The Oz Early Ed Podcast

Please forgive this quick bit of self-publicity.

Today myself and two of my favourite people in the early childhood sphere launched the first episode of the Oz Early Ed Podcast.

We’re excited and enjoying this little experiment in a new medium for the important issues affecting young children and early learning to be discussed, debated and analysed.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’d really appreciate you giving it a go.

You can find it on the iTunes store here, or by listening online at SoundCloud

Big thanks to Lisa Bryant and Leanne Gibbs for joining me on this little adventure.

oz early ed show

Children in detention letter campaign

It’s easy to feel powerless. The recent media around the experience of children and other refugees on Nauru is sickening. With bipartisan support from the two major parties, it’s hard to know what can change it.

I like to write. I’ve already written to the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader on this issue. If you work in early childhood and aren’t sure where to start or what to say, I decided to make an easy way to get started.

Click here. It’ll take you through to the letter-writing campaign and tell you what to do.

The odd letter might not do much. But imagine a flood of letters from early childhood educators, teachers, Directors and other professionals bombarding the Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister.

Children are children. They don’t deserve what Australia is doing to them. If you work with young children, please consider taking action.

We abuse children

It’s 26 July 2016. I live in a country that abuses children.

Not by accident. Not as a result of rogue operators, or an imperfect system.

As the result of policies and systems that work exactly as they are designed to.

In juvenile detention, children are strapped to chairs, held by the throat, are teargassed. We knew for years. The NT Parliament passed legislation allowing a lot of this, crowing about being tough on crime. UNICEF says it’s essentially torture.

That’s just what we know about, and have footage for. God knows what else is happening.

For years now, we’ve locked up children on island gulags. Their physical, emotional and mental damage are years in the making and will last their lifetimes. The Australian Parliament passes legislation allowing this, crowing about being tough on border security.

In Australia, we abuse children. We do it deliberately, systematically and very, very well.

We need to get comfortable saying this. The usual chorus of “well, but…” and “it’s a complicated issue” will begin. Whatever arguments are put forward, whatever reason, whatever behaviour we are trying to control, it can only end in the reasoning that the abuse is justified. “It’s not abuse”, they’ll say. “We implement the policies humanely”.

It’s abuse. We know what offshore detention facilities on Nauru and Manus do to children. We do it anyway.

We knew what was happening in juvenile detention in the NT, and we knew “restraint chairs” and “spit hoods” were wrong. We used them anyway.

We abuse children. We can’t solve it until we name it.

Indigenous children are 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care. 4 times more likely to be in juvenile detention. These statistics have gotten worse since the National Apology.

A Royal Commission will come and go, like the Bringing Them Home Report. We’ll shake our heads and say we’ll do better. We won’t.

In 26 July 2016. In Australia, we’ve decided that to make a society you have to break a few children.

Fund an inquiry into that.

The importance of relationships

The way we think about early childhood education has changed a lot in a relatively short space of time. It’s amazing to remember that across Australia, guaranteed access to preschool education in the year before school is a very recent initiative. The Universal Access commitment from all Australian Governments (Federal, State and Territory) was only agreed in 2009. For a long time, education was something that only happened once children started formal primary education.

A wealth of research and evidence over the last two decades or so has started to significantly shift that viewpoint – highlighting not just the importance of preschool education in the year before school, but the fundamental importance of the first three years of brain development. As the Centre for Community Child Health succinctly puts it – “What happens to children in the early years has consequences right through the course of their lives.”“What happens to children in the early years has consequences right through the course of their lives.”

This places an enormous responsibility on those of us who work in early childhood education and care (ECEC). We are professionals working in a space where we can have a significant impact on the lives of the children we work with – impacts that will be felt far past the time they are no longer with us. Yet the ECEC sector remains fragmented, poorly and inefficiently funded and situated within a market-based model that makes prioritising educational outcomes for children difficult.

The quality of learning children experience in ECEC settings is directly connected to the quality of the educators staffing those settings. Yet early childhood educators are some of the lowest-paid, and least-regarded, professionals working in Australia today. Data from ACECQA shows that Quality Area 1 – educational program and practice, is the Area most likely to be Not Met across the country.

This is clearly a big problem. Documentation and assessment of learning are regularly raised by educators and services as their biggest challenges. But as a sector, our difficult relationship with QA1 may be diverting our attention from practices that are just as – if not more – important.

The evidence is becoming clearer and clearer that how children experience relationships is fundamental to their development, and future success. Not just how adults develop relationships with them, but how they are supported to develop relationships with each other and also how the adults around them interact and engage with other adults.

Looking particularly at the earliest years of life, research is clear: what matters isn’t the most expensive new toy, the flashiest activity board or the “Baby Einstein” CD – but simply the quality and frequency of interactions between an attentive adult and a child. How many of us spend our time wondering what to order from the most recent “educational catalogue”, when we can do the most good with what we already have – ourselves!

The National Quality Standard recognises this – Relationships with Children is Quality Area 5, and includes strong guidance for services and educators to take this seriously as part of their work. But as the fifth out of seven areas, and with Quality Area 1 taking up a lot of our stress levels, it may be time to re-assess how seriously we take this part of our practice.

Remember what the Centre for Community Child Health said: “What happens to children in the early years has consequences right through the course of their lives.” This has both positive and negative connotations. Positive experiences are likely to lead to positive outcomes – but negative experiences may actually damage children. As a sector, can we be sure that all – or even the majority – of our services, are places where interactions and engagement between children and educators are positive, warm and affirming?

We know this isn’t the case, which represents a big challenge to the work we do. Disengaged, stressed and underappreciated educators are not in a position to provide the relationship-based learning environment that will help children thrive. This also has consequences for how children are supported to engage with each other, and with how educators engage with their colleagues. Role modelling of positive relationships and interactions is a key teaching strategy in the practice of relationships, but we know that developing strong, supportive and stable teams is a huge challenge for ECEC services.

Relationships are human – which means they are as challenging, complex, joyous, frustrating and as rewarding as human beings themselves! But despite this, there are two keys reasons to take another look at how they are happening in our services.

  1. We know it is the foundation for the rest of the work we do; and
  2. It is something we have complete control over.

We may be struggling to raise funding to renovate that old room, we may be still working together to develop an approach to documenting learning, we may be challenged by our resource budget – but the simple day to-day, moment-to-moment way we spend time with children is entirely within our control, and it can change for the better today.

If you’re an educator working directly with young children, start to assess your own interactions with children. Are they always positive? Do they always treat young children with respect and dignity? Do you ever ignore children, or is there a child in your room that is quiet and misses out on attention from you or your team? Long experience in any role in any profession can lead to disengagement – doing the same things day in day out can easily lead to poor relationships and interactions. Consciously challenge this, ignore the paperwork for a day and just be with children for day. Laugh and joke, smile and play. This is the work of early childhood.

If you are a leader in a service or organisation, take additional responsibility for ensuring that relationships are taken as seriously as every other aspect of operation – if not more so. We would not tolerate educators who consistently arrive late or miss shifts. The same should be said for the interactions your team are enacting with young children – in fact, it should be less tolerated. Set the expectations for your team, and ensure they are upheld, but crucially role-model and exemplify that standard. Show your team, and your colleagues, how important the simple backand-forth with children can be, and how it should be valued.

Services that practice positive relationships with children will be supporting their ongoing learning and development in real and concrete ways – the documentation and planning will follow.

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 edition of e-child TIMES, published by Child Australia.

Labor’s ECEC policy blunts hard edges of Coalition’s plans, but fundamental reform still nowhere in sight

Mid-way into the endless 2016 election campaign, Labor has released the details of its early childhood education and care policies.

The big ticket items are:

  • an increase in the Child Care Benefit by 15% from January 2017
  • an increase in the annual cap on the Child Care Rebate from $7500 to $10,000
  • additional funding to Budget Base Funded services, primarily supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services
  • a commitment to develop a new Early Years Workforce Strategy, and make submissions to Fair Work Australia supporting higher wages for educators
  • re-introducing funding for professional development support
  • funding for “oversight, transparency and accountability” of fees and fee increases in ECEC services

The policies will be kicked around by all and sundry for the next few weeks, so my views are going to be more in the areas of context and long-term reform.

It can’t be questioned that the proposals as listed above are all, in general, positive – particularly funding certainty for Indigenous early childhood services and the revival of the Professional Support Coordinator (in one form or another). The list of principles at the start places children first – while this is only a press release this is positive, and the sector should watch closely that this continues in any formal proposals and eventual legislation.

But the big picture is a bit more worrying in terms of advocacy for early childhood in Australia. Everything listed above is either a fix for, or a response to, specific policies of the current Government.

This isn’t Labor’s vision for early childhood education in Australia. It’s their list of what they think the Coalition got wrong, and what they’ll do about each point.

Somewhat frustratingly, almost the one thing that the current Government got relatively right – combining the CCB and CCR into one subsidy paid directly to services – is not even mentioned, let alone planned to be implemented.

We have the right to expect more from a left-leaning, nominally progressive alternative Government than hitting “Track Changes” on the Government’s Jobs for Families plans and altering it.

One of the more impressive things about Labor’s term in opposition over the last three years was a focus on policy, including Jenny Macklin’s work on social policy. To get to an election, with three years of Government incompetence and inaction on such a critical issue as a free kick, without a real vision for reform is not OK. We can, and should, expect more.

Once again, the election battle in ECEC becomes about fee relief. Access to early education is critical, but continually fiddling with the various rebate streams is not reform, and it will not change lives.

The Coalition’s Jobs for Families “reforms” were a huge disappointment and a missed opportunity, but given their ideological bent not a huge surprise. The Jobs for Families-lite being promised by Labor is better, but the sense of a missed opportunity remains.

Labor couldn’t have had a better run-up to this issue. After falling victim to Coalition scaremongering in 2013 about rising costs which became steadily more apocalyptic in tone, the Government then proceeded to do absolutely nothing about it. After trying (and failing, despite support from some of the early childhood sector for some bizarre reason) to sell their Jobs for Families package to the community, they then announced they’d even kick that down the road to 2018.

Labor could be decimating the Coalition in this area. Imagine if they took ECEC as seriously as superannuation or negative gearing. Imagine we’d had a reformist policy for ECEC announced six months ago, that could be being argued and prosecuted throughout this campaign. Labor were able to take the first important step with the National Quality Framework – to go small-target now and just propose a fix-up job is not what the sector, the community and children need or deserve.

Yes I’m always grumpy. Yes I rarely say anything is good enough. I’m not going to apologise. The day we, as advocates for children, decide that “well this is better than nothing” or “at least it’s better than the alternative” we may as well just stop, because we’ll never get anything better.

Labor’s ECEC policies are better than what we currently face. They are certainly better than the Coalition’s plans. There is much to be appreciated. But that is not the end of the conversation. It might make a broken system better, but it does not propose a new system.

They can do better, and they must do better. I’ll take the grumpy label, until children’s enrolment in early childhood is not tied to their parents’ job security and ability to pay fees. Until early childhood is a full part of the education system.

In short. Well done Labor, but you’ve got a lot more work to do. Best get started.

The loss of the PSCs will make for a less inclusive sector

From July, the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector will face some significant changes to the way support to improve quality approaches is provided. The Federal Government will cease funding Professional Support Coordinators (PSCs) in each State and Territory, while Inclusion Support Providers (ISPs) will continue with an expanded funding framework.

Additional funding to support inclusion issues is of course very welcome. The current Inclusion Support system has been underfunded for many years, particularly in the funding able to be provided to services to be able to raise the educator:child ratio to support inclusive practice. But what will this additional funding achieve, and is it worth the loss of the PSCs?

Inclusion is a very broad term, and can mean very different things for individual children, families, services, organisations, educators and communities. But at its most fundamental level, it means that every child is supported to access quality education and care. Crucially, this doesn’t just mean attending a service, but actively participating and moving towards the Learning Outcomes.

Inclusion is often used to refer specifically to children with a diagnosed disability, who do often require particular supports to actively participate, but it’s important to remember that every child may at one point or another require specific, contextual support to participate. A physically healthy and nurtured child may still experience significant separation anxiety, and educators will need to draw on inclusive strategies to support them. Children (and their families) can move in and out of vulnerable situations during their time with us – and for some children we may not ever fully understand what is happening for them outside of the centre.

This is where the loss of the PSCs will have a significant effect on ECEC services improving their inclusive practices. Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and Early Childhood
Intervention Australia’s (ECIA) “Position statement on the inclusion of children with a disability in early childhood education and care” states that:

ECEC services and support professionals must be resourced and supported to the level required to fully include children with a disability and to achieve high quality outcomes for all children.

The Statement also lists Government support for “a stable and skilled ECEC workforce with relevant skills, knowledge and access to ongoing professional development and support” as a key action required to improve inclusive practice in the sector. The PSCs were in a perfect position to complement and enhance the work of ISPs in this area. Services and educators should remember that it’s important to always be working on advocacy in this area. Child Australia’s “Inclusion: Our Statement” makes this clear:

We actively seek to inspire, develop and support inclusive policy and practice at all levels of government and with non-government agencies.

We know that high quality early childhood learning environments can support all children, and particularly children in need of early intervention. Supporting ECEC services to be more inclusive should be a fundamental principle of Federal Government policy and funding, and while a boost to the ISP funding may achieve some short-term benefit, cutting away crucial professional development at this time will mean that inclusive approaches and practices will not be embedded.

In the end, as well as making engaging in inclusion more difficult for services, this will ultimately negatively affect the children in our community.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 edition of e-child TIMES, published by Child Australia.

Four years on from the NQF, are educators more respected?

This week, the federal Department of Education is conducting a nationwide “Workforce Census” of early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. This census will provide important information on the qualifications, retention rates and other factors that provide a snapshot of the early childhood educator role in Australia.

This is a good opportunity to take a step back and look holistically at how early childhood educators are viewed and supported, both within the ECEC sector and in the community. The National Quality Framework (NQF) was introduced in 2012, and one of its key pillars was the acknowledgement that quality learning could be provided by qualified and valued educators.

Four years on, how close are we to realising that vision?

One clear victory has concerned qualification levels. Ensuring minimum qualification standards for all educator roles, and transitioning to 50 per cent of roles being diploma-qualified, has been well implemented. I’m shocked that it took until 2012 for Australia to decide that a minimum qualification was required to work with young children.

I can vividly recall heated discussions here in my hometown of Canberra in the lead-up to 2012. Hearing people angrily insist that these “ridiculous regulations” unfairly discriminated against “workers” who had decades of experience. We owe young children more than that. The research is clear that the first five years are critical for a child’s life, yet while we insisted that a bricklayer laying the foundations for a house had to have a minimum qualification, those people entrusted with laying the foundations for a child’s life needed no such training.

While qualification levels have improved, I am uncertain whether the value placed on educators has done the same – whether in the community or within the ECEC sector.

Professional identity is so important in our work. Educators who don’t value themselves and the work of early childhood education cannot facilitate high-quality learning for children. Yet the words and images that dominate the  sector’s public facade do not uphold the professional standard of the NQF.

A quick check of recruitment advertisements on job website Seek bears this out. “Childcare educators.” “Childcare Worker.” “Diploma team member.” This is on all the first page, and repeated multiple times. I see a lot of CVs in my role, and the candidates who refer to themselves as “childcare workers” outnumber those who say “early childhood educators” by about five to one.

Educators are fighting a long-term battle for professional recognition and the appropriate wages that go along with that. United Voice’s Big Steps campaign continues to advocate for, and share stories from, the sector, and a wage equity case is before Fair Work Australia. But we are burying our heads in the sand if we think some outside force is going to swoop in and magically change the way educators are viewed. It has to come from the sector; specifically, it has to come from those in leadership positions.

In a policy context, supports available to educators are being systematically stripped away. The Early Years Workforce Strategy is due to finish this year, with no prospect of being replaced. Federal funding for professional support co-ordinators ends in June, leaving educators and organisations with no guaranteed access to quality-assured professional development.

It’s easy for those of us who no longer work directly with children every day in educator and teacher roles to forget how challenging, consuming and draining those roles are, but also how important and rewarding they are.

We should remember the foundation for quality early childhood education is quality early childhood educators. Let’s make sure we’re setting the standard for how those educators are viewed.

This article was originally published on the Early Learning Review website.

A commitment, for whatever it is worth

Tonight, as a direct result of the policies of our Federal Government which are overwhelmingly endorsed by the majority of the Australian community, a second asylum seeker has set themselves on fire on Nauru.

Last Friday, a 23-year old named Omid died after doing the same.

The sense of helplessness is overwhelming. The usual suspects will decry the loss of life, while holding steadfast to a policy built on human misery – all to stop the boats.

50 children still remain incarcerated in Nauru, and nearly 350 are in some form of detention on mainland Australia. What we have done to these children will haunt them for the remainder of their lives.

I am not one of those courageous few who devote their every day to changing those facts. People in organisations like Save the Children, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and others.

I work in early childhood, and I write. I’m incredibly privileged and fortunate in every area of my life. I have no idea if my writing can help, but I would like to make a small gesture – even if a gesture is all it will be.

Part of my good fortune is being asked to do the odd bit of writing on early childhood and being paid to do so. For the next two months, I commit to donating any fee I receive for a writing or speaking commission to ChilOut – the incredible organisation that advocates and works towards the freedom of children in immigration detention.

Until the end of June, anything I’m commissioned for will be going straight to them. I hope the nonsense I usually write can do a tiny bit of good.

So please, if you’re looking for a writer on early childhood in Australia, I’m available. You can obviously check out my writing on this blog, and I’d recommend looking at my Published Works page to get a better idea of my more professional writing.

Please share this with any networks you may have – I’d love to get bombarded with work! I’ll post the final amount at the end of June.

Please also consider donating yourself – to ChilOut or another fantastic advocacy organisation. The only thing that can cure helplessness is taking action – even if you feel it may not contribute.

Thanks – Liam.

 

Why do we struggle with critical reflection?

The National Quality Framework (NQF) reforms acknowledge that good outcomes for children can only be supported by qualified and professional educators, who regularly reflect on their own – and their colleagues’ – practice. As with any profession, research and knowledge is always changing and being updated. It’s important that educators, no matter what their qualifications or experience, always remember to give themselves time and space to discuss and analyse their own work.

Reflection is a significant underlying foundation of the NQF. The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) is not a set and structured curriculum, but a guide to help services and educators develop their own approach to children’s learning that will best support the specific children, families and communities that they work with. Even the National Quality Standard (NQS) can be interpreted and applied in different ways in different contexts – there are many ways to Meet or Exceed the NQS. Successful interpretation and implementation can only be achieved through critical reflection.

The NQF acknowledges how important critical reflection is in several ways. “Ongoing learning and reflective practice” is one of the Principles of the EYLF, and the Educator’s Guide to the EYLF features an entire chapter on “Reflective practice for improvement”. Element 1.2.3 of the NQS ensures that “Critical reflection on children’s learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, is regularly used to implement the program.”

The EYLF also specifically acknowledges the importance of using critical reflection to challenge practice from a social justice perspective – for example, it can be challenging to take an accepted practice like celebrating Christmas in Australia, and think about what that may mean to many families in your service. Why is one cultural celebration prioritised over another?

Interestingly however, it seems that critical reflection is an aspect of professional practice that as a sector we most struggle with. Data from ACECQA reveals that NQS Standard 1.2, which includes Element 1.2.3, is the Standard that is the most likely to be rated as Working Towards of all 18 Standards.

It’s hard to determine exactly why that is the case, and every service and jurisdiction is different. My own experience working in the sector suggests that we’re still not comfortable with being critical about our own work, and the work of our colleagues, in ways that are positive rather than negative. Working in early childhood education and care (ECEC) is a physically and emotionally demanding job, requiring a daily and continual focus on the wellbeing of others rather than yourself. It’s entirely understandable that to then have to sit down and discuss what needs to improve can be daunting.

It could also be a reaction to a lack of professional recognition of the important role educators undertake in our community. Particularly prior the NQF, and even now, we were “child care workers”, or “child minders” – little better than babysitters. There is still a huge way to go in the community properly valuing early childhood education and the work of educators. So for many, critical reflection may be seen as another negative “attack” on their work, rather than a crucial part of ongoing professional development and recognition. The more reflective and open to improvement we become, the better we become at our roles. Which means better outcomes for children, families and communities – and in the end, a greater understanding and valuing of our work.

The key is to find ways to be critical, without being negative. To reflect, without becoming upset. To focus on the professional, not the personal. Critical reflection isn’t a choice, it’s an integral part of the NQS. So educators and services need to find some ways to support that process in ways that make sense for their own individual teams and communities.

Reflecting as an individual educator can be achieved in a large variety of ways, and educators should try to find a way that works best for them. This might be a reflection journal, a conversation with a mentor or colleague, voice recordings or even painting or drawing. If you’re a part of a team, you might need to discuss this requirement with your Director or Manager – you may have to share some of your reflections with others.

Sharing in teams can present the most challenges, as it can be a confronting experience sharing your own reflections and reflecting on the practice of others. Teams need strong and clear leadership to be able to engage in critical discussions – Centre Directors (and other leaders) should reflect on the culture within their teams. Is there scope for a culture of critical inquiry?

This culture can be helped by providing clear guidelines for discussions – to always focus on the professional, and not the personal (e.g., talking about a specific piece of documentation in a way that reflects on the actual documentation, not the person who wrote it); for it to be a requirement of all of the team, including leaders; and for possible solutions and positives to be offered as part of any critical discussion.

Every team is different, but ways to start might be:

  • for learning documentation to be displayed in the staff room for comment, discussion and support. Becoming comfortable with sharing our work with our colleagues is vital for critical reflection, and having our work open in a safe and collegial space could help those who struggle with discussing their work;
  • To make it a requirement to include discussion of at least one positive and one “room-for-improvement” item in every professional discussion, until it becomes everyday practice;
  • To provide educators with “questions to guide reflection” from the Guide to the National Quality Standard on a regular basis, and share the answers as a team.
  • To pick a topic and ask these important questions from the Early Years Learning Framework: “who is advantaged when I work this way? Who is disadvantaged?” (EYLF, p. 13).

The only way to become comfortable with critical reflection is to do it regularly, in safe and professional spaces. Educators and teams need to work together to find the means that will support this to happen.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of e-child TIMES, published by Child Australia.

What do the low numbers of men in ECEC really mean?

Once a year or so, another report, research document or news article appears that highlights the low numbers of male teachers working in early childhood and primary schools. Another was released in the past month, and tells familiar stories of isolation and suspicion.

The problem is tricky to solve, and has been for decades. It’s tricky because the problem isn’t really “the problem”. It’s a symptom of a number of inter-connected and entrenched issues, which are particularly thorny in early childhood.

The issues are now well known. Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is still often viewed as “women’s work”. This is borne out in the statistics that, at last count, 97% of the sector was female. Because there are so few men in the sector, the ones that are there are often viewed with either suspicion or outright hostility. Which means that fewer men will want to work in ECEC… which means that the men that do will be viewed with suspicion… and so it goes on.

I’ve always been generally pretty optimistic about change in this area. As I’ve written about before, my experience has not been as negative as many other men working in the sector. I had always felt that things would change – slowly, as things tend to do. I don’t know if I’m getting more cynical as I get older, but I’m actually starting to worry that things are not even slowly improving.

The numbers of male primary school teachers rose in the second half of last century as the sector became more professionalised, and wages rose alongside that shift. Even primary teaching used to be viewed as something women did for little-to-no money. That view has significantly changed, and so the gender imbalance lessened slightly (but still remains large in that sector).

ECEC is in a different stage on that journey. The National Quality Framework reforms, designed in no small part to ensure a rigorous and professional approach to early learning, are only in their fourth year. We’re still far more often referred to as childcare and day care. We’re nowhere near the level of professional recognition that primary teachers receive from the community.

Thinking about low male representation in ECEC through the lens of professional identity means we may need to ask ourselves some tough questions. How do we represent ourselves in the community? Do we refer to ourselves as “childcare workers”, and use old-fashioned marketing and branding that suggests colourful, happy, fun places rather than serious places of early learning?

There are a number of great organisations out there that provide networks and mentoring for men in the sector – these fill a need and are of great help to many working in ECEC. But on their own, they’re not going to resolve the issue. Because the problem isn’t low numbers of men, it’s what those low numbers represent – that ECEC is still not viewed seriously as a profession.

Which is hugely disappointing – because it obscures the real issue. Low numbers of men in the sector isn’t a sad story about men. It’s a sad story about women. Because it means as a community we’ve decided that ECEC is work for women, and therefore shouldn’t be recognised and paid as a profession. If women are doing it, it can’t be that important.

That isn’t going to change with a marketing campaign, or scholarships, or incentives. Changing how we are viewed is a process that can only start from within the sector itself. For many working in ECEC, this will be a challenging and concerning process. For many, not taking childcare too seriously and just “having fun” with children in a safe space is still good enough for ECEC.

The research, which was the driving force for the NQF, is clear. High-quality, well-planned early education delivered by qualified professionals can improve life outcomes for all children – particularly those experiencing vulnerability. Once we win that battle – both in the sector and in the community – we’ll find that the battle to raise the numbers of men in the sector is already halfway won.

This article originally appeared in the April 12 edition of the CareforKids.com newsletter.