Early Education: Questioning new models of governance in the interest of equity for children and families

Year: 2016

Author: Power, Anne, Woodrow, Christine, Orlando, Joanne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Drawing on two years of research, this paper explores the innovative Early Childhood Schools (ECS) in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT, 2008) which are a genuine and visionary attempt to co-locate schooling, prior- to-school early education, and health services. The international research informing this new vision in ACT argues for the critical importance of early education, and draws on the fields of brain development (Lenroot & Giedd, 2006), productivity (Clothier & Poppe, 2016), social investment (Expert Panel, 2015), and disadvantage (Orlando & Sawyer, 2013). Although these themes have been persuasive in mobilising policy action, we argue that they assume status as normalised truths. We advocate for additional arguments about how the ECS model can support and engage parents ethically, practically and coherently, and especially for disadvantaged parents.Using institutional ethnographic approaches (Smith, 2005), the researchers viewed the participants (families, educators, related services and principals) from five ECS as entry points to understanding organisational processes. The research finds that there is a need for greater communication and collaboration between long day care centres, preschools and schools because such communication acknowledges the continuum of learning that occurs from birth through the preschool years and into formal processes of schooling. Furthermore, the research finds that there is a need for improved interagency collaboration, to more fully realise the concept of Early Childhood Schools as community services hubs. Our analysis concludes that established and inflexible institutional structures provide barriers to the effective communication and collaboration needed for cross-sectorial collaboration. References:ACT Department of Education and Training. (2008). Early Childhood Schools: A framework for their development as learning and development centres for children (birth to eight) and their families. Canberra: ACT EDU.Clothier, S. & Poppe, J. (2016). New research: Early education as economic investment. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) accessed at http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/new-research-early-education-as-economic-investme.aspxExpert Panel (2015). Schools for All, Children and Young People: Students with complex needs and challenging Behaviours. ACT: Minister for Education and Training http://www.det.act.gov.au/school_education/complex-needsLenroot, R. & Giedd, J. (2006). Brain development in children and adolescents: Insights from anatomical magnetic resonance imaging. Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews 30 (6), 718-729.Orlando, J. & Sawyer, W. (2013). A fair go in education. In G. Munns, W.Sawyer & B. Cole (Eds) Exemplary Teachers of Students in Poverty. London: Routledge.Smith, D.E. (2005). Institutional ethnography: A sociology for people. Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press.