Tag Archives: training

Training Courses

University of Chester Conference, 3rd July 2015

ChildrenI was delighted to hear of another Conference being held in the North West of England. It is an International Conference and is a partnership between the University of Chester and International Early Years, on Friday the 3rd of July at the University of Chester’s Warrington campus.

The focus of the day is the ‘Business of Early Childhood’ and will explore new international perspectives on:

  • Early Childhood leadership
  • Interdisciplinary Thinking
  • Social Impact
  • Engagement with Business

The cost of the day is £125. You can find more information and booking details at:

** The conference is now over **

For further information, contact: c.macdonald@chester.ac.uk

Image by: ann_jutatip

Read More
Archived material

The Revised EYFS 2012 – some thoughts

The Department for Education has published the Revised Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage.

It is available on their website, but, disappointingly, is only downloadable. The Framework becomes statutory in September 2012, so there’s not much time to become familiar with it (certainly less than when the EYFS was originally introduced).

From first reading, there seems to be only minor tweaks, the most obvious being the reduction in the number of pages (31 from beginning to end, down from 55). Another tweak being the seven areas of learning and development, which have been divided into prime areas (communication and language; physical development) and specific areas (literacy; mathematics; understanding the world; expressive arts and design). I feel the differentiation between prime and specific has been dealt with more eloquently in the development matters (practice guidance) on the Early Education website..

In general, it is what was expected. However, there are a few elements which worry me.

1. The ‘preparation for more formal learning’ (page 6, 1.9 penultimate paragraph). I had thought we’d left that behind long ago. Children should be doing what is developmentally appropriate for where they are NOW, not where they may be in 6 months time. Reception teachers, who are already struggling against the inappropriate top down pressure from head teachers, may well feel that the rug has been pulled out from under them.

2. The guidelines for the progress check at age 2 (page 10, 2.3 onwards). These seem very woolly, which may be good for those confident in completing this new piece of paperwork, but I feel the Framework should have been more prescriptive here. The requirement is for a ‘short written summary of their child’s development in the prime areas’, identifying strengths and any areas where progress is less than expected. How short is short? What sort of areas would need highlighting?

This section also indicates that any identified Special Educational Need should be identified. I would sincerely hope that practitioners would not wait until the progress check to highlight a child’s possible SEN, but I can see that the temptation would be to do just that.

There had been much discussion prior to publication of how the progress check would be shared with Health Visitors. However, on page 11, we find that it is down to the parents/carers to share the progress check with the health visitor. Unfortunately I fear this will either just not happen (creating an obsolete report) or will only happen where there are no concerns, so the very children who need help will slip through the net again.

3. Training and qualifications. There is a worrying phrase used on page 17, section 3.22. ‘providers should consider supporting’ staff to obtain level 2 qualifications. I feel this leaves a massive loophole for unscrupulous providers to not bother with training because its been ‘considered’ but nothing has been actually done about it. The original EYFS says ‘In particular, those staff with no qualifications should be supported in obtaining a relevant qualification at a minimum of a full and relevant level 2 qualification’ (Original EYFS, page 31) which I feel is a much stronger statement.

4. Risk assessments. Page 25 says that ‘providers must determine where it is helpful to make some written assessments’ and that it ‘does not necessarily need to be in writing.’ I would advise all providers to check the legality of this for their particular setting on the Health and Safety website. The Health and Safety laws may require written risk assessments, even if the EYFS doesn’t.

5. Record retention. The original EYFS demands that records must be kept for 3 years (page 40), whilst the revised version suggests a ‘reasonable period of time’. This is dangerously vague and could allow records to be destroyed before a child has transferred to school (6 weeks may be considered a reasonable time?).

And this really is a good example of my main doubt about the revised EYFS.

By reducing the quantity, I feel that it has created a number of areas which are open to interpretation. Although it could be argued that it makes the Framework more flexible, I’m a little worried that inexperienced or less confident practitioners may not find the support they have had in the past.

Similarly, it may not be helpful when the Ofsted inspector calls!

Overall, the revised EYFS is not a big change to the existing Framework.

It will be how nurseries and settings choose to implement it which will make the difference.

with thanks to Ryk Neethling at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rykneethling/ for the image

Read More
Recommended Resources

The Manual for the Early Years SENCO by Collette Drifte

Collette Drifte book cover
The manual for the Early Years SENCO is a great example of a practical book, pitched at just the right level for a new Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) or someone who needs extra support in this vital role within a nursery.

The Chapters take you through getting organised (locked filing cabinets and calendars), SEN policies, the SENCOs role in a fully supportive team and onto supporting children in the setting.

There are many examples given of the type of support different children may require, as well as how to record these in Early Years Action, Action Plus and Statutory Assessment.

Working effectively with parents and other agencies is covered in the last two Chapters.

There are 2 outstanding elements to this book:
Firstly that the advice is practical and clear. All the information for a first time SENCO is detailed in a logical and methodical order. The significant difference between integration and inclusion is clearly outlined. Writing an SEN policy is explained, with example of long and short policies included.

The format of the paperwork is explained, from Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to different types of observation forms.

Secondly the CD ROM which accompanies the book has 3 power point presentations which can be used immediately for staff training. This is invaluable and really underlines the role of the SENCO as coordinator rather than the misguided notion, that so many managers have, that the SENCO should be doing everything herself or himself.

In addition the CD ROM has blank forms which can be printed off, examples of SEN policies and case studies.

For the undergraduate student there are some academic references which can be followed up, but this is really for the SENCO on the ‘front line’, doing the job every day in a nursery or setting.

I also feel it has a lot to commend it if you are an experienced SENCO, particularly the power point presentations and case studies, which would be valuable for full staff training or training SENCOs to be.

I sincerely wish I’d had this book when I’d started out as a SENCO!

 

Drifte, C. (2010)(2nd Ed) The Manual for the Early Years SENCO London: SAGE

Read More
Articles

Schema and Fairies

Schemas are one of those things that divide practitioners, like fairies at the bottom of the garden.

You either believe in them and are in absolute awe at how amazing they are, or you just don’t believe they exist. It’s really interesting when you discuss this with people and it’s extra exciting when a ‘non-believer’ suddenly says “That describes my key child exactly!!”

But first of all, let’s explore what a schema is.

Athey (2007) defines schema as ‘patterns of behaviour and thinking in children that exist underneath the surface feature of various contents, contexts and specific experience’ (page 5). Nutbrown (2006) extends this to patterns of ‘action and behaviour’ (page 10). Schema are the repeated actions of children exhibited during their play, drawings, 3D modelling, movement and speech.

For example, for a child with a transporting schema, carrying (transporting) objects is the most important or engaging part of their play.

Typically, a ‘transporter’ will pack everything into bags, prams or buckets and carry them around the setting. Sand play may consist of carrying the sand to the water tray. The bikes outdoors will be used to transport toys.

There are many different identified schema. Athey (2007) describes 10 graphic, 11 space and 9 dynamic schema (page 62) which vary from transporter to going through a boundary. She identified these through prolonged and in depth research of children over a period of 5 years, with a skilled team of researchers.

So far, so good.

But why hasn’t everybody else spotted these and made the connections? As Athey comments (page 7) this hasn’t arisen from ‘common sense’, it is the result of research and pedagogy.

These are the sort of things that you need to learn about and understand so you can see them hidden in the children’s play. Often during courses, as I am explaining the sorts of things a child with a strong schema may do, a practitioner or parent says, in surprise, “But that’s exactly what my child does! We’ve never really understood why” or “that has never made sense before, but now it seems so obvious!”

Once identified, the practitioner can use that knowledge to select activities and experiences which will engage the child. For example, if a practitioner wishes to engage a ‘transporter’ in some mathematical development, then counting toys into a pram, pushing them to the other side of the room and counting the toys out again is likely to be an engaging game.

A child with a rotational schema will be intrigued by bike wheels, windmills and spirographs. By really tuning into the types of things that highly motivate a child, the most suitable sort of experiences, which support the child’s development, can be provided.

A very practical book to use for activity ideas is Again! Again! by Sally Featherstone (2008), which gives lots of ideas for schematic play in each of the areas in a setting, such as water, sand, outdoors etc.

However, it should be noted that not every child has strong schemas, some children may only display schematic play for a short period of time before moving onto another schema or some children may never display schematic play. Which is where the non-believers come in.

If you have never had a key child with a strong schema then it is quite far fetched to believe that, for example, a very young child can make ‘rotational’ connections in his or her drawings, movement outside and preferred toys.

But once you have worked with such a child you start to see schema everywhere. In fact, you can start to see it in adults too!

Just like fairies at the bottom of the garden, once there is proof there in front of you, it is difficult to deny. Unlike the fairies, schemas definitely exist and are incredibly useful for supporting child development.

References
Athey, C (2007) Extending Thought in Young Children (2nd Ed) London: PCP
Featherstone, S. (2008) Again! Again! Understanding schema in young children Featherstone Education
Nutbrown, C. (2006) Threads of Thinking London: Sage

Read More
Archived material

The EYFS review – part one – much ado about nothing?

So, the long awaited EYFS Review is out and being pored over by one and all. I thought it might be interesting to see what line of attack the media had on this one. Supportive? Derisive? Outraged?

The TES decided to go front page here and then misunderstood Dame Tickell’s view on phonics here. The Times went for the “nappy curriculum”, as did the Guardian, who focused on the exclusion of independent schools here. The Sunday Times (News Review, page 9) has a reasonably balanced overview, although I’m not sure that prior to the EYFS all “little ones would stay at home, having stories read to them, being taken to the playground and having friends over to play”.

Certainly in the media there have not been many objections or calls for a petition to stop the Review. So all in all, has it been Much Ado About Nothing?

I’m going to approach this by looking at the two aspects separately. First the statistics and information from the online questionnaire, literature review and qualitative study. The next post will look at the recommendations that have been made from these. This is because I think its important to understand where the recommendations have come from and the sort of things that practitioners (whether that is a play worker, teacher, childminder or early years practitioner) have asked for.

The EYFS Report on the Evidence (2011) can be found here and the Tickell review (2011) can be found here.

One of the impressive things is that over 3,300 people responded to the online questionnaire. That is a lot of people. However, it is still only 0.7% of the total workforce (DfE, 2010). Not even 1% of the early years childcare staff have had their voice heard.

Chapter one gives a brief overview of the situation so far. Chapter two deals with the welfare (mandatory) requirements of the EYFS and how these have already affected practitioners. The views reported here are diverse and many ‘depend upon the situation’. So, for example, doing a risk assessment for a setting which has an annual trip is very different to a risk assessment for a childminder who is out every day. But both situations are governed by the same piece of legislation.

The thorny issue of transition is dealt with at the end of chapter 3, highlighting the sorts of ‘top down’ pressure that many reception classes feel.

On page 35 (Chapter 4), 4.18 the biggest myth of the EYFS is laid bare. The EYFS does not call for extra ‘paperwork’. It asks for observation based assessments and planning. According to the review, the demand for paper comes ‘other sources’, for example the inspectorate or Local Authority. This is something which I have challenged practitioners on many times. “Where does it say in the EYFS that you have to fill out A4 folders of observations every week?” and, more importantly, “How does the child benefit from this?” Thank goodness this issue has been explicitly stated in the review.

The EYFS Profile is criticised by practitioners for being too bulky and time consuming. It is suggested that the results are not used by the Year 1 teachers (although, in my personal experience this is an educational law – “no educator will trust the summative reports of the previous key stage”) and that only a third of parents receive them. Combine this with the “highly subjective” and “wide variation” (page 37) that headteachers report and you can see why this has been targeted for change.

The key person, which was controversially included as a mandatory requirement, has been accepted by practitioners and parents alike. Although, understandably, teachers who have 30 key children are not so keen!

Chapter 6 deals with training and development of the workforce. The good news is that training levels are rising and more nurseries have level 6 (degree qualified) practitioners. Even better is the finding that Early Years Professionals (EYPs) are improving the quality of care and education that children are receiving. The biggest complaint was that training was patchy and not of a high enough quality. In many ways this is really good news. It means that practitioners are demanding more in depth, challenging courses and are really recognising the benefits that these courses bring.

What does this tell us about the sorts of things that practitioners have asked for? The underlying theme appears to be that, in general, the EYFS is well used and well respected. The additional ‘paperwork’ is more a demand from other sources than a requirement of the EYFS. There are some accepted good practices, such as key person. Levels of qualified practitioners has risen and is continuing to rise. The EYPS has been shown to improve outcomes for children.

What has been asked for is clarification in some areas, such as the EYFS Profile and smooth transition between settings.

In general this is a balanced Review, albeit based on the views of practitioners who had internet access and felt strongly enough, one way or the other, to respond. So maybe not ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, more ‘As You Like it’.

References:

DfE (2010) Childcare and early years providers survey 2009. London: DfE

Brooker, L., Rogers, S., Ellis, D., Hallet, E. & Robert-Holmes, G. (2010) Practitioners’ experiences of the EYFS. London: DfE.

Read More
Viewpoint

Are you a Sparkly Thinker?

At a recent conference about children’s thinking the presenter, the acclaimed author Marion Dowling, made a comment about why it is so important that we should understand children’s thinking processes and how we can then use this in our work. As she stated – “we can’t compel children to engage”. I’m sure every practitioner can empathise with this, having sat in front of a group of children with a book and knowing that not every child is listening!

Marion then went on to describe a situation she had observed in a reception class, who had been learning about Goldilocks and the three bears. When it was time to review their learning the teacher didn’t fire questions at the children but chose to dress up as ‘Mrs Locks’ who had lost her daughter ‘Goldie’.

Read More