By Emma Thomas

According to the 2021 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC), 1 in 4 Australian children is considered to be developmentally vulnerable (AEDC 2021). That is a scary static for us as educators that in a group of 20 children, 5 of them are likely to be struggling

We also know that many of our children experience abuse or trauma in their early years. Children under 1 are especially vulnerable, being twice as likely to have a child protection substantiation (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022). 

Add to this that 45% of children (0-5 years old) use an approved child care service (Child Care in Australia Report 2021) and the current findings in neuroscience show:

  • The first five years last a lifetime
  • The best learning happens in nurturing relationships
  • Children are born ready to learn
  • The brain develops through use
  • Children’s wellbeing is critical to brain development and learning

(Department of Education & Children’s services, South Australia 2010)

So what do we know? Many of our children are vulnerable, the first 5 years is a critical time for brain development, many children spend significant amounts of time in early learning centres and relationships are crucial to children’s learning and growth. To me this clearly says that educators are important!

As an educator there are many things we need to be aware of when we are caring for children. 

The children we care for might be developmentally vulnerable. 

The children we care for might have experienced abuse or neglect. 

No matter what background they have come from, we need to know that the role we pay in their lives is making a profound difference. 

We need to know what neuroscience says. We need to understand that in the early years children’s brains are going through a critical period of learning and development. 

We need to know that every time we speak with a child or interact with them, we are supporting and nurturing brain development. 

Our impact on a group of children, or on a particular child should never be undervalued. For some children, we are the safe person in their lives. Someone who is consistent, someone who can be relied upon. 

This is why our jobs are important. This is why early childhood education and care matters. 

Because this is what we do. We care. We educate. We play. We teach. We wipe noses. We hold hands. We read books. We shape lives. 

So we need to choose. Every day. 

We choose the language we use. 

We choose to spend time reviewing our practice and researching how to improve. 

We choose to respond with love, care and acceptance when we feel challenged. 

We choose relationships.