Monday, June 24, 2013

Australia's Silent Epidemic; it's preventing good early year's sites and services from demonstrating excellence

While this guest post from Andrea Doyle focuses on the Australian education system, many of her points are also valid here in the United States. Read and let us know what you think.

Plus, check out the observation app that she has created for the iPad. It could come in handy!
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Is it just me? I don't think so. In fact, I know so. Early years carers, educators and leaders are frazzled, frustrated and in many cases burnt out.


Is it the myths and misconceptions we hold about what is required of us in our current roles, in the current educational climate of new regulations and frameworks? Do we do it to ourselves? No, there has always and will always be changes in education systems. As educators, we except, and expect this and have rolled with it for decades. I believe it is the magnitude of multiple changes all at once and the absence of support structures to assist in implementation and embedding into practice. We were balancing the ‘Reflect, Respect and Relate: Observation Scales’ and devising clever inquiry questions when we were handed the EYLF and almost immediately the NQS on top of it. We had no hands left. In comparison, look how slowly and steadily the Australian Curriculum has been rolled out. That's because when it was handed to school principals they had the strength and courage to hand it back, knowing that they would support each other in their refusal, that they would have one another's back, prepared to cause waves and rock the boat if necessary, to avoid additional stress and pressure and to maintain the dignity of their role. They said, 'The quality of my school, wellbeing of my teachers and learning of my students would be compromised if I agreed to such a task so no thank you, not until you tell me about and provide me with the support structures I require in order to implement this successfully. My teachers need training, release days and time to do this.' Leaders in the early years must find this courage too.

The sad fact!

I have experienced it myself and witnessed it personally over the past year or two and I bet you have too; Directors and team leaders stepping down from their role, an increase in significant medical and emotional illness and leave from work, family breakdowns and excellent, but bewildered, educators leaving the profession they once loved (and often still do).


Lack of understanding from the community, lack of support from demanding parents, lack of funding from government departments and therefore lack of sufficient administration time to do their job, the job they want to do to the best of their ability. They want the best outcomes possible for their little learners but there is no balance, most work many extra hours above their paid hours, they have to in order to try to meet the expectations of their role, they sacrifice time with their own families, time for their own professional and personal interests and as for leisure time, what's that? They are left with a deep aching conflict within themselves, the desire to make theirs the most exceptional early year’s site ever but an overwhelming feeling of job dissatisfaction because they are spread so thin they are unable to give 100% to any of the tasks required of them. This is not about a cry for more pay, I believe 99 out of 100 early years staff would just like a reasonable amount of admin time to meet the requirements of their role, time to write meaningful child observation records, to discuss and analyse the play program and plan together, to enter attendances into their Early Years systems and to follow up that issue that occurred today with a phone call to the parent - today.

Tell me why a small country school site with an enrolment of 100 students can have a full time Principal with no teaching load (and even a part-time deputy too) and yet an integrated Kindy site with childcare facilities and an enrolment of 120 three and a half (early entry) to five and a half year olds (due to the 'same first day' policy, I'm in SA) has a Director who is still required to teach two days on the floor?

In many sites, Directors, teachers and ancillary staff do not have breaks, they eat with the children because children must be supervised at all times with certain ratios but no additional staff has been employed/allocated to cover these ratio requirements. Even staff toilet breaks are taken at rocket speed, so as not to leave another staff member with too many children to supervise alone, the paper is off the roll before your backside hits the seat. It sounds like some kind of joke doesn't it? But, I am very serious. New young fresh graduates walk in with big smiles, plans and high hopes, excitement and a genuine love for children and go home by the end of their first week shaking their heads and asking 'This can’t be right, can it?'

The fact is, our early years sites and services are filled with maternal nurturing women (mainly, though I respectfully acknowledge and admire our few male colleagues dedicated to early years education) and they are wearing capes, scared that if they express concern over current demands placed upon them, if they question, complain, admit they need help or support, if they buckle under the strain or don't dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ as required they may be stripped of at worst, their job or what little super human powers that remain. Have I lost you? I’m talking about those super powers which allow these dedicated educators to miss their own children's Sports Days, Concerts, award ceremonies and school assemblies so they can be there to act as teacher, advisor, guide, counsellor, nurse etc to teach, challenge, develop imagination as well as water, feed, bandage, tie shoelaces, wipe noses, and generally 'mother' other people's children as if they were their own.

Do they receive medals, certificates, praise (let alone appropriate financial remuneration) or even just an occasional little ‘thanks’ for their choice, for the sacrifice they make? Rarely, in fact they mainly hear from parents when they wish to complain and bosses when they are requesting to add something more to the already overflowing sink of (becoming very cloudy) dish washing water. A commitment to continual improvement is one thing, I don't think there's many of us that don't want to be the best we can be, but to continue to raise the bar without proper acknowledgement of what has already been achieved is not just unfair, it’s plain rude.

The National Quality Agenda was necessary and long overdue, we all know why so I'm not going to go in to a lengthy rant about it, and I am not disputing that. I personally believe the National Quality Standards cover all they should and are well set out and written. I love the National Early Years Learning Framework. I believe it captured the recognised and unseen principles, practices and learning goals for children that Early Years educators have been dedicated to, enacted and aspired to for many years. To me it was like the old 'Teachers Work' document had been rewritten for the early years. It defines what we already believed about community, parents, children and learning, what we were already doing in practice and what we already aimed for children to know and do before beginning school.

Now, with implementation complete, QIP’s written and submitted, on-going assessment and validation continuing and a new deep understanding permeating all we do, as we deal with the continued lack of understanding, support, funding, and admin time, we need to be kind to one another, support one another, encourage one another and praise one another for all we have achieved in the Early Years over the past two to three years. For our sanity, we must prioritise the most important administration jobs, prioritise the needs of the children and let the rest go. It is hard and we hate it but the children will survive without pre-entry visits and huge bound scrapbooks of every painting they completed at Childcare. Some things have to go. It’s time to work smarter, not harder.

I wonder if maybe the next time we are handed that new massive framework of expectations we will have the strength and courage to hand it back, but likely we'll continue to be superheroes, waiting for the understanding, support, funding and time we need to make our good Early Years sites and services places of excellence.

Written by Andrea Doyle, Teacher, Leader, Learner and Business Owner of Teaching Made Easy

Teaching Made Easy’

During her Master Class, renowned author and educator, Maggie Dent, examines the role of stressors and explores ways to de-stress and relax to deal with the unique challenges of our teaching profession. We believe our ‘Teaching Made Easy’ resources compliment Maggie’s message perfectly.

In fact, I designed the ‘Teaching Made Easy – Child Observations’ app and ‘EYLF Made Easy’ programming and planning package after reading numerous blogs of educators crying out for help and after working as a Preschool Director and suffering health issues and stress brought about by the new requirements of the National Quality Agenda and implementation of the Early Years Learning Framework. Both ‘Teaching Made Easy’ resources aim to streamline the documentation demands of busy time-poor teachers to allow less time on paperwork and more quality time spent with children.

The ‘Teaching Made Easy - Child Observations’ app is a recording and reporting tool developed to assist educators in continuous documentation and assessment to meet the needs of individual learners. It allows users to easily develop a Child Profile Folder as they collect photographic evidence and align their learning story to the outcomes of current national curriculum frameworks (EYLF and the Australian Curriculum) and to identify extension ideas and intentional teaching opportunities.

You can view more screenshots & download your FREE ‘Teaching Made Easy, Child Observations’ app here:

We recommend you check it out and see if it would be an observation tool that might work for you.

The ‘EYLF Made Easy’ programming and planning package can be found in the featured products section of our ‘Teaching Made Easy Print’ website.

Please send me an email to if you would like more information or would like me to send you some samples.

If you are still not sure, join over 5,500 ‘Teaching Made Easy’ fans on our facebook page, and talk to other early year’s educators about why they love the support, features and benefits of ‘Teaching Made Easy’ resources.

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