SHALL WE PLAY US AND THEM OR ALL TOGETHER NOW? LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES FOR COHESIVENESS AND UNITY WITHIN A FRACTURED WESTERN AUSTRALIAN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION SECTOR
This paper presents the qualitative and quantitative findings of a research project that examines the perceptions and expectations held by pre-service teachers regarding the Childcare sector. It presents the experience based position of a group of pre-service teachers both before and after their exposure to practice within Childcare following a ten week practicum.
It offers a contribution to the evolving body of research relevant to a recent Government decision that requires the employment of qualified teachers in all Childcare Services by 2014. This decision came about as a response to the 2006 report by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Starting Strong II, which stated the need for Australia to improve consistency and quality in their Early Years education sector.
A mixed methods approach was employed. Thirty students in their third year of a four year teaching degree at The University of Notre Dame, Australia were surveyed and interviewed before and after embarking on a ten week practicum within the Childcare sector.
The data gathered in this study provides a platform for the papers comparative discussion on their pre and post perceptions and expectations of the Childcare sector. Both data sets reveal interesting findings in relation to the impact of exposure to Childcare practice on pre-service teacher’s perceptions of Childcare. The qualitative data also sheds lights on the way in which their perspectives changed, and the reasons for the changes.
A key finding was the sense of separation that the pre-service teachers felt. As educators that would soon be qualified teachers, they experienced a distinct sense of being outsiders within Childcare. They felt that the policy requiring the employment of a qualified teacher within Childcare was resented by those who have devoted their careers to the Childcare sector to date. This resentment manifested itself in many varied ways, some more negative than others. The overwhelming feeling that the resentment was not being managed well by leaders within the sector was also keenly felt. This leads us to the inevitable question of how greater cohesiveness and unity can be brought to a Childcare sector that includes qualified teachers. Such cohesiveness is essential for harmony within individual centres. However, more importantly, such harmony is essential in the lives of the young children whom they serve.