At what cost? The transformation of the early years of school

Year: 2016

Author: Barblett, Lennie, Barratt-Pugh, Caroline, Knaus, Marianne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There are many stresses facing educators particularly in relation to the formalisation of the early years of school and pressure on schools to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes. Educators are struggling with meeting the external demands placed upon them in the current educational climate while grappling with their own pedagogical beliefs about effective teaching practices. This is particularly evident in Western Australia, where kindergarten (a non-compulsory year) and pre-primary (the first compulsory year) form part of the early years of primary school and are administered in the schooling sector. Evidence from 200 early childhood educators was collected through focus groups at a forum titled the “Pushes and pulls of pedagogy” where a social constructivist frame was used educators could give voice to their concerns. In all of the 14 focus groups the main issue or concern identified was the pedagogical tension surrounding the use of play as a legitimate pedagogical tool in early year’s programs, and the achievement of academic outcomes. In analysing the data themes were identified, clustered, re- examined and re-interpreted and in this process the data also revealed that the wellbeing of early childhood educators and children to be at great risk. Factors identified for the erosion of educator and child wellbeing were the anxiety and stress associated with the increased push for academic outcomes, an overcrowded curriculum and a lack of pedagogical autonomy. This paper presents findings from the forum and asks questions about the hidden consequences of a push for a more results driven, school ready early education at the expense of educator and child wellbeing.