CSU graduates team up at Goodstart West Kempsey
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Chance coincidence sees two Charles Sturt graduates working together

by Freya Lucas

June 18, 2024

Lucinda Foran’s placement at Goodstart West Kempsey played host to more than just an opportunity to work in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, also connecting her up with Christie Rayward, a fellow student from Charles Sturt University. 


While the pair both graduated in April 2024 with a Bachelor of Early Childhood, their paths to the sector, and to Goodstart West Kempsey were both quite different. Recently the pair shared their story with the broader Goodstart team, an extract of which appears below. For the original story please see here


Christie – an experienced leader


Ms Rayward is the Assistant Director of Goodstart West Kempsey, and also holds the position of Educational Leader, having worked at the service for the past seven years. 


After leaving school, she had initially intended to work in retail, however she was soon drawn to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector through the influence of her sister. 


“She was already in early learning and knew someone running a private centre in Blacktown. They were looking for someone with a diploma, but I still hadn’t done my Certificate III. Luckily, I was able to study and come on board,” she explained. 


“I had to do a lot more modules than everybody else on my course. In the end, I studied for my Diploma one night a week and worked for four days at the centre.”


She spent some time working as an educator at the private early learning service before moving to Goodstart West Kempsey as a casual. Seven years later, she’s now the Assistant Director and Educational Leader.


Lucy’s return to her passion


For Ms Foran working in ECEC had always been the intention, however life, as it often does, got in the way. 


“I did my diploma a long time ago. But then ironically, I couldn’t work in early childhood education,” she said.


“My husband had a Monday to Friday job [and we had children], therefore, I could only work on the weekends. So, I worked in retail every weekend for 10 years. Throughout that time, I’ve had five children. I didn’t want to be at home the entire time while raising young children. So, I worked through all my pregnancies except the last two.”


“But then I wanted to do something for myself while I was at home, and I thought, I’ll finish my degree. I had the credits from the diploma. So I decided to qualify as an Early Childhood Teacher while I’m home and have the opportunity to study.”


Placement leads to paid work


When Ms Foran completed her five week placement at West Kempsey, she worked with three to five year old children, impressing the staff team, who offered her a role. Unfortunately she still had one placement session to complete before attaining her degree. 


“The university doesn’t like you doing them at one place. So, you have to go to different centres, and I couldn’t do all of mine here. After my practical at West Kempsey, I went to another centre in December 2023 and did the baby component. That was another four weeks. Then, I started working here in January,” she explained.


When Ms Foran came to the service Ms Rayward quickly made the study connection, and built a rapport with her fellow student. 


“She did really well here, and so we asked her, ‘Do you have ideas of where you see yourself after you finish? We would like to offer you a position if you want to have an interview.’ And that’s how it happened,” she explained. 


Encouraged to professionally develop


While further study had been on her mind for some time, Ms Rayward continued to put her professional development plans on hold, until changing circumstances at the service pushed her hand. 


The Centre Director stepped down, and current Director Renee Smailes stepped into the leadership role. The service then lost its ECT, who moved into the disability support sector, also leaving the educational leader position vacant. 


“Our centre director Renee reached out to me and said, ‘Is there any chance you want to continue studying? Here’s what we can put in place,” Ms Rayward said. 


“I realised I wanted to do it and that’s where I want to be heading long-term. Of course, it is so important that educators are passionate about wanting to work here for the children. But the pay rise associated with the higher qualification helps as well.”


Goodstart supported Ms Rayward to work full-time and study with the THRIVE program which assists educators who are studying towards their bachelor degrees. 


The THRIVE program is dependent on funding and changes yearly. The 2022-2023 offered options for paid placement and study days.


“I liked the fact that I was able to change the program to meet my needs,” Ms Rayward explained. 


“One year I changed it because I knew I was doing my practicals. So, Goodstart paid me two weeks for the ‘Birth to Two’ practical, which was five weeks, and two weeks for the ‘Three to Five’ practical, which was four weeks total. And then, when I knew I just needed it for study, I changed it back to study days off [one a month].”


“[Centre director] Renee was supportive with everything. I showed her my schedule and when my assignments were due. Together, we worked around it to make sure I was able to finish them on time without stressing.”


Next steps


Since the pair are now both qualified teachers at Goodstart, they can access Thriving Teachers, an initiative that supports Goodstart teachers at every stage, from early career to those with more experience.


Thriving teachers can, for example, support the pair to claim their NESA payment through tax to keep their accreditation active. The refreshed program lets Goodstart teachers tap into a wide scope of professional development. Each opportunity is tailored to individual needs so teachers can reach their potential and demonstrate practice at proficient teacher standards.


To learn more about the opportunities available with Goodstart Early Learning please see here. Find the original coverage of this story here

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