Leadership training benefits Indigenous children

An Indigenous professional development project is promoting pedagogical leadership and peer mentoring as pivotal in supporting the understanding and use of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) for Indigenous teachers.

The Remote Indigenous Professional Development (RIPD) project promotes the use of EYLF in early childhood education and care services that cater for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote and rural areas of Queensland. Funded by the Australian Government and managed by the Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE), the project aims to meet the learning needs of entry level teachers as they build on their understanding and implementation of the EYLF.

The project, which commenced in 2012, is delivered as a series of professional development workshops and is facilitated predominantly by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early childhood teaching experts, known as Pedagogical Leaders, who have extensive experience teaching in remote areas of Queensland.

Workshops include site visits and practical activities using a custom-made kit of teaching resources that participants take back to their centre. In each program, Pedagogical Leaders use the RIPD package to work with participants to plan for, reflect on, and document ways to improve learning outcomes for young children.

Services that have taken up the RIPD opportunity are already feeling the benefits of the learning that took place in past workshops. Director of Kutjala Playgroup and Kindergarten in Charters Towers, Kerry Halloran, has previously sent centre assistants to the Townsville RIPD. Kerry said she was enthusiastic about the impact of the workshop on her employees.

“I’ve noticed a lot of changes in their practice and the way they do their activities. They’re using the kit to try and address the individual needs of the children and to come up with better ways to deal with challenging kids.”

Another significant outcome of the workshop for Kerry and her centre was the positive impact on time management.

“What we’ve learned from the workshop has allowed us to halve our time in planning and documenting. Morale has improved because a lot of what we were already doing has been validated. If we can give them a start with an enjoyable program, if parents can see through photos that kids are having a great time and learning, then our parents will be more inclined to send their kids to school.”

The executive summary of the Interim Report for the Remote Indigenous Professional Development Project in Queensland, released in March 2014, outlines the positives to the project. “When reflecting on their leadership journey throughout the project, PLs (Pedagogical Leaders) reported they felt proud of their growth as Indigenous early education leaders and the contribution they had made to increasing the educational capacity of early years teachers to use the EYLF. They highlighted the importance of the interconnectedness of their personal, cultural and professional identities,” the report said.

Though the programs were well received by Indigenous early years teachers and their supervisors, the report recommended that it be expanded to include other staff, including non Indigenous staff and service directors, and to promote cultural competence more broadly to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the early years the best possible start.