With Victoria setting the pace on school readiness, a wide range of early years’ professionals are looking forward to finding out the latest at the upcoming Get Ready Conference in August.

One of the programs to be presented at the conference is Positive Early Childhood Education – or PECE –  which has not only received excellent results in trial studies but has just been given a hearty endorsement by industry leader Mel Comerford of Astute Early Years Specialists.

“As a sector, we tend to assume our Early Childhood Educators know things, but this program condenses a lot of really important information into one spot, in an easy to understand, linear, step-by-step way,” explains Mel, who’s held executive roles with Goodstart and the C&K Association, and has a degree in Early Childhood Education and decades of experience as an educator.

“Unless we’re specifically taught, we tend to have one or two strategies, such as distraction or diversion, that we can use to support children’s behaviour,” she explains. She says that while Early Childhood Educators are well aware of what NOT to do in tricky situations, it can be stressful not knowing what to do instead, especially if the default strategy isn’t working.

The PECE program helps educators to support children’s emotional self-regulation skills and resilience, using proven evidence-based strategies developed from the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program. Educators complete four short online modules and gain a whole toolkit of 22 different strategies to choose from and adapt to each individual child and situation.

As Mel explains, the whole idea is that there’s no compulsion to use particular strategies; it’s your choice, there are a range of options for any given scenario, and you improve on your ability to use them with more experience. The result is educators feel happier and more empowered to make a difference, rather than stressed and overwhelmed. They’re also able to have a common understanding with their colleagues, so that everyone’s working on the same foundational knowledge of child development and behaviour support.

As a result, children who may have appeared to be facing a lifetime of struggle within the education system can experience a major shift, and educators can also experience significant changes. It’s this aspect that especially inspires Mel Comerford: “It’s not just the child’s life path we’re talking about; it’s the educator’s career path as well,” she says.

“This program affects how people see themselves in the world. If a child thinks (and the other children also see) that they don’t fit in or are always in trouble, they can start to believe that’s the truth. The reality might just be that they’re at a different stage of development or the lights are too bright for them, or the music’s too loud. We can fundamentally change the way a child sees themselves as a learner, in the world, and also fundamentally change the way an educator sees a child, and the way an educator sees themselves.”

The PECE program is also available for whole centres, with extra coaching, and/or in combination with a wider community roll-out of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program.

“If we have every educator in a centre doing the program and then we’re really smart and we support our parents to do Triple P, what magic would that be for those children,” says Mel, explaining that this consistency of approach adds to a child’s sense of safety and security.

Overall, it’s a powerful way to help give children their best start to school, and to life.

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