Quality, evidence-based teaching essential
Australia’s early years teachers need more support to ensure they do the best work possible, according to a leading UK education expert.
Goodstart Early Learning board member and Education Endowment Foundation chief executive Sir Kevan Collins said teaching as a profession was changing around the world and that teachers needed more support to ensure they were implementing evidence-based practice rather than relying on single studies it needed to build bodies of evidence.
“Children learn more in their early years than at any other time in their lives, particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Sir Kevan said.
“But the teaching we’re sharing with them needs to be quality and it needs to be evidence-based so that we are teaching them in the best possible way. We have to be good at getting better.”
Sir Kevan was visiting to Australia speak at the 2019 Goodstart Early Learning Teachers Conference, Being a Teacher: Integrating Identity, Theory and Practice.
He was joined in Sydney by child psychologist Dr Louise Porter, Semann and Slattery co-director Anthony Semann and early childhood consultant Kirsty Liljegren.
Sir Kevan said governments throughout the world needed to encourage more people to be teachers and that organisations which employed them needed to ensure they had opportunities to grow, learn and just be good at getting better.
“Australia needs to get serious about the status of early childhood teachers if it hopes to attract and retain the brightest minds to the profession,” Sir Kevan said.
“We need to ensure that teaching is cherished and honoured with intellectual curiosity. These people are teaching our children what it means to be human – values, beliefs and community. There is nothing more important than that.”
Sir Kevan also called on governments to ensure there was better remuneration for teachers, and more support for families from all walks of life because “comprehensive education is really important”.
“For children from disadvantaged backgrounds, early learning really matters but they thrive best when they are surrounded by other people, other children from many different backgrounds.
“In medicine evidence and research allows doctors to fix lots of different people with the same treatment. Education isn’t quite the same. Every child is an individual and catering your teaching to those unique needs is essential.”
He also said Australia needed to focus more on the transition from early learning to school, saying it needed to be seamless and consistent for the child.
“We want children to bounce into school, excited about what comes next. Teaching young children is a huge responsibility that gives great joy. Our children will leave education in 2030 – are we preparing them well for an unknown future?” he said.
Goodstart Early Learning employs more than 1000 early childhood teachers throughout Australia and aims to increase that number by 2020 to ensure there are at least two teachers in each of our centres.
Goodstart general manager pedagogy and practice Sue Robb said the organisation’s most important resource was people. “With the right people we can do anything,” she said. “We need to invest in our people so that they are as skilled and knowledgeable as they can be to deliver the best early learning for our children,” she said.