Early Childhood Action Conference   8 comments

This was the first conference of Early Childhood Action and was held on 27th October 2012 at Winchester University.

I had booked at place and thanks to a generous discount offered if 3 or more colleagues booked with me I paid just £68 for my place – as did my friends Carol, Sally, Brita and Debbie. This price included lunch and 3 refreshments breaks with tea/ coffee/ pastries or biscuits. In my opinion very good value.

I had decided that I would prefer to stay overnight both on Friday and Saturday night to save being over tired – as Winchester is just over 2.5 hours away from where I live. Carol did not get a lot of choice – as travelling in my car – but as a bonus she did get a free weekend away in return for keeping me company and providing excellent discussion and debate.

Therefore Carol and I set off for the conference on Saturday morning from the guest house in Stockbridge- just 10 miles from Winchester University – and arrived in time to check in and meet up with our childminding colleagues Sally, Brita and Debbie.  We took at look at the books on sale , and could of had a drink and pastries – but  Carol and I were still full from our breakfast so declined the offer.

We went into the lecture theatre and were welcomed by various people from the university Professor Joy Carter,Vice Chancellor, University of Winchester and Professor Joyce Goodman, University of Winchester: ‘Education Studies at Winchester’,  and the conference chair Wendy Scott. Wendy  told us about a publication that although 20 years old was very relevant to the things we would be discussing during the day. It is called ‘Quality in Diversity in Early Learning’ and was written by a number of people as part of The Early Childhood Forum (one of the authors was Marjorie Ouvry that I had breakfasted with at the Early Years 2012 conference) Marjorie told me during discussion later on that the publication is available on the ncb website – and if you are interested this is the link


I have ordered a copy and will give feedback on it in due course

So on with the conference – The keynote speaker was Baroness Susan Greenfield who is a neuroscientist based at Oxford University. Her presentation was on ‘The Young Mind of the 21st Century: Realising its True Potential’ . Fantastic speaker – down to earth, humour, fast paced but easy to  follow. As someone with very little knowledge in this field I found the talk, thought provoking and reassuring. Thought provoking as in just what is possible in the future and how much we still have to learn about the human mind – just what will the future be like?  robotic people? ability to control everything and communicate just by thinking?  Also lots to consider from the ‘I would like to suggest …’ comments from Susan. Reassuring because some of what Susan was saying reinforced my own limited knowledge about how children learn and most importantly the things that very young children can not master / achieve because developmentally difficult,  if not near impossible (exceptions to the rule,  as always, possible). I have to admit there was so much packed into Susan’s presentation that I will have to wait for the information to be forwarded before I try to recall and comment on everything .

Next speaker was Dr. Richard House – who spoke about Early Childhood Action (ECA) and Open Eye, and of course the new framework that ECA were launching at the conference. At the time I thought Richard could have explained a little more about the ‘Early Years Framework’ (EYF) BUT having now had time to read the document that contains the EYF- I now understand that everything is within the document  including the rationale and the explanations about various aspects.

I am going to go off at a tangent now – but hopefully you will understand why.

Those of you who have known me for a while – will know that back in June  Dr. House was in communication with me (and others) about his intention to send a letter to Nursery World in reply to my letter about the EYFS 2012, in which I had stated that I like the EYFS 12 and the focus on play. But more importantly the fact that EYFS 08 and EYFS 12 had raised the professionalism of childminders among parents and other professionals.

I stand by this – as those things are still true – on the whole I do like the EYFS 2012 – as it gives practitioners a lot more flexibility and control over their own settings and the curriculum they offer. My problem is those who ‘read’ more into the statutory framework than is actually there – and then advise / train others based on this viewpoint.

However despite my general ‘liking’ of EYFS 2012 there is certain aspects that I do not like ;

I do not like the early learning goals – at all – and in my childminding setting the ELG’s are not mentioned or referred to in documentation.

I am against teaching of phonics especially as the one and only method of teaching children to read. But again I do not worry myself about this in my setting .

I am against children who were born prematurely, having to enter school by birth date rather than due date.

I am against suggestions that the children should all experience the same curriculum and that other curriculums can not be used – unless exemption from the EYFS is granted.

I am against pre planning, against adult activities that give no choice in either taking part or outcome, against the idea that children need to have every minute of their day filled with adult suggested ideas or experiences or activities.

I am against the idea that children need to be prepared for school, that who they are and what they can do now, is only useful to push them onto the next stage of being ready for school – in fact in my personal opinion starting school at 4 or 5 means that most children will not be ready for a formal learning environment – and will ‘fail’ before they even complete reception year.

And so  although I do ‘like’ EYFS 2012 – because I have the confidence to ‘do it my way’ – I do in fact agree with most of the ideas behind ECA and the EYF.

Hopefully if Dr.House ever reads this blog post (or others on my blog) he will understand why I was at the conference.

Ok  – back to the conference

Short coffee / comfort break – opportunity to look at and buy books – and of course to network.

After the break, the speaker was Dr Simon Boxley from the University of Winchester. His  presentation was on ‘Efficiencies and Expediency: Speeding the Unhurried Pathway?’ which was basically about why this government and previous governments do the things that they do (have done)  – which in layman’s terms is to get the most out of the population for the least amount of government effort and expense! In particular women into work – and children into school and out the other end as efficiently as possible.

Of course I and many others would argue that government efforts have been in vain – because they are going about it the wrong way!

One other thing stuck in my mind from Simon’s talk – DEBT . Parents have very little choice about working as they have so much debt – and although not mentioned in Simon’s talk –  in my opinion, many childcare providers also have very little choice – either through debt incurred in setting up their business, overdrafts because overheads are increasing but income staying the same – add to that unpaid bills, shortfall in government funding – and in my opinion you have an unexploded bomb. Parents unable to pay and childcare providers unable to stretch their finances any further – sooner or later the bomb will go of.

There was only time for a very short question and answer session – which was a shame as lots of people had questions they wanted to ask the panel.

However lunch was ready and so we had to break. Lunch was a cold buffet and was very enjoyable.

During the lunch break I had a quick word with Jan White – who I had heard talk at the Early Years 2012 conference – Jan mentioned that Muddy Puddles now have a hardback version of the Mud Kitchens publication  (must look into this)

In a blink of an eye we were back in the lecture theatre ready for the next presentation – which was by Penelope Leach. She spoke about the importance of not rushing children through childhood and the importance of those people who support the very youngest children – the babies – and about the babies ‘rights’ as these are often overlooked or not considered important or even valid. Then to a small, but nevertheless heartfelt  cheer from myself and the other childminders – she mentioned the idea of encouraging parents to become childminder as when their child goes to school – which in her opinion is not workable and not in the interests of the children (hence the cheer). Penelope also showed us a clip from You tube of two very young children communicating with each other – with much laughter both on the screen and from the audience.

The next speaker was Professor Colwyn Trevarthen who spoke about babies and their amazing ability to tune into sound patterns from birth (in fact before birth) and how they can not only follow the patterns of sound when their mother sings to them but and conduct it – and actually lead it by being just in front of the mother (demonstrated by video footage and  visual graphs).

As an early years  practitioner all of this made such perfect sense – about babies ‘knowing’ their mothers voice, how they learn language, why singing to them and use of nursery rhymes and songs in an early years setting is so important – and so valuable.

Another short comfort break  during which I managed to buy the book  ‘Too much, Too soon; – which I shall provide feedback on once I have read it. I spoke to Marie – Louise Charlton (the lady who did all the organising – including the discount for myself and my friends)- and she in turn introduced me to Richard House ( and I completely forgot that I had just purchased the book and could have asked him to sign it – silly me).

Onto the last speaker of the day –  Sue Palmer. I had heard Sue speak before (at the Education Show a few years go) and so knew about her view on boys learning – but today she was speaking about the culture of marketing and the impact on very young children – I knew this was going on – but was horrified to be told the the marketing departments are now targeting babies as young as six months! (because as soon as a child can point -they can put pressure on mum and dad to buy the things they have seen in TV adverts). The worry is that many parents do not realise that when they buy the things that their baby points to – just because the baby points – they are setting a situation that will soon get out of control – with 2 and 3 year olds throwing tantrums and screaming loudly until they get the desired item ( and in my view – it is only a small step further before school age children decide that if they want something they have a right to it – even if it means stealing money from mum or dad or from  friends – or direct from the shop).

As an interesting aside, Carol and I were talking to the guesthouse owner at breakfast on Sunday – and the lady asked us our opinion of baby sign language because her daughter (mother to 6 week old) had decided not to use baby sign language with her baby because she had seen friends babies and toddlers using the signs to get the things they wanted – and the mothers had no control – terrible thought that babies could combine skills in sign language with TV advert marketing to get their mothers to buy things or do things they did not need or want to do.

Of course Carol and I made sure we reassured this very new grandmother that it was not sign language that was the issue – it was parents who were unintentionally falling into the trap of thinking that children needed everything they wanted – which of course is just the sort of child the marketing people want – and that it was just a case of boundaries and common sense to ensure that sign language could be used for the child to communicate but not to dominate.

As the conference came to a close there was time for a few questions – not enough time-  as I for one had my hand up – but did not get time to ask my question as time ran out.

A final refreshment break before myself and my friends headed to a pub for our tea – but before we did so – opportunity for me to speak to Linda Pound (another of my breakfast companions at the Early Years 2012 conference – and (sorry Linda unashamed self plugging)  to discover she had read some of my blog – and in particular the blog about the Early Years 2012 conference. It seems that readers of my blog include the famous as well as friend, family and colleagues.

Over tea in the pub we had much to discuss and think about before our friends headed home – and Carol and I headed back to our hotel. Carol then had to put up with my further reflections on the day and debate, before breakfast, after breakfast, before heading home and during the 2.5 hr drive home – thankfully Carol was doing as much reflection as I was and so I think (hope) I did not bore her.

As I say I have a lot to think about – and have read the EYF twice now – as soon as time allows I will write a blog about the EYF and my views on it and how it fits (or does not fit) with my personal ethos and the practice here at Penny’s Place.

Posted October 29, 2012 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

8 responses to “Early Childhood Action Conference

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Thanks for sharing, Penny. You are an inspiration!!! 🙂

  2. I couldn’t make the conference and was hoping someone would write about it, this is a great overview and very helpful. Thank you.

  3. Penny You have written it up so well. I really did think the conference completely supported childmimnders In fact Susan G was lamenting their loss!!! I also think nobody would disagree with your views re EYFS 2012 and it is exactly the reservations you mention that are the stumbling block. I have had so many emails of appreciation post the conference that I know a lot of people are troubled by what they think that they have to do with children. It is those blasted ELGs. They completely fly in the face of the UNIQUE child and judging children at the end of reception when they can have almost 25% difference in age is barbaric But Penny the difference is you do it your way and many do not have your confidence without strong support. I’m sure there will be many write-ups about the conference and it was I believe filmed but things need time to get into the system. Well done to you Penny and Good Luck to all childminders who are in an excellent position to give children exactly what they need. Visit ECA website in case further details emerge and DO leave messages on eca facebook. The paradigm change is on the way I hope and things will become better for young children.
    Marie-Louise Charlton (Mara)
    EY Consultant

    And Hi Laura!

    • Thank You Marie

      I will keep an eye out for updates / new issues and do my best to promote / cascade via my blog.

      You are right about the advantage I have due to my confidence – and I hope that those who read my blog will take some aspects that they feel able to use.

      May I publically thank you for all the work you put into organising the conference.

  4. I was at the conference too and really enjoyed it. I think I may also have been sitting behind you. I found this blog whilst trying to research Dr Simon Boxley’s work – which I’m very interested in . I think he’s right about debt and about policies being led by ‘money’ rather than childhood developmental needs. WE have a meeting in London on the 12th to discuss ‘Motherhood’. I am a childminder myself but also a mother. I used to work in social research before starting family of my own (the eldest is 19 and the youngest 10) and I have interviewed probably over a hundred mothers. The common theme is that they all feel undervalued for the work they do. I am particularly interested in the lack of value attributed to ‘care’ whether done by a mother, father, childminder or carer. Care is part of the human condition but no one really factors it in as being probably ‘the’ most important of human activities in a civilised world. I really appreciated your summary of the conference. Will you be at the Flourish Summit they are organising for April? Marie Peacock

    • Thank you for your very interesting and informed comments Marie. It is a shame we did not get to talk at the conference – but as I will be at the Flourish Conference (all booked and paid for and very kind friend putting me up in London) maybe we will get the opportunity to meet and discussed our shared concerns and interests then.

      You are so right about the care side of things – which of course is why I am so against the governments ideas in More Great Childcare and why I have started a petition and a website to share information.

      I am really pleased that you came across my blog – and yes I also agree Simon is right as were the other speakers about the impact on the children.

      I look forward to meeting you in person – by the way were you the childminder that I and a colleague exchanged a few words with in the toilet area as the conference closed?

  5. Pingback: 2013 Flourish Summit – Day One – Start – to Lunchtime | Penny's Place Childminding

  6. Pingback: Penny’s Involvement with the Save Childhood Movement , the Too Much, Too Soon campaign and petition | Penny's Place Childminding

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: