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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 (I was much more relaxed by then!) and felt empowered and inspired by her reminding us all to put the little people that we care for at the very centre of what we do.


That sums up my ethos and the approach that I take to lead my team – every child matters. We strive for every child that comes to our pre-school; we have high aspirations for every disadvantaged child, every child that has speech and language difficulties, every child that comes to us with complex issues, every child who has witnessed or heard domestic abuse, every child that doesn’t get taken to the park and for the blessed children that are developing well, progressing, inquisitive and questioning and have the abilities needed to thrive with us and at school.


Interaction is everything. We nurture specific children in groups of two or three and have small group times and hours of pure free flow inside and outside. We provide exciting activities to spark imagination, to learn new words, to have new experiences – to open up their worlds to possibility, challenge and joy. At the heart of this is tracking progress. I know where each child is, I read all observations, plan for their interests, ensure my team follows the same approach and that we question, we challenge ourselves and talk about the relationships with parents. I ask difficult questions, have difficult conversations and follow up on any concerns.

I offer children a warm, nurturing and calm environment, full of promise and adventures. We have areas set up to be quiet, to be noisy, to explore and be supported by a skilled adult or to be left alone to learn, to follow their own thoughts, to test themselves – to develop characteristics of learning.


My approach centres on ‘What else can I do? Where do we go next?’ Our cohort is challenging and 72% of our children have some form of intervention. I am dedicated to working in partnership with many outside agencies.

Our work truly makes us fulfilled; a child who had very few words finally said his name – the pride in his family, the tears from us and his self-esteem were incredible.  We are proud of the little girl who made a wonderful ferry out of loo rolls following her holiday to France, of the little boy who showed such critical thinking to explore how to move a wheelbarrow up the steps to the block play and of the little girl who left her bag on her peg after three weeks of carrying it around with her, showing us that she now felt safe and settled.


The children that leave us for the next stage in their journey have made progress, regardless of where they started. They leave confident, able to use their language, to have been understood and their parents are proud of the journey. It’s emotional, passionate work that we do and we are lucky to make a difference, a difference that we can see.”

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