Rebecca Slade

At Ƶ, we’re never not learning. Or growing. It’s at the heart of everything we do. Here, you’ll have a front row seat to the latest research and thinking on early childhood education.

The Bachelor of Education – The Early Years (Accelerated Pathway Program) offered by the University of Wollongong (UOW) is a transformative opportunity tailored to support diploma-qualified early childhood educators in advancing their careers to the next level.

Recently, two dedicated Ƶ employees, Tracey Pike and Dimi Perras, also current students in the Accelerated Pathway Program, were invited to meet with Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett, the Academic Director of the Early Years at UOW, to discuss this innovative degree with the Minister of Early Childhood Education, Dr Ann Aly, and Alison Byrnes MP for Cunningham.

Minister Aly’s keen interest in the sector and unwavering support for programs like this further validate the significance of investing in early childhood education.

During the meeting, Tracey shared her heartfelt journey, stating, ‘I’ve dedicated nearly 40 years to this sector, and without the accelerated degree and the unwavering support from Ƶ, pursuing my bachelor’s in early education wasn’t an option. It has always been a dream, but accessibility and family commitments were barriers to even considering this undertaking’.

‘Thanks to the incredible support, flexibility to work and study, and access to invaluable mentors, this dream has become a reality. The continuous check-ins, mentorship, and collaborative learning environment have made the impossible, possible. I am grateful for the support of both Ƶ and UOW,’ said Tracey Pike.

Dimi shared her experience too, one marked by unexpected hurdles as a single mother of three. However, Dimi’s unwavering perseverance coupled with the endorsement and support of her Ƶ colleagues, her journey now includes full time work and studying a bachelor’s degree in education.

‘What a privilege it was to have been asked by Catherine to speak on behalf of our cohort, and I know why. I am a passionate advocate for early education and care. I believe our sector is undervalued, often viewed as babysitters.’

‘Having been in early education since the age of 18, I have witnessed the high turnover rates firsthand. It’s been disheartening to see great educators and peers move away and find validation elsewhere. When the government addresses staff shortages, implements a 25% pay increase and more organisations like Ƶ support employees to work and study, quality educators would undoubtedly be attracted back to the sector.’

UOW’s program offers extensive support systems to ensure student success. Lecturers, tutors, and mentors from the sector provide guidance, act as sounding boards for ideas, offer assistance with assessments, and help link theoretical concepts to practical applications in the field. The program fosters a sense of community through smaller group interactions, allowing for personalised support and meaningful connections.

Ƶ CEO, Kim Bertino said, ‘The ability to develop strong partnerships through collaborations between the University of Wollongong, Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) and Ƶ has enabled dedicated educators like Tracey and Dimi, to achieve their aspirations to become early childhood teachers. Tracey and Dimi are the exact reason why we need to continue to invest in supporting our ECEC workforce and to continue to advocate for professional recognition and remuneration that is commensurate with the colleagues in the schooling system.’

The sector is undoubtedly enriched with Dimi and Tracey as peers, highlighting the importance of accessible and supportive educational pathways for professionals in the early childhood education field. With ongoing support, mentorship, and a tailored learning environment, educators like Tracey and Dimi can excel and make a lasting impact on children’s lives.

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