When the early years learning framework (EYLF) first came out in 2010, many educators were quick to latch on to “the 3 B’s” – the core elements of the EYLF – being, belonging, becoming.
Overnight, belonging walls, wooden signs and displays showing all the different ways children “belonged” to a service popped up, and the learning outcomes which “proved” the 3 Bs were latched on to.
What was, and remains, less familiar to the sector are the principles and practices which sit under the core elements of the EYLF. All too often, the first section of the EYLF is something which is flipped through in a hurry to reach “the important stuff” of the learning outcomes.
By flipping past, some of the most important elements of the EYLF may be missed. When read as a whole, it quickly becomes clear that the framework is exactly that – each part is held up by a scaffold of principles and practices, and these rich elements can take documentation, planning, and many other aspects of working with children to the next level.
While it’s understandable that in an environment where there are so many competing demands of rostering, staffing, child protection issues, menus, compliance…and a global pandemic… that the view “any shortcut is a good shortcut”, skipping over the principles and practices means children’s learning is reduced to “tick a box”, and educators become compliance monitors rather than the creative and spontaneous practitioners we know them to be.
For many years, under previous curriculum models, educators felt constrained, having to fit into pre-defined boxes, and meet various elements of curriculum, whether or not they were right for their service.
We finally have a model that allows services the space to create programming and curriculum which suits them, but many services are defaulting to “out of the box” solutions which are quick, generic, and “one size fits all”. The principles of the EYLF can help services to dig in and learn more about what they believe about children, and work to make this connect with the need to work under an approved learning framework.
What are the principles?
The EYLF has five principles that reflect contemporary theories and research evidence concerning children’s learning and early childhood pedagogy. They are designed to underpin the practices which take place within a service, and are focused on assisting all children to make progress in relation to the Learning Outcomes.
The five principles are;
1. Secure, Respectful And Reciprocal Relationships:
This principle speaks to the need for educators to prioritise nurturing relationships with children, and to help children to develop the skills to return the same nurture to themselves and to others.
In this principle, educators are reminded of the importance of working as a member of a “team” in the life of a child, where everyone values the knowledge and contributions that other team members make in a child’s life, as well as communicating respectfully and sharing their thinking and decision making with other team members.
3. High Expectations And Equity:
Here, educators are encouraged to believe in all children’s capacities to succeed, regardless of diverse circumstances and abilities, and to recognise and respond to barriers to children achieving educational success.
4. Respect For Diversity:
When educators adhere to principle four, they are recognising that there are many ways of living, being and of knowing, and that children come into their care with a culture, which is not only influenced by traditional practices, heritage and ancestral knowledge, but also by the experiences, values and beliefs of individual families and communities.
5. Ongoing Learning And Reflective Practice:
As educators come to understand themselves, and those they work with more deeply, they become co-learners, with children, families and communities, valuing the continuity and richness of local knowledge. Reflective practice is a form of ongoing learning that asks educators to grapple with questions of philosophy, ethics and practice.
By digging more deeply into the EYLF, educators can add layers of meaning not only to their documentation and programming, but also to their professional and pedagogical practices. Far more than just a prelude to the learning outcomes, the principles and practices of the EYLF offer educators a window to understand more about themselves and the learning of the children in their care.
Community Community Child Care Co-operative Ltd (NSW) – Living practice with the EYLF
The Early Years Learning Framework Professional Learning Program – Thinking about Practice
Department of Social Services – Living the EYLF everyday team meeting package