To Inveraray for an Early Years Conference with Paul Brannigan…

March 18th 2013

(Alice Sharp,  Mrs Patterson and Mr Patterson – but not Mrs Patterson Mr Patterson – also along for the ride!)
Scotland Early Years Conference - Paul Brannigan takes the stage

It seems like a long way to go to talk about Leadership and Home Learning, but nothing can underestimate the quality thinking time offered when attending conferences (even as the speaker); and Scotland is always a place to watch when it comes to the Early Years, not least in terms of Government strategy. The National Parent Strategy (designed to ‘Help Make Scotland the Best Place in the World to Grow Up’) is a laudable ambition. I would love a similar one for England, not least so we at LEYF could add our own vision of ‘Building a better future for London’s children’ into the mix.

Anyone who knows me understands that I am a dreadful passenger, and so driving on dark, wet roads from Glasgow out to Inveraray had me crossing all fingers, with eyes wide shut the whole way. Alice is an inspirational speaker, a proud advocate for Early Years and a stunning developer of resources… but not my first choice for chauffeur! The tighter the bends, the faster she went, as we hurled towards Loch Fyne with Paul in the front reacting like many of the characters from the Angels’ Share (as those of you that have been reading this blog for any time must already  know, one of my favourite films, and one for which he has recently won the Scottish Bafta).

The conference focused on leadership and home learning, and how we try to create an environment where we better engage with children through their families, and perhaps understand the issues many families face which affects their ability to succeed.  Paul gave a very personal story which illustrated such points, and I can always regale an audience with a few stories, not to mention examples of our mistakes and new ideas we are testing. It led to one of the audience suggesting that I might be a suitable candidate for Fascinating Aida. (Yes please, but only for one night!)

Home Learning is a key strategic objective at LEYF, and it forces us to think and respond quite differently. It is not as many people think purely a matter of setting up some learning bags or arranging for some cameras to go home; it really demands that staff set the family at the very heart of the community, weaving a multi-generational approach into their work and (like Bruner’s spiral curriculum) blending all of these factors into a mutual learning culture.

Eastbury Home Learning Bags

LEYF’s Home Learning strategy also relies on us getting really good at casual pedagogical conversation: those random but regular opportunities to chat with parents, whilst explaining what and how the child is learning in a way that makes sense and encourages shared interest. It is then that such foundations are built on and further supported by nursery activities, community activities and home learning resources. It is a new journey and one recently celebrated by parents at our Eastbury Children’s Centre nursery, who positively delighted when staff recently sent a little piece of the nursery home. It’s the only way, even if you have to first take the road to Inveraray with Alice at the wheel!

So, Home Learning is definitely the way forward: it adds value to the core service, whilst at the same time building in additional social impact.