Are you with me?

September 21st 2015

On Saturday, LEYF partnered with the University of Middlesex and International Early Years to have the first conference to launch the #BigChildcareConversation . Up in Manchester, our North West colleagues were having their summer #Ofstedbigconversation so we were having a National Conversation discussing the importance of what we do in the Early Years; to continue to try and get people to understand why it matters about what we do for with and for small children.

Congratulations to all those who contributed including academics and international colleagues and practitioners in one shared space. We focused on quality as we think this is the first conversation we must have publicly with parents, colleagues and policy makers. We explored the concept of quality as it is described in terms of structures, systems and processes. ‘Should we abandon all of this?’ asked Professor Jayne Osgood, ‘does it make it formulaic and mean we never capture quality in the beauty and the power of the unexpected joy that comes from interactions and serendipitous opportunities between adults and children?’

Professor(s) Chris Pascal and Tony Bertram reminded us to continue to reflect the voice of the child. This is very relevant when last week the Children’s Society brought out another report stating that children in the UK are unhappy and get even more unhappy as they go through school. The question is why are we sending children to school even earlier if this is the consequence?

Our Chair, Sue Egersdorff balanced timekeeping with a string of stories and witty observations. She told us the story of two little boys aged three who dug a tunnel under a nursery fence, crossed a busy road and visited the Jaguar dealership where they asked to buy ‘a large, fast and shiny car.’ What message does that give us about children and their creativity? ( …and no don’t fixate on safeguarding…20 years ago we would have been out digging holes and fences all day long and told to just be home for teatime!)

Ruth Churchill Dower from EarlyArts UK reflected on the importance of creativity to build future critical thinkers who are able to tackle the new and unknown. She left us with a great statement that ‘Smart Settings Create A Culture of Creativity.’

My contribution was to demand that we are ambitious for all children but especially those who are from poorer and more disadvantaged backgrounds. There are 250,000 children entitled to access to the Two Year old offer because they are disadvantaged – eye watering numbers in a modern UK.

The LEYF model is designed to ensure its possible to deliver high quality to all children but especially those from poor neighbourhoods and disadvantaged backgrounds. Poor quality nurseries for poor children is not inevitable and it is never acceptable. We know this because at LEYF we have proved it is possible. I showed the new film of LEYF in action which drew some beautiful comments from the audience, Thank you LEYF staff who were thrown in at the deep end to make this video during a working day. Do watch it –

The Conference was to give a voice to a sector that is misunderstood and under-valued and needs to learn to stand up and shout out.

So we left the conference with the last of my slides as the watchword. We agreed that each of us would, ‘Agitate, Educate, Invest, Organise and Unite to make it better for children.’


NEXT LEYF EVENT – Aspiring and Inspiring Leaders.
June O’Sullivan Book Launch and LEYF and Alice Lewes information session on LEYF’s aspiring leadership course.