Early Childhood Conference breaks new ground

This year’s IEU Early Childhood Conference was ground breaking in many ways. The large crowd in attendance wasn’t unusual though, nearly 150 participants.

This was the first ever live streamed conference, which allowed people who were unable to get to Sydney to participate.

Conference convenor Lisa James welcomed the insightful comments throughout the conference submitted by live stream viewers.

This was also the first conference where representatives from both political parties attended.

NSW Early Childhood Education Minister Leslie Williams gave the opening address and Shadow Minister Kate Washington gave the closing speech.

But probably the most important innovation of this conference was that it provided participants with five hours of registered accreditation with BOSTES.

This is the first conference where NSW early childhood teachers have been professionally accredited with BOSTES.

Thanks to IEU advocacy, early childhood members only require 20 hours of registered PD a year, so the conference provided 25% of the year’s requirement.

IEU Secretary John Quessy outlined the history of accreditation in his address.

“Two years ago I spoke to you about the expectation of gaining accreditation for early childhood teachers, and it was announced soon after,” John said.

“Last year there were dozens of unanswered questions about how it would work for early childhood teachers.

“This year most of those questions have been answered and accreditation has happened seamlessly for the vast majority of you. It happened that way because of the Union.

“We gave our expertise, advice and advocacy to BOSTES.”

John said the IEU took a prominent role in a number of working parties to improve BOSTES policy in relation to early childhood members.

“BOSTES struggled to comprehend and understand your sector. We won automatic accreditation at Proficient for you if you have done one day of teaching in the last five years; a mentoring system; the requirement for 20 hours of registered professional development rather than 50 and a specific early childhood evidence guide.

“There is still more to be done and BOSTES is learning on the job from us.”

John said registration had quantified the number of early childhood teachers working in NSW: 6000, of whom only 1200 belong to the IEU. Not all that 6000 would be eligible to join the IEU.

John urged early childhood teachers to use their networks to encourage more teachers to join the Union.

Keynote speaker Margaret Sims, Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of New England, presented a thought provoking dissertation on the influence on neoliberalism and big business interests on education.

Ever popular early childhood consultant Lisa Bryant got people on their feet and thinking when she challenged them to ‘ask for what they need, want and are worth’ at their service during her keynote address.

IEU Vice President Gabe Connell never fails to disappoint with her quirky and irreverent take on the sector, in which she calls it like it is, tongue always firmly in cheek.

Thirty year member of the IEU Meryl Trotter was surprised and honoured to be presented with a 30 year membership badge during the conference.

Meryl has spent her career in the Port Macquarie area, and she was set in the right direction thanks to intervention from IEU Industrial Officer Verena Heron 35 years ago.

“I’ve been a member ever since and the IEU has always been there to answer any queries straight away. Nothing is ever too hard for them.”

Workshops included Narragunnawali: Supporting the ‘Work’ of Reconciliation in Early Learning Services; Maintaining NSW Proficient Accreditation; Goldilocks and the House of Terror or Storytelling without Books; Think Well, Live Well and So you Think you can’t Draw?

Full coverage of lectures and workshops from the conference will be available in Bedrock magazine, free to members and posted to their homes on 7 November. Bedrock is also available on line at http://www.ieu.asn.au/news-publications/publications/bedrock/

Sue Osborne