Pacey conference Saturday 16th May 2015 – Especially for Shirleen and Keith   Leave a comment

As most people are aware my main membership organisation is the Preschool Learning Alliance, however I am also a member of many other early years organisations which is beneficial to myself as a registered childminder. It is also beneficial in my campaigning efforts as being a member of different  organisations means that we can work in more effective partnership.
Pacey is one of these organisations that I am a member of and work in partnership with, and I have an excellent relationship with staff and other members.
However, due to budget restraints I did not plan to attend their conference on the Power of Play.

I was aware of the programme being put together, as one of my Save Childhood Movement colleagues, Pam Jarvis was speaking at the event and had given me the honour of looking at and commenting on  her presentation from a childminder’s perspective prior to the event.

I was then given the opportunity to attend the Pacey conference as two of my local colleagues Shirleen and Keith were unable to attend as unfortunately Shirleen was poorly and so offered me their ticket. Although saddened that my colleagues could not attend, I was delighted to accept the offer, especially as I was already in London for the Neytco event (which you can read about by following this link ).
I made hasty arrangements to stay an extra night at my colleagues Mick and Sally’s house, squeezed an extra outfit into my overnight bag and headed off to London on Thursday 14th May.

On the morning of Saturday 16th May, Mick,Sally and myself  set of at 7.30 am to catch the train into London, luckily the rain from Thursday had disappeared and we had no trouble in reaching our destination. When we arrived at the venue we were greeted very warmly by Sarah Edwards who is Paceys volunteer officer. As we were early we took opportunity to network with colleagues and staff, and to look at the products being displayed by the exhibitors. I brought a set of books from Clickety Books, ( Jake’s Cakes, Digby the Diggedy Dog, and Millie Makes a Mess. I had a conversation with them, as I have professional contacts with Anne and Richard.. If you want to find out more, click on the link

I then noticed  Penny Tassoni, who I’d met at the NEYTCO event on Thursday night, was in the conference room. I went over to say hello to Penny and to wish her well with her presentation, and was delighted the on seeing me,  she stood up and gave me a warm hug. After a brief discussion Penny had to get on with her preparation for her presentation and so I went back to networking with other colleagues.

Liz Bayram, Pacey’s chief executive, opened the conference, welcomed us all, and after the normal housekeeping, she presented an excellent talk on play and why it is so important for early years children. She also spoke about the role childminders have in promoting appropriate play, and the role Pacey is playing in promoting members skills and strengths to government, so that childminding is firmly on the early years agenda.

Next on the programme was the keynote speech from Penny Tassoni, I was really looking forward to this and I was not disappointed as Penny gave a brilliant keynote on the Rainbow Shades of Play. As Penny explained play does come in all sorts of shades and  mean something different  for every person, including every child. With play there is not a right and wrong but what is important is that the child is at the heart of the play, and is supported by adults rather than directed by adults. Penny spoke with passion, with examples from practice, and her own life experiences including the fact that she had cut off her Barbie doll’s hair. Penny spoke about children  needing  different play at different times of the day, and the need for play to extend and change as children grow older. One fact that made me sit up and think and reflect about my own practice with early years children, is that a child who is in full daycare can spend well over 9,000 hours in a daycare setting before starting school. Penny posed the reflective question about changing the environment, about not providing all experiences at once and leaving some things to be experienced later. There was of course a lot more content to Penny’s keynote speech, but as  is my way I am not going to recall every word or idea because I feel that is not fair to the speakers or to those who paid to attend. Normally I would put a link here to Penny’s website or information about, however there’s not an awful lot available other than information about the books that she has written which you will be easily find through a Google search.

We then had  a tea and coffee break, with opportunities to look at the exhibitors displays and important networking.  During this networking time I had opportunity to speak to Penny Tassoni again and said the answer to one of the questions from another delegate,  was private playspace could be provided behind the sofa in the lounge so that the EYFS requirements about  the supervision of the children were upheld. I spent the rest of the break networking with colleagues both those I had met before and those that I’d met for the first time today, and including conversation with Victoria Flint from Pacey about our shared concerns post-election for the early years sector.

After the break we broke up into workshop groups, I was attending the one by Ben Tawil who is a senior lecturer in play and play work and childhood studies at Leeds Beckett University. I had not heard Ben talk before and so the workshop on ‘Play the importance of the seemingly frivolous’ was both interesting and informative. Although some parts of the presentation were difficult for me to understand as used words that I could not pronounce or breakdown into component parts. One part of Ben’s talk was  where we played clapping type game, which was intended to show us that children play games that seem to have no sense of purpose but actually develop a lot of skills that they will need in their future lives. If you are interested in finding out more about Ben Tawil click on the link Ben Tawil

The delegates taking part in the other workshop were looking at super heroes to the rescue led by Julia Sudbury who is a freelance consultant at Cambridge Early Years and is a Pacey associate.

By now it was time for lunch, however I had spotted my Save Childhood Movement colleague, Pam Jarvis and so made my way over to introduce myself to her. Pam and I hugged warmly and had a chat about the presentation that had been presented by Ben (who I was introduced to as he is a colleague of Pam’s). I introduced Pam to my colleagues Lisa and Kara, before Pam and myself made our way to lunch. Sarah Edwards Pacey’s volunteer officer suggested that I joined Pam and had lunch in the area reserved for speakers and exhibitors. Pam and I enjoyed a lovely lunch what chatting about campaigning issues and early years in general. We were just about to help ourselves to desert, when I spotted Gill Jones from OFSTED talking to Penny Tassoni. As I have met Gill Jones before and have a good professional relationship, I introduced her to Pam. There was then a four way conversation before Pam moved away in search of coffee, I continued in the discussion  with Gill and Penny until it was time to go back into the conference room. I found the conversation very interesting and informative, however as it was a private conversation I will not be  reporting any of it here.

As we went back into the conference room Victoria Flint asked me if I’d be happy to ask question about continuity of care during the question-and-answer session with Gill Jones.

Jane Comeau who is Pacey’s chair opened the afternoon session and welcomed Gill Jones. Gill went through her presentation which in my opinion showed for the first time in any Ofsted presentation that I have seen, an understanding of childminding and the differences between childminder and group settings. It also showed a rare glimpse of the personal side of an Ofsted staff member , as Gill used some photo’s of her own family to demonstrate that ‘learning’ can take place anywhere and does not need to include any written planning or end product. For me as a campaigner against formal pre planned  activities this was a promising step forward,

However, Gill’s presentation also showed restraints under which OFSTED have to work in fulfilling the requirements set by the Department for Education. The presentation also highlighted the difficulties Ofsted had through reduced budgets and reduced numbers of staff to actively engage with practitioners and particularly childminders due to the large number of childminders in  the country. Gill challenged those present to come up with ways that would enable OFSTED to support and engage with childminders within the budget restraints. Gill gave some useful links to support practitioners with things like assessment and British Values. At the end of Gill’s presentation there was a question and answer session facilitated by Victoria Flint several questions were asked and responded to include in my own about continuity of care.

We then broke into workshop groups again with the choice being either my colleague Pam Jarvis speaking about Play in the Early Years Learning for Life or a presentation by Dr Amanda Gummer on Encouraging playful families / habits. More can be discovered about Pam unfortunately there is not much on Amanda but I suggest you try a google search.
As I’ve already mentioned I had already seen Pam’s presentation as I had had the honour of looking at it from a childminders perspective before the conference, however although I’d seen the PowerPoint I had not heard Pam’s verbal input. The extra knowledge and information provided verbally made an already excellent PowerPoint superb. Pam’s passion and belief in the right to play of young children shone through: she also was able to make several references to Save Childhood Movement and the National Children’s Day UK taken place on the following day 17th of May 2015. Pam is a great believer in play and all the benefits it brings and in fact was due to speak at a national children’s day UK event taking place in Bristol. Pam mentioned that the clapping game played by the delegates during Ben’s talk was in fact a  ‘Jazz Game’, other examples of jazz games include the turn taking conversations between adults and new babies, and children of similar and of different ages. Pam posed questions to the audience about if plastic toys that required little imagination, input or effort, were better than natural environments, or things made by the children from imagination using loose parts. There was of course a lot more to Pam’s presentation and delegates were given a handout with all the main points on it to refer to at a later date.

By now we had reached the final refreshment break of the day and also the final opportunity to make purchases from exhibitors and network with those who were not stopping for the after conference drinks.

The closing plenary was by Andy Cope who is an author, trainer and happiness expert, and his talk was based on the art of been brilliant. Although very light-hearted and with cartoons and video clips, there was a very serious side to it and he  talked about the number of weeks the average adult lives and the fact that if you do not make best use of everyday the week, (for example Mondays), you were just wasting huge amounts of time and your life. Andy has carried out some research for his thesis which shows that only 2% of people are always positive. Andy challenged the audience to be more positive and to make the best of every opportunity which would not only improve the happiness of themselves but also of the children that they look after.

And for those of you who did not attend here is the You Tube clip of SpongeBob Squarepants

Jane Comeau made the closing comments, and after everyone had filled in their evaluation forms drew the prize draw. It was nice that people I knew won prizes but to be honest I was glad that I had not, as I had travelled by train and would have had difficulty getting anything apart from a very small prize home on the train.
Once the conference had closed there was opportunity to join Pacey staff and other delegates at the drinks reception followed by lots of hugging and fond farewells as people started to depart.

My colleagues and I who were travelling from Euston station walk together reflecting on the conference and  the great day that we had had together.

The journey home was rather long due to waiting at stations for trains, and I finally arrived home just before 10 PM. The goody bag that I received is now set aside to give to Shirlen and Keith when I next see them, which I hope along with this blog will compensate in a small way for not been able to attend the conference.
Thank you Shirleen and Keith for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference, to listen to the speakers, and to network with colleagues.

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