During an early years’ focused twitter chat I took part in recently, one of the practitioners involved in the discussion described such opportunities to connect with others online as the only continuing professional development she was getting these days. And I’ve seen practitioners who blog about their professional lives hint at the same thing. No doubt things have changed in recent times, when it comes to face to face opportunities to discuss best practice with others. Cluster meetings, update training, LA advisory visits; all seem to be on the decline. Belts are being tightened, braces pulled up. Our profession is also one that is simultaneously hugely rewarding and thoroughly exhausting, and making time for self-directed continuing professional development, after a busy and demanding day at work, is not easy.
I thought I would try to help you out in this department. In recent months I have found that connecting to other early years professionals via blog-reading, twitter, LinkedIn and other discussion forums has really helped me to gain a much more in-depth knowledge of the area, and keep up with latest developments in research, and the political arena. I’ve encountered a rich diversity of perspectives, and my sense of how passionate we are all about supporting young children’s development has grown daily. There are people out there tapping away who have really valuable things to tell us.
So, without further ado, here’s my (first) list of research papers, bloggers, tweeters and ‘ideas’ people to get you started.
Even though it is quite old now, there is still a lot of value in reading the EPPE study conclusions from 1994. They eventually formed the basis of the Blairite government’s approach to Early Years via the Sure Start programme and funded sessions. Skip forward to 2012 and Professor Cathy Nutbrown’s paper Foundations for Quality assesses the current state of affairs and makes suggestions for policy; suggestions which the Professor herself would say have been skewed by Liz Truss’ More Great Childcare consultation. In between these two dates, UNICEF have reached some rather depressing conclusions about the state of British childhood of which we should all take head, and more recently the Early Childhood Action group has formed, producing its alternative framework for working with young children. And finally, I find the scope of the Cambridge Primary Review hard to ignore when it comes to an examination of the type of learning environments in which children progress best; sadly, its conclusions have been ignored by the current DfE team.
There are a significant number of practitioners who somehow find the time to blog about their work, with the altruistic intention of sharing practice and ideas. As a collective, I find them a heartwarming and encouraging breed. You could pop over to Learning for Life, with its moto of ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather’ and delightful emphasis on the outdoor classroom. Or stop by Penny’s Place, written by a tirelessly campaigning Childminder who’s petition against the recent proposals to change the ratios now has 27,920 signatories. Julian Grenier’s blog has its finger on the pulse of the challenges currently facing the profession, and Summer Born Children takes some of the ideas from the Cambridge Primary Review a step further and examines the complexity and consequences of single entry school systems that begin when children are just four. And Michael Rosen, the children’s author, writes brilliantly about phonics, literacy, how children learn best and much more besides.
If you’ve never entered the world of twitter, don’t be afraid to try. For connecting to others in similar circumstances across the country, or even the world, there is no social media platform more instant. For getting access to latest research, journalism and thinking, there is probably nothing finer. I write regular, topical blogs over at www.pregnancy.co.uk and www.babies.co.uk and both are pretty much wholly informed by content I pick up from twitter during the week. So, give it a go, and start by following @LauraChildcare, @DeborahFielden, @DrSue22 and @EYEarlyEd. And every Tuesday evening between 8pm and 9pm @EYTalking holds a twitter-chat on one or more aspects of early years care and education.
What do I mean by ideas people? I mean people who blog, use facebook or pinterest, to share great ideas for activities for young children. So Cathy at Nurture Store has created an amazing resource. Maggy at Red Ted Art takes us back to simpler times, and has even recently published a book of things to make with young children. Edspire is a mum who creates an inspiring home classroom, and In Leiu of Pre-school brings her former life as a teacher into her home education for her own children and creates a great shared resource along the way.
When we look through the eye piece of the digital telescope, and survey what the web has to share, we fast conclude that it has a lot to offer us in terms of broadening our vision. Do come back, once you’ve taken a look around at some of these links, and tell me what you think in the comments section below.