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Keeping Up With Changes in Early Childhood Education

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Just recently I was reading an article which really brought to my attention how the role of the child care worker has changed.  In fact, even the term “child care worker” can now nearly be changed to “early childhood professional” overnight.  This is because not only the government, but society in general has come to understand the significant impact that the early years have on a person’s life; and how, if in these early years, a child is not given the best care and attention; then his/ her whole life can become extremely deficient later on, which can severely impact on the social resources of the community as a whole.

Therefore, a great deal of time, money and effort has been put into creating programs,  strategies and policies for ensuring that the early years of a child’s life are the best that they can be.  This, of course, means that child care centres and their staff need to have a thorough understanding of, and depth of knowledge about children; the way in which they learn, and some of the diagnostic knowledge which accompanies the programming for this.

As a result, child care staff are now becoming trained under a national framework in order to meet these expectations.

In addition, the Council of Australian Governments also identifies the need for integrated early childhood services which is reflected in the Early Years Learning Framework.

There are many agencies and services available which assist with catering for the different needs of children and their families; and integrating these to work in a conducive manner could appear to be a mammoth undertaking causing a great deal of confusion.  But this is a task which needs to be co-ordinated so that its smooth operation can work effectively for the benefit of those who require the assistance provided.

What does this mean for early childhood professionals? And what will the job of an early childhood teacher of tomorrow look like?

He / she might work alongside:

  • Outside agencies which are in partnership to deliver services to children and families.
  • Children who are already in programs such as: kindergarten; child care; preschool; and early intervention.
  • Families in their own homes.
  • Community groups which run programs such as: playgroups; parent groups and other forms of parent and child support programs.

Margaret Sims of the University of New England recently undertook a research project where she asked graduates and employers what they thought made a good early childhood worker.  She said that using their feedback, and my own understandings of the profession, she suggested early childhood professionals ought to have an understanding of:

  • Learning through play.
  • State and federal early childhood curriculum and child protection frameworks.
  • Attachment.
  • Theories of child and adult development.
  • The importance of the early years.
  • Theories and practice around early literacy (multi-literacies) and numeracy.
  • Strengths-based work.
  • ‘Big picture’.
  • Mental health issues, how to facilitate good mental health development.
  • Family dynamics / working with children and families.
  • Social disadvantage and social issues, prejudice, anti-bias.
  • Using a community development framework.
  • Empowerment and difference.
  • Crisis intervention, conflict management.
  • Counselling / when to support and when to refer.
  • Advocacy.
  • Addictions.
  • Family violence.

Early childhood professionals also ought to:

  • Be good at relationship development.
  • Be empathetic.
  • Be culturally competent.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Have basic para-legal knowledge.

She also states that a new vision of early childhood professionals is an essential component of the current federal reform agenda.

We need the professionals with the skills and knowledge to undertake new ways of working.  We need to offer opportunities to those already working in the profession to upgrade their qualifications (professional childcare training qualifications and courses available here) and also create programs that appropriately qualify new incoming professionals.  We can meet the challenges ahead with open minds; a willingness to reflect on our basic assumptions; and a commitment to improved outcomes for children, families and communities.

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