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Guest post

Physical Development Stars at Bertram Group

Guest Post By Ursula Krystek-Walton Regional Early Years Manager

At Bertram Nursery Group, we have always known how important it is to promote physical development as a way of supporting children’s healthy growth; both physically and mentally, and the need for regular movement as an obvious means to keep fit, support children’s wellbeing, build their confidence and alleviate frustration. As such, we were delighted when Physical Development became a prime area within the Early Years Foundation Stage.

BertramGroupIt was not, however, until we became associated with Sharon Skade of GreaterSport, that we really began to consider just how vital physical development is in promoting all the other areas of learning right from birth.

Following Sharon’s training at individual settings, managers and their teams began to consider ways to incorporate more and more gross and fine motor physical development in their routines, activities and environments and we began to see some really positive results. Improvements in behaviours were noted in some settings, as well as children concentrating for longer periods of time.

Practitioners became conscious of letting children persevere with tasks rather than jumping in to help too soon, which allowed children to strengthen different muscles and of course, supported children’s independence. PDStars

We began to observe the effectiveness of placing a high priority on Physical Development.

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“She needs a story….”


It’s been a busy weekend.

On Saturday morning, I had the great pleasure of attending the North West ‘Ofsted Big Conversation’ (or obc), along with 499 other people. This is an opportunity for Ofsted to present their latest priorities and also for Ofsted to listen to the concerns and priorities of the Early Years sector. It is an amazing forum and the only place I know where, as a practitioner, you can actually talk directly to a senior HMI.

The focus for this meeting was literacy, with Sarah Hubbard, HMI and National Lead for English.

One of her main messages was that sharing books, talking about their content and use of suitable questioning about books is an excellent way of narrowing the gap in the attainment of children.

On Saturday afternoon I went to the cinema with my 6 year old nephew, to see Storks. During the film, two of the main characters are trying to get a baby to sleep, but she will not go to sleep, whatever they do. My nephew turned to me and, in a voice of exasperation, said “She needs a story!”

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Men In Childcare Podcast

Men in Childcare – Interview with Kris Nimbley


Kris Nimbley Kris Nimbley is studying for his BA (Hons) in Childhood Studies in Scotland and we started corresponding when he downloaded his free copy of the observation guidelines. We then ‘bumped into’ each other on Twitter – and the conversations haven’t stopped since!

Kris has a very clear vision of how he would like to see the Early Years sector develop, with a mountain of sensible ideas. Hear about how Kris got onto his course ‘almost by mistake’, his ethos and philosophy for Early Years Education and how his own early childhood experiences have influenced these.

You too can follow Kris on Twitter: @KrisNimbley



If you enjoy the podcast, please leave a review on iTunes too – it helps to promote the podcast and get it to reach a wider audience.


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Guest post

Early childhood development – it’s not rocket science, it’s neuroscience!


MineI was introduced to Mine Conkbayir when she contacted me about neuroscience informing early years practice, which I think is such an exciting, and growing, area of study. So I was very enthusiastic when she offered to do a guest post on this subject. Here she discusses how neuroscience can add another dimension to our understanding of child development:

Like many individuals in this increasingly frantic world, I’m often busy juggling my responsibilities as a parent while I work and continue my studies – a very exciting journey as I try to achieve my PhD in early childhood education and neuroscience.

Having been a lecturer across a range of child care and education qualifications for the past 14 years, I continue to be bewildered by the lack of consistently embedded teaching of neuroscience and early brain development across these qualifications.

Early years students and practitioners are continually being encouraged and supported by lecturers and training professionals to use theoretical knowledge from the likes of Piaget, Vygotsky and Bowlby to help inform their planning of early childhood curricula, learning environments and their interactions with very young children.

However, this is not the case when it comes to using neuroscience, which can also be used to inform their understanding of early brain development in relation to their practice.

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Men In Childcare Podcast

Men in Childcare – Interview with Greg Lane


GregLaneGreg Lane has worked at several different settings, working his way up to manager at Colville Nursery Centre, Notting Hill, a LEYF nursery.

In this podcast he discusses the next stage in his career – an MA in Applied Theatre, which sounds amazing!

During the podcast we touch on the current recruitment crisis in Early Years, the different ways that theatre can be brought to Early Years and how he started in the Early Years sector himself.

When there are more details to share about Greg’s Early Years theatre projects, I will post them on here for you.


Find out more about Colville Nursery centre here:


If you enjoy the podcast, please leave a review on iTunes too – it helps to promote the podcast and get it to reach a wider audience.


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Playing in the Forest


The Stockport Early Years Network had the great pleasure of visiting the ‘Wacky Woods’ near Bollington in Cheshire last week, with Alex. This is part the Schola Foris curriculum – ‘a fun, challenging but safe outdoor environment where creative play and learning can take place naturally’.

We went ostensibly to find out about the way that being in a forest environment can enhance, encourage, stretch, challenge, reinforce, invigorate children’s learning.

I went because I love the forest and Alex does a great cup of coffee (with water boiled over the camp fire in a blackened kettle).

It has been raining hard here, so the first thing we experienced was walking through the mud puddles, squelching and squealing as the mud pulled at our boots. And the delight as we spotted tiny boot prints from the children who had visited that afternoon (or was it tiny forest folk?).

Gathered around the fire, watching the water boil, we started to talk about risky play and how to explain to practitioners and parents that climbing trees has many benefits. In fact, Alex suggested that your risk analysis should start off with the benefits, which I thought was an excellent idea.

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Guest post

Seeing your classroom from the autistic child’s perspective

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Mrs M continues her blog series with advice on working in a classroom with a child who has autism. She has enormous personal experience, which you will see shining through in the post, as well as very practical advice. Please do share any top tips that you have as well! – Kathy

Mrs M. writes:

Before I dive straight in with the practical tips in this month’s blog. I want to talk a little bit about my past experience, as it has shaped my whole ethos in relation to autism within the classroom.

I am a mum to a 12 year old boy who was diagnosed on the autism spectrum several years ago now. And my background as far back as I can remember is in nursery management. But as my kids became older I made the move into a primary school setting, and I soon discovered my calling as an Autism HLTA in a resourced provision.

My career path hasn’t always been plain sailing let me tell you.

I can remember like it was yesterday my first job supporting an autistic child in reception. Because despite all my training nothing could prepare me for the rollercoaster of emotions I was about to experience working alongside him.

He had almost no language and huge sensory needs. He found the transition from home to school very difficult, which would lead him to become very upset every day.

So for a while I felt totally out of my depth.

I remember feeling so worried about getting it wrong, that it stopped me being innovative and thinking outside the box. I had an awful feeling that I just wasn’t up to the job. I couldn’t seem to ‘connect’ with him.

The worry and feeling of inadequacy would keep me awake at night sometimes.

On days when he had particularly struggled, I would feel mentally and physically drained. I saw it as my fault. I felt like a failure as I didn’t feel like I was actually ‘teaching’ him anything.

But slowly, day by day I quickly learnt that this little boy was actually the one teaching me, as much as I was there to teach him. In order to enable him to learn, I had to get into his world and see things from his viewpoint.

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Valuing children’s abilities

children different

I was reminded last week just how clever, adaptive and creative children actually are.

Let me start at the beginning. In schools all over England, young children (and some VERY young children) are being given words to remember, spell and write. They are then tested on these and measured against a set of standards.

Now, in my experience, having a set of pre-determined scales poses a number of problems.

First of all, where do you pitch it? So low that everyone passes with flying colours – a little bit pointless, if great for self-esteem.

So high that most children will be set up to fail, which has to be morally, ethically and in terms of PSED wrong.

Therefore, it has to be a middling average, in terms of reading ability. There has not been any account made for children’s unique life experiences, their culture or their existing knowledge.

Even if we, as adults, have been there with the children, their experiences of the same event may be very different indeed. I’ll never forget the big trip to Chester Zoo, on the coach, great adventure, picnic lunch and the only memory my son has of the whole day is seeing the elephant weeing! So how can we possibly extrapolate their experiences and put them into a standard test?

On top of all that, children are exceptionally good problem-solvers, adapters and makers of meaning, even if something seems non-sensical to us.

For example, one of the measures, or tests, of their reading ability is to de-code ‘nonsense’ words. These are phonetically possible, but are not encountered as regular English words. The activity in this particular classroom last week was to identify the nonsense words, and then say them.

However, there is one little lad in the class who had early life experiences in Hong Kong, and also supports Everton football team. So when he came to the word ‘Chang’ he didn’t identify it as a nonsense word.


Because it is a common Chinese surname, a brand of beer common in Hong Kong and sponsors of Everton. So he has seen and used the word often and it makes perfect sense to him, in a number of different contexts.

As a test of identifying ‘nonsense’ words, this is clearly not working. As a test of de-coding the word, again, not working – he could read it on sight (at a hundred yards on a football shirt!). But as an example of his cultural, community and knowledge of the world – excellent!

But he got the test ‘wrong’ because he didn’t identify it as a nonsense word.

So before we try to show how we, as adults, are more intelligent than children, let’s just take a moment and remind ourselves how clever, inventive, creative and knowledgeable our children are first.

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Men In Childcare Podcast

Men in Childcare – Interview with Nige Graven


Nige Graven v2Nige Graven is an Outstanding Childminder, based in Knutsford, Cheshire with his wife Sarah Neville.

In this podcast Nige explains how he came into childminding and some of his experiences whilst looking after children. We discuss the increasing lack of support for childminders and Nige tells one of his trade-mark jokes!

Find the Knutsford Childminding blog here. and their company site here.
Their Twitter account, @knutsfordchildm, is here.

The Childminding Forum, which is mentioned in the podcast, is here.



If you enjoy the podcast, please leave a review on iTunes too – it helps to promote the podcast and get it to reach a wider audience.


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Get Packing!

packaway image

For some reason in the last few weeks I have either been doing lots of work with, or talking to, practitioners working in ‘packaway’ settings. These are settings that have to be packed into boxes and cupboards at the end of each day or each session, usually so the room or space can be used by someone else.

Although some of these are small settings, such as pre-schools, some are much larger, consisting of several rooms and outdoor areas. This can turn ‘tidy-up’ time from a quick check for any lego left out or toys in the garden into a huge logistical job where everyone needs to know their role inside out.

However, I do think that there are some great benefits that only those who DON’T have to heave boxes in and out every day can appreciate.

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