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New paper release - experiences of teachers and educators at the start of the pandemic

"All our educators have stood up and excelled in this time of uncertainty."
- Educator, long day care, VIC

Thank you again for your participation in this work - your insights will be of interest to many people who continue to learn more ways to support children and families as we continue living with COVID-19.

Our CEO, Jane Hunt, sent the below message to The Front Project's network to share your experiences with more people who are interested in learning about ECEC during this time.

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Today, we released findings from a survey of almost 1,500 early childhood teachers and educators. We asked what impacts they were seeing on early childhood education and care (ECEC) during the early stages of COVID-19.

Read our full paper.

When we launched this survey in May, we anticipated it would provide an important snapshot of a period of unique adversity that would be behind us when we publish the findings.

This now obviously optimistic outlook emphasises how unpredictable the environment is that we are navigating this year. Instead of approaching the cusp of recovery, teachers and educators in Victoria are entering another period of uncertainty, and are being watched closely by their peers across Australia.

Over this trying winter, the true values of individuals, workplaces, communities and our entire society have become clear. We have stayed home and focused only the things that matter most to us, and have stripped back reliance on the world outside to only the things that we cannot live without.

It became clear to many people, very early in the pandemic that one of those things is our ECEC sector – an industry underpinned by dedicated professionals whose work enables businesses to run and communities to thrive, while developing the next generation to ensure our continued prosperity.

COVID-19 has seen governments, parents and carers, employers and the general public deepening their value for local early learning services and increasing respect and understanding of the work that teachers and educators undertake. For some, this increased respect is as simple as understanding that parents cannot work without access to stable and familiar care and education for their young children. For others, it is realising what the training, skill and knowledge of the sector’s professionals bring to children’s cognitive development and overall wellbeing.

We know from our survey of parents and carers that continued access to their usual early learning service has provided much-needed stability for families throughout a highly anxious period.

It has allowed children to continue relationships and progress their learning when other aspects of their lives were disrupted. It has also assisted parents and carers to find new jobs or adjust to new working styles so they can support their families and invest in their local economies.

For families in Victoria, this will not continue over the next six weeks.

Whether we have children or grandchildren in early learning ourselves, have attempted home education or adapted to accommodate the learning needs of our friends and colleagues’ children; we have all become more aware, in some way or another, that ECEC is a critical part of our social fabric.

Our team at The Front Project want to better understand what has been happening in this critical sector during COVID-19, so we asked the people who know better than anyone else – teachers and educators.

We have been humbled by both the quantity and quality of responses we received from professionals working in all different types of ECEC settings – large and small, for profit and not-for-profit – right across Australia. Their responses tell us that:

Experiences have varied greatly between individuals, centres and states and territories. However, a constant among all responses is an unwavering commitment to providing the highest quality education and care for children.
Some people have experienced stress from working under uncertain conditions, concern about funding stability or seeing signs that disadvantage is increasing.
Many have also noticed opportunities emerging, such as the ability to gain new skills, improve knowledge of practice and strengthen relationships with children and families.

Through all of their different experiences, early childhood teachers and educators have consistently shown up to keep businesses, communities and families functioning, and children learning and thriving. Our federal Education Minister, The Hon Dan Tehan last week acknowledged this by saying teachers and educators are “unsung heroes” for “providing continuity of care for our children right through this pandemic, right across the nation”.

With this release, we hope to show all of Australia what providing continuity for children and families has looked like for teachers and educators, and we want to sing their praises.

I thank everyone who is contributing to early childhood education throughout this time and hope our paper helps more people understand and celebrate the vital work you do for all Australians.

Kind Regards,
Jane Hunt