This week I’ve asked Claire Cain to address the issue of different forms of childcare. Claire is a very experienced childcare professional, who is unusual in having had experience across a number of childcare fields. Here she gives her personal view on how this range can meet the different needs of children as they grow up. There is discussion on the benefits and potential pitfalls – and I’d love to hear your experiences and views on this as well!
We were in France once, in a lift. Just as the doors were closing, a small boy about 3 or 4 years old suddenly appeared out of nowhere and ran into the lift as the doors were closing. There had been no sign of parents or carers in the corridor and my attempts at pidgin French didn’t elicit much information.
We weren’t sure what to do about this. Did we leave him in the left? Should we take him back onto the floor he just come from?
We decided the best option was to take him to reception and try and explain what had happened. After much gesturing and handwaving I explained to the bemused young man behind the desk what had happened. Luckily we didn’t have to wait long before a flustered dad turned up to claim his son.
I was reminded of this on Saturday, while shopping. There was a small child, about 4 years old, in the pedestrianised area of a busy shopping street. He was stood in the middle of the street crying out “Nana, where are you Nana?”. There was no Nana to be seen anywhere.
I debated what to do. Did I go to speak to the child and try and find what Nana looks like? Did I ask other shoppers if they knew who his Nana was?
I certainly couldn’t walk away and just leave him there shouting and crying. Other shoppers were either just glancing at him as they walked past or ignoring him altogether, caught up in their own thoughts. No one made any attempt to help the little lad.
Finally I decided the best option was to watch from a distance and ensure that he was safe. After 5 minutes, his Nana showed up. It was obvious from her comments that he had run off and she had been searching for him.
On reflection, I’m not sure what I should have done.
Maybe I should have consoled him, so at least he wasn’t so scared. Or maybe that might make the situation worse–making running off next time seem less scary if there was somebody to help.
In this instance, he was found safely. But what would I have done has somebody approached him, somebody who I was suspicious of? Would I have been brave enough to challenge them?
What would you do in this situation?
If you do a course about special educational needs with me, you’ll find that it isn’t too long before I suggest that all resources you use the children with SEN are good for children who do not have SEN.
A good case in point was recently, on our accredited course, we had a very knowledgeable and experienced teacher come to talk to us about her work with children who have SEN. By the end of the 3 hours there was no doubt left in my mind that good practice with children who have SEN is good practice for all. Let me give you a few examples to show you what I mean:
Two-way communication with parents, families and carers. For a child with SEN this is an essential part of the practitioners work. Without good communication joint targets cannot be realistically set. Hospital appointments, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and the myriad of different professionals that a child may see, need coordinating effectively.
For the child who does not have SEN, good communication is still very important. And it is essential that this communication is two way. By this I mean that the parents offers information and the practitioner offers information and between them this becomes greater than the sum of the whole.
For example, an activity may well benefit from a parent coming in and demonstrating their skills. Without good communication or understanding of the parents abilities, this would not happen.
Describing emotions. For a child who has difficulty communicating with speech or finds it difficult to make sense of the world around them, it is essential that the practitioner gives them the tools to express their emotions. This may be an emotions board or a picture exchange system.
This is just as important for the child who does not have SEN. Giving a child the ability to express their emotions can reduce behaviour problems and frustration for the child. It has also been shown in research that children who have better emotional intelligence, or the ability to express emotions effectively, do much better later on in life (Goleman, 1996).
Other elements of good practice are as simple as having the right equipment for a child who has SEN. For example, having a calm space where child can retreat to if it’s just getting all too much for them. This could be as simple as a curtained off area in the corner with a few comfy cushions.
Or, for the child who has a visual impairment, using bubblewrap or the rough side of Velcro along the edge of the wall can help them move around the setting more easily. Different textured materials can be used on the handles of different doors, so children know where they are going.
One idea which I particularly like, is having a colour and a smell of the day. For example, Monday could be orange. This would be demonstrated using an orange piece of material and an orange scent spray in the entrance hall.
When children first enter the setting they will know immediately that it is Monday because they can smell orange and they can see the orange fabric up. Similarly each day will have a different smell and a different colour. Others which could be used are lime, strawberry, apple, peach, cherry, lemon, cinnamon and vanilla. Or whatever takes your imagination!
Another excellent idea is using objects of reference rather than pictures on the outside of storage boxes and for the day’s timeline. Objects of reference are objects which are representative of the pieces in the box. For example instead of putting the word Lego, or putting a picture of Lego, on the outside of a box, you could superglue a piece of Lego on the outside of the box.
This is particularly good for children who have difficulty interpreting pictures or who may have a visual impairment. But it is also an excellent visual clue for other children.
This could be extended to the day’s timeline. Instead of having pictures for snack time or playing outside for example, you could attach a a plastic cup for snack or a laminated leaf for playing outside. This can often be more meaningful for children who have difficulty in understanding pictorial representation.
You could involve the children and have them choose what object they would like to have represent different activities during the day.
You will see that most of these ideas cost very little, if anything at all, but have great benefits for the children in your care. By embedding these good practices into the setting, you will be prepared when a child who does have SEN joins you. This will ease the transition into your setting, and demonstrate professionalism in your working practices.
With Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) in the news again for good reasons (supported by the Tickell Review) and not so good reasons (Providers lose their licence), the debate has once again opened on the value of the Status and its role in Early Childhood Education.
Early Years Professional Status was conceived after the Effective Provision of Preschool Education (EPPE) research found that a ‘graduate led workforce’ gave demonstrably better outcomes for children in preschool settings. However, since then the authors of the EPPE research have produced a book (Early Childhood Matters, evidence from the Effective Pre-school and Primary Education project, 2010 Sylva et al.) which clearly states that they had intended the Early Years to be led by qualified teachers (pages 19/20). They declare the current situation a ‘muddle in provision’ being followed by a ‘muddle in training’.
I’ve just seen the most marvellous quote tweeted:
“All adults who come in to contact with children contribute to children’s education and are teachers whether or not they are called by that name.” Tweeted by Linda R at Beyondplaydough.
Coincidentally, I commented today on a forum about Teachers and Early Years Professional Status (EYPS), so this was already on my mind. The discussion had meandered into the treacherous waters of EYPS versus teachers. Teacher status is well recognised by parents and carers. They understand that teachers have usually gone to University and have had specialist training in effective teaching. Few parents and carers understand that the EYP Status is also post graduate and covers the full age range Birth to 5 years.
The reason for this could be that the EYP Status is still new, particularly compared to teaching.
It could be that EYPS hasn’t been advertised well enough by the government and CWDC.
It could be that parents and carers just want their young child to be happy and cared for by someone who loves and cherishes their child, as they would do themselves, whatever their qualification or Status.
And really that is the reason why the tweet made me smile. From the child’s point of view, they don’t care. Children are natural learners, investigators, scientists and explorers. That’s why babies love peek-a-boo games, why toddlers love to hear the same story over and over again and why pre-schoolers are fascinated with mini-beasts. Children just enjoy having adults who are interested in them, who are willing to engage whole heartedly in their play and have new experiences to share with enthusiasm.
The important thing for the adults is that they are aware that they are being teachers – like it or not! When a practitioner refuses to touch a worm, when the adults wont go out in the rain, when the children aren’t allowed to choose their favourite story – what is that ‘teaching’ the children?
On the other hand, there are those adults who will spend hours picking up the toy and putting it back on baby’s high chair, crawl into a den to read the story or spend time hearing both sides of the dispute between friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big, big advocate of EYPS and a graduate led early years workforce, whether that is called Teacher, Pedagogue or Directoress.
However, I’m also a big fan of young children being surrounded by interested, loving, caring, enthusiastic ‘teachers’, whatever their name is.
What do you think? Leave a comment below to share your view.
Image by Pinkstock photos
Yesterday I was at the most amazing training session. It was the last session on a course which I have thoroughly enjoyed leading and am proud to be a part of – the Early Years SENCO, run by Stockport Local Authority and certified by Manchester Metropolitan University.
All ten sessions have been really informative and very enjoyable. However, the reason for particularly singling out yesterday’s session is that I now know why my husband can’t find Wally!
The consultation date has passed for getting your views to Frank Fields regarding poverty and life chances. The findings are not expected to be reported to the Prime Minister until ‘the end of the year’  (http://povertyreview.independent.gov.uk/)
Unfortunately this initiative has been somewhat overshadowed by the proposal to remove the child benefit payments from households where at least one partner pays higher rate tax (income exceeds £43,875 per annum). This ideological shift was done without any public consultation or debate.
So is the independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances just a sop? A chance to make the public think they will be listened to? Would Frank Fields’ findings conclude that all households need the child benefit?
My concern is that major decisions are being made before public consultations are completed. I’m hoping that the consultation findings on the EYFS will be listened to and considered, before a knee jerk reaction throws the Early Years sector back into the chaos of change.
EYPS, reflective practice and how this can improve outcomes for children at a setting
Reflective practice is one of the tools which can be used by Early Years Professionals to fulfil their role as ‘change agent’, which is at the heart of the Early Years Professional Status (CWDC, 2008). By structured reflection on current practice the EYP can identify what change is valuable, worthwhile and improving.
Methods vary from setting to setting. Practitioners may have personal reflective log books which are then reviewed regularly. Reflection can be done as a team in staff meetings. Documents such as the Self Evaluation Form (SEF) and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) are valuable starting points.