The Exeter Series – Truly narrowing the gap!

In October, I was honoured to deliver a key-note speech for Babcock Education linked to good practice within leadership. At the conference it was refreshing and inspiring to listen to local educators, who presented on their groundbreaking work with children.

With this in mind, I am delighted to have Amelia Joyner as my first guest blogger from the conference. Amelia spoke passionately about her outstanding provision and what her setting does in practice to ‘narrow the gap.’

Amelia has 13 years’ experience in Early Years, having started on a pre-school committee, moving into administration and then retraining in 2013 to become a teacher. She started work as a pre-school leader at Cullompton Pre School in September 2014.  Amelia’s particular passions are child protection and improving outcomes for disadvantaged children.

Amelia, writes:

“I met Laura recently at a conference on leadership and management. I listened to her talk, which happily was after mine […]


Schemas for Parents

I’m delighted to write about the Schema Guru, Stella Louis MA. As her profile on Early Education states, Stella is a freelance Early Years consultant who has worked as a nursery nurse, nursery manager, diploma in childcare and education course coordinator, Early Years training coordinator and local authority Early Years consultant.  She wrote her first book in 2008 on understanding children’s schemas and has had articles published in Nursery World and Early Education.  Stella has developed a sustained interest in working with parents and is involved in research on sharing knowledge and understanding young children’s schemas with parents.

“Children have a natural urge to do the same thing again and again, whether it is throwing things, hiding things all over the house in bags, or emptying all the toys out of the toy box.” Stella Louis

In September 2016, Stella launched Schemas for parents, published by Suffolk County Council. This 29-page full […]


Special lift

Over the weekend, I had a shopping day with my mum, and one of the places we visited was Hammersmith shopping centre.

Many of you will know that my son is on the spectrum. He was officially diagnosed last year aged 21!

When he was little, we regularly visited the shopping centre, which had a glass lift. My son called it the ‘Special lift!’ “Going special lift Mummy!” he used to say and we would go up and down in that lift.

During this trip, I noticed that the special lift is still there, despite major building work!

Anyway, my son’s other ‘thing’ at that age was Thomas the Tank Engine. He loved lining up trains and even had a ‘melt down’ in the part-time pre-school that he attended if he wasn’t handed his train on arrival!

His drawings and paintings were also full of lines.

He was always running up […]


Learn from nature and animals

I was at a friend’s family celebration at the weekend, sitting chatting away to her mother, who was full of words of wisdom, as ever.

I watched a child moving in and out of the kitchen and into the garden. I then observed her interacting with my friend’s cat, she was talking to him and stroking him.

Of course, I had to take a photograph! I showed her mum and asked for permission to use it in a blog and during my training. She told me that her daughter is three years and four months and that they have no pets at home. This made me reflect on how quickly she was  able to connect with the cat, based on trust and natural instinct.

What an awesome observation of a child in her natural state of calmness. My message to educators would be to observe and assess children for who they are, rather than observe to […]


If you took a holiday.

I read with interest news of the victory in the high court for Jon Platt, who took his daughter out of school during term time. Rightly so, the judges in the high court agreed with Mr Platt.

When my children were at school, I proudly took them out during term-time for family holidays. These included to visit my gran in St. Lucia, around the time of her birthday (which was during term time), as well as for other family celebrations. My gran passed away seven years ago and those special memories that my children have of their great-grandmother are irreplaceable, giving them many stories of their own to pass on. In fact, many of the laugh-out-loud moments that we have as a family are when we reminisce about these holidays – from my sons remembering key events and speaking with a St. Lucia accent to learning the odd word […]


The King of Early Years Education!

Along with other Early Years colleagues from the UK and Europe, I was invited by Community Play Things (CPT) to join them on a short trip to Keilhau, Germany, to Froebel’s birthplace, kindergarten, school, museum and site of the first general council of teachers.

The trip was rightly called: ‘Rediscovering Froebel’.

I wasn’t the only guest to comment that I felt that I had won a Golden Ticket, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style!

There is so much to write about. I will write again over the next few months about my experience and will of course share with others on my travels.

In short, Froebel’s mother died when he was an infant and he was treated harshly by his father and stepmother. At the age of 10, Froebel was ‘rescued’ by his maternal uncle and went to live with him.

Indeed,

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  • Bottom-up!

    So, the Government is busy recruiting the next HMCI, to replace Sir Michael Wilshaw.

    The shortlist has been reported via TES and the education community is in full flow discussing who the Government may choose and why.

    One tweet that caught my eye was from the inspiring Sue Cowley, who noted:

    “I think it’d be a good idea to have someone with primary experience as the next head of Ofsted. Historically it’s mostly been secondary people.’

    I would wholeheartedly agree with Sue. In addition, they should have working knowledge and an understanding of the Early Years.

    For far too long we’ve had a top-down approach, which has had a detrimental effect on little people, from inappropriate testing to a lack of understanding of the importance of play within Early Years.

    Biology informs us that it all starts from conception.  There’s a reason why babies are not born […]


    I was 2 busy listening 2 the grass grow

    Prince, the creative genius, has sadly moved on and the world is in shock. Rightly so, his creativity was on another level.

    On reading the many tributes to Prince, I read an article in the Independent, where he kindly replied to a fan’s letter.

    A particular sentence in the letter stood out for me: “I was 2 busy listening 2 the grass grow.”

    Some folks may wonder what on earth he meant by ‘listening 2 the grass grow’. We understand watching the grass grow, but listening to the grass grow? Are you for real, Prince?

    I know exactly what Prince meant by this. He was too busy being creative. I wondered whether if he hadn’t had the time to ‘listen 2 the grass grow’ we would have had the opportunity to listen to the many inspiring musical creations over the years that Prince […]


    Let’s G.O!

    Last year I had the pleasure of visiting an awesome colleague, kindergarten teacher Heidi Echternacht, at her class in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. Heidi explained that kindergarten children in the US are aged five to six – equivalent to our Year One.

    What was amazing about Heidi’s class was how much she valued play and allowed the children to be themselves. When I arrived, they had just come back in from a mid-morning break. Heidi introduced me to the class and I had a long conversation with the children about London and Paddington Bear!

    They didn’t settle down to do maths or English.

    Oh no, we went for a walk in the woods!

    Heidi informed her class: “Right, time to go for a walk! Let’s go. G.O!” “Yes, Ms Echternacht!” they replied.

    How wonderful it was to observe five and six-year-olds being able to be themselves through play, […]


    We were told!

    For a number of years, I have been perplexed by the amount of unnecessary paperwork that educators complete within their settings.

    It’s important to remember what the EYFS states:

    “Assessment should not entail prolonged breaks from interaction with children, nor require excessive paperwork. Paperwork should be limited to that which is absolutely necessary to promote children’s successful learning and development.” EYFS, 2014

    On various social media platforms or when delivering training or speaking to clients, I hear comments such as:

    “We were told to do this.”

     “Ofsted want to see this.”

     “The local authority advisor has given us a month to complete this.”

     “A consultant/trainer suggested this was the best way.”

    As a consultant/trainer, I see myself as an advisor, which means that it is only advice.

    In addition, in some settings the system is so complicated that educators are unable to fully vocalise why they do what they do.

    “Less paperwork = more time with the children!”

    In my opinion, […]