World-first study to boost standard of early childhood teaching

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The New South Wales Minister for Early Childhood Education Leslie Williams has announced a new study that will offer professional development to early childhood teachers and educators around the State in order to promote children’s learning.

The Fostering Effective Early Learning (FEEL) Study, to be conducted by renowned researchers at the University of Wollongong’s Early Start, will involve up to 1,800 children aged between four and five in 90 preschools and long day care centres throughout NSW.

This rigorous study comprises a randomised control trial to look at how specific early childhood teaching practices can have a measurable impact on improving children’s outcomes.

“The National Quality Agenda, which sets the regulatory requirements for early childhood education and care services, is based on strong evidence of the key elements that determine education quality, in particular teaching qualifications, ratios, and professional development.”

“The FEEL Study is about how we can better enhance teaching practices and target professional development to have a sustainable impact on children’s short and long term outcomes.”

Renowned early childhood expert Professor Iram Siraj, from University College London and visiting professor at UOW, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Years honours list in January 2015 for her services to early education, will lead the study.

Professor Siraj said research had clearly established that the early years (birth to 5) are the most important time for learning and a quality early education has been linked to reduced rates of crime, boosted employability, better jobs and a higher income.

“It is now widely accepted, and studies from the UK, US and Australia now support the benefits of early education, but it is particularly high quality early education and care which has the longest term impact.

“The FEEL study will focus on improving early childhood education and care quality by providing an evidence-based professional development to staff from 90 centres across NSW. We will measure the impact of the professional development on children’s learning and describe the improvements in staff practice.

“So far the study has been met with immense enthusiasm from the sector, where staff recognise the importance of a quality experience for all children and families.”

Academic Head of Early Start Professor Marc de Rosnay said he was excited to be working with early years educators to introduce best practice early childhood education through this timely initiative. The professional learning intervention places a strong emphasis on building enriching relationships with educators and children, as well as fostering high quality practice to ensure good learning outcomes for children and help their transition to school.

“The professional development intervention is based on many years of research and international best evidence. Importantly, this study will allow us to properly evaluate the impact of the intervention on early childhood education.”

In July this year at UOW, Australia’s former Minister for Social Services the Hon Scott Morrison MP officially opened the most sophisticated early childhood teaching, research and community engagement initiative ever undertaken in Australia. 

Early Start is a $44 million transformational infrastructure investment together with a continuing commitment from UOW and its partners. The Early Start initiative is focused on creating educational programs, experiences and networks that enrich the way we understand and interact with children, families and communities.

Early Start consists of:

  • an international hub for multidisciplinary research, tackling issues as varied as cognitive development, healthy lifestyles, digital learning and literacy, and social inclusion
  • cutting-edge courses for the next generation of professionals focused on the earliest years of life with state of the art education facilities and some of the best academic staff in the world, providing the opportunity to create transformational learning experiences for students working with children, families and communities
  • a partnership with 41 early childhood education and care centres across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory who are helping to inform and pioneer innovation in the early years and translate research into practice
  • the Early Start Discovery Space – Australia’s only dedicated ‘children’s museum’ promoting learning through play and the importance of life-long learning.

(Source: University of Wollongong)

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Date Created: December 6, 2015 Date Modified: December 16, 2015