Early childhood groups explore the use of “kitchen tables” in an “ideas” conference

Photo: "Yesterday's Auction Find", Yellow House

About 120 early childhood educators, researchers, trade unionists and college instructors took part in a stimulating conference at Ryerson University on March 1. Titled The “A” word: Challenging advocacy in the fight for a Canadian child care system, the conference set out to examine some of the influential ideas currently shaping advocacy for child care and early childhood education.

A series of panels, presentations and discussions delved into the current state of affairs and set out bold new ideas and strategies for the future. A first panel, comprised of Professors Susan Prentice, Rachel Langford, Monica Lysack, Martha Friendly, and moderated by Professor Rianne Mahon, challenged participants to consider key policy issues: Social capital or social justice?; “Care” and “education”; Reliance on a market model for child care; and, Is child care still a women’s issue?

A second group of panelists, made up of Jamie Kass, Jane Beach, Brooke Richardson and Shani Halfon, and moderated by Professor Patrizia Albanese, discussed the latest developments in early childhood education and care: the labour movement’s Rehink Child Care campaign; the recent You Bet We Still Care! survey results on staff wages and working conditions; a current academic research project studying the child care movement; and the need to “pass the torch” to a new generation of child care advocates.

The second part of the conference used a “kitchen table” model to allow the varied participants to share their own experiences in the early childhood education and child care field, with a focus on several key policy questions. After lively discussions in small groups, participants put forward a number of concrete ideas for action, the outcomes of which were featured in the wrap-up session chaired by Susan Prentice.

The sense of the conference was that the child care movement is very much alive and that there is significant interest in considering, debating and revisiting ideas and strategies for advocacy.
The “A” word conference was a collaborative initiative between Ryerson’s School of Early Childhood Studies, the Childcare Resource and Research Unit and New Advocates for Progressive Childcare Policy.