After years of floundering under successive early childhood ministers (and Prime Ministers), the Jobs for Families Package – now wrapped up into a ridiculous Omnibus Bill – is likely to come before Parliament in the next two weeks.
One of the fundamental features of play-based approaches to learning and development in the first five years is a focus on children and their interests. Formal, rote or instructional learning in this space has limited, if any, benefits to children, while approaches that promote engaging children in fun and interesting play can have an amazing impact.
The Early Years Learning Framework strongly acknowledges this approach, particularly through the Principles and Practices that support educators to think holistically and individually about each child, their family and their community. Since the introduction of the National Quality Framework I have seen a big shift in the sector towards focusing on “children’s interests”. When I speak to Team Leaders in particular about their approaches to educational programs and practices, I often hear variations of “I extend on children’s interests”.
This is worth exploring. On the surface, this seems obvious and clear. We’ve been told for a long time to explore children’s interests – surely we should promote the things that engage children? But as with all of our teaching strategies, we have to be prepared to engage in critical reflection about what they mean and how they affect children.
It seems likely that within the next few weeks, the Government’s long-promised and much-analysed early childhood education and care reforms – under the telling title the “Jobs for Families” Package” – will finally come to a vote in the Parliament.
I’ve been writing and speaking about this Package for more than a year now. I am as firmly opposed to it now as I was then, if not more so. As we’re approaching a time where it may either pass and become law, or fail and surely be a wake up call to a Government that has got this policy area so wrong, I thought it might be helpful to clearly and simply articulate my position on this package.
As early childhood professionals, we play a significant role in the lives of young children. We are in a position to support their learning and wellbeing, and have a profound affect on their lifelong disposition for learning. The National Quality Framework reforms are a reflection on how important early childhood education is, both in Australia and internationally.
It seems that we’re extremely close to an announcement that the refugees illegally imprisoned in Australian-funded and managed island trauma factories will be sent to a variety of other countries as part of some byzantine Government negotiations.
I’m writing this quickly to make a point regarding this announcement – the specifics don’t matter. The arrangements don’t matter. What matters is the people (including children) at the centre of all this.
It feels pretty unnecessary to add yet more words to the rise of Trump, but I think a lot of people are processing this through writing. That’s how I do it, anyway. So bear with me, I’ll be quick.
For early childhood professions – educators, teachers, managers, leaders, policy makers – there is now no more crucial time to focus our efforts and energies more on intentionally teaching tolerance, and diversity, and the evils of prejudice.
The children we work with with soon inherit a world that appears still riven with intolerance and acceptance of the worst aspects of human nature – even elevating the personifications of those characteristics to one of the most powerful positions in our world.
As with so many things, feelings of powerlessness and defeat are overwhelming. But if you are in a position to either influence the planning and programs offered to children (or influence those developing and providing them), why not commit to taking action. By intentionally planning for the only things that can eventually defeat the darker parts of ourselves – role-modelling, teaching and enacting tolerance and respect.
Take the dinosaurs, play-doh and puppets off the planned and documented program for a little while. Focus on kindness, and celebrating difference. A better world depends on it.
Another quick self-promotion break – the podcast I’ve been making with my friends and colleagues Lisa and Leanne hit our tenth regular episode this week.
As with all professions, it’s important to be continuous learners. No matter what our current level of qualification, there’s always more to learn and be challenged by. That’s why ongoing professional learning and development is so important. It means we can keep up-to-date with the latest research and thinking about the work we do.
For early childhood educators, this is even more important. Research and thinking about learning in the Birth – 5 years has dramatically increased recently, and every day seems to reaffirm how important those foundational years are. The knowledge that underpins the sector is changing and updating all the time, which means we need to change and update our thinking all the time as well!
In August, 132 early childhood professionals sent letters to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, calling on the Government to end the inhumane treatment of child refugees on Nauru and Manus Island.
Today I received a response – it can be viewed here. I have also posted the text below.
While I am pleased that the Department took the time to reply, I am not happy with their response – nor that the Minister or Prime Minister did not reply personally.
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 Early Education Show.
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.