Over a hundred practitioners assembled this Thursday for Herts for Learning’s Annual Early Years conference at the Hertfordshire Development Centre, which focused this year on the theme of ‘Our Passion, Their Future. Placing Children at the Heart of the Early Years Curriculum’.
Lucky Khera, Lead Early Years Adviser at Herts for Learning (HfL) gave the motivating opening address and introduced the speakers and exhibitors.
‘It was wonderful to see so many practitioners attending the conference oozing with passion to get it right for our youngest children. The energy in the room and whilst talking to those that were present clearly showed the commitment to want to learn, reflect and make further positive changes to practice so that our children get the very best start.’
One of Her Majesty's Inspectors and Ofsted's specialist adviser for early years and primary education, Phil Minns, then gave a keynote on ‘lessons so far’ since the launch of the new education inspection framework (EIF), outlining what is involved in Ofsted’s ‘Curriculum Deep Dives’ with a focus on early reading.
Phil explained the case for changing the framework: “What young people learn is too often coming second to delivering performance data.” He added: “Teaching to the test and a narrow curriculum have the greatest negative affect on the most disadvantaged and the least able children.”
He continued: “The EIF puts the curriculum at the heart of the new framework, putting the focus on the substance of education”. He talked about the importance of widening children’s vocabulary as a bigger vocabulary also results faster processing skills; something that some children arrive at school with, yet others do not start with such an advantage.
Phil concluded: “Teaching in the early years is like rocket science – you need people with the specialist knowledge.”
Neil Farmer, International Educational Consultant supporting schools and settings, spoke about the purpose of what we do in Early Years and why, in his engaging session: ‘Moving on up – aspirations and excellence’.
Neil said: “We are interested in the bigger picture, what it is to be a human being; what skills children need in order to improve their mental health and wellbeing, to gear them up for what they will face in years to come. “
Neil discussed “diagnostic teaching - not throwing curriculum at children based on their age, but using developmental appropriateness.” He also went on to talk about the importance of enabling children to do things for themselves: “The aim of good teachers should, of course, be to make themselves redundant. If we are to properly educate others, we must enable them to become independent learners.”
Delegates then went on to a range of workshops to share best practice further. Neil Farmer discussed Language development and phonic acquisition. Herts for Learning’s own Early Years advisers Caroline Luck, Andrew Boyes and Jane Greenslade talked about deepening learning in their session entitled ‘Meaningful Maths. Jennie Ferguson and Rose Blair, HfL Early Years Advisers talked about Personal, social and emotional development (PSED) and how to support children’s emotional security and positive attitudes to learning.
In the breaks, delegates got the opportunity to talk to the exhibitors from an array of organisations: EPIC Early Years; Hodder Education; Herts Catering; HfL; Outside Classroom Boards; Mighty Writer; Playtime by Fawns and Usborne Books.
Billy Hickling, a veteran performer with the international hit percussion show STOMP ensured the conference went out with a bang! The award-winning TrashBang! Man took delegates on an exciting, fun and interactive journey into ‘found sound’ creating music using everyday available resources like pipes and buckets. Educating, facilitating and sharing the natural ability of people to come together in rhythm, Billy demonstrated how you can build up to complex music starting with just a simple pulse.
Reflecting on the conference, Mireille MacRaild, Education Services Director for Early Years at HfL enthused:
The day has been a great success. The delegates have been really inspired by the practical ideas in our workshops and the interactive session from Billy. Our key note speakers were fantastic in helping everyone understand the importance of a well-planned curriculum that starts in the EYFS. Neil even challenged our thinking about taking this through to KS1, demonstrating the impact of adapting routines to provide more learning time in Year 1. A huge thank you to all involved and for the positive comments, feedback and suggestions for our next event.