The ethics of safety

Early childhood education and care services have shown enormous strength, courage and resourcefulness as the COVID-19 pandemic bites. Many have been forced to swiftly create new protocols for their learning community and ways to keep everyone informed and connected—all while experiencing their own personal and professional hardships. This blog explores how to ensure that new practices do not undermine core values that underpin early childhood educational practice.

Once again early learning services and educators are shifting to another change in this year of constant change and challenge. Children and their families are returning to early childhood education and care and to school age care. With their return comes a bunch of new procedures aimed at keeping us all safe. These new approaches come hot on the heels of the move to home-based and online learning, which has kept us busy rethinking the nature of education and how we support families as their children’s first teachers.

But just like the other changes we have had to make to all aspects of our work, the redevelopment of procedures for arrival and departure needs careful examination. Measures introduced with the aim of keeping everyone safe can too easily start to undermine the very fabric of our relational pedagogy. Decisions like temperature testing and stricter distancing measures for families —measures that see parents and caregivers unable to enter a service as they drop off and pick up children—are not to be undertaken lightly.

As with many other aspects of our work with children and their families, making the right decision is not always straightforward. Plenty of educators have raised valid and well-researched concerns about the risks of arrival and departure routines; risks that appear to mostly present to the adults who participate in them on a daily basis. Others have welcomed the opportunity for children to demonstrate how capable they are as they carry their own bags, wash their hands, and organise their lunch boxes. In amongst these are comments that are more concerning; that suggest the whole process would be easier if families remained behind the gate. We realise this type of remark is often made from frustration as we navigate the complexity of building relationships with families in a relatively short time. But let’s be very careful that efficiency, convenience for adults and the necessity of more rigorous hygiene practices do not mislead us into making unethical decisions.

So, is there a way to determine what we ought to do? What’s the right decision in this new normal?  Is there a decision that respects families and maintains safety? We believe there is, and the pathway is mapped in the infographic below … What do you think? Where do these questions lead you?

ECA Recommends

Ethics in Action – A practical guide to implementing the ECA Code of Ethics
by Dr Lennie Barblett, Catharine Hydon and Dr Anne Kennedy

This easy-to-use practical guide is suitable for all educators, managers, leaders and childhood professionals caring for children from birth to 12 years of age. This essential and practical 95-page guide to the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Code of Ethics clearly explains what ‘code of ethics’ means in everyday practice. You will discover case studies, scenarios and provocations to help guide you with everyday ethical implementation. You can purchase your copy here on the ECA Shop.

ECA Learning Hub module – Duty of care for managers and supervisors 

Suitable for early childhood education and care professionals at all stages of their careers, this course has been designed to provide you with an overview and understanding of work health and safety (WHS) responsibilities at each level of the workplace and a practical understanding of how to fulfil your duty of care responsibilities. You can purchase here on the ECA Learning Hub.

Early Childhood Australia

Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has been a voice for young children since 1938. We are the peak early childhood advocacy organisation, acting in the interests of young children, their families and those in the early childhood field. ECA advocates to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children aged birth to eight years.

One thought on “The ethics of safety”

    Anne Kennedy says:

    Thanks for this reminder on making decisions about arrivals and departures in the context of Covid19 and within the context of an ethics of care and respect for every child’s dignity. Hope we hear from services about how they have responded to this dilemma.

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