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June O'Sullivan, LEYF CEO

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Picnics, Parents and Paris

There is no doubt that the God of Weather likes children. On Saturday the 1st June, International Children’s Day, the sun shone and a light breeze made it a comfortable day. The children and parents came to enjoy. Some of the nurseries were so busy they were unable to accommodate the sheer number of parents, grandparents and friends and so relocated to the local parks.


The atmosphere was happy and parents celebrated the Early Years.  The children sang their nursery rhymes, had their faces painted, played games and enjoyed balloons and flags. Let’s do this every year was the request… and so we will.

The view from LEYF parents was that their nursery experience was positive.  Their children were developing and learning. Staff were committed and hardworking and liked their children. There was a balance of free and planned activities.  The nurseries focused on supporting children to speak, listen and socialise. They did not recognise the current complaints about nurseries.  They did not want to see a reduction in staff child ratios as the cost of childcare has to be considered as part of a general education offer and not a bodged confusion.  And so say all of us!

June at 'Mouves' -the National French Social Enterprise Organisation

June at ‘Mouves’ -the National French Social Enterprise Organisation

Last week I visited Paris again, this time as a guest of Mouves, the National French Social Enterprise Organisation to speak at their annual conference. They are trying to build social enterprise nurseries to meet the needs of working parents as there are insufficient places for babies and toddlers. The change to ratios in France came as a means of stretching places without any changes to staff numbers or building size. It’s is not popular with French parents.

Education is also changing in France and people are concerned. Education minister, Vincent Peillon wants to overhaul the system.  Recent studies, however, have shown that France is falling behind in education standards compared with its European neighbours and the United States. He pledged a massive shakeup, including a reduction in the amount of homework and less “redoubling” or repetition of a school year for those deemed unable to keep up. Shorter holidays, school on Wednesday and a shorter teaching day. Much of the talk was focused on how French schooling was out of date, that it was grinding and dull and that it had a classroom culture that branded students as “worthless” and was counterproductive and contrary to France’s republican ideals. So if the French are reviewing their systems owing to them not being as effective anymore, then maybe all that glitters is not necessarily gold or as the French say ‘Les apparences sont trompeuses.’

The French social enterprises I spoke to were trying to provide alternatives that balanced the needs of parents and children.  They had similar values to us and wanted to be flexible and responsive and in touch with the needs of working parents and small children. So I propose we work with France as one member of an international family of Early Years staff and parents. There is much we can do together to develop the kind of education which is culturally relevant and aligns with the values of our society.

At the picnic, UK parents (not necessarily British but rearing their children here) all agreed that we need to continue to work together to raise children who are happy, enthusiastic, well-mannered, articulate, respectful and willing and able to learn – an approach that needs to underpin the philosophy of the Education politicians here.

About June O'Sullivan

An inspiring speaker, author and regular commentator on Early Years, Social Business and Child Poverty, June has been instrumental in achieving a major strategic and cultural shift for the award winning London Early Years Foundation, resulting in increased profile and profitability over the past eight years. As CEO of the UK's leading childcare charity and social enterprise since 2006, June continues to break new ground in the development of LEYF's scalable social business model. She remains a tireless campaigner, looking for new ways to influence policy and make society a better place for all children and families. June is a champion of community-based, multi-generational projects and a great believer in the potential of greater social and cultural capital as a means of delivering long-term social impact. She continues to advise the Government in order to better implement their vision for Early Years. June is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Director of Early arts, Council Member of the Early Intervention Foundation, Chair of Paddington Farm Trust, Founding Member of the Institute for Early Years and was recently voted into the ‘NMT Power 20’ - top 3. June was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 2013, for her services to London’s children. June continues to work closely with the Government in order to better implement their vision for Early Years, to improve quality and promote a better understanding of the incredible long-term benefits of play-based Early Years education. June is a published author, with an MA in Primary & Early Childhood Studies and MBA from London South Bank University. Read June’s blog: http://www.leyf.org.uk/blog or An inspiring speaker, author and regular commentator on Early Years, Social Business and Child Poverty, June has been instrumental in achieving a major strategic and cultural shift for the award winning London Early Years Foundation, resulting in increased profile and profitability over the past eight years. As CEO of the UK's leading childcare charity and social enterprise since 2006, June continues to break new ground in the development of LEYF's scalable social business model. She remains a tireless campaigner, looking for new ways to influence policy and make society a better place for all children and families. June is a champion of community-based, multi-generational projects and a great believer in the potential of greater social and cultural capital as a means of delivering long-term social impact. She continues to advise the Government in order to better implement their vision for Early Years. June is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Director of Early arts, Council Member of the Early Intervention Foundation, Chair of Paddington Farm Trust, Founding Member of the Institute for Early Years and was recently voted into the ‘NMT Power 20’ - top 3. June was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 2013, for her services to London’s children. June continues to work closely with the Government in order to better implement their vision for Early Years, to improve quality and promote a better understanding of the incredible long-term benefits of play-based Early Years education. June is a published author, with an MA in Primary & Early Childhood Studies and MBA from London South Bank University. Read June’s blog: www.leyf.org.uk/blog or www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/june-osullivan-mbe/ Follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/JuneOSullivan Follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/JuneOSullivan
  • Helen Perkins

    Ratios – hooray!!!

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