A New Year Awaits – Out with the Old, In with the… Old?

A New Year Awaits – Out with the Old, In with the… Old?

2017 has been a roller coaster of a year for those of us in the early years sector. We’ve observed (and taken part in) the heated debate concerning 30 hours funding, we have fought against Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings Report, which has quite frankly left so many early years practitioners feeling utterly disheartened and frustrated. Despite the evidence-based research (and common sense) confirming that children’s emotional wellbeing must be put before those more academic, cognitive outcomes, Ofsted is determined to go against such common sense in favour of its ill-informed ideologies and consequent proposals. A document which states (as a result of highly selective research findings) that for every successful school, reading was at the heart of the curriculum (2017: 5). I beg to differ! What about all those children who struggle to learn how to read, who are barely present physically or cognitively, and those who struggle to ‘fit in’ generally? How can we expect so much of children without investing first, in their mental and emotional wellbeing? How are we supporting all parents to help nurture their children’s love of reading?

Many of us protested against the Baseline Assessment which poses yet another threat to children’s wellbeing and ability to thrive and as if all that wasn’t enough, just for good measure, we also found out that early years funding has been frozen until 2020. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I’ve generally been ‘good’ all year – I worked hard, doing all the things that Santa would be proud of, so why didn’t Santa bring me all I asked for? It wasn’t a big ask, here is my list of what I wanted to see take place:

  1. Neuroscience embedded across early years discourse and training
  2. Greater understanding and less labelling of children and young adults
  3. More mindfulness in nurseries and schools
  4. Less emphasis on literacy and maths in Ofsted guidance and greater emphasis on children’s psychological wellbeing
  5. Increased pay for the early years workforce

 

Why were my requests left unfulfilled? I think that given the mounting evidence and disquiet among so many early years practitioners, nursery managers, consultants and lecturers, we are better positioned than ever before to stand up and fight for these to be actioned. It feels as if we have reached a collective epiphany – practitioners know their worth, they take ownership for the long term, positive changes they are making to young children and their hearts sink when these children make the transition to primary school and all the hard work to nurture their emotional wellbeing is undone. Pay for the workforce is still dismally poor which in turn pre-sets funding for the sector and ultimately does nothing to raise the profile of the sector and its workforce. And still, practitioners remain passionate and do all they can to ensure they are doing their best by every family and their children.

I cannot help but occasionally wonder whether we are fooling ourselves and our colleagues that we can make a difference, given Ofsted’s latest attack on children’s wellbeing.

In light of these disappointing developments, perhaps by getting our requests in earlier this year, we will have a greater chance of success with our message… especially as Santa will have his feet up for a while before Christmas comes around again… in September. Better still, we can keep campaigning – not in isolation but by joining forces. This starts in the nursery or school, with practitioners daring to make the changes they want to see for babies and children; it means joining social media groups that are designed to debate and tackle current issues in the sector; it means protesting in Parliament – it means not accepting the status quo.

I am therefore resolute in achieving the following aims for 2018:

  1. To ensure I keep campaigning for increased understanding and application of neuroscience across and beyond the early years sector, primarily though my neuroscience-informed online training Programme
  2. To support the police force in their efforts to improve their communication and relationships with young offenders
  3. To continue to inform and enable practitioners to enhance the experiences of the babies and children in their care

What are your aims for 2018?

 

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By |2018-01-11T11:42:20+00:00January 3rd, 2018|Uncategorised|6 Comments

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6 Comments

  1. Lynne Delph 3rd January 2018 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    I agree with your aims Mine. The difficulty in getting your and many others message across is that the powers that be are only looking at targets & tables as this is how they see achievements being recognised. Also I am afraid that lots of people in early years are 1-2 wage packets away from real hardship and therefore they are under immense pressure to follow guidelines or lose their jobs. So well done to you and other forward thinking practitioners who have a voice and are able to articulate what others including me really think is the best way forward for youngsters to achieve their full potential. Which would also be more cost effective now, rather than when they have been forced through the system and come out broken.
    I look forward to reading about a change………..

    • Mine Conkbayir 13th January 2018 at 11:14 am - Reply

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments Lynne. Sadly I agree! This sector particularly so, is restricted by outcomes dictated by the likes of the DfE which leave minimal room to nurture children’s psychological wellbeing – in fact, is detrimental to it! I think part of the answer for now at least, is to continue encouraging practitioners to speak up and try new ways of interacting and supporting children’s holistic wellbeing. This means being brave, using initiative and simply ‘having a go’ at doing things differently. Given how tightly packed routines tend to be in early years, this would be an accomplishment in itself!

  2. Rachel Buckler 3rd January 2018 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Fabulous blog Mine. Passionate as ever and yes early years practitioners can and will make a difference. Onwards and upwards for 2018.

    • Mine Conkbayir 13th January 2018 at 11:14 am - Reply

      Thank you Rachel. I truly hope so – and alongside professionals like you, will keep on!

  3. Susan Hartley 5th January 2018 at 7:44 am - Reply

    Totally agree with that statement, I’ve been seeing firsthand how underdeveloped brains in some young children inhibit there ability to play simple games, preform certain task and have limited understanding this can manifest itself that the child can’t/won’t follow instructions or is not listening, when actually the brain cannot process and deliver, this leads to misinterpretation of child’s behaviour, therefore wrong response by adult resulting in low self esteem by the child, when these things are explained through neuroscience, it’s a lightbulb moment for adult and then they can address the child’s development and apply the correct response to help these children progress and protect their wellbeing. This leads to a much more positive experience for adult and child. Using mindfulness on the part if the practioner will also set the lead for the children in their care and lead to less frustration, anxiety and helplessness all round.

  4. Mine Conkbayir 13th January 2018 at 11:19 am - Reply

    I agree with all you say Susan – just yesterday I spoke about the fundamental importance of ‘reaching’ that downstairs, emotional brain before we expect children to tap into those executive functions. The evidence is there yet the DfE/Ofsted insist on ignoring and omitting this. It MUST change. For now, I see the answer as being individual practitioners and settings taking it board, through seeking neuroscience-informed CPD and as just mentioned ‘giving it a go’. All practitioners are also best positioned to be action researchers – trying out new, more child-focused ways of educating and caring for them. There is never any harm in trying. Clearly this is something we must take forward until the likes of the DfE take heed.

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