More than 100 early childhood workers from around NSW and beyond met at the University of New England on Saturday to explore the creative use of the Commonwealth Government’s new national early-learning framework.
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.
While there has been a considerable amount of in-service training for practitioners on the implementation of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), the UNE symposium, titled “The Early Years Learning Framework in Action”, helped its participants to engage with the guidelines on a more insightful and creative level. Margaret Sims, UNE’s Professor of Early Childhood, said it had enabled them to address the question: “How do we use the framework in a way that enhances our practice rather than constraining it?”
“Our discussions were about the values underpinning the EYLF,” Professor Sims explained, “and how to focus on those values as a way of guiding our work.”
In her own address to the participants, Professor Sims discussed 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, included sessions on encouraging young children to become effective communicators, and on ways of “embedding” mathematics in everyday activities.
The guest speaker was 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.
“The symposium’s participants are all working hard to engage with the EYLF,” Professor Sims said, “and they really appreciated this opportunity to explore its potential for creative application in their workplaces. For some people from rural and regional centres this was their first opportunity to take part in such a discussion.”
Many child-care centres sent their entire staff to the symposium, with one Sydney centre sending an eight-strong contingent.
Children from Armidale Community Pre-School welcomed the visitors with songs at the opening of the symposium. They – as well as children from Uralla Pre-School and UNE’s Yarm Gwanga child-care centre – had painted calico conference bags – each one of them unique – for all the participants. “Their contribution helped us to keep children at the front of our thoughts throughout the day,” Professor Sims said.
THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows one of the conference bags decorated by pre-school children. It expands to include Penny O’Doherty (centre) and Neil Gorring, symposium participants from Coffs Harbour, with UNE postgraduate student Gina Rahmalia Ginandjar.