July 2019 marked the third anniversary of the accreditation of early childhood teachers in NSW, Gabrielle Connell writes.
It’s the third anniversary of our recognition as professionals, as skilled and qualified teachers alongside our peers – primary and secondary teachers.
At last we are recognised for our skill, expertise and knowledge, as well as the important role we play in the education and development of young children – research has proven over and over again that this is the most important time in a child’s life.
Recognition means responsibility
However, with that recognition comes responsibility. That responsibility is to maintain our professional status by engaging with the Australian Professional Standards and continuing our growth as teachers through ongoing professional learning and ensuring that the Standards are reflected in our practice.
We can’t accept accreditation without acknowledging what it means. It’s not a piece of paper to put in a drawer and forget about until we make a rush to fulfil the requirements at the end of the accreditation cycle.
How many of us are actively working towards accreditation or the maintenance of our accreditation by engaging with the Standards in our teaching practice, undertaking professional learning and exploring current pedagogies?
We are time poor and we are already engaging with the National Regulations, the National Quality Standards and the Early Years Learning Framework and countless other regulatory requirements. We also need to know and engage with the Standards and know how they develop and reflect our practice. If we look closely, we can see that all these things are interlinked.
Use the Standards
The Standards are about us as teachers and it’s crucial to recognise this and use them in our everyday work.
If we looked at the Early Childhood Evidence Guide for the newly qualified early childhood teachers who are working towards accreditation, I am sure we would find evidence in our everyday practice that shows how we address the descriptors.
Working with them, recognising them in our teaching practice and being familiar with them puts everything we do as teachers into context. We need to look at the ‘I’ in this and what we do and the learning that comes from what we do.
This is not about what the child did – it’s about what we did in that teaching moment and the result of that teaching moment when we engaged the child and there was a learning outcome. It’s about our professional growth as teachers.
Over the past two years, NESA has recognised the need for new early childhood teachers to have support through the accreditation process from provisional to proficient. It is doing this by training and appointing accreditation supervisors across the state for those early childhood teachers whose service has nominated NESA as their Teacher Accreditation Authority.
It can be difficult for beginning teachers to reach Proficiency when they may be the only teacher in a service or they are in services where there is no one able to supervise them.
The IEU has always recognised this for all teachers and provides free NESA accredited PD. IEU provides free subscription to the Teacher Learning Network (tln.org.au) for all early childhood teachers who are members.
This means they can access NESA accredited PD online, through webinars and face to face at no cost. This is wonderful for our sector, particularly teachers in rural and remote areas or teachers in services with limited PD opportunities.
The IEU fought long and hard for this professional recognition, for our accreditation as teachers – we certainly deserve this, but we need to show we are actively pursuing our own professional growth and putting what we learn into our teaching practice.
Gabrielle Connell is IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Early Childhood Services Vice President and NESA Accreditation Supervisor.