Goodstart Board Member urges educators to listen to children, understand COVID-19 impact

Goodstart Board Member urges educators to listen to children, understand COVID-19 impact

by Freya Lucas

November 05, 2021

Sir Kevan Collins, a member of Goodstart Early Learning’s Board, the Board of the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) and a leading thinker on early childhood education, has urged educators to “listen closely to children” and work to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children around the globe.

 

Knighted for his service to education in 2015, Sir Collinns shared his experience, concerns and emerging opportunities with the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector at the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) National Conference held in September 2021. 

“The story hasn’t yet been written, the story of COVID-19. We need to understand a lot more from individual children, from their stories around what has happened and what it means to them,” he said.  

Sir Kevan brings a unique perspective about the evidence of “lost education”, as the English Education Recovery Commissioner (Jan-Jun 2021) appointed by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, as well as advisory roles to state Governments. 

 

“When you look at the data of disrupted education, what you see is the implications,” he said. 

 

Drawing on evidence of past disrupted learning events (natural disasters, widespread teacher strikes etc), Sir Kevan noted: “You saw lost earnings over the lives of people and reduced academic outcomes, but also national implications because that lost learning, turns into lost innovation and lost productivity.”

 

“So it really matters that we try to gather as educators to recover the learning that our children have lost and that’s really what I want to talk about,” he said.

 

High-quality early learning, he continued, will play a crucial role in the recovery of Australia, and in future prosperity. 

 

Making every moment count   

 

Many children have missed significant amounts of early learning and Sir Kevan recommends keeping focussed to help them make up for lost time.  

 

“If children have missed time, we’re going to have to decide on key things to focus on.” 

“Getting the habits and dispositions of learning secure is perhaps more important than a bit of core content because we have to get habits that secure us for life,” he said. 

This includes building a child’s ability to listen, to foster attention and this is what he believes should be focused on.”

 

Persistence was another area of heightened importance to support children to build determination and persistence with an activity – one of the best ways he notes is through modelling.  

 

Continuity of Learning vs School Transitions  

 

Sir Kevan also urged his audience to move from a ‘Recovery’ to ‘Reform’ mindset when thinking about learning. 

 

Teachers and educators, he said, should work towards supporting children’s “continuation of learning” from Kindergarten/Preschool to school, rather than supporting “school transitions”.  

 

“We then need to think about the reform of the whole system and one of the issues across the world has been all too often, particularly for disadvantaged children, is the impact of sharp jolts or transitions in that learning experience. 

“It’s not about is the child ready; is the school ready to receive the child?” 

“It requires a much greater shared understanding of the child’s learning experience and the capacity as the child comes to the next stage of learning,” he said.  

 

Despite the difficulties the pandemic has posed Sir Kevan is upbeat about the future. 

 

“There has never been a more exciting or important time to be a part of the early childhood education journey,” he said in closing.

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