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Educators inspired at professional development event

6 July 2021

More than 200 educators were challenged to allow messy, risky play and heard about other trends and news at our ‘Inspiring Excellence’ event at the Adelaide Pavilion, Adelaide and online on 10 June.

Following a welcome by Chris Chatburn, Chief Executive of the Education Standards Board, it was over to Glenn Wagland of Mobile Junk and Nature Playground to share how he facilitates nature play.

Glenn brings sticks, ropes, tarps, big rocks and rock crushers to early childhood education services and schools and believes in providing lots of “loose parts”.

He said to embark on more nature play we may need to “challenge the risk-averse people”.

“It’s hard to get your head around to, ‘Let’s make it more dangerous’” and allow kids to be in the “danger zone,” he said.

While not suggesting educators put kids in danger, he said things could be too safe and this had risks of its own.

“It has to be safe, but it has to offer learning,” he said. In natural play spaces he said “creativity just appears”.

He also challenged the position of sustainability in curriculum.

“Sustainability is the most massive thing. Without sustainability you have no creativity. No numeracy. No literacy. Because there’s no world.”

Julie Bover from Narragunnawali explained via a video that reconciliation often involves “learning, unlearning and relearning”. She asked participants to reflect on what they thought about reconciliation from their heads and hearts.

She covered the five dimensions of reconciliation: race relations, equality and equity, unity, institutional integrity and historical acceptance. She also encouraged attendees to discuss what moving from “safe to brave” actions might look like.

Professor Sally Brinkman covered the surprising trend of increasing developmental vulnerability in South Australian reception children over the past few years. This data comes from the Australian Early Development Census.

Suggesting a focus on targeted child health services at the expense of universal ones may be responsible, she called on educators to look up the data for their suburb and then advocate.

Rhonda Livingstone from the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) covered the development and purpose of the National Quality Framework. In this refresher training, national consistency and continuous quality improvement came to the fore. She also said strong educational leadership was about “empowering educators and building capacity in your service”.

A Q&A panel of all keynote speakers plus Jane Bilberry, Janet Callus and Melissa Thompson, senior authorised officers from the Education Standards Board, answered questions posed by participants before and during the session.

They clarified how much safety is required, after Glenn’s session. Melissa said it was a requirement of the National Law and National Quality Standard to keep children safe. But this didn’t mean eliminating all risk of injury or incident. She said doing a “risk-benefit assessment” helped clarify learning opportunities from activities that involved some danger.

If you missed the event or would like to review something, please see the Education Standards Board's YouTube channel. You can view the keynote and Q&A sessions from the day.