Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Windows of Opportunity

Child Australia held the 2011 Western Australian Early Childhood Education and Care Conference “Windows of Opportunity” in June 2011.

Recently I had the privilege of speaking at this conference. Not only did I have the opportunity to provide a keynote but also to facilitate a workshop on learning stories. There was a high level of interest in Learning Stories, many people had already begun this journey. Teachers in Australia were very passionate about learning stories and the power of this documentation to make a difference for not only children but parents as well.

The early childhood environment in Australia is very different when it comes to looking at the structural issues. Childcare Centres and Kindergartens operate under very different structures. The 2011 Western Australian Early Childhood Education and Care Conference “Windows of Opportunity” brought together early childhood leaders, educators (in childcare, kindergarten and school settings), academics, researchers and policy makers so they could work collaboratively to ensure our children have the best start in life.

The Conference provided participants a wide range of international and national keynote speakers who presented on current research findings and provided a variety of workshops based on Leadership, Learning Environments and Relationships. The areas of Advocacy, Curriculum and Assessment, Reflective Practice, Play, Early Childhood Education for Aboriginal Children and Inclusion were also in focus. Keynote speakers at the conference are below.
Dr Stuart Shanker (Canada); Dr Margy Whalley (England); Dr Louise Hard (Australia) and Wendy Lee (New Zealand)
The conference organisers gave opportunities for participants to use ipads and ipods during the conference, they set up a Wiki and invited everyone to participate. For many this was the first time that they had an opportunity to use an ipad or infact and ipod. There were 300 ipads and 300 ipods distributed to conference participants.
Some of the comments on the Wiki relating to my participation are listed below…..

Dr Alec O'Connell

"Bravery has many resting places." What a great phrase! Wendy's call to arms is very timely. Commitment and passion are great drivers of sustainable success.


What fantastic practice principles to guide our work with children and families by. Just imagine the outcomes that could be achieved if these principles were embedded in our thinking in every centre and classroom.

Dr Alec O'Connell

Wendy's decision to go and find her favorite teacher is a great idea. There is a lovely book which my wife bought for my birthday called "My Favourite Teacher" by Robert Macklin. A simple compilation of how teachers made a difference to those interviewed for the book.


What great encouragement for thorough reflection in learning stories. The personal stories of educators is an idea I will be taking away. How can we expect our families to be integrated and vulnerable to share life if we can't offer our own ... Great stuff


Thank you Wendy for challenging educators thoughts and allowing us to take a moment to put ourselves in the children's shoes and to believe we can support children to be capable competent learners


Wendy has a great solution focused approach to her work. Build on their strengths, that’s the foundation to good education.


Powerful message about the importance of developing quality friendships in the workplace and about displaying kindness... Specifically adult to adult.


You have inspired me to try this in my class.


Very inspiring presentation. Absolutely loved the whakatauaki that helped to reinforce that we can change the world one child at a time!


I really enjoyed learning and taking in more knowledge, I felt like a child in wonder and awe. I would love for all of our children to have the same opportunities that your children have experienced and can't wait to implement the type of learning story letters that our children can treasure now and when they grow older.


What an inspiration! I can only hope to take it back to my classroom and involve the children more. My only real dilemma is to inspire my colleagues as you have inspired me. I want to change right now!


Thankful for encouraging us to be brave going forward, and I feel free to be me to interpret and implement my child focused programme.


What a fantastic motivational speaker and finally someone agrees its ok to play outside in the elements.
Can you please write in my next newsletter to let the parents know this! Thank you for reigniting the flame.

Jessica Bradbury

Hi Wendy,
I loved your talk about leading by heart and soul, I found it so inspiring and learnt so much from it.
I write learning stories where I work on the children and I learn so much from children each day
Thank you, Jess


Thank you Wendy on an inspirational talk. Our staff have been working on learning stories for twelve months. We have seen much progress and embracing of this concept. It will be wonderful to pass on information to our staff and to see them further embrace this area.

Evelyn Houghton

An inspiration as always Wendy, food for thought and motivation to achieve more and more every day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

The following was published in the Sunday News

Hundreds  marched up Auckland's Queen St yesterday to protest against government cuts to early childhood education.

The election year protest dubbed the "Big Push" by organisers was to have gone the full length of Queen Street from Queen Elizabeth Square in downtown to Aotea Square, but instead diverted to the Pioneer Women's Hall in Freyberg Square to avoid stormy weather. There, a few hundred-strong crowd of teachers and parents with pushchairs, buggies, and children in tow, saw a petition with more than 60,000 signatures presented.

Hayley Whitaker, an executive member of teacher's union NZEI Te Riu Roa, said funding had been cut to more than 2000 services as part of government plans to cut costs by abandoning the target of having early childhood centres staffed fully by qualified teachers. The petition calls for the government to commit to a plan to invest 1% of GDP on early childhood education as recommended by Unicef.

Primary teacher and vice-president of NZEI Frances Guy said the march yesterday helped raise the profile of early childhood education. "The government needs to reinstate funding that is so vital to children coming into primary school."

Clayton Park Primary school teacher Jackson Voot agreed on the importance of early childhood education. "I see kids who have had no early childhood education and it makes a huge difference. Those who don't get it are at a massive disadvantage. We know who the kids are who have not had the benefit of their right to early education."

The importance of having fully qualified early childhood educators was obvious, according to Voot. "You wouldn't put 80% qualified nurses in hospitals." Voot says "the government disincentivising early childhood education is disgusting".

Guy also said if both parents worked, it increased the importance of ensuring parents could leave their children with fully qualified professional educators. Parents at the march agreed changes were needed to early childhood education funding. Matt, who wished only to be known as a parent from Mt Albert, said funding cuts affected access to services for parents.

Critics hit out at 'child farms'

Article in the New Zealand Herald, published at 5:30 AM Sunday Jun 26, 2011

A centre in Petone run by Paradise Childcare Centres hopes to lift capacity to 100 children

Childcare centre operators are rushing to open so-called "megacentres" containing up to 150 children. A regulation coming into force this week allows childcare centres to triple in size. Even before the July 1 change, three companies have signalled to the Education Ministry they're keen to boost their centre sizes three-fold.

But critics are dubbing the big centres "child farms", as a survey finds 9 out of 10 parents and teachers oppose them.
The Education Ministry will allow centres to increase their rolls from 50 to 150, including 75 children aged under 2 years.
It says this will reduce red tape, by acknowledging big child centres are already disguising their existence by operating under multiple licences.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has said parents will not allow centres to get too big. The Education Ministry's acting early childhood education head, Karin Dalgleish, said she had received three "expressions of interest" from centres that intended to increase their size.She promised nothing would change for the children: their quality of care and education would remain unchanged.There were about 460 services that catered for more than 50 children under multiple licences, Dalgleish said.

Auckland developer Mac Manson said he had been approached by three childcare companies about renting his Newmarket building, which has been a gym and a church. He said the roof of one area could be removed to get past regulations that there must be an "outdoor area" for children.

And Paradise Childcare Centres general manager Brian Hogg said the chain had revamped an old Valentines Restaurant in Petone, reopening this week with a licence to care for 50 children. From next week, he hoped to increase capacity to 100. The children would be split into four groups, in separate areas. He would never go to the full legal capacity of 150 kids.
"It's just inappropriate to pack too many children into that space," he said. Parents would never leave their kids in a "warehouse environment", he said. 
But Dr Sarah-Eve Farquhar, from the ChildForum website, said an online survey of 450 people had revealed that 91 per cent opposed the change, voicing concerns about "crowd control" and children being "just a number". "There was a general disbelief at the claim on the Ministry of Education website that the quality of early childhood care and education would not be affected by an increase in the permissible number of children," Farquhar said. The regulation change would probably result in more commercial and large-scale services dominating the sector, she warned. Lower socio-economic families would be forced into the big centres, while those on higher incomes would seek out smaller "boutique operations".
"People who responded to the survey used terms like battery-farming kids, cattle-herding children, Kentucky Fried daycares, child farms and child warehouses," she said. "There's a lot of people in the field that fear what these potentially dangerous changes could mean for children." She urged the ministry to stop the change in guidelines until it had fully investigated the potential effect on children.

* 50: Number of children allowed now at early childhood centres
* 150: Number of children allowed from July 1
* 460: Existing number of big childcare centres