What's it like to have a politician visit your centre? Claire Penno tells all...

What's it like to have a politician visit your centre? Claire Penno tells all...

Claire Penno from Blackburn Early Learning Centre in Victoria welcomed MP Michael Sukkar to her centre last week. With more political visits coming up in centres across the country soon, here are Claire's thoughts on getting the message across that quality matters!


L-R Centre Director Melinda Rutland, MP Michael Sukkar and Centre Manager Claire Penno

"On Tuesday we had a visit from Michael Sukkar, the Liberal Federal Member for our Electorate of Deakin. We began by giving him a tour of the centre, then discussed our concerns on the proposed changes and major issues for the early childhood education and care sector, including answering some questions he had. 

Averaging ratios?

"In his time with us we were able to give him real life demonstrations as to what a quality early education service looks like, as well as what might happen if those changes are passed. On the day, for example, we actually had three educators off sick. But this gave us the perfect opportunity to raise with him averaging out the ratios over the week and what that would look like if I had chosen not to replace those educators.

"The purpose of this proposed change is to help service providers when educators are away unexpectedly and give them some leniency to replace these educators later in the week. But there is no quality education or care in this circumstance - only stressed educators and children as educators try to manage double the workload. 

The importance of quality qualifications

"Michael then asked what my challenges were in finding suitably qualified educators, and what I thought with regards to the proposed change of no qualifications for under 3 year old children. I said that when we first started at the centre this was difficult as we were establishing; especially in regards to a Kinder Teacher. I was then able to discuss the importance of quality training programs through TAFE or university courses rather than registered training organisations that were delivering substandard training.

"To finish up, one of the Kinder children gave him a copy of their Disney 'Frozen' story that they had created within their classroom. This story demonstrates that with the appropriate training of educators, how an interest of the children can lead into the creation of their own interpretation where they are able to explore literacy, art and their own imagination. He was extremely impressed!

Children's week is coming up

"We then invited him to a Children’s Week event that will be held in Canberra on 30 October, where he will be able to hear guest speakers talking about the importance of quality early learning and care on children, families, workforce participation and the wider economy. I am hoping to also attend this event so that we are able to continue to develop this relationship with the policy makers to ensure that the decisions that are made are in the best interest of all the children and families in early learning services across Australia.

"Michael was extremely receptive to our concerns and he said that once the Productivity Commission report is released if we have any questions or concerns about it to contact him and he can forward this onto the Hon. Sussan Ley (the Assistant Minister for Education).

"It is great that we are able to build these relationships within our community, as well as to have these contacts. Check out Michael's post about us on his Facebook page!"

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