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Naht early years conference 2018

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My keynote for the NAHT's Annual Early Years Conference (2018)

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Naht early years conference 2018

  1. 1. It’s not what you learn, it’s the way that you learn it. Julian Grenier @juliangrenier
  2. 2. • The expertise in this room… • Opportunities to help children catch up – which will become increasingly difficult as time goes on • When parents often engage most positively with the educational system • High quality early education – an astonishing potential for long-term impact • We’ve achieved a lot…but have there been some losses? • Have we created false debates: Curriculum design vs Planning in the Moment? Involvement vs Learning? What you learn vs How you Learn it? The early years – it’s where we can make a difference
  3. 3. 19/10/2018 PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL Figure 2: Influence of pre-school quality on academic outcomes age 11 (home as comparison) There were also benefits at age 11 for the social-behavioural development of boys (ES5 from 0.28
  4. 4. The early years – it’s where we can make a difference “Pre-school cannot eliminate the adverse effects of disadvantage but it can ameliorate these. Pre-school, especially if it is of high quality, can act as a ‘protective’ factor for disadvantaged children … Of particular importance is the finding that having attended a high quality pre-school reduced the effects of multiple disadvantage on later attainment and progress in primary school (Hall et al., 2012).” Effective pre-school, primary and secondary education project (EPPSE 3-16+)
  5. 5. Maintained Nursery Schools
  6. 6. Maintained Nursery Schools “The only early education provision that is at least as strong, or even stronger, in deprived areas compared with wealthier areas is nursery schools” (Ofsted, 2014).
  7. 7. Why we should worry about the future of our nursery schools • In 1980 there were more than 600 Maintained Nursery Schools • Today there are fewer than 400
  8. 8. Susan Isaacs Nursery School closed in 2016: what’s happened to the civic pride that turned a building site into a wonderful nursery school?
  9. 9. Back to the future? • The 1980s and 1990s were a “golden era” for the expansion of nursery education, the opening of nursery schools, and for thinking about what sort of curriculum young children needed
  10. 10. • 29 years since the publication of The Education of Children Under Five • 18 years since the groundbreaking Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage • Time to go back to the future?
  11. 11. Losses? • Have we lost our skills in curriculum design and mapping out what we want children to know and be able to do? • Building on children’s interests • Planning in the moment • How children learn, not what they learn • Children’s involvement and wellbeing • Have we replaced curriculum design with assessment frameworks like the EYFSP? • Does anyone think that a handful of assessment points is ambitious enough for 2 or 3 years of early education?
  12. 12. Knowledge rich curriculum? Play-based learning?
  13. 13. Does there have to be a fork in the road?
  14. 14. Some thoughts • Children in the early years are very “biddable” – so we need to think hard about what they need and how we can help them, not just what they will put up and do to please us. • There are still may misconceptions amongst the general public about what effective learning looks like for young children. • We need to think about what we want to achieve in relation to our curriculum design; and what are the best ways of achieving that.
  15. 15. Some thoughts • We know a lot more now than 30 years ago about how to help children’s early communication. • EG - Learning Language and Loving It • Promoting every child’s language development using natural everyday activities, routines and play • Becoming attuned to children’s interests so you can follow their lead, which is known to foster language development • Adjusting the way you talk to help children develop more advanced language skills • Promoting interaction among the children themselves • Facilitating language-learning in pretend play • Fostering emergent literacy skills.
  16. 16. Some thoughts • The evidence suggests that the best way to support children’s developing self-regulation is through high-quality pretend play • “Executive function skills help us plan, focus attention, switch gears, and juggle multiple tasks—much like an air traffic control system at a busy airport. Acquiring the early building blocks of these skills is one of the most important and challenging tasks of the early childhood years.”
  17. 17. Guided play pedagogy (Dr Sveta Mayer, 2016; based on Weisberg et al, 2013; Wood, 2013) 1. Adult creates and manipulates a learning environment for child to play within which will guide child’s learning experience. 2. Child self-initiates and self-directs their experience of learning within the environment through play. 3. Adult observes, monitors and presses (prompts) child’s play and thereby learning experiences when needed. 4. Adult co-plays with child or involves child-peer co-play and communication as child interacts within both the learning and social environment. 5. Adult extends or creates new learning environment for child to spontaneously play within which will further guide child’s learning experience.
  18. 18. Foundational skills and knowledge • Children need educators with the right subject knowledge and the pedagogical expertise • We need to think carefully about cognitive load • Kirschner et. al. (£) argue (2006, p.80): “Sweller and others (Mayer, 2001; Paas, Renkl, & Sweller, 2003, 2004; Sweller, 1999, 2004; Winn, 2003) noted that despite the alleged advantages of unguided environments to help students to derive meaning from learning materials, cognitive load theory suggests that the free exploration of a highly complex environment may generate a heavy working memory load that is detrimental to learning. This suggestion is particularly important in the case of novice learners, who lack proper schemas to integrate the new information with their prior knowledge.”
  19. 19. Foundational skills and knowledge • One definition of learning: “changes in long-term memory” • As children know more, they make more connections between knowledge • Our approaches need to: • respond to the needs of the children, and their progress • be supported by a coherently designed curriculum • be supported by adults with appropriate subject knowledge who use appropriate pedagogy • take account of what we are trying to achieve (e.g. help children to develop their communication and self-regulation; help children to develop the foundational knowledge and skills they need for successful continuing learning) • We don’t need a false debate that’s merely loud and passionate.
  20. 20. Approaches that only focus on involvement and child- led learning are not adequate • Siraj-Blatchford et. al. (2002) - this focus "distracts attention from the sort of cognitive construction we have been discussing, as well as the influence of peers who may be encouraged to scaffold each other’s learning. It effectively excludes the possibility of recognising the value of direct instruction for some areas of teaching, and this is despite its widespread practice in the early years in e.g. teaching songs, rhymes, giving instructions in safety, hygiene, toileting etc. In prioritising process, it also provides no basis for assessing the content of the engagement e.g. to what extent the teacher’s intervention may be considered ‘worthwhile’ or, with regard to ‘content’, whether the ‘correct’ information is imparted.” • Children may distort the curriculum that we think we are offering them.
  21. 21. It’s what you learn AND it’s the way you learn it
  22. 22. Finally: let’s not forget about the impact of poverty • As Professor Michael Young argues in the current issue of Impact we can’t put our sole emphasis on the curriculum as a way of helping disadvantaged children. We need to address the root causes, like child poverty. • In adverse circumstances the child’s system is geared to be reactive, not self-regulatory. The child needs to be on the alert all the time. • This might be adaptive to an adverse home or neighbourhood environment but it is not well adapted to life in school. “A number of studies have shown that exposure to highly stressful early environments is associated with deficits in the development of children’s working memory, attention, and inhibitory control skills.”

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