Archive for October 2014

Continuing my look at theorists who may have influence my practice   Leave a comment

In my last blog about theorists I considered if I was a social constructivist or a behaviourist, and came to the conclusion that I am a social constructivist.

I also decided that the work of John Dewey is very much inline with my own thoughts – however as I had not read John’s work  before, I feel I  had not been influenced in my practice by his work – but I did question if my childhood was as a result of adults in my life (both direct and indirect)  had been influenced by his work .

Reading posts by my fellow students, on the universities online environment, I see they have been influenced by other theorists – and so I am now going to take a look at some of the other well know theorists and see if I agree with them or feel I have been influenced by them.

It should be remembered that I did not do any study into early years and childcare, until I was in my 40’s  – and by then I had had 4 children, and been a child minder for about 20 years – so my practice was well establish. Further it was not until 2006 that I actually read anything much about theorists (when I first started my university studies) – and by them I was grandmother and  had around 30 years experience as a practitioner and other related roles.

So dipping in and out of  my copy of How Children Learn, the next theorist that I am going to look at is Fredrick Froebel

There are certainly aspect of Froebel’s work that I like and indeed that I agree with – particularly the belief that teaching should not be by rote;but that children should learn  through play and self expression;  that   play fosters enjoyment and emotional well being; that  outside play  is important.

I think a point made by Froebel that has been ‘forgotten’ or ‘overlooked’ in this country, is that he talked about children  from age one to age seven using and enjoying the ‘garden’ experience. When I was a children children went to school the term after they were 5 and into ‘infants’ which was very much play based with stories and creative activities – and the very basics of reading and writing – once it was felt you were ‘ready’. It was only when you moved into juniors at 7 that more formal teaching started. Other countries have retained an element of this – in that formal schooling does not start until children are 7. I personally think that Froebel was right – children should learn through their play until they are 7.

However, I do not personally like Froebel’s  idea of ‘Gifts’ that were presented in structured ways. The ‘Gifts’ themselves I consider to be beneficial play materials -such as the soft ball, cubes, and wooden blocks; and certainly I provide wooden blocks and in various shapes and sizes within the environment that I provide in my setting – but I do not like the idea of adults directing how children should explore and use these items.

I think there is conflict between what Froebel said about play and the nature of how the ‘Gifts’ should be used, and I struggle to see how the two fit together. However I think that block play has developed into play that is in line with what Froebel said about play and not in line with the design and purpose of the ‘Gifts’ – and that perhaps we should value the actual ‘Gifts’ and the benefits using for free play brings to children’s play and development.

I love the work of Community Playthings – especially their wooden blocks (which I can not afford but have some similar ones) If you have not seen it before this is a lovely film about block play from Community Playthings Community Playthings film about block play and you may also be interested to take a look at a couple of blogs that I wrote in 2013 about block play in my setting Block play at Penny’s Place – one and Block play at Penny’s Place – two – the second contains more than just block play – in fact in contains another of Froebel’s ideas – that of ‘occupations’ which included cutting skills.

So, do I think my practice has been influenced by Freobel? – well from reading about his work – no – because as stated before I did not read about his work until after my practice was establish.

However I do think my childhood was influenced by his work (and therefore my views about play) – I had blocks to play with – in fact I had one of those wooden push a long trucks with blocks in it. I also  would have benefited from my mothers ideas about play and from the early Pre school Playgroup Association ethos which was based on Froebelian traditions,and which my mother was involved with in the early days of the Playgroup movement. ( And of course Froebel championed the work of mothers in educating children – which is exactly what the Playgroup movement did).

In fact you could say that Froebel’s work has influence and impacted on me all through my life because of my childhood that was influenced by his work – and as I am now a volunteer for the Pre school Learning Alliance which was formally the Pre – school learning Alliance, that involvement and influence is continuing.

If any one is interested in reading about the history of the Pre school learning Alliance, I can recommend this book which talks about their history and the influence of not just Froebel but also many other theorists. I am attempting to reference (I still struggle with this – and especially as this book is a joint effort of many and is a in house publication – so please bear with me while I work out how to reference)

Pre-School Learning Alliance 2011, Changing lives, Changing life, Pre school Learning Alliance Publications:London

As I am not at all sure that I have referenced it correctly here is the ISBN number – ISBN 978 1 873743 93 5

 

In my next blog about theorists, I am going to look at the work of John Bowlby whose work about attachments has influence my life, my practice through my childhood experience, and now through reading about his work my understanding about attachments in my professional work as a childminder and a foster carer.

 

Posted October 29, 2014 by psw260259 in My university studies

Ofsted Consultation on Better Inspection for All   Leave a comment

This consultation from Ofsted is seeking the views of anyone who is interested in helping shape inspections in future.

This is the link Ofsted Better Inspection for All Consultation

The remit covers all education establishments from early years, to schools, to further education. The aim is to have a single inspection framework that inspects the same things, in the same way – but in relation to the specific sector.

I would agree with Ofsted that at the moment there are too many different inspections.

I like the statement in point 11, where it says Ofsted will judge how providers help  children prepare for life in Britain today, which is backed up by part of point 12, which says ‘preparation for life and work in Britain today, including in relation to personal development, behaviour and welfare’

I can only hope that the Ofsted (and the Government) adjust their view on what preparation for work and life needs to be – especially in the early years when the foundations are built for all future learning.

I do have some hope that Ofsted are listening and do want to improve things – but I am concerned that the drive for assessment and excellence in academic skills will be at the cost of well being of children. In particular, I am very concerned about the mental well being of this countries children. It seems to me that no one in Government is relating the problems we have these days with children’s behaviour in school and ability to make the most of the opportunities within school, to what the Government is doing in terms of children’s early years experiences both at home and in childcare settings.

Still as I say, I do have some hope – and certainly things like the Big Ofsted Conversation, and individual and organisational efforts to engage with Government and Ofsted are having some impact.

BUT – THERE IS A LONG WAY TO GO

Things like this consultation also help inform the Government but often the response is very low. I recognise that those who do fill in consultations (people like me) will be thinking ‘What is the point?’ they never listen – and I feel that way sometimes too. However if we are asked to express our opinion, we should because if we stop completing such consultations they will stop asking us. What would make a big difference is if many, many more people took the time to fill in these consultations – because if more people did express opinions – they would have to take more notice.

So getting back to the reason for this blog – I plan to take a personal look at the questions and to convey my thoughts, in the hope that this will support others to think about the questions and to fill in their responses.

Please take the time to read the document which explains what Ofsted plan to do – and hope to achieve – I will refer to this at times as I go through the consultation document – but you really need to read yourself.

There are several ways to respond as explained in this wording which I have copied and pasted from the document (link posted at beginning of this blog)

How you can submit your views
There are three ways of completing and submitting your response.
Online electronic questionnaire
Visit our website to complete and submit an electronic version of the response form: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/futureofinspection
Downloading the document and emailing it to us
Visit our website to download a Word version of the response form that you can complete on your computer: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/better-inspection-for-all-consultation-proposals-for-new-framework-for-inspection-of-schools-further. When you have completed the form, please email it to inspectionreform@ofsted.gov.uk with ‘Better inspection for all’ in the subject line.
Printing the document and posting it to us
Visit our website to print a Word or PDF version of the response form that can be filled in by hand: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/better-inspection-for-all-consultation-proposals-for-new-framework-for-inspection-of-schools-further. When you have completed the form please post it to:
FOEI consultation
8th floor
Ofsted
Aviation House
125 Kingsway
London
WC2B 6SE

I have chosen to complete my response via the survey monkey online questionnaire (which actually is a suggestion I made – and I am sure many other made, to Government to improve how they consult)

Feedback on completing by using the online survey

The first page is a general introduction – and I was pleased to see that there is a link to the information document, and a reminder of the closing date – which is 5th December 2014

What did surprise me was that just by clicking on link to complete the survey – shows that I have completed 7% already!

Second page (and now 14% complete at beginning of this page) just asks if representing an organisation – which in my case I am not – so I clicked NO

Page 3 (now 29% complete) Along list of options to state who you are and the sector – so I ticked Registered early years childminder from the first list, and early years provider from the second list

Page 4 (now 36% complete) Asked if agree, disagree and so on with the idea of a common inspection. There is a reminder to look at the information paper and which page – which is very helpful (and again a suggestion that I and many others have made).

The information paper does give reassurance about inspection handbooks and judgement being specific to each remit (they mean sector) and to inspectors having expertise in that sector. However, I am not sure this will always be followed.

For Q 2 I have ticked agree – I did not feel I could tick strongly agree due to my concerns.

I was pleased to see a comment box and so have added this comment

I agree with the principle of a common inspection, but I have concerns that the drive will be for formal learning and assessment in the early years sector and that children will be seen as failing what in fact they are just developing in their own unique way – and in their own time frame.
I also worry (despite reassurance in the information paper) that with a common inspection framework, that inspectors will be used across all sectors without the need to have experience or specialism in that sector, leading to uninformed judgements

Page 5 (now 43% complete)Again a general description about the focus of this question (which is about leadership and mamagement) and a reminder to look at the information provided.

In the information document there is a lot of information about what inspectors will judge – and says that Ofsted want to know if there should be a separate judgement about the curriculum – or if it should be within the judgement about leadership and management. So a fantastic opportunity to say what you think.

Please note there is a lot of information provided, so make sure you read – at least twice.

The good news is there is a separate tick box for each area of judgement – and a comment box

For Q 3 Personally I ticked the disagree box for leadership and management  – and left the following comment –

There is too much focus on teaching and not enough on the holistic development of children and young people. There appears to be a focus on achievement not on enjoyment I do not like the requirement to influence local and national providers ot the local community, this is very difficult for small group providers and registered childminders to achieve – and I think beyond their remit (and it takes all parties to engage and they are often unwilling or do not have the time to engage with small scale providers). The focus should be on the children and families – and although there will be engagement with others, it should not be part of the inspection criteria.

 

For Q4 –  Quality of teaching, learning and assessment I ticked agree – because I do – but I have major concerns about how this will be judged and so left this comment

In general I agree with the points in the information paper BUT I have major concerns about the judgements that will be made against those who have alternative curriculum’s / ethos and methods of enabling the children to develop their full potential.

I also have major concerns about judgements on assessment that is not presented in written format that meets the required standard format. My concern is that ‘knowing each child’, and planning on a daily basis for each child through the setting out of the environment, will not seen to be as effective as other more formal pre planning and assessment

For personal development, behaviour and welfare, I ticked agree but left this comment

I am concern that for some, the achievement of prompt and regular attendance will be difficult and that it should be about progress made on improving this, and efforts made, rather than just on achieving this

For Q5 – outcomes for children and learners I ticked strongly disagree and left this comment

I agree re progress from starting points but disagree strongly about achieving or exceed age related standards. For some children and young people this is unrealistic and they (nor their parents) should feel their child has ‘failed’ – what is important is that progress is made – no matter how small the progress step is

Page 6 (Interestingly, despite the number of questions on page 5 – only another 7% has been completed – so now 50% complete

Just one question on this page, and it is about the specific additional requirements, I ticked strongly disagree and left this comment

There are several areas in this section that I am not happy with – in particular removing the need for schools to register separately for their early years provision, especially for two year olds. Even with a common inspection framework, I believe this will lead to inconsistent judgements and potentially two year olds in a school environment that is not appropriate for them. If schools are to provide provision for two year olds it should be registered as early years provision, not school provision

Page 7 (Now 57% complete) Just one question again and this is the one that Ofsted would particularly like comment on – Should Ofsted continue to report on the curriculum as part of the leadership and management judgement?

I have ticked disagree and left this comment

I feel that although curriculum does come under leadership and management in some aspects – it also does not and my feeling is if an inspector does not recognise or value the curriculum delivered you would get marked down – even if all other aspects of leadership and management were good or outstanding. I also think that to separate the judgements would provide some useful data

Page 8 (now 64% complete) This page is about short inspections.There are two questions

For Q8 I ticked disagree and left this comment

In general I agree BUT I think 3 years is too long between inspections and should be every two years as a minimum. I also worry, that as with current inspection intervals, that we will end up with short inspections slipping back to every 4 or 5 years (or longer )

I think there should be also be a number of ‘random’ completely unannounced and un scheduled inspections across all sectors to ensure that quality is maintained at all times.

For Q9 I also ticked disagree and left this  comment

As above response for Q8, but also I think if concerns are raised at a short inspection – a full inspection should be carried out

Page 9 (now 74% complete) Two questions on this page – but for two different proposals

First one is about the inspection of non association independent schools – this is not an area that I personally know a lot about, but it makes sense to inspect sooner if concerns are raised – so I ticked yes and did not leave a comment

Second one is about inspection methodology – I left this comment(there is not a agree / disagree box)

 

I feel that inspectors are able to bypass the QA systems by putting things in their recording documentation to back up their view. I also feel that those being inspected find it hard to challenge inspectors because the do not know what has been recorded about them, and the draft report is just a summary of evidence gathered .I feel a fairer system would be for inspectors to record conversations with adults, and to provide the full transcript of their documentation at same time as the draft report

I also think that inspectors must speak to parents in person – even if by phone to gather the views about what it is like day in, day out for their child.

Furthermore, as already mentioned, there should be a number of unexpected, unscheduled inspections across the range of sectors to ensure that ‘everyday practice is observed – these could be very short ‘snapshot inspections’

 

Page 10 (79% complete) This page has space for any other comments and to tell Ofsted a little bit about yourself

In the comments box I left this comment

This consultation was much better than others that I have completed recently. I hope that Ofsted will consider carefully, and fully the suggestions made by respondents, and not just ignore points made.

I would also like to say that I personally found the online questionnaire an effective  way to express my opinion

I ticked yes to giving information about myself – so I have filled in those details on Page 11

Page 12  (93% complete at start of this page) More questions about yourself – the general ‘monitoring’ type

 

Page 13 The thank you for taking part page – when you click DONE you get re directed to the Ofsted Home page

 

I hope people found by blog on this useful – please do consider my responses, but make sure your responses are you views and your comments in your own words.

Posted October 27, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

What theories inform my practice and ethos?   2 comments

This is my first post linked to my university studies – so the start of a new use of my blog. All my university inspired blogs will be within the category of .My university studies’ which should make it easier to find them.

So the question set is –  ‘ Are you a social constructivist or a behaviourist?’ 

My instinctive first response was – I am a constructivist – and maybe a social constructivist.

But am I? Do I actually have a full understanding of this issue?

In 2012, I wrote a blog about my ethos and what I think about theories – I was even bold enough to suggest that I had constructed my own theory called the ‘Webb Theory’. If you have not read that blog – or have but have forgotten what I wrote This is the link

However that was my thoughts in 2012 – a lot has happened since then – including becoming more involved with the wider early years sector through my campaigning, which in turn has led to more professional debate and examining of own views.

Therefore, now is a good time to reflect on my views and where those views come from – and to do this I have decided to go back to basics and to ensure my understanding is as good as possible at this moment in time and moment within my professional development.

So where to start?

Wikipedia – as I find this gives a good overview and links to further reading

This is the link to the Wikipedia entry on Constructivism and the one to Behaviourism

I took the time to read them both – first the general introductions – and these are my thoughts

From the general introductions – I still think I am a constructivist BUT there are elements of behaviourism that I have used within my practice at various points over my professional career and as a parent . So it is clear I need to read a bit more – maybe there is a link between them, or maybe I have established my own theory – the Webb Theory, which is a bit of this theory and that theory – plus the influence of my own practice?

Next I moved to the very helpful lists of people who are linked to both constructivism and behaviourism.

For constructivism we have;

John Dewey

Maria Montessori

Jean Piaget

Lev Vygotsky

Heniz von Forester (who? – I asked myself having not come across this name before)

George Kelly (again who?)

Jerome Bruner

Herbert Simon

Paul Watzlawick (Who?)

Ernst von Glaserfeld (Another who?)

Edgar Morin (another who?)

Humberto Maturana (yet another who?)

Quite a few names that I have heard about and read about – some more than others. Clearly I need to do a bit more research – so I consult my copies of ‘How Children Learn (Books 1 -3) by Linda Pound, which I find easy to read and understand as not too many ‘big words’. If you have not seen these books before here is a link to them on Amazon – although I am sure you can get the books elsewhere.

Book One

Book Two

Book Three

I have actually had the pleasure of having breakfast with Linda Pound – and to hearing her speak at a conference – so this is another reason why I refer to her books – I have met her and had discussions with her – so for me it makes understanding her viewpoint and writing so much easier.

If you are interested in reading the blog about the time I had breakfast with Linda This is the link – but why not look at all the links to that conference in 2012 – there are four parts in total, and there was a very good range of speakers, which I have provided an overview on. (In fact you might want to look at my blogs for the 2013 and 2014 conferences which I also attended.

As is often the case, I have digressed – but I hope this maybe useful to anyone reading this blog.

Back to my research (reading) about those names I was familiar with as a recap,  and those names that I was not familiar with

First of the unknown names –  Heniz von Forester – Actually he and other names unknown to me  are not mentioned in the ‘How Children learn’ books by Linda Pound – which is not a surprise because if they were – I would at least recognise the names, even if I could not recall anything about those people.

So I turned to the internet and a goggle search – which first brought up cybernetics! (which on reading I understand is not about robots but more to do with how the brain works / is wired – and the similarities to the wiring of robots and other programmable technology ). Anyone interested in reading more about cybernetics – here is the Wikipedia entry on it Cybernetic info on wikipedia

 

However a further search brought up this information on Wikipedia Constructivist / epistemology as follows (quite a way down the page)

  • Heinz von Foerster, invited by Jean Piaget, presented “Objects: tokens for (Eigen-)behaviours” in 1976 in Geneva at a genetic epistemology symposium, a text that would become a reference for constructivist epistemology.

Ok – so not of particular interest to me – AT THE MOMENT – but I am glad I bothered to find out

Next on the list of ‘who?’ – George Kelly – I found this entry – again on Wikipedia George Kelly info on Wikipedia. Now this was very interesting – just from a scanning of the information. I need to read it again – fully, not scanning – which I will do over the next few days. However for now and to may be spark an interest in the readers of this blog – here is a little bit from that wikipedia information

 

Kelly’s fundamental view of personality was that people are like naive scientists who see the world through a particular lens, based on their uniquely organized systems of construction, which they use to anticipate events. But because people are naive scientists, they sometimes employ systems for construing the world that are distorted by idiosyncratic experiences not applicable to their current social situation. A system of construction that chronically fails to characterize and/or predict events, and is not appropriately revised to comprehend and predict one’s changing social world, is considered to underlie psychopathology (or mental illness.)

AND

…..Kelly’s fundamental view of people as naive scientists was incorporated into most later-developed forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy that blossomed in the late 70s and early 80s and into Intersubjective psychoanalysis which leaned heavily on Kelly’s phenomenological perspective and his notion of schematic processing of social information. [3] Kelly’s personality theory was distinguished at the time he published the two volumes from drive theories (such as psychodynamic models) on the one hand, and behavioral theories on the other, in that people were not seen as solely motivated by instincts (such as sexual and aggressive drives) or learning history but by their need to characterize and predict events in their social world. Because the constructs people developed for construing experience have the potential to change, Kelly’s theory of personality is less deterministic than drive theory or learning theory. People could conceivably change their view of the world and in so doing change the way they interacted with it, felt about it, and even others’ reactions to them. For this reason, it is an existential theory, regarding humankind as having a choice to reconstrue themselves, a concept Kelly referred to as “Constructive Alternativism.” Constructs provide a certain order, clarity, and prediction to a persons world. Kelly referenced many philosophers in his two volumes but the theme of new experience being at once novel and familiar (due to the templates placed on it) is closely akin to the notion of Heraclitus: “we step and do not step in the same rivers.” Experience is new but familiar to the extent that it is construed with historically derived constructs….

So here it is then – a link to behaviourism and constructivism, in certain contexts – that I wondered if existed.  I really do need to read more!

But for now, to finish the task in hand – that of finding out more about the names on the list of people linked to constructivism that are new to me

Next is Paul Watzlawick, again Wikipedia comes ups trumps – Paul Watzlawick info on Wikipedia, the first thing I notice is Paul is linked to ‘radical constructivism – I have heard of this – but really do not fully understand. Delving a bit deeper into the article, and I read about Watzawick’s  “Interactional View”, and the five axioms – a very basic overview is that it links to communication and behaviour – in that all behaviour is a form of communication – and I certainly believe that to be true. So more further reading – as I always find – one thing leads to another, and in trying to complete a task, you end up with an even longer ‘to do list’ than you started with!

 

Now for Ernst von Glaserfeld – I look to Wikipedia again  as seems a good place to start Ernst von Glaserfeld info on Wikipedia. it seems he is a another radical constructivist, in fact it was Glaserfeld who coined the term radical constructivism (and so I must ensure I fully understand what this means)

Moving on to Edgar Morin – for a start Edgar is still alive, and there is some limited information n Wilipedia  Edgar Morin info on Wikipedia From this limited information my ‘to do list’ has just grown! I need to read up about  information theory and system theory – which I think link to cybernetics. (will up date when read a bit more)

And so to last unknown to me name on the list of constructivists –  Humberto Maturana, Wikipedia have this entry on Humberton (who is also still alive) Humberto Maturana info on wikipedia , he is another person who is connected to cybernetics and radical constructivism. I found this bit of his Wikipedia entry interesting

His inspiration for his work in cognition came while he was a medical student and became seriously ill with tuberculosis. Confined in a sanatorium with very little to read, he spent time reflecting on his condition and the nature of life. What he came to realize was “that what was peculiar to living systems was that they were discrete autonomous entities such that all the processes that they lived, they lived in reference to themselves … whether a dog bites me or doesn’t bite me, it is doing something that has to do with itself.” This paradigm of autonomy formed the basis of his studies and work.

So yet more further reading  I am beginning to realise that I won’t have time to read in depth about all this new information and ideas and so I will have to select the bits that are most interesting to me – and most related to my course.

However, I am feeling much better about my own knowledge prior to starting this blog – I was starting to think that I was not as well informed as I thought when I realised how many names on that list that I did not recognise – but I now know it is because all connected to the same area of research – and one that I had not even considered much before.

Moving on now to the list of people connected to Behaviourism

They are listed as;

Vladimir Bekhterev

Albert Bandura

Ivan Pavlou

Alan E Kazdin

Sidney W Bijou

Edwin Ray Gruthrie

Richard J Herrnstien

Clark L Hull

Fred S Keller

Neal E Miller

Marsha M Linehan

O. Hobart Mowrer

Charles E Osgood

Kenneth W Spense

BF Skinner

Edward Lee Thorndike

Edward C Tolman

Murray Didman

John B Watson

Ole Ivar Lovaas

Steven C Heyes

Donald Baer

Dermot Barnes- Holmes

 

It is actually easier to say who I have heard of rather than who I have not heard of! The only one I really know anything about is B F Skinner! Is that shocking? Or is it an indicator into the fact that I think I am a social constructivist – and so have not ‘bothered’ to read more about behaviourism? Or is there some other reason for my personal lack of knowledge in this area? – Maybe it has not been covered in training that I have undertaken? Maybe those I work in partnership do not mention these people because they do not support those theories? Maybe there is less written about them?

Whatever the reason, it is clear if I am to fully understand my own perspective and understanding on behaviourism and constructivism – I am going to have to have to do a lot more reading / research.

However, thinking about my time issues – I have decided not to find links to all those listed above in the behaviourist article at this moment in time, or to explore further – although I will revisit behaviourism in relation to my views at another point in time, because I think there are some links and I would like to have a better understanding

 

Instead, I have decided  to read the rest of the general article on Wikipedia about constructivism – which I hope will form a base level of understanding, so I can consider where my own theory has come from or is based on or is similar to; and then  I will be able undertake further research / reading  to support my university studies.

The article on Constructivism

Having read this article (and re read some of the information in the How Children learn books, about those who are seen as constructivists ) I now know that I was right- I am a social constructivist,  and this answers the question set by tutors.

However I also know that I do indeed follow the Webb Theory, as I have taken bits of different theories and adapted them to make my own theory.

To start discussion with others, and for personal reflection on my thoughts, I am going to try to link to just one of those  theories and explain why I think this links to my thoughts and practice.

From my reading – I now know that John Dewey’s theory links quite closely to my own theory – although I did not consider John Dewey’s theory in reaching the Webb theory – I think it is more a case that we both have the reached the same conclusion  (Interesting as John Dewey died before I was born, however it is possible that John’s theory had an influence on my own childhood – and therefore my views) .

My information about John Dewey is taken from Linda Pounds book How Children learn  [so attempting to reference}

Pound L (2005) How Children learn, Step forward publishing Ltd: Leamington Spa

I have to say I agree with a lot of his points. In particular;

Importance of social interaction – to me this does not mean circle time, it does not mean being told what to do and when to do it- it means ‘real’ conversations and observing other people (and copying them both in direct terms and in indirect terms)

Need to develop the curriculum from children’s interests – to me the curriculum is not a set of adult led activities and pre determined outcomes (I think there is a place for this, but not until after children are 7, and all the foundations of learning are in place), in my opinion an early years curriculum is about a carefully planned an environment based on children’s interests and stages of development. Further, I believe it takes a very skilled practitioner to set up this type of environment – and to think on their feet to adapt it as children’s interests extend and change.

As long as people are alive, they are learning – I really believe this, but need to add that people learn what could be described as ‘good things’ as well as what could be described as ‘bad things’. And in particular this relates very closely to attachments. I believe secure attachments are the most important aspect to be in place for children to be able to reach their full potential.

The value and culture of family and community should be reflected in the life of the school – or in my case the childminder setting. I think that children need to be secure in who they are, in terms of their family and community (which includes the childcare setting). In my opinion, these days we try to impart knowledge about too wide a range of ‘diversity’  to the under fives, which is why in my setting I concentrate on the culture of the families using my setting – so this does change as the children attending change.   I do not ‘cover’ festivals, and family make up or traditions that are not represented within the group of children currently attending, as topics (although I do read stories that reflect the wider society).

This does not mean I do not cover diversity issues – I most certainly do – because actually diversity is all about understanding about similarities and differences – and this can be applied to EVERYTHING. I believe if children can gain an understanding of how to think about similarities and differences, they will be able to apply this knowledge to all areas of their lives both as children and adults, which in turn will help them cope with different people and objects and beliefs about things (not just faiths). I think this leads to equality being a central part of the children’s lives now and when they are adults and will lead to less discrimination. This is because a lot of inequality and discrimination is driven by a lack of understanding and knowledge – and ability to say ‘Well that is the same, but that is different; and to cope with that difference I need to ….’

Teachers are not just teaching children as individuals – they are helping children to live in society and shaping society as a whole – and this in my opinion is what is missing from much Government policy and practice in some  early years settings and schools. In my opinion within society we need people with a range of skills, for society to flourish, and all should be valued. However the current drive to assess everyone and benchmark them against just academic skills, will lead to a society that does not flourish, and in which many people feel that they have ‘failed’, are ‘not good enough’. The drive to turn out ‘little robots’ who have the same standard skills (and dreams) is going to lead to mental health issues, a lack of social skills,  and worse of all a lack of people with caring skills who at the end of the day are in my opinion more important than the business people, the bankers and the Government – because before all the afore mentioned were ‘created by society’ we survived as a society because we had caring skills – people who looked after each other and who worked together as a community. Everyone needs someone to care for them when they are born, when they are young children, when they are ill and when they are too old to care for themselves.

 

So this blog is somewhat longer than I thought it would be, I have extended my own understanding and knowledge, but have also created a rather long ‘to do list’ of things I want to do more reading / research about – but which I have decided I don’t have the time to do at this moment in time.

I apologise for the length of the blog – and for the typo’s, spelling and grammar errors , switching between tenses, and missed words,   which I know will be within this blog – but which I find very hard to spot, due to my difficulties with the written word. Previous readers of my blog will be  used to my difficulties and  they tell me that  ‘read past them’ concentrating on the content. However, I know that for some it does ‘annoy’ or ‘gets to them’ – and new readers of my blog may fall into this group of people.

However, I have long since accepted my difficulties and decided that I would rather communicate via the written word (and in particular this blog – than not share my thoughts with others. I hope that people will accept me for who I am, and enjoy / find my ramblings useful.

 

As this is my first blog based on my university studies, I am now wondering (reflecting) on if anyone else will read it, if anyone else will find it useful – and if anyone will agree with my view – or disagree with my view.

As always comments are very welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted October 26, 2014 by psw260259 in My university studies

Why I have decided to blog about my university studies ……………   2 comments

 

…………..the reason for is because I have returned to my studies and I am  attempting to gain my early years degree. I am studying at level 6 on the ‘Integrated working with children and families’ course at Worcester University. I am doing this through the Flexible and Distributed Learning route, which in my case means that I do not go into university for lectures and do my  group work online. However, there are monthly workshops on Saturdays, and two Saturday conferences over the year.

On the problems I have quickly identified is the time delay in the online discussions. We are supposed to make them similar to face to face discussions, such as you might have in lectures (so turn taking ‘conversations) – but I find this very difficult,  as I might post a comment but then it may be days before others respond and even longer for 2 or 3 to join the discussion. With my very busy and complicated life, I find it difficult to a) pick up discussions that might take a week or more to unfold – because during that time I would have moved onto several other topics through my blogs . my campaigning and my social media groups; and b) to actually remember to go back to the discussion and see if others have commented.

I have an university online journal which I am supposed to fill in to aid reflection and which should eventually support writing my assignments and my dissertation, but the problem with this is only myself and the tutors can read this – and for me this is far to limiting. As readers of my bog or members of my social media groups will know – I share my thoughts and professional practice, and information from conferences, training and workshops that I have attended with all those who wish to read my blogs / social media posts.

In a nutshell – if I am going to get the most out of my time at university I need to find a way to overcome my personal difficulties of time issues around online discussions, and also to find ways to share my reading, reflections and professional development with others.

So through my reflections about this issue, I have come up with my own way of managing this

I have decided that I will write blogs about the tasks I am asked to complete, and discussions I take part in, and reading / research that I do as part of my university studies.

I will then have an accessible record – that is accessible not only by myself but by anyone who wishes to read the blog entries. I will be able to refer to them myself to aid completion of my assignments and dissertation: I will be able to add links to my blogs both in my university online journal, and within the discussion posts that I take part in with fellow students – so that if they wish they can access my thoughts / comments all at once if they wish to do so, (and if I forget to go back to the discussion and add further comments) but also it will enable me  to revisit discussions,  and journal entries when maybe I have moved onto other things in my everyday life, and copy and paste the next bit of my discussion comments – and of course if needed update my blog or online journal entry as a result of taking on board comments by other students.

I hope that this will work – but if it does not then I will reflect and make changes as appropriate to the reflection at that time.

As to if others will read my ramblings about my university studies – time will tell (and so will the stats from my blog) but in fact it will not make much difference to me – to me it is the fact that people can read if they want to that matters most – not if they do read my ramblings.

To help myself and others find these blogs, I have set up a new category ‘ My university studies’

Posted October 26, 2014 by psw260259 in My university studies

Dear Mr. Gyimah ……….   6 comments

Dear Mr. Gyimah,

I am not sure if you are aware but I was what might be called a ‘thorn in the side’ of the previous early years minister – in fact I spent over two years of my life (from before she become the minister for early years right up to the day she was given her ‘promotion’ to a fully blown minster of state) challenging her proposals and policies.

 

Out of respect to you, apart from a couple of tweets and mentions in my blog and on Facebook inviting you to visit my setting / work in partnership with me  (which you did not respond to), I have remained silent wanting to give you chance to settle in, to learn the ropes of your new role – and indeed to engage with the early years sector – including with the many organisations that I am a member of.

In fact, chance to gather the basics, maybe to read some of the research, to ask some questions about why Ms Truss was so unpopular with the early years sector.

So yesterday I was able to judge for myself if you had used your time wisely, and if in fact you would actually stand up and be counted as someone who REALLY understands about the early years sector and the children and families who use early years settings.

Of course I am talking about your speech at the Policy Exchange (I am sure most people have already read it judging by the number of emails and social media comments that I am reading today) but out of fairness to you, so that everyone can read for themselves your actual words – here is the link   Link to Sam Gyimah’s speech at the Policy Exchange

 

My personal response – and that of MANY others – is that you really don’t have a clue. I am sorry to be so blunt, but it has to be said you are just making a terrible situation even worse.

Your mother sounds a wonderful mother doing her best to bring you and your siblings up under difficult circumstances – I say wonderful because she clearly understood (from what you have said)  the importance of spending time with her children, doing things such as reading to them.

Mr. Gyimah how can you justify two years old going to school against this loving family interaction? (during which time you would have been forming secure attachments with your mum, learning a love of books and stories – and no doubt a lot more as well but I can’t state that because you have not spoken about other aspects of your early years )

I could write pages of informed responses to your speech based on over 30 years of practice and over 38 years experience as a parent and a grandparent (just a a few  years  more than you Mr. Gyimah) but I won’t because many others have felt compelled to pen to paper about your speech in blogs, on social media and press releases.

I can tell you Mr. Gyimah – I have not witness such despair and horror since Truss mention her increased ratio proposal. In case you have not been briefed – I started the whole ratio campaign off when I set up the first ratio petition – the whole sector and parents came together on the ratio issue – and believe me they will come together now as a result of your speech at the Policy Exchange.

However I do want to pick up on your complete lack of mention of registered childminders in your speech – yes, of course I know registered childminders are apart of the PVI sector – but we are not nurseries or pre schools. You have stated in the articles I have read, that you really value the early years workforce – including registered childminders, and yet you have done your best to limit pre schools and nurseries to a sort of ‘add on’ to schools – and not mention registered childminders at all – not even childminder agencies – not even the  St.Bedes school childminder agency.

Why is this? – it is because actually childminder agencies are not financially sustainable or that hardly anyone wants to pay to join one?  I can only guess as no information about those childminder agencies that have set up or are being set up has been made available yet to the public.

Mr. Gyimah – as you will soon realise, as your little one reaches two years of age – they are still very young, they have many more needs than a 3 year old. If their parents WANT to work, they should have a choice of home based settings and small groups in a group based settings with staff who understand their needs.

Finally, I may be being cynical – but is this whole into school agenda complete with removal of the need for schools to register separately for the early years provision – just another money saving initiative?

But be warned Mr. Gyimah – without your ‘help’ schools will not be able to make the financial side add up – and unlike early years settings (including childminders) you will not find schools subsidising your lack of sufficient funding out of their own pockets.

Will we soon be seeing headlines that if schools employed qualified teachers, they will be able to have 1:13 ratios for 2 year olds within a school building?

Oh,  but Mr.Gyimah – that would be increased ratios – something that the sector have already said very strongly – along with many parents – that they won’t stand by and let the Government increase ratios

So it looks like you may have a battle on your hands

Maybe it would be better to walk away now (or to listen to what the sector says, and amend your policy ideas) before you get a promotion to another department or sidelined altogether when the Prime Minister realises that too many people don’t like what you are saying and vote with their feet by putting a cross in a different parties box on election day.

And if that is not good enough reason – act now before any of this ill informed policy impacts on your own child

 

Yours,

 

Penny Webb

Registered Childminder

Posted October 22, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

British Values and the agreements to provide early education places   3 comments

Those who work in education cannot have failed to notice the information about ‘British Values’ which the Government are saying we must promote to all children.

And now – after a bit of a delay as after all we are almost a whole half term into the academic year 2014 – 2015 – early years settings are being sent the new agreements to sign, if they want to provide Government funded early education places for 2, 3 and 4 year olds.

(And I am sure schools will have their own guidelines to follow)

 

These agreements that are now arriving on doorsteps – or into inboxes, are based on the guidelines set for local authorities by the Government, if you have not seen this document yet you can read it By clicking HERE

I have to say that when I first heard about ‘British Values’, I could see why the Government felt it was necessary to put pen to paper and specify what they felt needing clarifying.

I also have to say that at first, I did not agree with being told what to teach and what not to teach – especially in relation to the very young children in my care (under fives).

I questioned just what British Values are – and indeed from which point in British history should these values be based on  because at many points within British history the values and ethos have not been the sort of values that I personally believe in.

I also questioned why any further guidance was needed for early years setting as the Early Years Foundation Stage 2014 is very clear about the type of activities and experiences to be offered

And I was worried about the impact on all faith based settings because many faiths have lots of stories that can not be proven to be based on ‘established scientific or historical evidence and explanations’.

To be honest, although I do not practice any faith myself, I do think many of the faith stories (as well as stories from other cultures) are not only good stories to read but based on morals – ie rights and wrongs – and I use stories from a wide range of faiths and cultures in my setting.

 

So when I first saw the updated guidance document for Sept 2014 (there was a draft one that did not have the British Values bit) I admit I panicked at the way  it was worded in the first reference in the document – which is at the top of page 14, under A4b

that providers will actively promote fundamental British values and not promote views or theories as fact which are contrary to established scientific or historical evidence and explanations;

I thought to myself – how could I continue to read those stories that I and the children love when I could not say for sure which are / are not in line with above?

I had first seen sight of the document at a meeting with my LA – and so I asked for the document to be sent to me – which it was (surprisingly hard to find in a goggle search – the draft document comes up)

I read through it again – several times – it helped that my LA had highlighted in yellow all the main changes.

So I read this

A4.25 Fundamental British values, first set out in the Government’s Prevent strategy, are democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. The promotion of fundamental British values will be reflected in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and exemplified in an age-appropriate way through practice guidance

So, a little bit of reassurance – it mentions things that I can relate to, it mentions the Early Years Foundation Stage – but I still have a niggling doubt about the impact on my practice.

I read on ….

A4.26 The reference to the promotion as evidence-based of views and theories contrary to established scientific or historical evidence and explanations is intended to cover the presentation of creationism as fact. It has no bearing on teaching children about religious
beliefs, traditions and festivals, and is simply intended to remove funding from providers presenting such views and beliefs as ‘fact’ or ‘science’

and

A4.27 The learning goals in the EYFS are clear that providers are expected to teach a broad and balanced curriculum to ensure that children ‘understand the world’ and learn about ‘similarities and differences between themselves and others, and among families, communities and traditions’. Providers who wish to celebrate religious and cultural festivals, for example putting on a nativity play, a harvest festival or a celebration of Eid, can still do so.

By now, I am feeling a lot more positive – but I was still not sure how I could ensure I met the criteria – especially as I do provide early education places for 2, 3 and 4 years olds – I was going to be required to sign my LA provider agreement.

 

I put the kettle on, made a coffee and did some thinking – and some reflecting

I recalled a situation from many years ago when I advised a colleague about a situation around a parent who did not want their child to be ‘lied to’ not even half truths or suggestions – therefore Father Christmas was not real so could not tell the child he was or even suggest he might be

My advise at the time was to ask the parent if telling stories was allowed – after all we all know Spot the Dog does not exsist and dogs don;t talk, so if applying literally all stories would be on the ‘ can’t do list’

As it happens the parent was happy with this, and so in the childminders setting or when at groups (including the one I ran at the time) we just had to make sure we started all stories with ‘This is a story about ……’

By now my coffee was finished and so was my reflecting – I had the answer to my self set question about how I could meet the criteria of the provider agreement – and still read all those lovely stories from different cultures and faiths.

 

I would simply start every story with

‘This is a story about …. then the name of the author, the illustrator and so on – that way all books / stories would be treated in the same way and I would not be suggesting that some where ‘real’ or fact based.

A much happier me

Oh and if children ask me if something is real ……… I will do what I already do with things like fairies, Father Christmas and dragons – I will ask the children what they think and let them decide for themselves – at that moment in time.

It would be interesting to hear what others think – so please do comment here on my blog about British Values

 

 

Posted October 18, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Speech and Language development – A reflection on my practice   10 comments

This week I attended a meeting where there was a consultation  from the NHS Speech and Language team. They wanted feedback on some recording forms and some information packs that they might send out to settings to provide support to children. There were even some  filled in fictitious examples for us to look at and comment on.

There was a range of early years practitioners in the room – all of whom were from group settings (apart from me of course)

Discussions were around training attended in the past, support received in the past, phonics systems used, number of children with speech and language difficulties.

I admit to saying very little during the discussions but was listening with interest to my colleagues, as I know that speech and language difficulties / delay are on the increase and indeed in many areas (including the one I live in ) the % of children  with these developmental concerns is worrying.

Colleagues were asking lots of questions about support available – and how it all fits in with the new SEND code of practice – as they should because they need the information to support the children in their care.

I was then asked a direct question about my thoughts on the example documents – and it was this that has prompted my reflection and therefore this blog.

My response was –  ‘In over 30 years of childcare practice, I have never had to ask for support with speech and language – and all the children in my care have had excellent speech and language skills’.

There was a ‘wow’ and a ‘Really’ and a bit of a shocked silence (only seconds) – and then there was a bit of a conversation;

I then said – 2 years ago  – under a continuity of care  exception I was caring for 5 children –  2 of whom were bilingual (and not even the same home language) and all are now at school and have excellent language skills

Questions were then asked;

Did I carefully select the children I took on? –  the answer is no

Do children come to me with speech and language concerns? – the answer is sometimes, although they often start my setting as non verbal babies

I mentioned that maybe to do with home based setting – so not huge rooms, or low ratios

Then one colleague said ‘Well that is an excellent recommendation for benefits of childminding’

So over the days since that meeting, I have been thinking – or as we call it in professional terms – reflecting.

Why (so far) have all the children in my care developed excellent receptive and expressive language?

Is it because my setting is quite small (a family home) and that we don’t have high ceilings and echoing rooms?

Is it because we have carpets and soft furnishings the help with absorption of noise?

Is it because usually I don’t have TV or radio or music on? (and if I do only for short periods of times)?

Is it because of low numbers of children and so less volume of talking, crying and so on?

Is it because of low ratio’s – usually only 3 children here – and even if have exception in place the maximum would be 6 children to one adult, so more opportunity to listen, to communicate with each child?

Is it because of low ratio’s that children get more opportunity to talk with peers  / adults in games, in conversation, in  real life situations. (I can’t help thinking that having to wait your turn to speak when 10, 20 or more other children need a turn to speak, is going to make it more difficult to develop language skills)

Is it because children only have one key worker (me) for their whole time in my setting – day in, day out – so develop really positive relationships built on shared knowledge and understanding?

Is it because every day the children’s parents come into the setting and talk to me – and in their children’s presence, making talking a central aspect of setting ethos.

Is it because we go out in the community and speak to others – such as colleagues, neighbours, shop assistants and so on, and doing ‘everyday things’ – like posting letters, going to the supermarket and the garden centre?

Is it because I can tailor the environment / curriculum to each individual child – and therefore they have sustained interest in the opportunities offered – and so talk about them more?

Is it because we sing and tell stories whenever we can, and wherever we can ?

Is it because the children lead their own learning and so are not having to do things that they are not interested in, and can do the same sort of thing for months at a time – if they want to?

Is it because the children sense my interest in them and what they are doing – (they don’t know I am a advocate for the child and actively engage in listening to  the voice of the child) – but do they sense (so know) that I am listening to them, really listening – and not just to their verbal communication?

Is it because ……………..

…………………………….. well, is it because we use language all the time ?

 

A few things are certain though ….

It is not because I use a phonics system – oh yes I have ‘things’ that support phonics which I use as and when the children are ready to use them, but I don’t have a brought in phonics system

It is not because I am a graduate – yes I am currently undertaking my degree – but not to set out to  improve my practice or my understanding, (or to climb the career ladder), I am doing it because I want proof that I know what I am on about – in other words I feel that without a bit of paper that says I have a degree – no one in Government will think I am ‘qualified’ . Of course I will learn a few things / fine tune a few things as a result of getting my degree  – but I am not going suddenly know a lot more than I already know from my years of experience.

So why is it that to date – I have never had to ask for support with speech and language?

So why is it that to date 100% of the children in my care have gone on to school with excellent receptive and expressive language?

I would love to be able to do some ‘proper’ research on this, to find out – if it is just me,  just the children who been in my care – or do registered childminders in general provide the ‘right’ environment and opportunities for language development?

I would love the Government to ask a few more questions when gathering data for end of early years foundation stage profile about the settings that children attend before starting school reception, and to do some research of their own about the outcomes of children who attend registered childminder settings – and for that matter who are cared for in their own homes by parents, grandparents or daily / live in Nannies.

Not just language development but all areas. I think there maybe a few surprises that could be uncovered.

Of course the picture will not be clear and the data will need further unpicking – for example children often attend more than one setting before starting reception, or a number of settings within the same day – but I think a start should be made in trying to establish if children who attend a childminder setting do well in particulars areas or not.

 

And as I am really interested in finding out more – I have had a go at setting up my first ever survey – I hope it works and I hope readers will respond.

 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Q939JMD

Posted October 17, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues