Saturday, October 22, 2011

Assignment: International Contacts Week 7

For the blog entry this week, I have not heard from Sherry from Australia, but I have gotten information from Kierna from Northern Ireland.
Here are her answers to the questions below.

1. What issues regarding quality and early childhood professionals are being discussed
where you live and work?
“At present there is a big debate as to whether qualified teachers are needed
in nursery classes. This is all about finances as it is would obviously be much cheaper to just have assistants who would be paid much less than teachers but be expected to do the same job. There are some teachers in nursery who are early years specialists & it is very hard to ensure that anyone who is teaching this age group has some sort of specialized training. In some cases children as young as 3 are being taken to whole school assemblies, eating meals in the main school with the rest of the primary children or doing time-table P.E (games) rather than having a holistic outdoor play experience. Assistants are not as well trained as they used to be - it used to take 2 years full time study, now you can be qualified in 6 months & there is too much paper work & not enough hands on experience.
I live in N. Ireland, it is part of the UK but we have our own parliament & education minister & a different system than the other parts of the UK. I work in a nursery class attached to a primary school, the children at the school are aged from 3 to 11.”

2. What opportunities and/or requirements for professional development exist?
“At present any professional development undertaken has to be funded by the individual e.g. any further studies have to be done at night, part-time & paid for by yourself. 1 module of a masters costs around £400 & you need 9 to gain a masters! There are lots of privately run conferences & courses & some funding is available from the teaching council. Most nursery teachers network among themselves, sharing ideas & good practice. At present the internet provides the best opportunities for PD - my practice has been greatly enriched by blogging & swapping ideas with colleagues around the world.”

3. What are some of your professional goals?
“I want to provide the best outdoor learning experiences for the children in my class, I want to become known for my outdoor approach. I believe that it is my role to be an advocate for all the young children who come into my class. I want to ensure they have the best experience in their year in my class.

4.. What are some of your professional hopes, dreams, and challenges?
I would love to eventually open an outdoor kindergarten. The biggest challenge for nursery teachers is to make sure that they are valued and
recognized by not only their colleagues but all parents, politicians and the wider community.”

What I’ve learned is that many parts of the early childhood systems in other countries are very similar to ours. Early childhood professionals are struggling to be valued and recognized for their work. In most cases, we need to fund our own studies or professional development opportunities. There are also concerns about what is developmentally appropriate. Children around the world do not get to play as much and are forced into learning they aren’t ready for at younger and younger ages. We also have similar concerns with budgeting and paying quality teachers what they deserve.
Talking to Sherry and Kierna throughout this course has been informative. I’ve learned a lot about the early childhood systems in Australia and Northern Ireland. Thank you Sherry and Kierna for your help with these blog assignments.


  1. I think your first section of the debate of whether to have qualified teachers in a nursery class. I think that quality and qualified are important, but finances are unfortunately a big issue. If they flex the budget to get the qualified teachers, they may have to cut somewhere else that shouldn't be cut. On the other hand, is there a big difference between the quality of the two different teaching staff (qualified and not) because if there is, then all the children deserve to have the finest quality possible. I can understand that this could be a big challenge in programs. Thank you for sharing your professional contact with all of us!

  2. Darcey,
    It seems that quality teachers seems to be a problem all over the world. I know that in the part of Africa I was in, the men would say they valued their cattle, then their sons, then their daughters, then their wives. Their value system seems to be all upside down but I do not think it is too far off from many other systems in this world. What makes me sad it that finding a solution is difficult! My son is on the board of the school where I teach and we had a long discussion about quality and pay of early childhood education. It appears to be a vicious circle that has no end.

  3. Darcey:
    Your international contact had shared a crucial goal with us... It seems that, she wants to make a difference in the children's childhood, like me! Congratulations to her and from my side: "God bless her in this journey."

  4. Darcey,
    Thank you for your post. The first section about children as young as 3 attending assemblies, lunch, and P.E. activities with much older students makes me sad. It must be discouraging for your international contact to see.

  5. Darcey,
    It's great to hear about your conversations with Kierna. One of my contacts is also from Northern Ireland so it's interesting to compare their perspectives. It seems that both of our contacts believe that access to affordable professional development is an issue. It sounds like the debate over teachers (versus aids) in nursery schools is purely economic. The very fact that the conversation is taking place indicates that they know it's what's best for the children--it just comes down to the money.
    I love the passion that Kierna has regarding outdoor play and unstructured activities for the children!
    Thanks for sharing.


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