Lockridge: Early Childhood Australia WA event raises awareness about play-based education advantages

Nathalie Burke from Messy Moments gets messy with Laura Patterson (black and white stripes) and Alexis and Zara (black shirt) Miller from Ellenbrook at the ECAWA Lockridge Play Date.
Nathalie Burke from Messy Moments gets messy with Laura Patterson (black and white stripes) and Alexis and Zara (black shirt) Miller from Ellenbrook at the ECAWA Lockridge Play Date.

A MURDOCH University director of early childhood education said a Lockridge event raised awareness about the lack of play-based education in schools.

Sandra Hesterman, an Early Childhood Australia WA (ECAWA) committee member, addressed more than 300 parents and children at the Lockridge Play Date event at Lockridge Primary School on July 8.

The event featured 25 stalls where children could take part in hands-on activities in addition to learning about ECAWA’s bid to develop a WA play strategy.

Dr Hesterman said since 2013, the decreased opportunities for play-based education had been identified by ECAWA members as a “serious concern” which had worsened over time.

“The Federal Government had mandated a framework which was called the Early Years Learning Framework,” Dr Hesterman said.

“That document has specific emphasis on play-based learning but what we are finding there are a lot of teachers who are put under pressure not to provide opportunities for play-based learning.

“Typically that is because there is an idea that we need to start formalised learning at an earlier age in preparation for Year 3 National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing.”

Dr Hesterman said the lack of play-based learning in early schooling years made it difficult for university students to experience what they learn at university during placement at schools.

More than 70 parties including the City of Bayswater, schools, early childhood centres, parenting groups and paediatricians have supported ECAWA’s bid to develop a play strategy she said.

“Most importantly, it would provide an opportunity for educators, parents and the wider community to actually have the conversation because has slipped off the radar,” Dr Hesterman said.

“We are hoping that the Government will come on board and the next step would be having the community’s input in how the WA strategy will be formed.

“There is a realisation that the pendulum at the moment has swung too far and people are feeling uncomfortable that young children in kindergarten are doing worksheets.”

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