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Professionalism in the Early Childhood Sector

October 7, 2014

 

On Saturday, 4th of October in the Hertitage Hotel Portlaoise we met with some of our members.

Despite all the good work that is happening, the commitment and professionalism of staff, we as a sector (estimated 25,000) have low status and are regularly portrayed negatively in the media (both print and television). We in Early Childhood Ireland want to progress change, to develop a shared view of the profession and that means asking ourselves some challenging questions:

 

What does being a professional mean in early childhood?

 

What is the responsibility of each and every one of us as a professional in the sector, and what can we expect of ourselves and our colleagues?

 

What does it or should it mean to be a member of Early Childhood Ireland?

 

To help us begin the conversation we invited  Dr Jan Peeters from the Centre for Innovation in the Early Years, Ghent University Belguim and Dr. Maresa Duignan from the Early Years Education Policy Unit, who shared their experience and helped provoke our thinking. 

 

Dr. Jan Peeters started and spent much of his professional life as an early years pedagogic coach in his home country of Belgium and has an ongoing interest within his current role as researcher as to how we can inform and influence policy makers.

Jan drew on 3 pieces of recent European research to bring some key messages to Early Childhood Ireland members in Portlaoise.

  1. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) makes a real difference to the quality of practice and everyone in the setting must be engaged.  To be effective CPD must be linked directly to daily work within the setting, it must address local needs and be linked with national frameworks (in our case Aistear and Siolta)
  2. Coaching and Mentoring are effective approaches to improving practice
  3. ‘Child-Free’ hours are required to plan, document and reflect on practice

 

The challenges for quality provision that Jan identifies from his research, reflect very much the issues facing us here in Ireland

  • Financing – cost of training and preparing the workforce
  • Child-Free hours – lack of time available for staff, individually and as part of a team to plan, document and reflect
  • Gender – more men are needed in the early childhood sector
  • Pre-conditions for quality are not met – Working conditions and continuity of staff

 

 

Dr. Maresa Duignan is currently with the Early Years Policy Unit in the Department of Education and Skills and is located in the offices of the DCYA.

In addressing Early Childhood Ireland members, Maresa challenged us to keep play to the fore in our values, in our work and in our own dispositions as early childhood educators.  She asked us to stand up for play and be as she describes ‘playful professionals’.

She posed the rhetorical question that if economists, neuro-scientists, educationalists and researchers can all confidently say that quality early childhood care and education is important for young children, then why are we struggling in practice?

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