Early education in spotlight

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Karratha Early Childhood Education and Care Conference keynote speakers Kimberley Beasley and Jenny Jay and co-event organiser Suzie Powell.
Camera IconKarratha Early Childhood Education and Care Conference keynote speakers Kimberley Beasley and Jenny Jay and co-event organiser Suzie Powell. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

Early childhood education in the Pilbara was brought into the spotlight at an inaugural day-long professional development conference held in Karratha at the weekend.

Baynton West Primary School hosted the first Karratha Early Childhood Education and Care Conference at the Karratha Leisureplex on Saturday to give local educators access to the latest ideas in developing children aged eight and under.

The event featured a packed program of guest and local speakers and drew about 130 early childhood educators, including daycare and playgroup staff, from Karratha, Port Hedland, Tom Price, Onslow, Pannawonica and Newman.

Baynton West Primary teachers and conference organisers Jessica Stevens and Suzie Powell said they had organised the conference in response to calls for better lo-cal access to early years pro-fessional development because of the difficulties of travelling to Perth.

“A lot of the time when we’re accessing professional learning, it’s a case of one or two people being sent down to Perth for it, so this way we were able to expand that and allow a lot of people to access professional learning where we are,” Ms Stevens said.

“I’m also the (early childcare) network co-ordinator for Karratha, so through there (educators) are always asking for professional learning.”

“It’s something we’ve been talking about for a few years now, actually having this conference, and it’s just come into fruition this year.”

Ms Stevens said they also hoped the event would promote networking and collaboration across different areas in the Pilbara early childhood sector.

Sessions on topics including childhood brain development, nature and play-based learning, music and movement, sensory processing and allied health were offered by speakers, many of whom flew from Perth for the event. In a speech opening the conference, Department of Education Pilbara regional executive director Neil Darby said school numbers across all age categories had been rising in the Pilbara and the area had to plan for more young families to come.

He said the conference was valuable for planning in the “frontline” of early years education.

“It really is such an important role that this conference reflects, and that’s why I’m so appreciative we’re having it,” he said.

“I think professional learning, access to various staff groups, is variable and we want to make it more consistent and I’m pleased that Karratha educators have provided that.”

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