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Confident Talkers – Conversations for Early Years

“Why is this special to you?”

“How do you know when your friends are sad?”

Asking children open-ended questions helps them to think critically and expand their vocabulary. It also builds their confidence, aiding their personal, emotional and social development.

In these Confident Talkers cards, I’ve put together 48 such questions to engage and stimulate conversation with children from two to seven years.

Each card contains a thought-provoking question that can be adapted to any number of situations – inside or out and about, playing quietly, on the go, in the car or at the dinner table. You can use different scenarios and objects to set the scene, such as using something the child has created, describing what their lunch tastes like or discuss how they feel about a special event, such as their birthday or other celebration.

By encouraging conversation children learn new words and concepts, develop active listening skills, learn to problem solve and make connections, and most […]


The whole thing’s daft, I don’t know why – to teach or not to teach?

I delivered an inset day training session recently to a nursery group. The session was called: ‘Are you listening to me? Really, listening to me?’  In short, looking how educators need to be tuned into children in order to effectively support them with their learning and development.

One of the delegates, who I know from previous training and who follows me on Twitter, said: ‘Laura, I know your son works for Arsenal. What does he do? Love Thierry Henry, best player Arsenal had. If your son ever meets him, please ask for a photograph and autograph!’

I then burst out into The Thierry Henry song. I am an Arsenal supporter as well and I remember going to a game and singing the ‘Thierry song’, loud and clear with the rest of the fans!

She then went on to say how a child in the nursery was an Arsenal supporter and that […]


Achieving Two Year Olds’ Update

It’s a great pleasure to have James Hempsall returning as my guest blogger. In this blog, James gives an update on the Government’s  ‘Achieving Two Year Olds’ incentive. James is  Director at Hempsall’s and is the National Support Director/Central Region Lead regarding the provision of support for ‘Achieving Two Years Olds’ to local authorities.

James states,

“Achieving Two Year Olds: the statutory duty comes into force – an opportunity for providers to develop new provision to reach the least advantaged two year olds and their families.

Now seems a great opportunity to update everyone on two year olds.  September 2013 saw the statutory duty on local authorities to provide up to 15 hours per week of early learning for the 20% least advantaged two year olds.   We are pleased to report progress has been growing steadily over the past 12 months.  Local authority confidence in delivery has been high overall for 2013 and this is reflected […]


Changes to Childcare-For Parents

Dear Parents

I am a parent of two boys and an early years specialist and have worked within the early years sector for over twenty –six years.

I am writing to you because I want to raise your attention to a government proposal that might affect your child’s learning and development opportunities if you use childcare.

You may have heard that the Minister for Childcare, Ms Truss, is proposing changing the adult to child ratios in early years settings. For daycare settings this will mean that for your children who are aged two – three there will be one adult for six children and within home based settings childminders  will be able to have up to four children aged five and under.

The majority of early years settings, academics and experts are against these higher ratios as, like me, they care about your children and the negative impact this will have on their learning and development. One provider said […]


#EYTalking

I am launching a new initiative #EYTalking, via Twitter. In short, every Tuesday evening between 8:00pm and 9:00pm we will share national and international news, stories, research, blogs, documents and guidance via Twitter, using the hash tag #EYTalking. If you are a nursery, pre-school, day-care, childminder, out-of school club, nanny, school or you provide a service as a trainer, consultant, publication, organisation, company, college or university with an interest in early years and childcare then this is for you. Also, parents and carers who have an interest in early years will also find #EYTalking on a Tuesday evening the perfect opportunity to connect. There is a wealth of information out there which can be obtained from many sources, I often hear colleagues saying ‘I never have the time to navigate my way around websites and read threads on forums, etc’ or ‘Ooh, I missed that Tweet!’ With #EYTalking once a week, you will have the […]


We need to talk too!

“Truly great leaders spend as much time collecting and acting upon feedback as they do providing it” Alexander Lucia

As of late I have been very busy delivering supervision training in line with the revised safeguarding and welfare requirements of the EYFS.

One issue that comes up time and time again, irrespective of whether the delegate is a manager or owner, is that they receive no supervision or have a one-to-one with anyone. This is the same whether their setting is in the private, voluntary, independent or maintained sector.

This worries me slightly, as I believe that this should be in place for many different reasons: to discuss leadership and management issues, to focus on their own personal and professional development and, more importantly, to discuss how they support staff to make a difference to children’s learning and development.

Over the years I have coached, mentored and carried out supervision with managers and owners, with a focus on […]


Commission on Childcare

As I sit here, glued to my sofa watching the Olympics, a reminder in my calendar pops up continuously to complete the response for the commission on childcare! My response is to dismiss it (manana, manana!)  as I know that I have until the end of August to complete. But it is one task that I will tackle as if I’m going for a gold medal because childcare for working parents is an issue that is very dear to my heart; both on a personal level, as a single working parent, (I have used every type of childcare over the years) and on a professional level, working passionately with the childcare sector both nationally and internationally.

So what is the commission on childcare? It is a joint concept led by the Department of Education and the Department for Work and Pensions They have asked anyone with an interest to complete a consultation response […]


All roads lead to two year olds!

It is a pleasure to have James Hempsall as my guest blogger. James has been the Director of Hempsall’s since 1999, leading a team of 25 trainers, researchers, development officers and consultants in early years, childcare and children’s centres.  He has worked with over 100 local authorities supporting them to implement all aspects of government childcare policy at strategic and operational levels.

James writes ”There’s big things happening around two year olds.  The government has signalled their importance by allocating significant new funding to the roll out of thousands of new places.  At a time when new money is scarce, it is incredible that all roads lead to two year olds and their early education.  It is an economic, social mobility, early intervention, poverty and achievement agenda.  And one which retains the potential to support families to make sound economic choices, learn and achieve, and close the gap between the least advantaged children and their peers.

The […]


Simple Solutions?

“Children are the most powerful source for a better world” Martha Llanos

It’s great that the government commissioned Cathy Nutbrown (click to view review)   Foundations for Quality   to review early years qualifications and that they have now set up a Childcare Commission to look at costs involved. However I feel that the government need to consult with a wide range of early years/childcare/education providers, specialists and parents.

The cost of childcare has always been a catch 22 situation, as quality childcare is expensive and parents want to pay less. As a single parent, who used childcare previously, I found that childcare costs made a huge dent in my monthly outgoings but felt that this was a sacrifice worth paying for.

I work with providers across the UK and know that financial investment in early years makes a considerable impact on children’s outcomes. The cliché ‘quality childcare costs’ is not […]


At last supervision?

 “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” Mark Twain

It was refreshing to see that the revised EYFS, Safeguarding and Welfare Requirements has a legal requirement that all settings should have adequate systems relating to how they supervise staff.

A number of my clients (some, currently have robust supervision measures) state that they already have supervision arrangements in place. However, when I ask for clarification this is not quite the case. Generally, what they do have is an adequate appraisal system. (This, indeed, should be in place.)

But it is important that we differentiate between supervision and appraisal; after all from September 2012 settings will need to have clear evidence, especially to show Ofsted how they supervise staff.

To help settings with this, I have attempted to define what these two terms mean:

Supervision: Focused professional and personal dialogue-empowering staff

Appraisal: Formal management evaluation of job performance

From a historical viewpoint we need to analyse the […]