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Early Childhood Australia WebWatch

The latest early childhood news!

Making news this fortnight … Early Learning Matters Week, 1–6 September, brings politicians to their local early childhood education service; winners of the HESTA Early Childhood Education awards are announced and a BHERT award recognises Professor Marilyn Fleer’s contribution to early childhood; teaching in children’s first language boosts attendance and overall learning; and the future of NAPLAN is in question as test results show minimal improvements over a decade. Submissions close soon for the World Association of Infant Mental Health Congress 2020; and find upcoming key events to add to your calendar over the next couple of weeks! In international news, the University of Helsinki finds music education benefits children with hearing impairments; a UK poll shows educators think screens are diminishing children’s imagination; a USA weight-loss app targeting children causes concern among health experts and parents; and while an Australian study shows father’s play is vital to children’s development, Iceland’s strategies to increase uptake of paid parental leave contrast with Australian figures on men taking paid parental leave. Find the latest in state/territory news and jump down to read what the ECA teams have been doing.

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Early Learning Matters Week

More than 40 services around Australia are showing their local MPs or senators what quality early learning looks like this week during #EarlyLearningMatters Week visits. Participating MPs include Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, Assistant Minister for Children and Families Michelle Landry, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles and Shadow Minister for Families, Social Services and Indigenous Affairs, Linda Burney. It’s not too late to get involved. Take photos of experiences or provocations in your early learning service, that don’t identify children. Upload them to Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #EarlyLearningMatters. Visit the website, follow on Facebook and Twitter.
HESTA Awards

Awards for early childhood
The finalists for Australia’s best early childhood educators and services were announced at the 2019 HESTA Early Childhood Education and Care Awards last week. The awards recognise exceptional work and true commitment to early education across the country. Read more. And congratulations to Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer (Monash University) on receiving a Business Higher Education Round Table (BHERT) Award. Find details here.

first languages

Teaching in children’s first languages boosts learning
Using first languages in education supports children’s development and engagement. Although about two-thirds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote areas are exposed to the English language for the first time at school, when addressed in their first language children’s engagement and attendance increases. Click here for more information. And learn about the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation here.


Perspectives on NAPLAN
Results from the latest round of standardised NAPLAN testing show minimal improvements across most categories over the previous decade. For an extensive summary weighing up the pros and cons of NAPLAN and options to improve or remove it, click here. Listen to a perspective from Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek here, or for another perspective, from the Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, click here.

Paternity leave

Paternity leave helps families
A visiting expert recently told Australian audiences that, since Iceland introduced 13 weeks paid paternity leave for all fathers, Icelandic parents have begun to divide work and care more evenly. Listen to a podcast here or read more here. Meanwhile Australian National University (ANU) researchers say only 2 per cent of Australian men take paid parental leave (PPL) and call for a policy refresh. Read about the ANU study here.

tech reality check

Are imaginary friends disappearing?
In a poll taken in the UK, almost three in four educators said imaginary friends are becoming less common now, compared to five years ago, and blame screen time for affecting children’s imaginations. However UK and Australian research suggests technology can be used to foster children’s imaginative play.

Leadership scholarships

Music education benefits all
Music can help children with hearing impairment learn to speak, researchers at the University of Helsinki have found. Findings show musical activities help improve rhythm and pitch variation and spoken language. The team developed new guidelines for using music to support the development of spoken language. Find more here.


Playgroup benefits

Community playgroups help children to thrive according to research by economists at the University of Canberra, which was commissioned by Playgroups Australia. Investing in community playgroup helps improve children’s emotional wellbeing, physical health, capacity and independence as well as social inclusion. Listen to an interview.

Fathers’ play benefits

Research from University of Newcastle found positive developmental outcomes in children who play with their fathers in the younger years. Long-term increase in academic performance, attention and emotion regulation can be linked to father’s interactions with high engagement and high quality ‘rough and tumble play’. Read more.

Weight-loss app for children

A large international weight-loss corporation attracted criticism when it recently launched a weight-loss app for children in the USA. It targets children as young as eight, and although it’s not yet available in Australia, experts are concerned that using such apps without appropriate guidance may lead to children developing an unhealthy relationship with food. Read more.

Infant mental health

Submissions close 15 September for abstracts to present at the World Association for Infant Mental Health 2020 Congress. The congress will be held in Brisbane in June 2020. Find more information about submitting an abstract and keynote speakers here.

Key dates

For National Child Protection Week (1–7 September) the focus is ‘child development’ because children do well and thrive when parents are supported. Find out what you can do to participate. Celebrate Early Childhood Educators’ Day (4 September), a day to recognise and appreciate the work of educators and carers of young children around the country. Read this piece by Anne Stonehouse. R U OK Day (Thursday 12 September). This year’s theme is Trust the Signs, Trust your Gut & Ask R U OK?. Find out how to get involved on their website. Kids Teaching Kids Week (9–13 September) inspires children to become environmental leaders. Be a part of the action with your early learning service or your family.

In state and territory news ...

In the central Queensland mining town of Moranbah, parents are unable to take up jobs due to a lack of available child care; the Queensland Minister for Child Safety said that 2019 Child Protection Week is a good opportunity for everyone to learn more about their role in keeping children safe. Indigenous women in the Northern Territory and New South Wales are losing their children because they are unable to escape from domestic violence situations and find safe housing. And in the ACT Nature Play Canberra offers a series of ‘toddler toddles’ in local bushland this month. Check dates, find resources, tips and activities to foster nature play with very young children at Around 14,000 South Australian children in Year One have taken a phonics screening check, for teachers to understand children’s progress and further develop their skills. Changes to the Education and Children’s Services Act in South Australia, to be implemented next year, will include tougher penalties for parents and carers who allow children to be chronically truant and access for schools to information about students from previous schools or preschools. In Victoria junk food companies have been accused of targeting children on their way to school and pressure mounts on the Victorian Government to ban junk food ads on state-owned property. And finally, the Young Re-inventor of the Year competition closes Monday 21 October and is just one of many Switch your thinking initiatives by local government in Perth, Western Australia to foster sustainability, inventiveness and community involvement in reducing waste.

ECA Conference

Early Childhood Australia Learning Hub

ECA Leadership and NESA
Early Childhood Australia’s Leadership Program was specifically created as a strengths-based, self-directed, short-term program for current and aspiring early childhood leaders in diverse settings. Completing the ECA Leadership Program can contribute towards NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) registered PD. Find out more here.

ECA Spoke

Children and digital tech
Children and digital technology was a hot topic this fortnight—Dr Kate Highfield and a group of experts share tips for parents on managing screens with children. ECA National Conference keynote Peter Moss goes 'beyond quality' and Karen looks at the pressures educators face when photographing children to document their learning.

Everyone benefits

Early Learning Matters
Early Learning Matters Week is your opportunity to showcase how early learning supports children’s development. You can take photos of your team with hashtag #EarlyLearningMatters
or of learning activities (don’t identify children) and upload them to Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #EarlyLearningMatters. Find out more here.

Early Learning campaign

Virtual delegate passes available
Join the live stream 2019 ECA National Conference. Get exclusive access to keynote presentations and selected workshops. Our 5-for-1 virtual team pass is great value: $595 for five team members. Single virtual passes start from just $394. Register here Present at 2020 AJEC Research Symposium (Children’s rights and research). Apply by 29 October 2019.

Be You Early Childhood

In Focus webinar
Join us at 10.30 am AEST on 16 September to unpack critical incidents. Alongside presenters you’ll explore what critical incidents are, the potential impacts on learning communities, and practical strategies to respond to and support mental health when they occur. Be You’s Paola Mercado will be bringing an early learning perspective to the webinar too. Book here.

ECA Publication Resources

New online resources
ECA now offers additional resources to subscribers of our publications: Research in Practice Series and Everyday Learning Series. Subscribers of both series are entitled to receive accompanying online resources that complement these publications and are relevant for professional development or family engagement purposes. Find out more.

To view upcoming early childhood events and professional development opportunities, click here to visit the ECA events page.


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ECA WebWatch—Issue 315, September 2019.