ACEL Conference 2019 – all about inclusion

Helping to shine a light on a progressive array of topics for the early childhood sector, the NSW Department of Education partnered with ACEL for the second consecutive year, to present the 2019 ACEL Early Childhood Conference in May.

Under the theme 'Sharing responsibility: inclusion in the early years', the conference's diverse roll-call of local and international speakers included researchers, authors, educators, policy makers, psychologists and more.

Speakers highlighted the moral and economic benefits of investing in high quality early childhood education, the importance of play, and how quality means different things to different people.

The authentic representation of diversity was a key theme. Presenters reflected that children need to see themselves represented in their environments, whether that be among the educators they interact with, or in the wider world of community, media and entertainment.

Scottish academic Jane Malcolm focused on the role of love in developing ECE policy, noting the benefits and challenges that childcare professionals face in developing a love-led practice, including the interesting observation that many educators already do this, but they don’t call it love.

Keynote speaker Adam Goodes shared his sentiments on individuality and diversity, focusing on how he dealt with bullying and came out the other side by realising that “I’m good enough just being me”, and that he is now happy with life after AFL.

“If we have these basic life affirming messages about ourselves and others, I believe we can overcome adversity and reinvent our life in constructive ways. I thought Adam demonstrated this in his very positive and self-reflective keynote”, said one participant.

'How to attract and retain staff in regional and remote areas' was also a popular topic. Auntie Julie mentioned that in her experience, having practical placements for undergrads and high school students was a great way to make potential educators feel welcome in a community.

Dr Susan Linn, child psychologist and ventriloquist, explored the role of make-believe, and reminded the audience that a good toy should be 10% toy, 90% child. This ratio gives the child a chance to use their imagination and bring life to the toy, whether it’s building blocks, bubbles or a spaceship.

A common theme throughout the day was that ‘no child has barriers- there are only environmental barriers’-  a sentiment that is relevant for everyone working in early childhood education worldwide.

Category:  June 2019,

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