Early Education AGM and Seminar 2014   Leave a comment

I very nearly did not go to this years Early Education AGM  and in fact I had sent in my apologies. I was gutted because I had asked in my feedback the year before if the AGM could be held outside London sometimes – and this year it was held in Birmingham (almost on my doorstep)

The reason I thought I could not go was because it clashed with one of my university course conference days.

However a chance discussion with one of my uni tutors made me re think my decision – and I am so glad that I did.

So on Saturday 8th November 2014, I found myself on the train to Birmingham – a little nervous as I was going to Snows Hill station for the first time, and I was not sure of where I would come out in relation to the venue – or in relation to a nearby coffee shop – because as usual I would be very early – and planned to meet a colleague who was going, and to read the paper connected to the seminar by  Professor Tony Bertram and Professor Chris Pascal.

I had printed it out- all 78 pages, because I find it really hard to read on a computer screen.

On the train journey I had a message from Michelle Rogers who I was going to meet, saying that at last minute she was unable to attend – and please could I pass on a message to Early Education to give her apologies – very important as Michelle was standing as a Trustee this year.

So I arrive at Snows Hill and make my way to the exit – with map in hand I find my way to the venue – literally a 2 – 3 min walk – and to my delight on the short walk I passed a coffee shop. Reassured about where the AGM was being held, I retraced my steps to the coffee shop, ordered coffee and cake and settled down to read the paper by CREC, which is an Early Years Literature Review.

If you are interested in reading it, Early Education with kind permission by Tony and Chris have made the paper available FREE to everyone on their website.

Link to download the Early Years Literature Review

While on the website please take a look at the other stuff on there. (And if you are one of my student peers studying at university – take a look at the membership options for university and have a word with your tutors!) However even if your university is not a member of Early Education, there is a special student membership – with many benefits – although not all the benefits of individual membership.

I am an individual member and I think it provides value for money, click on link to go to the right page on the Early Education website Early Education individual membership

I became engrossed in reading the paper – some things I was nodding my head to, and saying to myself – quite right, these things are very important. Other things  I was questioning in my head and making a mental note to mention at the seminar if I had opportunity.

I managed to scan read about half the document in the time available – in my case that means skipping title pages, index pages, and some other stuff that I may (or may not) return to later. I have recently discovered that I am highly likely to be dyslexic and to have dyspraxia (initial assessments done – 3rd, 3hr one to go), and this puts my reading into context – I find it really hard, (as in physically draining) and very time consuming, and the test have shown that I am a slow reader. So my guess is that over time I have developed ‘coping strategies’ – one of which is ‘scan reading’ and coming to a fairly quick personal overview.

So my quick personal overview of the bit of Tony’s and Chris’s paper that I had read – was ‘This is good. So many points that I agree with’ in particular the aspects in relation to the first 1001 days (which is pregnancy and up to two) – and as a result I was looking forward to the seminar even more.

Coffee and cake finished, I set off for the short walk to venue – I find it so reassuring to know how to get to venues and hate arriving late and then unable to find the door in (as was the case with Early Education national conference in Edinburgh). However, no such problems on this occasion. I find the door, go in and can see the signing in desk in front of me.

I signed in, and gave Michelle’s apologies – so they are not waiting for her to arrive. I note that there are not many name badges available and wonder why given the excellent central location and the guest speakers. Even the price for the day (including lunch) was in my opinion very reasonable. However, I then think about my own decisions around which event to attend – and recall several others that I could have gone to, so maybe that was the reason – Early Education members had had to make difficult decisions about which event to attend?

After a visit to the restroom and hanging up my coat (so pleased about this small point – but nothing worse than having to drag your coat around all day – especially if the coat is wet), I wonder into the refreshment area and pour myself a coffee and take a packet of biscuits. I then go over to look at the publications – like many membership organisations Early Education produced a range of excellent publications – and I have several already. If you are not familiar with Early Educations publications – click on this link   Link to Early Education publications on website ( the eagle eyed among you will have already spotted them on the page with the download to Tony and Chris’s paper)

I say ‘Hello’ to a lady that I vaguely recognise and so glance at her name badge – Julie it says – ah the very person that my colleague Michelle had asked me to pass the message to. So I explain to Julie about Michelle being unable to attend and give some personal info as well – Julie appears quite relieved to have the message – and it soon becomes clear why – she speaks to a couple of other people and says, ‘Penny’s message answers our question’. Apparently all is now sorted!

I move away from the publications and find a table, I am joined by a lady from ‘Cosy’ who are displaying some of their resources – and giving out catalogues and posters (I love their posters – especially the ‘stick’ one)

If you are not familiar with Cosy’s resources take a look at their website        Link to Cosy website

We have a lovely chat about play and appropriate environments for children – not just those in the early years. Of course after a while the Cosy lady needs to go and speak to other people.

By now the refreshment area is starting to fill up – and I notice a few people I know and a few other faces that I recognise from other Early Education events – including my colleague Kathryn Solly.

Beatrice Merrick (Early Education CE) comes over for a chat, and we pick up on our discussions from the national conference and emails since then. I find it reassuring that not only are childminders very welcome to join Early Education as members but that staff and volunteers show a real interest in childminding and in how we can all work together in the best interests of children. At first glance it might appear that the historic membership of Early Education (which is maintained Nursery Schools) would not be ideal for productive or supportive partnership working relationships with childminders – but I have found that we do  have a huge amount of similarities in our thoughts about practice that is in the best interests of children – as well of course a few areas of differences . Personally, I think these differences are a good thing as this means there are a range of settings that are not all identical and which therefore – between them – can support the unique – and diverse – needs of children.

Once Beatrice has moved onto talk to other delegates (and to Julie about getting started), I go over to have a word with Kathryn – and as it happens only a quick word as we are encouraged to make our way into the main hall. Kathryn sits by me and we exchange family news (mainly about grandchildren and children) and have an informative chat about dairy intolerance and allergies, as this occurs in both of our families.

I notice James Hempsall is in the room. James is taking a lead role in the funded two year old scheme. I have met James on a couple of occasions and are on first name terms. Information about James involvement in the Two year old project can be found here        Link to Hempsall’s Achieving Two Year Olds

The seminar starts – and after welcomes and introductions, Chris and Tony get down to the job in hand – talking about their literature review. As always, I am not going to repeat word for word what they said – you can read their report thanks to it being on the Early Education website – and you can access more information about their work from the          CREC website.

However, I will give an overview of the things that stood out for me – first the importance of the first 1001 days and getting it right – including;  housing, healthy diet, removing stress, parenting skills – in general happiness and well being of children being the MOST important aspects to make a difference to children. Early education can and does make a difference but can not close the gap enough. The figure given were shocking about poverty, and about the ‘hidden children’ – the ones we do not even know where they are because they are constantly moving accommodation or don’t even have accommodation. The facts about the most disadvantaged were surprising – White – boys – living in poverty; and having the most complex barriers to overcome.

As I sat there reflecting I thought about the children I know, and about my own family members – both close and extended, and about the children that I have looked after over the last 30 years – and I could relate to these facts – and to the fact that things are getting worse – yes some good work is being done and some improvements in some areas seen – but overall things are not significantly improving and in many areas things are getting worse.

The fact about the genetic impact on future generations through the effect of stress and poor diet and poor housing – from grandmother – to mother in the creation of mothers eggs in the womb – and therefore to the grandchild of that grandmother was something that I had not really thought much about – but it made prefect sense to me. As did the fact that many parents today did not receive good parenting experiences themselves – and we now have two or in some cases three generations where parenting experiences have progressively deteriorated.

I also reflected on the whole first 1001  days – and thought to myself – many of my colleagues in this room do not care for children within this time frame – but my colleagues from the childminding sector and day nursery sector often do. I thought about the children currently in my care – 3 of them fall into this category (as do my 3 youngest grandchildren). I thought about the funded two year olds – and couldn’t help thinking that although I know from personal experience the funding does make a difference – that maybe more support for parents in parenting, and with housing and diet – and indeed a ‘living wage’ and less pressure to put their very young children into childcare, could have more impact – make more of a difference to more children. Certainly it needs a lot more thinking about – but does fit in with my campaign thoughts around Too Much, Too Soon – and the whole back to work Government drive – and the idea behind the Save Childhood Movement (which is not just about education)

I remember looking about the document about the 1001 Critical  Days when it first came out – and resolved to re look at it – as my scan and quick personal summary clearly needed some refreshing and extending.

(When I got home I did do this and downloaded the report – and if you want to have a second look, or maybe a first look)      http://www.andrealeadsom.com/downloads/1001cdmanifesto.pdf

As as Postscript to this bit about the 1001 Critical Days – and my increased knowledge from re looking at the document – I was delighted this week when an email popped into my inbox from another organisation that I am a member of  – AIMH (if interested follow     THIS LINK ) The email informed me that there were still places available at an event in London on Thursday 20th November. I made enquires, sorted out childcare arrangements for my childminded children – and my foster child (amazed all fell into place) and booked a place. Why my excitement?

WELL – This is the event

Seizing the day to improve the nurture of our youngest children – 20th November 2014, 2.00pm-4.00pm

1001 Critical Days and Foundation Years Information and Research joint seminar in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of UNCRC. Speakers are: Professor Sir Al Aynsley Green, Professor Emeritus of Child Health at University College London and former first Children’s Commissioner for England and Dr Gabriella Conti, Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Health Research, University College London

Hopefully all clear now  why I wanted to attend?

So as is often the case – one thing leads to another – but back to the Early Education AGM and Seminar

At the end of Tony’s and Chris’s presentation, we had a little time for small group discussion – James Hempsall joined Kathryn and myself and we shared our thoughts. When feedback was asked for – I had a few things to say both from my reading in the coffee shop – and from listening to the presentation. So up went my hand – actually, I wish my hand and my mouth were not so keen – because my brain struggles to find the right words (and on this occasion it was worse than usual because I had the results from my pre assessment for dyslexia in my head – and instead of giving me confidence that actually despite my difficulties with words that usually I do OK in expressing my thoughts – my confidence had taken a major shaking, and I was physically shaking and starting to get the all too familiar spasms in my back –  and I was thinking I hope I don’t say the ‘wrong word’ or mispronounce the ‘right word’). I have to say I was surprised at the impact on my confidence – however my hand in the air and my mouth in cooperation with my ever ready ‘soap box’ were having non of that ‘I can’t do it attitude’  and continued to attract attention to me – and of course Tony / Chris noticed and there was nothing for it, but to say what I wanted to, with what I call ‘little words’.

I asked Tony and Chris about the data used in their research – because as far as I am aware there is very little research about the impact of childminders – both in relation to when children only attend a childminding setting (as did the children who left my setting to go to full time school in September) or when there was shared care between one or more settings – as is the case for some of children in my care this term. Tony agreed but did say there had been some research but only in relation to childminders and healthy diets (and that he had been impressed by the childminders knowledge and practice), the SEED research was also mentioned – as childminders are involved in this. I am aware of the SEED research but at the moment reserving judgement because I don’t think the research is focussed on the right things or conducted in the right way. However it would be very silly of me to jump to conclusions before the results of the research are published. So time will tell.

I also raised the issue about the paper mentioning that nursery schools were in a prime position to lead the practice of other settings in their local area – I objected to this, and suggested that it would be better to say ‘work in partnership with’, because although no doubt as a childminder I could learn from my nursery school colleagues (and indeed my PVI colleagues) nursery schools could also learn from me. Surely it was a case of learning from each other, and providing a choice of settings and practice, in order to meet the needs of all children. Tony and Chris agreed I had a point.

My final point was in relation to the Governments drive to have a graduate led early years workforce – and that despite my own thoughts that experience was as important (in fact in my opinion you need knowledge, understanding and an ability to implement) I had enrolled on the top up degree to gain my degree – but that it was costing me £6,000 – which is a huge amount to anyone in the early years sector – but especially to childminders as this amount often equated to a WHOLE years income once business expenses had been deducted.

There was general agreement in the room about my points – and indeed a colleague made the point about sufficient funding for the sector – including gaining qualifications.

A few more points were raise – some of which were around the closure and threat of closure to many maintained nursery schools (it appears that like within the childminding sector,  the Government are doing nothing / very little to ensure survival of either sector)

By now we were running late for lunch and so we had to end there. However, before I went to get my lunch – I went to have a chat with Tony and Chris – as it turned out – mainly to Tony as my colleague Kathryn was having a chat with Chris.

I mentioned to Tony that I was one of the people he had mentioned at the beginning of his presentation, who is an advocate for children and not afraid to speak up for the children when Government policy is not in the best interest of children (actually, despite my well worn soap box – I am always scared and a nervous wreak whenever I do object to Government policy- as it is not my natural persona – but I can not standby and say nothing). Helen Moylett, passed me as I said this to Tony, and put her hand on my shoulder – and said something on the lines of ‘She is’

Tony and I chatted for a bit longer, and Tony asked for my email address (and for good measure I gave him my blog details as well) Tony promised to stay in touch and especially if he or Chris needed some input from a childminders perspective.

And as another postscript – as it happens Tony has already been in touch via email

There was a lovely selection of sandwiches and fruit (plus some crisps) for lunch – and I put a few on my plate – I was starving (well not in the real sense of the word – but ready for lunch). As usual though I talked too much and only ate a little bit – I chatted to several people including Ros who I had met in Edinburgh, and a lady from Birmingham branch of Early Education (who I am a ashamed to say I have forgotten her name – but it may have been Margaret), however I do remember the conversations with both of them – which were about Ofsted inspections, labels on boxes, signing with children and other communication methods. Excellent sharing of knowledge and information.

As I had talked so much – I was still hungry (and had not had a drink) when we were asked to go back into the hall for the AGM part of the day, so I grabbed a satsuma and a banana from the fruit bowl and joined the others on the hall.

Again I am not going to repeat word for word what was said – and members will get the official minutes in due course. My personal overview is there was a lot of talk about funding – lack of it last year – and hopes for some in the next year; talk about the new website (which in my opinion is so much better than the old one); talk about publications and the associates training programme; and most importantly thanks to the retiring Trustees and welcome to the new Trustees – including my colleague Michelle Rogers. It was a huge shame that some delegates were so delayed in their travels that they did not arrive until almost the end of the day – and this included one of the retiring Trustee’s – however she did get her well deserved round of applause and like all the retiring Trustee’s a small token of appreciation.

We discussed Early Educations Position Paper which is available on the Early Education website                            http://www.early-education.org.uk/sites/default/files/Position%20paper.pdf and I made a suggestion that Early Education add Childminder qualifications to the things that they plan to campaign about, because in my view if childminders are to be given the same professional status as other early years practitioners there should be the same requirement for minimum qualification – provided phased in. It was agreed that this could be added to the things to be campaigned about.

We said thanks to Julian Grenier  who was standing down as Chair of Trustees, and learnt that a replacement for Helen Moylett in her role as President of the association had been found – but that we would give our thanks to Helen when she officially stood down.

Julian gave the closing speech and I was very pleased to note that Julian mentioned childminders several times – and working in partnership.

Before leaving the room I had a chat with Helen Moylett and Nancy Stewart – Helen mentioned that she had read my blog about going to university, which surprises me that people like Helen might read my blogs on ocassion, without any prompting from myself to do so. Both Helen and Nancy said really nice things about my ability to articulate the things I wanted to say – even with only using ‘little words’ – which helped boost my confidence a little.

Glancing at my phone, I could see that I had a little bit of time before catching my train – so I was grateful to see that coffee was still available, so I poured a cup and sat down for a last minute chat with colleagues (mainly listen on my part) before heading off to catch the train.

My head was full of things I wanted to find out more about and to reflect on – but by the time I was half way home – I had to refocus my thoughts to the next few hours when I would be joining my husband, my foster child and one of my ten grandchildren at a firework display.



Posted November 15, 2014 by psw260259 in Conferences that I have attended

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