We’re back, what happened?

We, the Educators and Educational Leaders at the heart of your child’s early or middle childhood service, are returning from COVID to an unfamiliar world where seemingly suddenly, everybody knows our name.

We are spoken about on the news – nicely. We have allies who understand our importance, and the importance of what we do. After literally generations of struggle, we … are a bit stunned!

The return from local COVID responses, for many of us, has been dependent not just on daily numbers and graphics on the news, rather it has been a working of interrelated puzzle prices that keep changing shape. Lets recap:

  • Australian Government child care fee support packages started and finished. Job Keeper started and finished. Transition payments were deciphered, claimed, lodged and amended, all this keeping many in long computer hours as enrolments and staffing were delicately and hopefully balanced.
  • Educators came, lost hours, went, returned, and went again. Hurt, confused, frightened, worried over diminished, already meagre finances exhausted with so much extra work, and worried/ terrified over rapidly diminishing job security.
  • Parents and children drifted away slowly, then rapidly, then services closed and then opened to the challenge of supporting multiple family returns and where possible, finding new families.
  • Regulators regulated via Zoom and phone calls. Spot checks were time limited and topic limited, sounding attractive to some but for most, the independent regulator is also the only independent supportive voice around.

“I started hearing about child care in the news and it was using words like ‘essential’ and ‘critical’ Educator Vic. (semi-rural service 4 years)

“Is it true? Did the Prime Minister call us an essential service?” Educator WA (27 Years in the role)

What the hell happened while I was stood down?” Educational Leader NSW (5 years in the role)

During the interregnum, Educators joined the world in plugging in to the Zoom lifeline. Fighting isolation and fulfilling workplace imposed learning requirements, suddenly Educator exposure to other services and Educators across the country was not limited to the lucky who could afford degrees, higher degrees, conferences and travel – all Educators could be and were included and it was happening at a scale not seen before.

All the while, Educators who were busy providing care and education for tens of thousands of Australian children began hearing their name. Louder and louder. This public acknowledgement of their worth and their profession was the first time many had heard that acknowledgement from their community and country.

The Zoom meetings and online forums grew. In this great connection, ideas and concepts were starting to be shared in ways that many were familiar with, but so, so many were not. As the public call went up about the value of early childhood and Educators, terms like ‘Professional’, and ‘Professional status’ were becoming common.

Self-identification as a professional is now discussed freely as is accountability and professional practice Agreed at a meeting of 40 Educational Leaders across the country.

Clearly, sector leaders were saying privately, we are professionalising, but we need a clearer idea of what we want and how we are going to get there.

Contributors to this conversation are now standing tall, and the conversations are daily, often many times daily and lately into the night.

The journey toward professional status is not text book, although many will undoubtedly write it up along the way. There are stages to growing a profession. In this blog now, that’s what we will be talking about.

Next time: How a profession is grown.