Goodstart Practice Guide supporting quality early learning for Australia’s children
An educator practice guide and a $56 million investment in professional development and training since 2010 are just two ways that Goodstart is helping to counteract one in five Australian children starting school developmentally vulnerable says Goodstart’s Capability and Early Learning Strategy General Manager Heather Finlayson.
Presenting at the Beyond Tomorrow Conference in Melbourne, Ms Finlayson said children who started school behind their peers often found it difficult to catch up, and urged early learning professionals to support children in their journey to school through working with children families and local schools.
“Research shows that children who attend early learning are one third less likely to start school behind,” she said.
“Without question, we know that the early years are critical to a child’s life-long achievement and success.
“However, we also know that early learning only counts when it is high quality early learning.”
The conference attracted 950 early learning professionals to discuss the skills, qualities and knowledge fundamental to providing best practice within early childhood services.
Ms Finlayson’s presentation described the transformation change program Goodstart has undertaken to build the professional capability of educators and increase the use of evidence-informed practice in daily work.
“Over the last few years, improving the pedagogical practice across our centre network has been a key focus for Goodstart to ensure children have the learning, development and wellbeing outcomes they need for successful life-long learning,” she said.
“To deliver sustainable improvements in centre based practices, Goodstart has taken a purposeful and integrated approach focused on building evidence-informed practice and developing organisational capacity to support practice change at centre level.”
The 2015 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) shows that of the children starting school vulnerable they are behind in at least one area of their development, including communication skills and general knowledge, social competence, language and cognitive skills, emotional maturity and/or physical health and wellbeing.
Reflecting on the census results, Ms Finlayson said while families and government had a crucial role in making sure children were not left behind, the early learning profession had an essential role to play too.
“Continual practice improvement across our profession is a must,” she said.
“Our practice needs to be informed by emerging research and evidence about what fosters children's learning and delivers the best outcomes for them.
“While in our care, it is important we work closely with each child, and their parents and caregivers, to give Australia’s children the best start to life.”
She said while the sector advocated for greater government investment to improve childcare affordability and accessibility, no childcare centre should overlook their own investment in their people and early learning practice.
“Educators are the heartof every childcare centre and they need ongoing professional development and training,” she said.
In sharing Goodstart’s practice improvement journey since 2010, she said investment in educators, together with investment in early learning research and the development of a Goodstart Practice Guide, had helped Goodstart embed and deliver high quality early learning across its network of centres.
“What we found when talking with educators is that they wanted more guidance on how to translate the Early Years Learning Framework into daily practice,” she said.
“They wanted ideas on how to use evidence-informed practice each day with children and make it easy for parents to see and contribute to children's learning as part of their everyday work.”
She said educators initiated the development of the Goodstart Practice Guide, the first of its kind in Australia and many of them were part of the co-design process so that it could be adapted for every community.
“We recognise the National Quality Standard and the Early Years Learning Framework must underpin our quality framework. However, to achieve better outcomes for children we needed to go beyond these, and so, the practice guide was born,” she said.
“The Goodstart Practice Guide was launched this year and it brings together insights from international early learning experts, the latest evidence of what works best for children, and our own on-the-ground experience.
“The guide identifies the key practice we want to see in every centre across our network and it has been written with an understanding of Australia’s unique context and an awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island culture and history.”
The Goodstart Practice Guide provides educators:
- Evidence – the relevant research findings that support the choice of practice
- Practices to try – suggested evidence-informed practices to try out in response to critical reflection in each centre
- Practice examples
- Practice indicators – outlines the pedagogical practice and fosters reflection on current practice and possibilities for improvements
“Our practice together with advances in research in Australia and overseas, will continue to see the guide updated to make sure it stays relevant and uses new evidence as it emerges.”
In closing, she said that improving practice across the sector must remain a sector-wide priority.
“At Goodstart, we hope that as we learn more we can share our learnings with other early learning professionals and contribute to Australia’s evidence base for early childhood practice.”