“Early childhood educators are the secret to a prosperity of society”

In his keynote address at the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) conference, Dr Stuart Shanker’s powerful words highlighted the important role and value that early childhood education has on children’s trajectory for learning.

Last Friday 21st September, I attended day two of the ECA Conference “Be the difference for children and families.”

The conference was attend by over 2000 early childhood delegates and had a full schedule of  keynote presentations and workshops.

Attending the conference was enlightening and prompted me to pause and reflect on our practices in early childhood which shape children’s learning, development and growth. It reaffirmed the important work we are doing at St Luke’s Catholic College through the play based pedagogy at St Luke’s Catholic Early Learning Centre (CELC) and St Luke’s Pillars of learning which are used to guide children’s journey in their learning, becoming global citizens for tomorrow.

Highlights of the day for me included

  • Dr Stuart Shanker’s keynote presentation as well as his follow up workshop “The paramount importance of early childhood educators” and “Self-regulation and externalising and internalising anxiety behaviours.”
  • Workshop discussions on “Growing dispositions for learning through play” presented by Mitchell Parker and Sharon Craft whose experiences in an ACT Early Childhood school linked dispositions for learning to play and the curriculum for children aged up to 8 years.
  • Anthony Semann’s presentation “ Learning to unlead: The power of love and hope as a revolutionary approach to leading.”
  • Stan Grant’s closing presentation “Talking to my Country” where he described his personal early years schooling experiences of feeling excluded growing up in Australia.


Early Childhood Educators lay a pathway for children’s lifetime trajectory. The first years of life are critically important to lifelong outcomes.  No child should be lost.” Dr Stuart Shanker

Our role as  early childhood educators is paramount to help shape children’s self-regulatory behaviours. Developing a healthy mode of self-regulation supports children’s growth emotionally, cognitively and pro-socially. Early childhood experiences lay the foundation for children’s trajectory of learning by shaping how they respond to stressors and recover from these stressors.  Patterns of behaviour in children become entrenched by the age of 8 years old.

How can we assist children in developing self regulatory behaviours? Looking after and valuing the role of early childhood educators is key.  We help to shape the development of children’s trajectory of learning which impacts on the global citizens they will become. To do this well, looking after and valuing early childhood educators is paramount.


Growing dispositions for learning through play

A play based pedagogy supports the development of children’s dispositions for learning and trajectory of learning. In their presentation, Mitchell Parker and Sharon Craft shared their experiences in their early childhood school in Lyons ACT (for children aged up to 8 years) which embraces a play based pedagogy linked to the dispositions of learning (as described by Lucas and Claxton, 2005) which include collaboration, confidence, curiosity, commitment, creativity, communication and craftsmanship.

I linked this to our own experiences at St Luke’s with the  six pillars of learning which are  Witness; Manage; Communicate and Collaborate; Think Creatively and Critically; Be digitally literate.  In their play, children naturally display and develop dispositions for learning and this is scaffolded by teacher engagement and interactions with the children.

A play based pedagogy at St Luke’s Catholic Early Learning Centre (CELC) supports children in their continuity of experience when they move into the older years of the school. This is seen in Early stage one where each day the children participate in play in the learning spaces.  Early stage one children are joined by the CELC children in this play based learning, facilitating the sharing of experiences, as well as supporting a sense of belonging to the school community. I look forward to continuing to work alongside the Early Stage one teachers to facilitate this continuity of experience for the children.


Learning to unlead: The power of love and hope as a revolutionary approach to leading

Leading is about relationships. A key factor of leadership is to understand the people you work with. It is a dialogue of listening and talking, advising and taking advice. These were all key factors discussed by Anthony Semann in his presentation.

What binds a team together is shared vision and purpose which I reflected upon in my previous blog post, Storming through. Everyone has an important role to play.

Having listened to Anthony Semann present numerous times, he has continued to prompt my own professional reflections and to inspire. In leadership, reflection of self is key, to listen and learn rather than command and control. “Aim not for perfection, but for attempt” (Anthony Semann.)


“We lived in Australia and Australia was for others.”

 This statement from Stan Grant reminded me of Stuart Shanker’s quote earlier in the day “No child should be lost.” Inclusivity is essential. For this to occur, children need to feel a sense of belonging. We can help by committing to healing and reconciliation and the building of communities where everyone feels they belong.

Early childhood educators play a pivotal role in shaping children’s sense of identity.  A child’s early education experiences provides the foundation in determining the pathway a child will have in their self regulatory behaviours, their learning and development from this it can indeed be said that they directly impact the prosperity of society.





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