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Research showing that looking after infants and young children is never ‘just babysitting’ has transformed the expected standards in early childhood education. B Y M A R G A R E T PATO N

Children of the revolution

T

he ball game for early childhood educators has changed significantly in the past two decades, and we’re not just talking about kids at play. Advances in pedagogical theories, practices, regulations and frameworks relating to children under nine years old are continuing to transform and professionalise the sector. Children are no longer viewed from a narrow cognitive developmental perspective as individuals without any connection to the world they live in, says Dr Joanne Ailwood, senior lecturer in early childhood education and care at the University of Newcastle. “We understand them as much more richly and deeply connected to their families and communities,” she says. “It has enabled us to think of children as much more competent and able to do more than we have given them credit for in the past. Given space and opportunity, they can do much more than we often expect.” With that change, the introduction of the Australian Quality Framework’s seven quality standards and Early Years Learning Framework, plus the recently updated Early Childhood Australia

Code of Ethics, comes an impetus for greater professionalism among early childhood practitioners and teachers. “We don’t just wheel out the collage trolley, play with children and change nappies,” says Ailwood, who has co-edited the book Understanding Early Childhood Education & Care in Australia: Practices and Perspectives (Allen & Unwin, 2016) with Dr Wendy Boyd and Dr Maryanne Theobald. “We observe children closely and we are closely engaged in educational decision-making. What we do has thought and an intention behind it. “We need to be more articulate as a field and profession because our jobs are incredibly complex.”

Allen & Unwin, 2016, paperback

One shift has been to acknowledge early childhood educators’ professional knowledge and their expertise in partnering with families and communities. Another has been from tolerance of diversity to valuing diversity, respectful relationships, and cultural competence and understanding, which the code of ethics underpins. Sticking points for professionalism in the sector include a lack of pay parity with school teachers in some states, and

AEU federal secretary Susan Hopgood AEU deputy federal secretary Pat Forward

3 6 SP R I NG 2 01 6 AUSTR ALI AN E DUCATOR 9 1

By Dr Joanne Ailwood, Dr Wendy Boyd and Dr Maryanne Theobald

Beyond tolerance

AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe

Australian Educator (ISSN: 0728-8387) is published for the Australian Education Union by Hardie Grant Media. The magazine is circulated to members of the AEU nationally.

Understanding Early Childhood Education & Care in Australia: Practices and Perspectives

AEU and subscription enquiries to Australian Education Union Federal Office, PO Box 1158, South Melbourne, Victoria, 3205 Tel: (03) 9693 1800 Fax: (03) 9693 1805 Email: aeu@aeufederal.org.au www.aeufederal.org.au www.facebook.com/AEUfederal @AEUfederal

that early childhood educators work with children eight hours a day, leaving little time for programming and writing up documentation. While trainee educators are encouraged to keep a journal to reflect on their practice, it may not help them develop. She suggests educators discuss issues with more experienced colleagues, attend conferences and workshops, and create informal local peer groups. Theobald echoes the need for peer work and urges teachers to ask their centres to subscribe to key academic journals, such as the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood. “You need to be up to date with current issues, not only in your state, but nationally and internationally,” says Theobald. Overall, teachers are being “more reflective, more accountable, having to show and really think about their practices” in relation to the quality standards,” she says. The national curriculum for schools has also put the spotlight on educational outcomes. There has been a question about “the level of push-down of the academic curriculum [in early

Editor Susan Hopgood Publisher Fiona Hardie Managing editor Lucy Siebert Commissioning editor Tracey Evans

Design Luke McManus Advertising manager Kerri Spillane Tel: (03) 8520 6444 Fax: (03) 8520 6422 Email: kerrispillane @hardiegrant.com.au


Educator spring 2016