Parents of young children will be able to join early childhood workers and students in a symposium at the University of New England that will explore the implications of the Commonwealth Government’s new national framework for early learning. That framework, published as Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, has been mandatory as a guide for early childhood educators since the beginning of this year.
“The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) actually spells out what we’ve known for a long time,” said Margaret Sims, UNE’s Professor of Early Childhood. “It can sound new – and therefore somewhat frightening – because it hasn’t been articulated before. But it’s actually what early childhood practitioners have been doing.”
While there has been a considerable amount of in-service training for practitioners on the implementation of the new guidelines, the UNE symposium will enable early childhood workers to engage with the EYLF on a more insightful and creative level. “We decided on a one-day event – to be held on a Saturday – to make it as accessible as possible,” said Professor Sims, who is the convener of the symposium. “We’ve applied for funding to film it and put it on the Web.”
The full-day symposium, titled “The Early Years Learning Framework in Action”, will be on Saturday 23 October. The guest speaker will be Philip Gammage, an Emeritus Professor at both the University of Nottingham in the UK and Oulu University in Finland. Professor Gammage is co-Chair of the Trustees of the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (based in Birmingham, UK), an adviser to the State Government of South Australia, and a member of the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation. In her own address to the participants, Professor Sims will discuss the development of young children’s understanding of “rights”, “responsibilities”, “fairness” and “respect” as outlined in – and encouraged by – the EYLF. The symposium’s program of interactive workshops, led by early childhood lecturers at UNE, will include sessions on encouraging young children to become effective communicators, and on ways of “embedding” mathematics in everyday activities.
Professor Sims said that parents taking part in the symposium would gain insights into what constitutes a “quality learning environment” for children, and how they can “use the ordinary routines of life at home to create rich learning experiences”. “For example, setting the table is one-to-one matching – the basis of numeracy,” she explained. “When they understand that they don’t have to create special opportunities for learning, but just use the ordinary activities of life, it’s very empowering for parents,” Professor Sims said. “It’s not parents acting as teachers, but parents using life as a teacher. If only people realised that, there would be so much more learning happening.”
Children themselves have already been involved in preparing for the symposium, and will be present on the day. Children from Armidale Community Pre-School, Uralla Pre-School, and UNE’s Yarm Gwanga child care centre have painted calico conference bags for the participants so that everyone will have a unique bag. And on the day, the children from Armidale community Pre-School will perform at the opening of the symposium and have an opportunity to connect with the participants. “The symposium is about children’s learning, and we want children to remain at the front of our thoughts throughout the day,” Professor Sims said.
For more information – and a registration form – go to the symposium’s Web site at: http://www.une.edu.au/education/earlychildhood-symposium/