Every young child deserves universal access to quality learning in a school environment, no matter who they are or where they live, which nurtures their social and emotional wellbeing while building the solid foundations to be a successful learner.
The State School Teacher’s Union supports teachers in K-2, known as Early Childhood, to teach a play-based curriculum in line with the National Quality Standard and Early Years Learning Framework.
Child-initiated and self-directed play-based learning is disappearing from kindergarten, pre-primary classrooms and the school yard despite being central to healthy development and learning for children. It is a red flag for societal concern when we need to justify the right of young children to learn through play.
Many people find Early Childhood Education confusing which has led to extreme views of what Early Childhood Education Kindergarten, Pre-Primary, Year 1 and Year 2 programs should look like.
Many school staff, parents and community members have raised concerns about questionable practices in some Early Childhood classrooms.
In many of these instances pedagogical decisions have been made with little knowledge and/or experience in Early Childhood, and with little consultation with trained Early Childhood staff.
Changes have been made without accessing available support including the Early Years Learning Framework, revised guide to National Quality Standards, K P Statement and Early Childhood Phase of Schooling (Schools Curriculum and Standards Authority), Early Years of Schooling statement (Department of Education) and the Early Childhood Branch of Professional Associations.
In Western Australia, despite the introduction of the EYLF, playful learning has been marginalised to such an extent that universities report:
- Pre-service teachers have limited opportunity to see it in practice when completing their school practicums;
- Health professionals advise that we are raising a generation of anxious and at-risk kids who are buckling under the pressure to perform and compete from the age of three and;
- Our teachers confirm that they have seen first-hand how didactic approaches and push-down of developmentally inappropriate activities in early childhood have impacted negatively on children's social skills, emotional regulation and problem-solving capacity.
Questionable practices include direct instruction models, removal of play-based learning and applying similar teaching strategies across K-6 classrooms.
Deep understanding of Early Childhood pedagogy in line with the NQS is widely misunderstood in terms of how it can be used to teach the curriculum - Kindergarten Curriculum Guidelines and WA Curriculum.
We need to stop schools making decisions to apply a pedagogy designed for older students to the classrooms of younger children who have different learning and developmental needs.