Children as active participants of teacher recruitment

The director of SDN Riverwood Long Day Care Centre, shared insights into the SDN’s transformative journey prompting a quest for an innovative solution.

During a recent conversation with ACECQA, Christie Sherfan, Director of SDN Riverwood Long Day Care Centre, shared insights into the service’s innovative approach to modifying recruitment procedures, placing a spotlight on the voices and participation of children.  

As we consider the workforce shortages and the ongoing recruitment needs of the sector, services may be inspired to think differently to attract and retain quality staff that align with the philosophy and values of their service.  

SDN’s transformative journey commenced with an Early Childhood Teacher (ECT) vacancy, extending over six months, prompting a quest for an innovative solution. The pivotal moment eventuated during a presentation in February 2023, where Christie learnt about the concept of children as active citizens, aligning to the Early Years Learning Framework V2.0 (EYLF) that emphasises children as active and informed community members. The service’s innovative approach challenged the traditional recruitment practices, setting the stage for the service to introduce child-led recruitment.

In the next phase, the service engaged in a reflective meeting with its leadership team, acknowledging the potential for meaningful contributions from the children in the recruitment process. Feeling inspired and motivated, the service embarked on a comprehensive research endeavour, drawing inspiration from the Children are Citizens project at Harvard University. This project, focusing on the everyday experiences of children and their impactful contributions, became a guiding light for reshaping traditional recruitment processes.

As of June 2023, and in response to the ongoing recruitment challenges, they decided to ‘flip the switch’, recognising the untapped potential of their children as active citizens. This marked a change in thinking, with the team actively seeking input from the children to articulate their desired qualities in a teacher. Christie engaged a group of children to seek insights into their expectations from the new educators. The session aimed to foster meaningful engagement, conveying that the children's voices held significance. Inspired by the collaborative effort, the children chose to visually express their desires through drawings, leading to a collective decision to update the recruitment advertisement and integrate the voices of the children into the narrative.

Capturing the children's responses to the question, 'What do you want from an educator?' revealed insightful desires, including help with packing away, play, assistance with name writing, kindness, caring, occasional silliness and humour. The children also mentioned that it would be fun to have a male teacher at their service. With these valuable insights, the recruitment advert was amended.

Christie explains that excitement peaked on July 18 as the team received a promising resume from a prospective ECT. Eager to involve the children, the team explained the process of an interview and the purpose of asking the candidate a series of questions. The children eagerly began the process of formulating their own interview questions and involved a few children in calling the candidate. Their warm introduction emphasised the children's integral role in the upcoming interview process, highlighting the team's commitment to inclusivity.

Over the weekend, the involved children took home the interview questions, practising with their families. During the interview, the children posed questions such as, 'Do you like children?' and 'Can you sing an Elsa song?' Families provided positive feedback, expressing gratitude for the inclusive process.

On August 4, the children learned that the interview had gone well, and an offer was extended to the ECT. The candidate, appreciating the unique process, accepted the role.  

Reflecting on the experience, the educator noted  

"The interview by the children showed the Centre's focus on children’s voice and the acknowledgment that the children should have an opinion on who they will be learning with. I enjoyed the process of getting to know the children. I love how unique the interview was because of the compiled questions that they asked in representation of their peers".  

This positive affirmation marked the beginning of the ECT’s journey with the team, officially joining in August 2023, and swiftly becoming an invaluable addition to the teaching staff.