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CHILD'S PLAY: How TAFE NSW helped Katie shape young hearts and minds

TAFE NSW Shellharbour

CHILD'S PLAY: How TAFE NSW helped Katie shape young hearts and minds

CHILD'S PLAY: TAFE NSW Shellharbour graduate Katie McClelland has a passion for inclusivity in childcare and her career is soaring, thanks to the support of TAFE NSW.

28 October, 2020

A Wollongong childcare educator living with a rare condition that has seen her break bones nearly 50 times in her young life has now trained her focus on opening an “all-inclusive” childcare centre.

Katie McClelland, 28, has completed a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education at TAFE NSW Shellharbour and said her own struggles with inclusion as a child have spurred her to work towards opening the unique centre in the Illawarra.

Ms McClelland is living with an extremely rare genetic condition called osteopetrosis, which causes bones to harden, and dissolve and break easier.

The proud Indigenous woman first enrolled in a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care at TAFE NSW after leaving school and said, with the support of teachers, her passion and confidence grew, and she completed both a diploma and a  degree at TAFE NSW.

“Once I started studying at TAFE NSW, I became so fascinated by early childhood development and how important the first five years is in a child’s brain,” Ms McClelland said.

“I had such a supportive experience at TAFE NSW, I thought I would continue my journey there. The more I learned the more I wanted to know, and I wanted to go as far as I could in the career.”

Ms McClelland secured a job at Albion Park’s Bedrock Kids while still enrolled in her Certificate III and was later made a director of Wollongong’s Before and After School Care Centre while studying her diploma.

She later moved to Sydney where she worked in a variety of childcare roles, including as director of Lee’s Learning in Alexandria and a local Montessori Academy.

After giving birth to her first child, Ms McLelland returned to the Illawarra and took up her current role as an educational leader at Happy Hearts Academy in Helensburgh.

She is now eyeing off a Master of Education and a passion project of opening an inclusive childcare centre in the region.

“Inclusiveness is my passion. I grew up breaking bones and knowing too well what it felt like to not be a typical kid,” she said. “I want to ensure every child has the best start to life, regardless of the hand they’ve been dealt.”

Acting Coordinator of the TAFE NSW Early Childhood Bachelor’s Degree Program, Eva Dillon-Smith, said Ms McClelland was an example of how a higher education qualification can “turbocharge careers".

“There is such a huge demand for early childhood educators and teachers right now and the employment prospects for our graduates is very strong,” Ms Dillon-Smith said.

“Those completing a hands-on degree at TAFE NSW, like Katie, can really target leadership roles in the sector.”

She said that enrolments are now open to study a TAFE NSW Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and Care  at TAFE NSW Shellharbour in 2021.

According to the TAFE NSW Jobs of the Future report, “early childhood teacher” is projected to be fastest growing profession in the Illawarra between 2018 and 2021.

To find out more about studying childcare at TAFE NSW, phone 13 16 01 or visit



Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.