Early Education Conference – Friday 9th May 2014 – my recall – and my ramblings about various things   Leave a comment

Although  readers of this blog will be aware that I am a member of all the organisations that represent childminders (Pacey, Pre school Learning Alliance, ICM-SE and UKCMA) , I am not sure if people realise that I am also a member of Early Education.

Details about Early Education can be found HERE

I can hear some saying – Why would a childminder like you Penny want to be a member of Early Education? They  are all about Nursery Schools – maintained nursery schools at that – so why would a childminder want to be a member? What is the point?

Well the point is – There is a lot more to Early Education than just their historic position of being about nursery schools. For a start I am not the only childminder member – there a few childminder members – not a lot at the moment but as word gets out about what Early Education can offer childminder members – I expect that number to increase.

It is true that many of the members are still connected to maintained nursery schools -but many are not and come from a range of early years professional backgrounds. Early Education also produce a range of excellent publications and have a pool of early years trainers – and as a childminder these are of interest to me.

However, I personally feel that as a childminder, I  have a lot that I can share with  those other early years professionals that are members of Early Education,  and there is a lot they can share with me.

I believe that it is through these open and honest discussions that we can unite as a sector and more fully understand our similarities and indeed our differences.

I believe that by being a member, I have raised awareness of registered childminders – and a small difference that I have noticed but one that is very important – is that at last years Early Education conference, I blogged about how the words such as – School, head, teacher and class were used a lot – but this year – although of course still mentioned when in the right context, the words used most frequently were setting, practitioner and provider – and the word childminder was used a few times.

Another difference between last year and this years conference is that other members are aware of who I am – and that I am a member. They know I am a childminder, some of them mentioned my blog – and all of them treated me as an equal colleague – where as last year some where not sure about me, or about childminding – after all I was the ‘new girl’

Of course I can not say if these changes would  have happened anyway – even if I was not a member, but if I have personally made a difference or if I haven’t,  these small but significant changes have to be a good thing.

I think that – as with all things it is lack of knowledge that leads to misunderstanding – and even fear about others who are not the ‘same’ as you personally – and this is indeed true within the early years sector.

And certainly applies to organisations who are starting to welcome childminder members but who are not sure about these new members and how they will ‘fit in’- and to childminders who think Early Education and other organisations are not suitable or appropriate for childminders to join.

Linked to this is another issue, I have personally seen, which is the passion that each and every profession within early years have about  their chosen profession, which leads to the view that their provision – is the best – in that it will provide the most opportunities and best outcomes for children. Understandable but not based on facts as one size does not fit all.

Actually – I have never thought this, because I believe all children – and all families are different, so what is ‘right’ for one child, or one family will not be ‘right’ for another child or family. Within my own practice, I always say, and have always said to parents viewing my setting, that they should go and view not only other childminder settings but also nursery settings. The reason being they need to look at all options before they are able to make an informed decision.

I certainly do not want parents choosing my setting because I am the first they see, or the cheapest or the nearest to their home – because although those considerations are important – the well being of their child is more important, the setting has to be ‘right’ for the child and family – and the child and family have to be ‘right’ for the setting.

It is, I suppose because of my own ethos, that I have always tried to work in partnership with my colleagues from other types of early years settings. It is why, I have volunteered for the Pre school Learning Alliance for many years; why I sit on the PVI consultation group within my local authority; Why I have in the past been involved in providing training and quality assurance assessment for all type of early years settings.

Ah – I hear my childminding colleagues say – but you are rather unique Penny in your views and your ethos; in your past employment and so on – what about the rest of us?

Good question – and one on which a discussion with Beatrice Merrick – who is the Chief Executive of Early Education – was based during the Friday evening event of the conference. We discussed what Early Education have to offer childminders; how we could all work together to ensure that parents have choice in the future; and how we could help ensure every child has access to the  early years setting that is ‘right’ for them and their family. What both Beatrice and I were clear about, is that we do not want one type of early years setting to be dominant, or to be perceived as ‘best for all’.

Beatrice indicated that she wanted to continue the discussion in the future, and I have indicated that I would personally like to be involved in those discussions.

However, that does not really answer the question – what does Early Education have to offer childminders? Actually I can’t answer that because I don’t know what people want or need personally. However – as we all know if you don’t bother to look or to find out – you will never know if something will meet your personal needs. So take a look – and keep on looking – as in the future things will develop/ change / be added to.

And before I leave this subject – Beatrice made it very clear to me that Early Education do not want to compete with Pacey or Pre school Learning Alliance or the other organisations, as those organisations are doing a good job and have many years of experience and expertise in supporting childminders and in providing information and services.

Instead Early Education want to be more inclusive and to ensure the services and information that they provide are suitable and accessible to all – including childminders. Which is fine with me – it is all about choice and being able to access the services that are ‘right’ for us personally. And this fits in with my ethos and my personal experience as a member of many organisations – they are all different, they all have their own identity – and I find they all have something to offer me; that all welcome me;  and that all are happy that I belong to so many organisations and further that all are happy that I have my own personal ‘favourite’ organisation.

Enough of my ramblings – time to get on with the reason for this blog

Information about the National Conference 2014  CLICK HERE

 

My journey to the Early Education conference  stated late Friday morning, as my husband Garry  (known on this blog as Mr.Penny’s Place) set off to catch the train to Birmingham from our home town of Kidderminster. Garry does not usually join me for conference trips (or campaigning ones come to that) but he was interested in visiting Edinburgh – and so we decided to make it a mini break, as well as part of my CPD.

We arrived in Birmingham in plenty of time, did a bit of window shopping and grabbed some lunch – not that I ate much, as still in a state of stress in relation to my complaint about my recent inspection, and finding eating difficult. We caught the 2.15pm train to Edinburgh from New Street on time  – which was as well as the timings were not perfect and the train was due into Edinburgh at 6.28 –  giving just 2 minutes for me to get from train station to the venue of the first event of the conference which started at 6:30 pm.

The journey went fairly smoothly apart from a delay of 40 mins due to the train driver needing to have his scheduled break. What had happened was the driver had just completed a journey on another train – which was delayed – and so the driver had not had his break before he was due to take over from the first driver on our train to Edinburgh. Understandable – but very, very frustrating for me – as this meant I would be 40 mins late for an event which only lasted 1.5 hours.

We arrived in Edinburgh at the announced ‘late’ time – and unusually for me – we hailed a taxi – as my event had already started. The taxi driver dropped me off in the Royal Mile, and then took Garry and the suitcases on to the hotel. It actually was not a very long journey as everything is within walking distance – but sometimes you just don’t have time to walk!

So almost there – but I had a problem – the taxi driver had dropped me near to where I need to be – or so I thought! What I did not know was that – the number of the buildings does not follow a logical order – and the building number that I wanted was not in the locality of where I had been dropped! So rather a quick trot up and down the street with no luck – and I had to go and ask someone. Pointed in the right direction, I located the building that I wanted – which was The Patrick Geddes Centre for Learning and Conservation. You can read more about the centre and the plans for the future of the building and centre HERE

I was warmly greeted by the hosts – the Edinburgh branch of Early Education. They gave me food and drink – most welcome – although I hardly touch it – not that it was not nice but as mentioned before stress is making me ill and I just can’t eat.

I stood in the doorway to listen to last bit of the talk about Patrick Geddes – a talk I had really wanted to hear. The bit I did hear was very interesting – and so I have since looked on the internet to find out a bit more about this man. and his work. You can also find out a little bit more by  CLICKING HERE

As I listened to the end of the talk I was struck by the similarities to my personal ethos about children and learning – particularly the ‘Hand, Heart – Head’ principle’ – which is what I think – and in my opinion Geddes was right – that is the right order.

There will more more about Geddes later on in this blog because as I am writting this blog after the end of the conference – I know that Sunday morning was very much linked to Geddes – but you are going to have to wait to find out more until I reach that point of  my recall.

Getting back to Friday evening – after the talk there was abreak so people could top up their glasses and their plates.

I was spotted by Helen Moylett – who is the president of Early Education – and who I now know quite well due to my attendance at Early Education events, training that Worcestershire have commissioned which Helen has provided – and Helen’s personal interest in my campaigning. We spent a few minutes chatting but then had to take our seats as the second performance of  some  Scottish dancing by local children was about to start. I had of course missed the first performance and so was particularly keen to see this second performance – I was not disappointed. As someone who ‘owns’ feet and hands that are not coordinated and that often refuse to do what my brain is asking them to do – I could only marvel at the skills of these young girls. At the end of their performance they received a well deserved heart felt round of applause – and received certificates to acknowledge their contribution to the evening.

There was then chance to network and to go upstairs to view the rather spectacular ceiling. I chatted to some nursery professionals who have a very similar family based ethos to my own, before going to look at the ceiling – and it was under this superb piece of history and art, that I had the afore mentioned chat with Beatrice Merrick.

By then the evening event was coming to a close – and so I said my farewells, phoned Mr. Penny’s Place – who met me part way down the Royal Mile – and showed me the way to the hotel – stopping off to buy me a cream cake – which I didn’t eat (friends who know me well – will be shocked at this information – as I am not known for leaving cake, and especially not cream cake!)

I had originally planned that we would go out later to walk the Royal Mile and visit some of the pubs – but Mr. Penny’s Place had already walked a fair bit as he had taken opportunity while I was at the evening event, to take his camera for a walk along the Royal Mile – and so did not want to go out for another walk – and so as we were both tired from the long journey, we turned in for the night – where Mr. Penny’s Place slept well – and I did not.

As it is now midnight on the evening of 11th May and I did not get home from Edinburgh until 10 30pm – and I have been finishing of this Part One of my recall (which I started this morning) since getting home – I will end now, publish this – and write part two another day – about the 10th May and the actual conference – however please be patient as it maybe a day or two before I find the time to continue my recall.

 

 

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