Celebrating the unique child – the HfL Early Years conference 2021

    Published: 10 December 2020

    There’s a lot going on at the moment, isn’t there? We’re nearing the end of another busy autumn term. As well as the day-to-day joys and challenges that working in a setting brings, we are in the throes of assessments and Christmas activities and events. Many of us carry physical and emotional exhaustion from the relentlessness of the work that has gone into keeping our schools and settings open during lockdown and to adapting the way we in which we work in order to respond compassionately and flexibly to colleague absence and bubble closures.

    At times when there is so much going on and we get really tired, it is easy to become overwhelmed by it all: so many things to do and not enough hours in the day. So, it’s important that we look after ourselves and one another. Please reach out to a manager, a colleague, a friend or a family member if you feel that you’re really not coping.

    Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed in this way, I make a point of making time to take a step back from everything and to get back to basics; to what really matters. I always return to Tina Bruce’s ten ‘bedrock principles’:

    1. The best way to prepare children for their adult life is to give them what they need as children.
    2. Children are whole people who have feelings, ideas and relationships with others, and who need to be physically, mentally, morally and spiritually healthy.
    3. Subjects such as mathematics and art cannot be separated; young children learn in an integrated way and not in neat, tidy compartments.
    4. Children learn best when they are given appropriate responsibility, allowed to make errors, decision and choices, and respected as autonomous learners.
    5. Self-discipline is emphasised as the only kind of discipline worth having. Reward systems are very short term and do not work in the long term in developing the moral and spiritual aspects of living. Children need their efforts to be valued and appreciated.
    6. There are times when children are especially able to learn particular things.
    7. What children can do (rather than what they cannot do) is the starting point for each child’s education.
    8. Imagination, creativity and all kinds of symbolic behaviour (reading, writing, drawing, dancing, music, mathematical numbers, algebra, role play and talking) develop and emerge when conditions are favourable.
    9. Relationships with other people (both adults and children) are of central importance in a child’s life.
    10. Quality education is about three things: the child, the socio-cultural and global context in which the learning takes place, and the content of the knowledge and understanding that the child develops and learns.

    (Bruce, 2015)

    These principles are rooted in strong early years research and traditions and they help me to filter out what is less important and to focus on what really matters, which is, of course, the children. So, enjoy spending time with your children, particularly at this time of the year when things can be so magical for them.

    You could also consider planning some time for yourself to take stock and reflect on what is really important by booking on to the Herts for Learning Early Years conference, ‘The Unique Child – focussing on what really matters’. This virtual event takes place on Tuesday 2nd February 2021 from 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.


    Bruce, T. (2015), Early Childhood Education (5th Edition), Hodder Education

    Further details and how to book on to the conference can be found here.

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