“We’re finding it hard to recruit and retain staff,” teacher Jodie Cox said.

“That impacts on the quality of care for children.”

Teachers in the Independent Education Union’s NSW branch gathered outside the Fair Work Commission’s Sydney office on Friday morning. 

The union has applied to the commission to lift pay by 25 per cent at more than 100 preschools across the state.

Low wages across the sector have led to a shortage of teachers, fellow teacher Lisa James said. 

“They’re having to cap numbers because they can’t accept more children because they don’t have the staff,” she said.

Some preschools can only afford to open two days a week.

The pay rate makes the sector unattractive to graduates with education degrees equally qualified for higher-paying jobs in primary schools. 

“You come out (of university) and just starting as a graduate teacher, it’s like 15 to 20 thousand dollars less,” James said.

The low wages also contribute to the gender imbalance in the sector, which is more than 95 per cent female. 

One of James’ male colleagues left to become a paramedic. 

“If he wanted to have a family, there’s no way he could actually afford one,” she said.

A wage increase would also benefit future generations of teachers who might otherwise pass on early childcare work, Janene Rox said.

“It’s not just for teachers in the sector now but people that are considering joining the sector in the future,” she said.

“If we fight for it now it’s going to have a positive impact for a long time.”

Fortunately, Rox is optimistic following the wage boost for childcare workers in both the federal and Victorian budgets.

“It just makes sense that it will happen in NSW for preschools as well,” she said.