Wellbeing in the early education sector has never had a greater focus. An army of consultants are preaching its importance. Governments, peak bodies and unions are funding professional development on it. Organisations are spruiking their approaches to it. It’s hard to go a day at the moment without an email selling it, or a social media post with a group of smiling young educators holding up their cupcakes from a benevolent CEO. Meditation practices are just as likely to be sold as a required part of an educator’s professional toolkit as an understanding of theoretical perspectives. Who do you have doing your yoga “incursions”?
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.
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.
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?”
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.
This is the text of my keynote address at the Little People, Big Dreams Conference organised by Child Australia. It was delivered at the Darwin Convention Centre on Saturday 13 October 2018.
I don’t do as much writing on this website as I used to, as I spend a lot of time talking about early education on The Early Education Show, and writing about it on The Framework. I wanted to add a quick post here though about a new project that I’ve really enjoyed putting together, and is out in the wild from today.
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!
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.”
Despite only making up 3.9% of the early childhood educator workforce in “long day care” settings, men account for 54% of top leadership roles.