Category : In the News

In the News

Children’s physical development


Physical development is one of the Prime Area of learning and development in the English Early Years curriculum – the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). These Prime Areas are ‘fundamental’ to children’s development.

Sometimes the idea that practitioners can influence physical development, beyond healthy eating and exercise, seems a little alien. After all, we can’t MAKE children grow taller or change their physical attributes.

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In the News

Multiple Benefits and Entertaining – Julia Donaldson: MBE

I was really pleased to see today that the incredible author Julia Donaldson has received an MBE. It is well deserved and reflects the enjoyment she has given children and adults around the world.

Julia Donaldson has written some of my all time favourite books – The Gruffalo, A Squash and a Squeeze, Monkey Puzzle, The Smartest Giant in Town, Room on the Broom – to name just my very, very favourites!

Personally I love the spoken rhythm, songlike quality of the words, which make the books such a joy to read aloud to any child or group of children. The colourful illustrations by Axel Scheffler complement the words perfectly. In addition the repetition encourages word recognition and phonological awareness.

Just recently Dunst, Meter and Hamby (2011) reported on the relationship between nursery rhymes and early literacy abilities. They found that not only nursery rhymes, but any rhymes supported phonological related skills. They also found that ‘Intervention studies of young children with disabilities indicate, regardless of a child’s particular disability, that rhyme-related interventions are associated with a host of positive literacy outcomes (e.g., Blondel & Miller, 2001; Glenn & Cunningham, 1984; Rogow, 1982)’ (p. 6).

But, for me, the reason why Julia Donaldson’s books are enjoyed so much by adults and children alike is the gentle humour in the stories. How mouse’s ‘made up’ Gruffalo actually appears, much to mouse’s surprise; how the witch is saved from the Dragon in a very unusual manner.

For preschoolers this opens up avenues of open questioning, which can demonstrate empathy, understanding another point of view, expressing feelings (surprised, scared, happy) and understanding right from wrong. For example:

Why were the other animals scared of the Gruffalo?
Why did the butterfly not know what Monkey’s mum would look like?
How do you think the witch felt all by herself?
Why do you think the Giant gave away his beautiful new clothes?
What was the little old lady happy about when all the animals had left?

These are the types of skills that underpin the vital area of personal, social and emotional development of young children.

So there are a multitude of benefits to reading the Gruffalo to your children, from phonics to personal, social and emotional development – and it is enormous fun! What is there not to like?

To paraphrase:

The mouse ate the nut and it tasted good


Blondel, M., & Miller, C. (2001). Movement and rhythm in nursery rhymes in LSF. Sign Language Studies, 2, 24- 61.

Dunst, C., Meter, D. and Hamby, D. (2011) Relationship Between Young Children’s Nursery Rhyme Experiences and Knowledge and Phonological and Print-Related Abilities Center for Early Literacy Learning reviews 2011 Volume 4 Number 1

Glenn, S. M., & Cunningham, C. C. (1984). Nursery rhymes and early language acquisition by mentally handicapped children. Exceptional Children, 51, 72-74.

Rogow, S. (1982). Rhythms and rhymes: Developing communication in very young blind and multi-handicapped children. Child: Care, Health and Development, 8, 249-260.

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In the News

Paying for summer holiday care

Picture courtesy RLHyde

Frank Field is the man charged with the unenviable task of tackling poverty. His report to the PM David Cameron on ‘poverty and life-chances review’ is due week commencing 13th September 2010.

Mr Field has had a lot to consider in the short time since he was appointed. One of his recommendations, as reported by The Times on Saturday 11th September 2010, is that poorer parents should be given money so they can enrol their children in activities that other children enjoy over the long summer holidays.

It is a logical idea.

It solves two problems at once: the children are supported with worthwhile activities, whilst the parents have childcare so they can work.

However, this has been tried before, albeit in a slightly different guise.

Currently Working Tax Credit can be used to pay for nursery places. The children are in a safe, stimulating environment and the parents are able to work. The parents receive the money directly, as proposed in the new scheme by Mr. Field.

What happens in reality is that the parents receive the money, take the childcare places and may or may not pay the nursery. Although I have not done extensive research or analysis of this phenomenon, I do know, speaking to a number of nurseries, that this is a real problem. A review of the threads on the Nursery World Forum shows that my experiences are far from unique.

Until these sorts of issues are cleared up, should we even be considering compounding the problem for other businesses?

Before pumping money into a well meaning scheme, we need to be sure that the methods used will produce the results required.

As George Santayana wrote:
“If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it”

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In the News

More men in childcare

FootballIn the Times Educational Supplement (TES) on the 23rd January there was an enlightening article about the Daycare Trust attracting more men into the Early Years sector.

The first reason given for the lack of men was the ‘work’s low status’. By whose standards? Is it because playing with the children is seen as a bit of an easy life?

The second reason given is low pay. The TUC and Daycare Trust found pay was between 19.60 pounds per hour and 8.70 pounds per hour in 2007. This was, presumably, in the state sector as pay in the private, voluntary and independent sector is much lower than this, as a glance at jobs advertised in the Nursery World Magazine indicates (and they tend to be the ‘best’ jobs!).

The third reason was the high proportion of women in the sector. I can sympathise and empathise totally with this, having previously worked in an industry predominantly male. However, if you have an interest and enjoyment of the work this should not stop you.

Marlon, an early years educator who is case studied in the article, says that he comes from a large family and always had children around. I think this is the key to the problem. Unless men are allowed to come into our nurseries and settings and enjoy being with children they will never aspire to work with them. Many women enter childcare after having children and enjoying the mums and tots sessions, or spending time at the nursery.

We should be encouraging our settings to involve dads and male carers more. They have skills and life experiences which should be shared. Children need all sorts of role models to help them make sense of the world. And what an excellent time to do it, when all sorts of stereotypes are beginning to be seriously challenged.

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In the News

Unicef Report on Childhood

Unicef ReportI read with no surprise the results from the Unicef report, and the resultant reporting in the Times yesterday (11th December 2008). When all the hype and comment has been cleaned away the nugget of truth left is that a child from a disadvantaged background does not benefit from poor quality day care. Hardly earth shattering. Maria Montessori had spotted this over 100years ago. More recently the EPPE research has proved it. 

The interesting part for me was that the Times had chosen to dedicate two full pages and a half page of comment to this. There were even references to research – EPPE appears on both for and against childcare, again demonstrating a balanced piece of research. You do have to read to the penultimate paragraph before you come to the obvious conclusion –

 “Either the Government must help these mothers to recognise that looking after their young children is a serious job or they must provide these children from deprived backgrounds with highly skilled, well-paid nursery teachers who can help to improve their chances in life not damage them.” http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5321347.ece

(As an EYP I am assuming here that the author, Alice Thomson, is referring to a ‘teacher’ as all those who educate and care for early years children).

This did give me great hope that the discussion about early years education is becoming news worthy and of interest to the general public. If nothing else it prompts the questions which may be asked by parents – is my nursery/childcare arrangement of sufficiently good quality? Of course, demographics tell us that those parents who are most likely to be reading the Times have already worked this out for themselves. Those parents who need the help to identify a quality setting have been missed again. 


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In the News

Teachernet – a great source of free Early Years material

*** Unfortunately the Teachernet website is no longer available. You can find some of the resources in the Government’s Web Archive here ***

Did you know you can get a lot of the Government’s publications free, online, from Teachernet?

These can either be downloaded or posted out to you (no postage either!) with the only caveat being that quantity is restricted. Why would you want more than one copy of Letters and Sounds or the EYFS? Certainly, as a trainer, I find that after a few sessions the EYFS cards become battered and covered with my notes and circled areas when clarifying points.

By having several copies at nursery or in your setting, staff can browse, cut out, display and discuss the publications. They could even take a copy home to read at their leisure. The EYFS is such a broad document that it deserves being studied area by area and by having spare copies practitioners can do this

The other interesting thing on the excellent teacher net site is that you can view and download thousands of documents, again all for free. These vary from newspaper articles to white papers to Sure Start magazines. I have spent many hours just viewing items which looked interesting, but which I would never have known about otherwise, and have subsequently ordered documents.

One example of this is the invaluable ‘information sharing:Practitioners’ guide’ published by the Department for children, schools and families. I have often had practitioners say to me that “we can’t say anything without consent”. Under normal circumstances this would be broadly true, but this booklet explains very clearly when you can, when you can’t and when you should share information. The other area it covers is what constitutes consent and who can give consent, which is an especially sensitive area where is child is going through the adoption process or is being taken care of by grandparents, for example. I feel this would be an enormous help to practitioners and particularly setting managers who want to make sure they make the correct decision on information sharing.

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