The Education and Care Network in the ACT
In the lead-up to implementation of the National Quality Framework this year, many educators created informal networks with people they met during information and training sessions. Some of these networks have now become more formal organisations, including the new Education and Care Network (ECN) in the Australian Capital Territory. ACECQA asked ECN member and media liaison, Timothy Toogood, to share the story of how their group evolved into the organisation it is today.
The Education and Care Network (ECN) was set up with the intention of allowing educators from across the whole spectrum of early years education and care to have the opportunity to get together, network, share ideas and develop professionally in a relaxed environment. The ECN was born out of a series of round table discussions with Joy Burch MLA and the Education and Care industry in Canberra. One of the highlighted points from these discussions was that centres, educators, school services, before and after school care, family day care and everyone in between felt isolated in their service with limited opportunity to network and find out what other groups were up to.
The network aims to build a community of educators around which we can then foster skills and share knowledge. The board was formed from interested people who attended the round table and the follow up Education and Care Meeting. After a couple of discussion groups we decided a board format would be the easiest and most accountable way to run the Network. The board consists of a range of positions from President to panel member. We work as a community and aim to have a representative from all the different areas of the education and care community represented on the board. With the assistance of the Children’s Policy and Regulations Unit (CPRU) we were able to form a board, create terms of reference, goals and also find a voice for the industry through introductions onto other panels and forums that meet in Canberra to discuss Education and Care. It is through these channels we hope to be able to advocate for the whole industry, with an aim to represent the entire industry.
The CPRU worked closely with us during the formation stage of the network assisting us with governance work and communication, without this assistance we would not have been able to get the project off the ground and we are thankful for this help, however it remains an industry led body and it is now our responsibility to make it grow to reflect the needs of the education and care community.
ECN meetings are designed to be discussion based, sometimes with a more formal presentation first, or sometimes a simple discussion group format. With the introduction of the NQF it is essential that educators have the opportunity to be able to share and express their views within the wider education and care community, it builds confidence and reassures educators who may be struggling in areas as they get to meet people who have had or are having the same struggles too. We hold our meetings in a variety of locations around the city to maximise people being able to attend, we are also mindful of the varying hours that educators work and making sure we are fitting in with them in our meeting times. We are currently in our infancy having held three public meetings, however attendance has been great and we are growing all the time.
Our meetings come in different forms from straight ‘mingling’ sessions to presentations followed by discussions and also centre visits where a director will show the group around their setting and discuss the environments that have worked and the challenges and advantages to how they run. We recognise the importance of social media in our communication with educators and also in the sharing of professional knowledge on a national and international level, we have a presence on Twitter @E&CN and also on Facebook, so look us up and give us an add or a like to keep up to date with what is going on in the vibrant education and care community here in the ACT.
We would also like to offer our help and knowledge to anyone who would like to set up a similar network in their area, we have learnt a lot of lessons in the last seven months and would love to share them.
About the author - Timothy Toogood is the Director of Civic Early Childhood Centre. He has worked in the Education and Care sector for the past 3 years and has a degree in Education and Early Childhood Studies.