Early Years 2014 ‘How Children Learn’ conference 19th September 2014   1 comment

I have attended the previous two years conferences put on by Early Years Educator magazine – in 2012 and 2013 , and have found them to be very informative and provide excellent opportunities for networking with colleagues from across all early years sectors both in this country and from overseas.

If you have not read my blogs about the previous conferences, you can do so by clicking on the links

2012 Conference PART ONE

2012 Conference PART TWO

2012 Conference PART THREE

2012 Conference PART FOUR

2013 Conference PART ONE

2013 Conference PART TWO

2013 Conference PART THREE


In 2013, I had suggested in my feedback that may be people found two day conferences a bit expensive, especially if the had to add travel and / or overnight costs. It appears that the conference organisers did consider my suggestion, as the 2014 conference was indeed a one day event. However, like many in the early years sector, budget cuts and reduced income had had an impact on me – and when I first looked at the cost to book onto the 2014 conference, I had reluctantly decided that I could not afford to go – because as well as conference fee and travel, I would have to take a day off unpaid.

So that was that!

But it wasn’t (clearly not as I am now writing a blog about attending!)

As many will know, I am now a foster carer, and during discussion about my fostering CPD – it was agreed that my fostering agency would pay for me to attend – I was delighted, as now I could go and only had to cover the cost of travel and the cost of losing a days pay – which was manageable.

In the end the fostering agency on my recommendation, decided to send another foster carer and two members of staff to the conference.

Therefore on Friday 19th September, I found myself sat in the reception area with a fostering colleague and two members of fostering staff, having a coffee and looking at the agenda for the day.


I was quite excited, because as well as the Keynote Speech, workshops and other guest speakers, I had arranged to make personal contact with a number of people, and indeed before having my coffee I had already spoken briefly to Neil Henty, editor of EYE.

The Conference

We had a welcome address from Matt Govett who is the managing director of MA Education (who now publish a huge range of early years publications – many of which I personally subscribe to)

Then it was Judith’s opening remarks which really focussed on the speakers and workshops that had been organised, plus the usual ‘domestic’s’.

Then it was the Keynote speech by Nancy Stewart  on Attachments in Early Years I was really looking forward to this as attachments are so important in my work both with the children I childmind and the children I foster.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I never go into a great deal of information about workshops and conferences  that attend I attend, because I believe that the information provided is the ownership of the author and that many speakers use the information for other workshops and conferences – and in doing so earn their living that way.

However I do give a personal overview, and highlight a few of the things that I noted, and if possible provide links to website and so on.

I found myself nodding in agreement with Nancy about many aspects of her speech – but the one thing that has stuck in my mind more than anything else – was when we asked to shut our eyes while some music was played. When we were told to open our eyes we had been transported (via the images on the screen) to another planet, where we did not know anyone, where we did not speak the language, and where we did not know where to find food, shelter or comfort.A very powerful message when related to the children who attend our settings – especially the youngest children and in particular the two year olds, who are able to do more than an under two, but still are dependent on adults, to meet most of their needs.

The other thing to stick in my mind was the clips about the different types of attachment (and the explanation of the different terminology sometimes used but that has the same meaning), The percentages quoted about the number of children who don’t have secure attachments was staggering – but actually not really a surprise when you consider modern life, changes to family structures and the extreme stress many families have to deal with, day in and day out.

Next up, was a presentation by Kate Wall  on Involving and engaging children with SEN. I had not heard Kate speak before but she is a woman who thinks like me – and questions what the Government are trying to achieve. Kate told us that she has tried to retire but that has proved impossible and she is ‘still going’ and currently undertakes research, gives presentations and writes.

Kate took us through the new code of practice for SEND which covers the age range 0 – 25 and is a hefty document – almost 300 pages long. Luckily there is a separate download available that covers Early Years.  Basically Kate’s message was although there are some changes to terminology and paperwork requirement – early years settings good practice remains good practice, and that if the child was at the centre of that practice, and parents were including in working in partnership – then the child’s needs would be met.

My notes taken on the day are very brief (as they always are) but I had written a few words which really linked the first two speakers points together (at least in my head). I had written;

Listen – really listen and not just to verbal language

Always be there to support – essential to be ‘available’

Make suggestions – but tell how to do things

Have empathy – put yourself in the children’s shoes

Ensure accept children for who they are – not who adults want them to be

The last one – which I have put in bold sums up a lot of what I think is wrong with our education policy – as it seems to me that the Government would like children to be ‘little robots’ – all achieving the same ‘goals’ with no individual characteristics. If only the Government would let children be children, yes children need support, yes children need encouragement, yes children should reach their full potential – but they should reach that potential in their own good time, following their own chosen path. We are not robots, we can not all be the same, and we should celebrate each and every child’s uniqueness and specialness

By now it was time for a break – and I had chance to have a quick chat with Judith Stevens and Nancy Stewart about the morning so far and current Government policy, and the disappointing numbers attending the conference and why that might be. I also made sure I had a very quick word with Kate – telling we thought on the same lines.

I also said hello to Sue – who I engage with via Early Education, and social media, and we had a chat (together with another colleague) about the new early years qualifications, and the requirement for Maths and English GCSE’s.

Before we knew it, break was over and it was time to go to our workshops – I went to the one led by Harriet Price on The Child at the Heart of Learning , as did my friend Sue, and my fostering colleague.

Harriet introduced herself – and then we introduced ourselves – in the room were people from local authorities, from colleges and from early years settings – so a good mix.

Harriet ask us all an interesting question – if we were delivering the workshop – what would we talk about?

Sue, my fostering colleague and myself – knew what we would talk about and why – we also knew what we would not include (all those tick list assessments and tracking to goals). It was interesting hearing other groups feedback.

At this point my fostering colleague started coughing and had to leave the room – someone from another table near the door went to help, but when neither returned to the room after a few minutes, I went to see if I could help – so I missed part of the workshop.

Harriet spoke a lot about David Whitebread – who happens to be one of my Save Childhood Movement colleagues – and who I had arranged to meet at lunchtime. Anyway, I digress  –  Harriet told us about David’s paper on the Five Types of Play – which if you are interested in finding out more, you can read about it by clicking on the link below

Importance of Play

We watched some film clips from Siren Films on Physical Play  which highlighted this type of play but  also showed how links to other types of play.

This is a link to a sales ad for Siren Films – but it does show a little of the film Sales Ad for Siren Films


The other activity we had was to look at some information sheets that Harriet had produced for use in her setting  – to be honest not my cup of tea, as I find that sort of thing puts children in boxes, and restricts both children’s and adults creativity. However I can see how with an inexperienced or young staff team this sort of thing would be a helpful first step in supporting the adults to think for themselves.

There were other workshops on offer, but of course I could only attend one.

Lunch was next on the agenda – I spotted David Whitebread having lunch and went up to say hello to him – he very kindly asked me to join him for lunch, which I did (after explaining to Sue that I would be doing so – and dumping my large handbag near her for safe keeping)

David and I had a little chat about Save Childhood Movement and my role within the Early Years Education Group, but after just a few minutes we were joined by Harriet Price – who knows David well, and Nancy Stewart. The discussion then turned to discussing my experiences with my foster child – and how I was using play resources to support the child is filling the gaps in his experiences and knowledge, Other subjects discussed included setting up of a school by a university – and the importance of getting the early years bit right; the involvement of childminders in projects / children’s centre’s / schools.

Judith Stevens then join us at the table and two discussions were going on at once – I was invited to join Nancy and Judith in a discussion about the ‘little people’ in our lives, grandchildren and so on.

I felt honoured to have been invited to join Judith, Nancy, Harriet and David – and also just a tad guilty at having abandon my friend Sue – and indeed my colleagues from the fostering agency.

Time then to resume the conference presentations, David Whitebread was next to speak on the subject of Self regulation, I was really looking forward to this, as it is an area that I am interested in – as well as an area that I think is often overlooked or not thought enough about.

David started by saying he was up against time as he had 2 or 3 hours worth of information to fit in to a 40 min presentation

David’s opening group exercise did not impress me – it was some Maths questions for those in the room – and worse mental maths! Of course there was a serious reason for this exercise – which was about how we reached our answers, how we used previous skills and experiences, how if we found it difficult we used coping methods and found ways around our difficulties – all on our own – and in doing so we were demonstrating self regulation – none of us screamed, or walked out of the room – we coped, we found ways to deal with it – including the ‘I have tried, but I just can’t do it – but the answer is going to be something near this number’

David then had so much to fit into his presentation that he had to miss bits, and rush bits, but even so he had me hooked! I already knew a fair bit about self regulation but David opened my eyes to much more.

If you are interested in reading some of David’s work and starting or continuing you own journey of understanding of self regulation click on the link


or this one

Early Development of Self Regulation


The last speaker of the day was Di Chivers on Creating and Thinking critically, as it happens I had read an article by Di in EYE magazine recently and had been impressed with how she had captured the story behind the children’s play. Di’s presentation was based around these stories and the children’s critical thinking. Although Di’s presentation was interesting and filled with lovely photo’s, and I fully  understood what she was saying about children’s thinking and the adult role; I think the fact that I had already read the article, the fact that it was the last session of the day, …… and the fact that I was already thinking about the next part of the day when I knew I had limited time to dash across Birmingham and catch a train (or rather two trains) to Kettering for another conference on Saturday – meant that I was not fully focussed on what Di was saying.

I have since goggled Di’s name and found about a bit more, to make up for my lack of attention on the day

About Di Chivers


As soon as I had listen to Judith’s closing remarks, filled in my evaluation sheet (including comment about including the home environment and involving childminders more – and a note that I MIGHT be interested in presenting a workshop or presentation if there is a conference next year) – I was out of door, dashing across Birmingham to New Street – where I caught my train – just in time.





Posted October 2, 2014 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

One response to “Early Years 2014 ‘How Children Learn’ conference 19th September 2014

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  1. Thanks so much for posting this Penny, I really wanted to attend but couldn’t afford it. I’ve downloaded the reports/research and am looking forward to reading them.

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