Valuing Professionals

Valuing Professionals

On a sunny Saturday in June I delivered a 5-hour training session on Aistear Síolta in Action to a group of early childhood educators. It was a lovely day.  We explored what our image of the child is. We discussed and shared lots of ideas on play, open-ended materials, minimising transitions and enabling children to have choice. The women in the group reflected as the session progressed, they asked questions of each other and of themselves. It was evident they are committed caring professionals. At the end of the session there were comments like ‘the session was too short’ and ‘could have stayed another 5 hours’. I was buzzing…it was a great day.

And then something happened that stopped me in my tracks. One woman had an envelope in her hand and asked the manager to sign it…it was her ‘signing on’ form. The irony was huge… this experienced, dedicated early years professional is on the dole for the next two months.

We, rightly, place huge emphasis on quality in the early childhood sector. We use the Frameworks, Aistear (2009), Síolta (2006) and we use the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide (2015) to support our thinking and reflection on quality and professional practice. Síolta (2006) Standard 11, Professional Practice says Practising in a professional manner requires that individuals have skills, knowledge, values and attitudes appropriate to their role and responsibility within the setting. In addition, it requires regular reflection upon practice and engagement in supported, on-going professional development. We are increasingly becoming a graduate led sector. Dr. Mary Moloney, in her Scéalta post Reflections on Degree Level Training on April 25 2017, says that children deserve this graduate led workforce. Few would argue. Indeed, who could? Our young children deserve well trained, committed, dedicated and passionate people supporting their earliest learning and development through play.

But, as long as these professional people (mostly women, it has to be said) are treated as seasonal workers, paid less than the living wage, signing on for the summer months, our early years sector will continue to struggle to be valued, to be seen as the professionals we know they are. And while the overwhelming majority of people are in this challenging role for the love of it…this won’t pay the bills. Goodwill wears thin after a while.

The huge policy focus on the early years sector in the past 10 years has been most welcome, not least by the educators who have lobbied for such focus for years. It is past time to value them now, as they have, and continue to value the children they care for and whose learning they support. Let’s hope this is the last Summer that educators will be forced to sign-on the dole.

 

Bio:

Máire Corbett is the Digital Co-Ordinator of the Learning Hub on the Communications and Development team at Early Childhood Ireland. She trained in Montessori teaching and has completed an MA in Integrated Provision for Children and Families with the University of Leicester, at Pen Green.

“Visiting member settings inspires me as I see the passion and energy educators put into providing great experiences for the children in their settings. I love seeing competent children at play!”

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