Best Practice Exhibition – Woodside Community Hub (Norwich)

I was lucky enough to secure a late tour session with the super Sally Thomas to view the latest in the series of best practice spaces she has developed in collaboration with Norfolk County Council’s Early Years Achievement Team.

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Training: Excellence in Literacy, Science and Mathematics

Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) – Week 1

In the past year, I have encountered more politically passionate practitioners than I have in my entire career. Not just policy-makers and researchers, but practitioners working at grass-roots levels who are using social media and cluster forums to instigate change. I do not believe this is a negative development; to the contrary, the more experienced and knowledgeable practitioners’ voices we have, the more effective we shall be in shaping future policy and defending the rights and needs of children whom we are advocates for.

In January the “More Great Childcare” (Truss, 2013) document was published, inciting lively debate, discussions, changes and actions within the sector. Parents, professionals and policy-makers engaged over emotive issues such as ratios and professional recognition. The Early Years Professional Status (which you may remember I had campaigned to save at the University of East Anglia last year) was replaced as the “gold standard” in favour of Early Years Teachers. The new set of standards have also created discussion within the sector, due to the recent clarification that EYTS certificates will not be issued to existing Early Years Professionals due to the disparity between the standards.

Regardless of this, as my original professional development plan had detailed EYPS as a vital post-graduate step, I sent for an application to my nearest Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) provider.

I was interviewed, accepted and booked a hotel for my first two “Preparation Days”. At the beginning of September, I joined a colleague of mine on our first day as part of a mixed pathway group of practitioners from a wide variety of settings (both geographically and in terms of the provision itself). This was enjoyable as a networking event and by the second day I had set up a social networking forum to enable the EYT students within my groups to connect and support each other despite the distances between us. So far, I have uploaded key early years documents and a weekly news collection to encourage everyone to engage and to share information. I look forward to my third “Preparation Day” in January, in the meantime I’ll be reciting the standards in my sleep and documenting all of my “leadership” evidence.

If there are any fellow EYT students reading this, please do not hesitate to get in contact – whether by Twitter or email as I’d love to add you to our student network!
As always, comments are welcome in the box below.

Truss, L. (2013) “More great childcare: raising quality and giving parents more choice.” Accessible at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/219660/More_20Great_20Childcare_20v2.pdf

Coming Soon: Eggciting Education in the Pre-school

Coming Soon: Eggciting Education in the Pre-school

I’m currently working on a blog post about the recent experience my pre-school children had raising chicks. I’ll resist the urge to write “I’ll tweet about it!” and instead say that it should be published as soon as I can pull myself away from the delightful balls of feathers.

At the Seaside – Professional Reflections

My favourite activities at the pre-school in recent weeks have been our trips to the beach. We are lucky in our geographical location that we have a beautiful beach with a variety of natural resources on offer (for example, chalk and rock pools) within easy walking distance. We aim to extend children’s interests beyond the confines of our setting as often as possible when appropriate (in response to child-initated ideas).

The children’s interest in beaches has been sparked by the sudden improvement in weather (although one child noted “it’s [the sea] still very cold… Only for silly swimming.”) and the addition of a seaside themed natural materials basket. As always, I am humbled and awed by the vast number of ideas and experiments children come up with whilst exploring such simple things. By the end of the first morning we had children: requesting different colours of paper and wooden boards to draw on using the natural chalk, creating “castles” with the pebbles, adding sand and water to a shallow tray to make a lake for boats made of driftwood and seaweed, creating paper beach clothes for the small-world dolls (so they could go swimming), making lots of lovely sounds with the pebbles and sticks, taking the natural chalk outside to draw on the ground, crushing the natural chalk to make a lovely tactile material (which when water is added to becomes “milk” and “hot chocolate”), etc.

It was then that we decided that the best way to really explore our local environment would be to organise an impromptu trip to the beach. Full-waterproofs were donned (staff and children!) and we discussed beach safety before setting off down the gangway towards adventure. We spent far longer down the beach than originally anticipated (why prematurely halt such engaging and meaningful experiences?), so the return to the setting was hasty, however the enthusiastic communication heard between parents and children during collection time validated every practitioners’ belief that what we do is one of the most important jobs in the world. After answering the children’s curious questions on the beach, we utilised several books to help us explain tricky concepts such as erosion (“where does chalk come from?”, “will that house fall off the cliff?”); tides (“what makes waves?”); ecosystems (“that seagull is eating the crab”); natural occurences (hermit crabs “moving house”), etc. in a familiar visual format.

In the next few weeks, I will be collating the books we have utilised and giving each a short review. I hope you will find these as useful and inspiring as we have!

Summer Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

I thought that perhaps I would theme some blog posts around the official professional development I log during the summer term.
My personal approach to training and extending knowledge has never been “less is more”. Since becoming an early years practitioner (and later a senior early years practitioner) I have adopted the motto of “never be content with practice but strive to be” – this does not mean being negative when reflecting upon practice, instead it is a reminder that a great practitioner is also an industrious learner. All learning need not be formalised or arduous, this term I have Beach Schools training and a messy play workshop planned.