Sue often gives her weekends up to wield chainsaws or collect dingo diggers and supervise working bees at Early Learning Centres. In her spare time, Sue writes children's stories.
Sue started out with the desire to be a ‘top flight nanny’ in England - a nanny that works with the Aristocracy and Royalty. This required a 5 year qualification as a Chef followed by Nursery Nurse training. During these 5 years, Sue worked and studied ‘early childhood’ and a further education teachers degree, and had 2 babies.
Working as a Nursery Nurse installed a passion for very tiny babies, the beginning of a lengthy career in early childhood education. ‘Special baby nurses’ work with very premature, sick and disabled children.
Sue continued her passion within the Pre School and Playgroups Association (PPA) across England. Where she met Princess Diana (PPA Patron) and Prince William. The PPA gave Sue a 12 year opportunity shaping Early Childhood curriculum by moderating qualifications standards, training trainers, and completing extended fieldwork trips across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Fieldwork gave Sue insights into the practices and attitudes to child care. Children were often left to their own devices as adults lacked a framework to understand children in the way we do today.
‘There was, and still is a great divide between who is capable and what types of qualifications they hold, and how to match qualifications and people with industry requirements.’ She explains ‘There is always a tension between industry needs, training package developers and training providers.’
Sue can see that the industry in Australia has come a long way since she first arrived in 1988. ‘Back then, there was very little in the way of programming for children. People were preoccupied with classification of deficits rather than looking at childrens developmental achievements, strengths and interests.’ Back then ‘centres were ripping up trees and planting plastic lawns and bombarding children with ‘safe’ and brittle plastic toys’
‘Centres are now changing to reintroduce natural materials that are open ended and can be used for imaginative play. Educators don't deliberately set out to ‘mend’ children, thanks to the Early Learning Years Framework (ELYF) we have a vocabulary that looks at strengths and encourage interests, and this is a positive change from measuring deficits in children.’
‘The enmeshing of quality standards (ELYF) and curriculum mean that we cannot sit still and must be constantly moving forward.’ Sue said this with some hesitancy, explaining that funding bodies and policy makers need to get on board with the quality agenda.
‘I would like to see Government take hold of Family Day Care funding and deal with it correctly. Governments can't keep reducing funding for organisations without it impacting on quality. There lacks scrutiny of how parents claim and abuse the Child Care Rebate, and how some families ‘swap children’ but on paper only. It is shocking that we are about to lose quality providers in reaction to the Government's clamp down on shonky Family Day Care schemes that collaborate with families to rort the system.’
‘There is a distribution problem and funding should be reallocated from families to centres and schemes. This would make finance available to fund the right types of services, rather than the heartbreaking damage done by a minority of Family Day Care Educators and Schemes.'
Despite the challenges, Sue remains battle ready ‘Because I have a lot to offer. New people are starting out. Organisations are setting up and are ready to take on board my experiences. The quality frameworks promote positive examples so that children are well grounded, passionate and happy individuals and have respect for themselves and world around them.’
When asked what advice she would give anyone setting out in the Early Childhood industry Sue states ‘Just keep chipping away, doing a little at a time. Over the years you build up networks, you find like minded people and you surround yourself with these people. If those of us that have the passion, knowledge and ability, keep passing that knowledge on, we will be able to make the world a better place.’ Sue reflects, ‘I will be old and ratty one day and will need children that have grown up to respect themselves and others, I will need them to look after me.’