There were some significant government initiated changes within the Early Childhood Education (ECE) sector in 2010. As part of this change, registered primary school teachers are now eligible to contribute towards ECE centre’s staff quotas for funding purposes. Kathryn Overall caught up with Lorraine Schou, Manager of Bethlehem Learning Centres Limited, to get her perspective on what these changes will mean for primary trained teachers considering a shift into the ECE sector.
Up until recently, primary trained teachers have had to undertake additional ECE training in order to count towards an ECE centres qualified teachers quota. As of November 1, 2010, registered primary school teachers will be recognised within the ECE sector for funding purposes. Do you consider this to be a step forwards or a step backwards for the sector?
I partially agree with what the government is doing with primary school teachers. I think in many respects this is a step forward for the ECE sector in that there is an acknowledgement that primary teachers have training to a particular level.
I understand that there are going to be some limits on what responsibilities a primary trained teacher can hold in a centre if they haven’t had any additional ECE training?
Yes, that’s right. They will not be able to move up the ladder, because they cannot be counted as the person responsible at any time at the centre. That basically means that I can have them working and I can count them for my funding, but they can’t be the person that opens or shuts at the end of the day; they can’t be the person who takes responsibility when you are on a trip or an outing; if a child has an accident and you need staff to take them to a specialist or to a doctor until you can get hold of a parent, they can’t be one of the staff that’s counted for that. They can’t become a team leader; they can’t become a head teacher, so their wages will be limited. So I think it’s really important that they continue to do one year of ECE training in order to be fully recognised as an ECE teacher.
At the same time, they need to realise that there is a huge difference between teaching primary and teaching in early childhood. Our teaching strategies are so different; we are so much more focussed on the emergent curriculum, but they need to learn how to work in that environment, and part of that learning comes from the study.
I would advise primary trained teachers to do ECE training for that one year. Firstly, because of what they will learn, secondly because of the value their study will add to the profession and third, because it will be reflected in their wages in the future.
There is a huge gap in the industry at the moment in the 35-45 age bracket. We have got a big gap in that sort of middle to later years of qualified, registered teachers to take over from people like me, because there are a lot of us who will be leaving the industry in the next ten years. So for any of these primary teachers that are coming through, particularly primary teachers who aren’t in their early twenties, there is a future for them, because they already have had the skill base of working in a school, working in the administration of a school and the experience of working with other staff. Some of them will be our future leaders because they have got that maturity.