"ECE educators need to stand up and announce “I AM a professional!”...we must tell them we are a professional sector...by every ECE student and educator ... registering with PEMI (the professional body for the sector)".
The Backdoor to Primary Teaching
It is widely known that there is a significant cohort of students who enrol in early childhood education degree courses and are doing so only as a gateway or “backdoor” into primary school teaching. These students complete their ECE studies and then continue on to pursue a master's degree which will qualify them to register with the Teaching Council as a primary school teacher. I understand why this route is a useful one for those who may have missed out on the opportunity to pursue a degree in primary teaching for one reason or another. However, the result of this is that our sector, the early childhood education sector, is being overlooked as a viable and rewarding career in education.
So, what are the main drivers which draw students to primary teaching and steer them away from early childhood education? I would hazard a guess that the lack of a professional status for early childhood educators is likely to be a significant deterrent to these ECE degree students remaining in the sector post-graduation.
What Makes a Job a Profession?
When it comes to recognition of certain roles and sectors as professions, there are certain factors which must be present. These factors include members of the profession having a specific set of qualifications which sets them apart from others who do not hold the same qualification, a shared sense of their professional identity and acknowledgment within wider society that they are recognised as competent and fit for practice. In the primary school sector, all of these factors are present, primary teachers must have a degree and they are registered with the Teaching Council which means they are recognised by both themselves, and others, as belonging to their particular profession.
Registering as Professional
To move forward as an appropriately recognised profession, the ECE sector needs to follow a similar path and come together under a professional body which will recognise the specific qualifications and skills which identify ECE educators as part of a specific profession. The need for the establishment of a professional body for ECE is highlighted by the DCEDIY in the Nurturing Skills workforce development plan which was published earlier this year. In response to this, Professional Educators and Managers Ireland (PEMI) was formed in 2022 and launched as the first professional body for the ECE and SAC sector in Ireland.
Similar to the Teaching Council, registering with PEMI is an important part of professional recognition and the promotion of the ECE sector as a profession. PEMI registration tells others that there is a shared professional identity and unique set of qualifications required within ECE and as this professional body grows, wider society won’t be able to help but recognise ECE as profession. Hopefully this will also help to retain students who engage in an ECE degree within the sector instead of them only viewing their ECE degree as a steppingstone to something else.
Say it Loud and Say it Proud!
ECE educators need to stand up and announce “I AM a professional!” Instead of waiting for others to recognise ECE as a profession, we must tell them we are a professional sector and that can be done by every ECE student and educator working in an early childhood education or school age setting registering with PEMI.
I am registered with PEMI, are you?
How to Register with PEMI
If you hold a Level 5 ECE qualification or above, you can register as a PEMI member here: https://forms.gle/UMBVa3NCH1Wdmqg88
Find out more about PEMI here: (1) Professional Educators and Managers Ireland | Facebook
About the Author:
Paula Walshe is an PhD student and Assistant Lecturer in ECE at Dundalk Institute of Technology. She currently holds a Master’s Degree in Leadership for ECEC and has extensive ECEC experience in both pedagogical practice and ECEC management. In addition to this, Paula is a committee member with PEMI, the professional body for the ECE and SAC sector in Ireland. You can learn more about Paula’s work here. LinkedIn: Paula Walshe / Twitter: @digitalearlyed / Instagram: @digitalearlychildhoodeducator
Paula has also co-founded a Twitter community of practice page and podcast @ECEQualityIrl
You can listen to the most recent ECE Quality Ireland podcast here.