Gowrie NSW shares findings from ECT Think Tank
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Gowrie NSW shares findings from ECT Think Tank

Gowrie NSW shares findings from ECT Think Tank

by Freya Lucas

September 30, 2022

Early childhood teachers play a pivotal role in early childhood settings, not only for their pedagogy and practice, but also for their role in guiding and supporting others within their teams to benefit from the depth of their knowledge, passion and experience. 


Despite their good standing within the sector, and the pivotal role they play, it can be difficult for services to attract and retain early childhood teachers (ECTs) within their teams, and for teachers to find and feel secure in their place of employment. 


To explore these challenges more deeply Gowrie NSW recently held an ECT ‘think tank’ which set out to critically explore the core role of the ECT in a long day care setting, to understand more about how ECTs support centre based teams, and to learn more about the realities when ECTs are in short supply and how this impacts others within the service. 


A sense of isolation 


One of the earliest findings from the discussions was that ECTs are needing more from their roles – more support, more understanding, and a deeper sense of collegiality. Many of those who participated in the think tank felt a sense of isolation, and of wanting to connect more deeply with their ECT peers.


For some, this was a function of geographic isolation, while for others, it was a result of being ‘the only’ in their team. 


As a collective, ECTs had an enthusiasm for improving quality, and wanted to connect with others in their team to support, mentor and influence. They displayed a curiosity, and a deep love of learning, possessing qualities of kindness, honesty and compassion. They held their identity as ‘teacher’ in high regard, and felt a strong sense of democracy, of wanting to collaborate and consult, and build spaces of genuine and authentic engagement. 


Think tank participants were able, throughout the course of the discussions, to identify the things which would help them to feel valued, and to experience a deep sense of belonging. 

“The opportunity to engage at a higher level with other teachers , to think together and challenge each other was truly joyous!”-Juliet

They recognised that from a regulatory point of view, their numbers are few, with some being the only ECT in their service. As such, many experienced a sense of challenge when it came time to view themselves as having a strong professional identity, and missing the capacity to “find their tribe” once their studies had been completed. 

“For me one of the biggest takeaways from the weekend was that of recognising and empowering ourselves as teachers. I have always prided myself on supporting and building up the strengths and skills of the educators and teachers around me but have forgotten to do so for myself.”   Natasha

A tailored solution for a nuanced challenge 


The team from Gowrie NSW considered carefully the findings from the think tank, wanting to translate the learning into tangible outcomes which address the successes and challenges shared so openly by participants. 

‘We are grateful to the Gowrie NSW teachers who shared their perspectives, and we are deeply committed to listening to, and honouring these perspectives to create a better space to elevate children’s learning,” Nicole Jones, CEO Gowrie NSW shared. 

The need to support ECTs through the NESA accreditation process was clear, and as such, Gowrie NSW has implemented a program of mentoring managed by experienced ECTs which helps provisional and conditional teachers to work towards proficiency. 


Networking groups have been established to support ECTs to maintain a sense of connection and belonging, to foster vicarious professional development, and to foster a sense of collegiality and community. 


In a broader sense, initiatives arising from the learning of the think tank will take on an action research perspective, also using practitioner enquiry to strengthen and embed the influence of the teacher, and to contribute to building sector knowledge more broadly. 


Recognising the tension between the needs of the teachers, who asked for time and space to come together and talk, and the realities of a sector which is challenged in finding relief staff to allow for that to happen, Gowrie NSW is exploring a number of options to allow for these meetings. 

“It’s about shifting the mindset to move from crisis mode, and survival mode, and finding ways to engage more deeply with the pedagogy and practice,” Michelle Richardson, Executive Director of Pedagogy, Gowrie NSW said. 

The ultimate goal, both of the think tank itself and the explorations which have come afterwards, is to elevate the role of the ECT, moving them into a space where they experience a strong sense of identity and are supported by mentorship to grow and build as professionals. 


To learn more about the work being undertaken by Gowrie NSW in this space please see here. 

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