A louder voice for quality

'We are a voice for quality education and care that is only going to grow louder now that government has turned its back on professional standards.'

That was the message that rang loud and clear from the weekend’s Big Steps forum (pictured) in Melbourne which also saw the release of the interim findings of the Big Steps Quality Matters survey.

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United Voice state secretary Jess Walsh told the gathering of early educators, employers and parents that “our agenda is built on quality, not on costs”.

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More than 70 passionate advocates for quality care participated in workshops to identify the key elements that comprise the sort of standards that define quality. They identified characteristics such as providing nurturing, stable and safe environments where staff are prpoerly rewarded and can build relationships with families and co-educators.

For many, it was the first time they had participated in planning for a professional future. Among the novies was Vikki Koukoulas who posted on facebook that while it was her first meeting, it won't be the last.

Educator Kerrie Devir said the fact that the battle for professional recognition for early educators was fought and won with the previous federal government was evidence that it could be won again.

“The question is, are we going to let them turn back the clock, and how loud are we going to be about the changes that are coming?” said Kerrie (below).

“I am not interested in where they got their arguments from, but they are not turning the clocks back on us as a profession and they are not turning the clocks back on families, children and Australians. It’s all about ‘are we loud enough?’

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“We have to ensure quality is at the heart of the discussion and the debate is not just about accessibility and affordability. We have changed things in the past and we will change things in the future.”

Monash Community Family Co-operative co-ordinator Helen Coffey outlined key findings of the survey. Helen said the results highlighted the need for quality as a central component of the early education debate.

Helen was concerned at findings such as: respondents revealed that inadequate staff qualifications were a factor in children being inappropriately disciplined, instances where there was a failure to identify and respond to a child with special needs and where there was a failure to meed medical needs of children.

“Having high expectations is critically important in achieving better outcomes for the most vulnerable children,” she said. “Our children are the greatest gift any country can have."

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