Bought and sold: Early education in Australia

A couple of things happened in the early education sector recently. Neither of them are huge deals on their own, but they both represent trends in the sector that tell us a lot about where we are at right now.

One of Australia’s largest early education organisations ditched the “Early Learning” in their name for “Childcare and Education”. Some blokes in suits, with no early education qualifications whatsoever, did it to grab a few more clicks from families on Google they could convert into revenue.

And an AFL team has decided that a “childcare centre” near their stadium shaped like an enormous football would be pretty cute. It’s called Kool Kids, of course. More blokes, more suits, same amount of early education qualifications (zero).

What matters about these announcements isn’t that they’ve happened. It’s that they’ve happened and no-one cares. Reached for comment, Australia’s early education sector said: shrug emoji.

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Do we need a Code of Ethics for non-educator roles?

In a market-based model, the need for a Code of Ethics to underpin the work of early childhood educators is critically important. Alongside the National Quality Framework, it provides a framework for ensuring that children’s rights are prioritised, and that educators themselves can advocate for the importance of their own roles and the experiences of children.

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‘Can’t you just keep politics out of centres?’: Why the answer must always be ‘no’.

The mission of this blog, and by extension a lot of my career in the early education sector, has been to hang out at the crossroads of politics, policy, advocacy and children, and see what zooms by.

Throughout the time that I’ve been speaking and writing on those issues, there’s always been a small amount of the same response: “why do you have to bring politics into it?”

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“Men just bring something different to the centre”: Neurosexism and early education

Back in 2016, I sat in a room in Canberra as part of a panel on men in early education. I used to do that sort of thing a little bit, and this one was of the usual standard. I heard the same sort of words from the other panellists (all men, by the way) that I’d heard before. “Diversity is important”. “Children, especially boys, need strong male role models”.

The phrase “reverse sexism” was never uttered during that panel, but it was the unspoken undercurrent of a handful of the comments.

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‘That’s so adorable!’: The curse of cute

You’ll have seen a lot of it on Facebook. Advertising for a PD course, or a new centre, or a consultant. There’ll be a bit of text, overlaid over a large image of a child doing something “cute”. Maybe the child is wearing a small suit, sitting behind a desk. So cute! Maybe they’re in a pilot’s uniform, holding a steering wheel. How adorable – they’re pretending to be fly the plane!

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“For the love of it”: Educators, women’s work and advocacy

Just over five years ago, I stood with a group of early childhood educators and United Voice members in one of the many gardens at Parliament House, and listened to these words from the man who would become Australia’s Opposition Leader.

“It is no longer enough, I think, for Australia to rely upon the emotional, the intellectual and indeed the physical efforts of Australia’s childcare workers and not adequately remunerate them.

“It is no longer enough, in Australia, that we say to marvellous professional childcare workers, for whom we entrust the development and the safety of our children and for whom these people commit emotionally to our kids every day and to say that there’s nothing that can be done about your low level of remuneration.”

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It’s time for men in early childhood to advocate for women

This has been tough to write, and has taken me many months of thinking to put down. I know that the words I write here will be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or even seen as some sort of grandstanding or attention-seeking.

I can’t help any of that, but I need to quickly say these things.

Over the last couple of years I have turned down opportunities to speak or write about challenges for men working in early childhood.

I want to explain why, and why I will continue to do so.

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