Education Scotland Early Years Conference November 2011

7 teachers from Wallyford and Prestonpans Infant School attended Education Scotland’s Early Years Conference on Saturday 19 November.  It was heartening to hear Angela Constance, Minister for Children and Young People and Bill Maxwell, Chief Executive of Education Scotland affirm their commitment and support to moving strongly forward to give Scotland’s young children the very best opportunities to develop and learn.

Those of us from East Lothian felt very proud during the next session when Professor John Frank demonstrated the need for early intervention strategies to be informed by strong community assessment.  In January 2012, all P1 pupils in East Lothian will be assessed by their teachers as part of East Lothian piloting the EARLY DEVELOPMENT INSTRUMENT. (You can read more about this here  EDI HeadTeachers_conference_26Jan).  Parental input to the assessment and subsequent action was questioned from the floor.  I was able to speak about East Lothian’s plan to roll out early years link up groups in each of the 6 cluster communities in East Lothian where people determined to improve experiences for our youngest children can work together to create local solutions for the community.  You can read about this in Ronnie Hill’s post below on 27 October 2011.

However, the afternoon presentation was the one that had every practitioner and parent or carer in the hall riveted.  The enthusiastic, energetic, radical Dr Margy Whalley, Director of Pen Green Research Centre in Corby, England, inspired us all to keep fighting for the best opportunities for our youngest children in true partnership with their parents and carers.  

What were her key messages?  So so many that we could have listened all afternoon. Why was she only given one hour?

1. In every small community there should be a service for children and their families.  2. Don’t problematise your parents, every parent finds the job of being a parent hard.  Stop ‘othering’ people.  3.  The adults around the child need to learn from each other, accepting that nobody has all the answers.  4.  Change the power balance between citizens (parents/carers) and professionals. Embrace cultural humility.  5.  I loved this one….”You can’t stretch a 2 year old.  A 2 year old has the right to be a 2 year old.” Overteaching damages learning.

You can learn more about Margy, her centre and their approach on their website as she’s going to post her riveting powerpoint there. www.pengreen.org.  I came back fired up with more ideas and determined to use our new early year link group for Prestonpans to work with others to support our under 3s especially and keen to have a Support from the Start visit to Corby!    Sheila Laing, Education Service Champion

Author: Sheila Laing

Having lived and worked in West Pilton, Edinburgh for 30 years, I am now really happy to be living in Port Seton and Headteacher of Prestonpans Infant School. What excites me about working in schools is the opportunity to nurture children, families and communities to learn and to celebrate life and learning. Since 2005, I have been inspired by the community of Burmese refugees in Mae Sot, Thailand, who struggle against incredible odds to give the best education possible to their children. I've been honoured to spend time with them each summer and pray the changes in Burma will give freedom to her people.

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