This paper presents the findings of a research project investigating the perceptions and expectations held by pre-service teachers regarding the childcare sector. It presents the views of a group of pre-service teachers both before and after their exposure to practice within childcare following a ten week practicum. The personal experiences of the research participants impacted greatly on their evolutionary understanding of and attitude towards the Childcare Sector.

It offers a contribution to the developing body of research relevant to the Australian Government policy that requires qualified teachers to be employed in Childcare Services by 2014. This policy evolved as a response to the 2006 report by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Starting Strong II, which clearly illustrated the need for Australia to make changes within the early childhood sector to improve consistency and quality in the early years.

Pre-Service Teachers in their third year of a four year teaching degree at The University of Notre Dame, Australia were interviewed before and after embarking on a ten week practicum within the childcare sector. Thematic analysis of the data produced several key concepts that illuminated issues of identity conflict across the care and education divide.

The data gathered in this study provides a platform for the paper’s comparative discussion on their pre and post perceptions and expectations of the Childcare sector. Both data sets reveal interesting findings in relation to the impact of exposure to childcare practice on pre-service teacher’s perceptions of childcare. The qualitative data also sheds lights on the way in which their perspectives changed, and the reasons for the changes. Identity issues were identified within each phase of the data.

Issues pertaining to identity feature strongly within the findings of the study. Individual pre-service teachers experienced wildly different emotions during their Childcare practicums. Where there was harmony, their perception of Childcare Workers as educators was very strong. Conversely, where conflict or tension formed part of the experience, the discourse on the educational identity of Childcare Workers was markedly different. The data exposes an evolving identity crisis within the sector. Between educators who care and carers who educate there lies a tale of division within our Early Childhood Community. The authors analyse this finding through the lens of professional identity and argue for the need for unity within the sector. Unity in mutual respect for the contribution of the other within a paradigm of holism and educare is vital. Divisions across identity lines weaken the sector as a collective whole and prevent the emergence of opportunities for all involved to work collaboratively to develop a better deal for Australia’s children.

This paper makes a necessary contribution to the current research context where research on perspectives of teacher-educators within Childcare is limited. It is particularly pertinent in the context of Australia’s implementation of the policy requiring a qualified teacher to be employed within childcare settings from 2014 onwards.


early childhood education, childcare, educare, professional identity, professional status, teachers, childcare workers, pre-service teachers, practicum

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