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Issues in Educational Research, 2023, Vol 33(4), 1568-1581.
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'The more things change the more they stay the same': Early childhood professionalism in Covid-19 times

Margaret Sims
University of New England, Australia

Marg Rogers
University of New England; Manna Institute, Australia

Wendy Boyd
Southern Cross University, Australia

For decades the early childhood sector has been pursuing recognition as a profession. In that time the sector in Australia has developed national legislation, an early childhood curriculum document and developed an extensive range of accountability measures. Simultaneously the international arena has been presented with compelling research that demonstrates the importance of children's early years in terms of their own outcomes, and also in terms of national productivity. Despite this work, little has changed in the way early childhood work is perceived by community members and by governments. During the Covid-19 pandemic early childhood educators in Australia were identified as essential workers and were required, where possible, to keep their services operational. One might imagine that such an identification might lead to changes in the way in which the sector is perceived. This research, using an interpretive social constructionist approach to interview six early childhood service managers, coordinators, educational leaders, aimed to gain a shared understanding of their experiences and perceptions. The results indicate that they perceive little change in the way the sector is perceived, and they supported their perceptions with evidence of the lack of support received by them from government (in comparison to the support received by other essential work sectors). We suggest that an entirely new approach needs to be taken in order to pursue the professionalisation agenda and posit that values framing theory might provide a helpful direction on which to focus attention.
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Authors: Professor Margaret Sims is a professor in Early Childhood Education and Care and has worked in the areas of family support and disabilities for many years. She researches in the areas of professionalism and the impacts of neoliberal policies in early childhood and higher education, families, disabilities, social justice and families from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds. She is an Honorary Professor at Macquarie University.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4686-4245
Email: margaret.sims@mq.edu.au

Dr Marg Rogers is a Senior Lecturer in the Early Childhood Education team within the School of Education at the University of New England, Australia. Marg researches marginalised voices within families and education especially in regional, rural and remote communities. Specifically, she researches ways to support the wellbeing of military, first responder and remote worker families and early childhood educators. Marg is a Postdoctoral Fellow within the Commonwealth Funded Manna Institute, https://mannainstitute.au/.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8407-7256
Email: marg.rogers@une.edu.au

Associate Professor Wendy Boyd, Southern Cross University, Australia, makes a significant contribution to early childhood education, internationally, and nationally, especially in the area of the early childhood workforce. Her research approach is grounded in achieving quality education delivered by effective teachers. She has a deep understanding of quality early childhood education having been a director of a large early childhood centre which was consistently assessed as providing high quality early childhood education and care.
Email: wendy.boyd@scu.edu.au

Please cite as: Sims, M., Rogers, M. & Boyd, W. (2023). 'The more things change the more they stay the same': Early childhood professionalism in Covid-19 times. Issues in Educational Research, 33(4), 1568-1581. http://www.iier.org.au/iier33/sims.pdf

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Created 15 December 2023. Last update: 15 December 2023. Website: Roger Atkinson [rjatkinson@bigpond.com]