Physical and mental well-being - Common illnesses self-reported by EC educators include body aches and pains, coughs and colds. Overall, most indicated that they are happy with their workplace and relationships such as their rapport with colleagues and supervisors though more than half self-reported that they faced significant stress levels.
b. Activity and lifestyle - More than half of the participants indicated that they participated in physical activities in the past seven days, but only 15% met the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. On diet and eating habits, only 21% consume the daily recommended portions of fruits and vegetables.
c. Ergonomics and comfort – Educators typically have inadequate lumbar support and encounter pressure on knees from working on child-sized furniture, engaging infants on the floor or during outdoor activities as well as awkward postures during routine care such as showering and diapering.
d. Environment and working conditions – There is strong awareness and good practices in safety and health of children in preschools. However, workplace safety and health internal reporting for the teachers can be improved. Centres are typically designed for children (e.g. child-sized furniture) and educators tend to find it difficult to find time to work on administrative matters.
Recommendations and Support
1. Enhancing Workplace Health and Safety Capabilities
- All preschools are encouraged to review their environments and/or processes for improved workplace health and safety. This can be done in consultation with WSH Council. Greater attention to the well-being and comfort of our EC educators and preschool
staff can lead to significant improvements both in the staff’s job satisfaction and quality of work. Operators may also find improvements in productivity and hence better manage costs through more efficient workplaces.
- WSH Council provides resources to help centres in their journey towards improved workplace health and safety processes. For example, free programmes such as StartSafe help preschools identify workplace health and safety risks, and bizSAFE will help
centres build workplace health and safety capabilities. More information is available on their website at www.tal.sg/wshc/Programmes.
2. Building More Staff-friendly Workplace Design and Environment
- Centres are encouraged to provide ergonomic elements such as adult-friendly furniture, adequate lighting or lighting features for staff to work in, and dedicated areas for staff to do their work and rest. Centres are also encouraged to consider providing
vocal training courses for EC Professionals to avoid straining voices in open concept classrooms.
- The Association of Early Childhood and Training Services’ (ASSETS) portal, EzMart, provides a list of ergonomic furniture, equipment and vendors for the sector at preferential rates. The sector is encouraged to purchase such equipment to enhance
their staff’s work environment.
3. Facilitating the Use of Technology to Improve Work Processes
- Centres are encouraged to adopt centre management solutions to help ease staff work in areas such as administrative functions, curriculum planning and portfolio management, and allocate non-contact time with children in their timetable scheduling.
- ECDA will avail funding to operators to encourage them to adopt SMART centre management solutions and other digital tools as part of the Industry Digital Plan (IDP). More details will be available in the 3rd quarter of 2021.
4. Promoting Physical & Mental Well-Being of Staff
- Centres are encouraged to consider efforts such as health and wellness programmes, and annual flu vaccination to promote healthy dietary habits and active lifestyle for EC professionals. These will help to enhance the physical and mental well-being
- To reduce EC educators’ stress levels in respect to workload-related concerns, centres can help by balancing and rotating staff’s responsibilities and administrative duties, as well as organising mental wellness talks to cover key health
topics or offer support channels. Provision of sufficient rest breaks at reasonable intervals should be considered as well.
- Centres can tap on HPB’s workplace health programmes. They may work with HPB to plan and implement suitable health programmes, which include health screening, health coaching as well as health talks and workshops tailored for educators covering
topics such as nutrition and mental wellness. For more information, centres can email HPB HPB_Health_At_Work@hpb.gov.sg.
1. What do the Special Treats comprise?
Special Treats is a ground-up initiative by the Association for Early Childhood Educators Singapore (AECES) and Preschool Market, a social enterprise. The initiative has been supported by ECDA since 2016. This year, all preschool educators will receive:
- A pouch, containing sponsored items from corporates such as Zuellig Pharma, Green Tropics and Kimberly-Clark;
- Access to promotions and discounts offered by merchants such as Crumpler, Q&M Dental, ArtScience Museum, TONI&GUY, Spa Infinity, Sentosa Development Corporation and Duke Bakery, that can be redeemed via the Special Treats mobile application;
- Complimentary self-care and wellness workshops, to encourage early childhood educators to take time for self-care.
2. What other initiatives are there to celebrate early childhood educators on Teachers’ Day?
We celebrate early childhood (EC) educators on Teachers’ Day each year in appreciation of their dedication and the important role they play in every child’s development. Since 2017, preschools have been encouraged to give their EC educators
a day off on Teachers’ Day. We have seen strong support among preschools and parents, with almost all centres declaring Teachers’ Day as a closure day. From 2020, it was made mandatory for all preschools to close on Teachers’ Day
and educators can have a well-deserved break. This move is part of a wider endeavour to build a meaningful and rewarding career in early childhood for Singaporeans.
As part of the national campaign “Shape Our Tomorrow” to foster greater recognition and respect for the early childhood profession, ECDA has also undertaken various efforts, including an appreciation video to encourage parents and the larger community to thank early childhood educators for their dedication and hard work in nurturing our children. This year’s video, themed “That’s How Much We Love You”, shows that while children may not always know how to express their feelings in words, they can still show appreciation and love for their teachers in their own little ways. The video can be viewed on Beanstalk ECDA's s Facebook and Instagram.