Sunday, 15 January 2017

Newham's Early Years Conference, 2017

One of the excitements of working with a network of schools and co-leading the East London Partnership Teaching School Alliance is that there are great opportunities to bring people together. I loved seeing well over 200 practitioners from across East London coming together for our annual Early Years Conference.

Seeing such a diverse group of teachers, early years educators, and others who are committed to offering young children the very best experiences in the early years made me feel optimistic for the future.

You can get a bit of a flavour of the conference from all the day's tweets which have been published here as a Storify.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Celebrating young children's learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage

I'm sharing the PowerPoint from my keynote to TACTYC's 2016 Conference, considering what we might learn about assessment from the work of some of the pioneers of early education, and discussing a project led by a group of Maintained Nursery Schools in London called "Celebrating Young Children's Learning". There's more to come from that project in the New Year ...

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Safeguarding - professionalism and reflection

Safeguarding and ProtectingEvery Child, a one-day national conference organised by Laura Henry, left me with lots to think about – so I’m delighted to have the chance to host an #EYTalking Twitter chat on the theme of “Safeguarding – professionalism and reflection” (Tuesday 6th December, 8:00pm-9:00pm).

Left: talking with John Carnochan before the conference opened. Right: me, Laura and John

As conference chair, I had a perfect opportunity to listen and to think about lots of different issues throughout the day. Perhaps my single biggest reflection was about how we tend to think a lot about safeguarding in terms of having the correct policies and procedures. 

We focus on being compliant.

When things go terribly wrong and a child is seriously injured or killed, there will be a formal investigation called a Serious Case Review. These are often published. Reading them, whilst harrowing, is a good way to find out how things can go wrong and think about what individuals, or the system, might do differently in the future so that children are better protected.

In general, the shortcomings identified which are relevant to the early years and school sector are about professionalism, training, safer recruitment, and communication. No-one believes that just having good policies is an effective way of keeping children safe, though certainly having robust recruitment procedures, e-safety policies, and good protocols for picking up on and reporting suspected abuse are essential. It is often the case that if only professionals had felt more confident to state their concerns, more able to be assertive and to speak up for a child, and better at sharing information, then a serious injury or even a child’s death might have been prevented.

So, whilst we are inclined to get tied up in ever tighter knots as we try to be ever more compliant, we should not neglect the importance of focussing on staff professionalism, the culture of our settings, and the overall quality of what we provide for the children.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Successful Early Years Ofsted Inspections: "what the **** did you spend your time writing that for?"

I've had a fair amount of feedback from the usual sources about my new book. It's ranged from a lovely "ooh look what's arrived" tweet from Laura Henry when she opened the Amazon box, to a DM on Twitter asking "what the **** did you spend your time writing that for?".

That direct message, without the ***s, was from someone whose opinions I respect. Generally.

I guess I'm the sort of person who dwells more on the second comment than the first, so here's my answer.

Why did I spend all that time writing it?

I'm not afraid to say that I am passionate about my work with early years practitioners at all levels. The workforce is not only remarkably dedicated, but also growing in its professionalism and confidence at a staggering rate. It's why I spent the best part of seven years engaged in doctoral research with groups of early years practitioners in London.

So it saddens me when I hear from practitioners that they dread Ofsted. Or that are doing something they don't believe in, and don't think will benefit the children, because they think it's "what Ofsted want".

My book is all about Ofsted inspection, but I'm looking through the telescope from the other end.

How can we work together to support the growing professionalism of the early years workforce, and develop effective practice that works for the children and their families?

How can we do that in such a way that when Ofsted inspect, they validate what we are doing.

We know just how much the early years matter (here are just a few reasons). So, I  think that all the early years teachers, educators and practitioners - all of us, despite our different job titles and backgrounds - must focus on developing practice that is supported by the best available evidence.

It is no good saying that we "believe" in a certain approach; we need to demonstrate that it works. We need to argue for high quality early years education, based on the best evidence bases. That's especially important now that public finances are so tight. One of the things I've tried to outline in my book, is how teams can go about doing that.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Out now: my new book, Successful Early Years Ofsted Inspections

My new book, Successful Early Years Ofsted Inspections, is out very soon - and you can now pre-order it from Amazon with a 10% discount.

The publisher Sage have also posted a free extract to read online.

I'm really pleased to have two five-star Amazon reviews and the following three endorsements:

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Just a few examples of why the early years matter now, and for children's futures

Sharing some information I pulled together for our Teaching School Alliance about the long-term benefits of high quality early education:
  • one in four children who struggled with language at age five did not reach the expected standard in English at the end of primary school - compared with one in 25 children who had good language skills at age five (Save the Children)
  • one in five children who struggled with language at age five did not reach the expected standard in maths at the end of primary school - compared with one in 50 children who had good language skills at age five (Save the Children)
  • The benefit of experiencing high quality early education equate to 41 more points at GCSE, the equivalent to gaining seven B grades at GCSE, rather than seven C grades (DFE Research: The EPPSE Project)
  • 94% of children who achieve a good level of development at age 5 go on to achieve the expected levels for reading at Key Stage 1. They are 5 times more likely to achieve the highest level. (DFE research)
  • Pupils who start off in the bottom 20% of attainment at age 5 are six times more likely to be in the bottom 20% at Key Stage 1 compared to their peers (DFE research)

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Campaigning for nursery education - back to the future?

As I write, we're getting close to the deadline (22nd September) for responses to the government's consultation on early years funding for 3- and 4-year-olds.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on nursery schools and classes has been greatly effective in showing the huge risk that changes to funding will lead to a dilution of quality and have a negative effect on outcomes for children:

Although the government is committed to extending free childcare to support working families far less attention is being paid to the quality of that care and the consequent impact on educational and developmental outcomes for young children. Nursery Education appears to have been subsumed into Childcare. [read their full statement]

There is ample evidence from Ofsted that better-qualified staff provide better-quality early education. The argument that high-quality early education pays off in every imaginable way, especially by improving the life-chances of disadvantaged children, is now so often repeated that it hardly needs re-stating. Just in case you've landed here but still need convincing, here is one of many excellent reviews of the research from the Centre for Research in Early Childhood.

Back in the 1970s, the campaign to increase government support for early education was an extraordinary success. The education minister of the time, Margaret Thatcher, was responsible for the biggest expansion of early education ever seen.

I'm indebted to Anne Kibuuka, headteacher of Kay Rowe Nursery School, for the photos below which show how, in the pre-social-media era, those wily campaigners knew how to craft a great image and a soundbite.

Liz Murphy from the National Campaign for Nursery Education says that she "remembers these photos from the 1970 lobby we had to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act. We had as our motif a forget-me-not and parents and children dressed up in vaguely Victorian dress. A petition was handed in to Margaret Thatcher who had just been appointed Secretary of State for Education."

So, enjoy the photos and if you know any more about the lobby, or if you were in it, please drop me a line add a comment below. But let's not go back to the future: now's the time to keep arguing for the critical important of high quality early education.