Readiness for Learning

Professor Aline Wendy Dunlop  was the third presenter at a seminar on readiness for learning held on the 6th May at the McSense centre in Mayfield, Dalkeith. 

Professor Aline-Wendy Dunlop is a Chair of Childhood and Primary Studies; responsibilities include providing leadership in applied educational research and teaching and learning. She is also Lead Director of the National Centre of Autism Studies which houses the Scottish Autism Service Network.

In a fascinating presentation Professor Dunlop spoke on the theme of :-

What does study of early years transitions tell us about readiness for learning?

A key learning point for me was thinking about ‘transition’ in terms of opportunities for parental engagement. Transition from home to nursery or nursery to school can create anxiety for both parent and child; but it can also be a time when parents are particularly amenable to engagement with agencies who they perceive as being able to support them in that transition.

How well do services support parents in these transitions? Do we ptovide enough information early enough? Do we make the best use of these periods to both support parents but also engage them with service agendas?

Professor Dunlop closed her presentation with a slide on attunement – which refers to a concept within  ‘attachment theory’  that examines how adult parental figures attune their responses to that of their child – she uses the idea of a dance where the partners movements are attuned to each others. How well attuned are services to the needs of parents and children during these transition – or do we just make them dance to our own steps?

Aline-Wendy Dunlop’s Powerpoint Presentation

Readiness for Learning

 Dr Christine Stephen of the Stirling Institute for Education provided the second presentation at the readiness for learning seminar held on the 6th may at the Mcsense centre in Mayfield, Dalkeith. Christine spoke on ‘Readiness for learning – what is it and how do we improve it?’

I really enjoyed Christine’s presentation, perhaps more so because I am not from an education background. A key point I took out of it was that early years children are ready for learning – in fact they are programmed for learning, and will learn almost in spite of anything that adults do or don’t do – it just matter of what and how well. That very much chimed with my own experience as a parent – suddenly my kids could do things – that tricky journey of guiding a spoon from bowl to mouth suddenly happened, or from first looking at words and pictures to suddenly seeing them racing through books. Naively, perhaps, I think I saw learning as taking place in the gaps between play – but I can see now that the play was most of the learning and probably most of my attempts at instruction were really tiresome interruptions to learning.

Christine looked at what schools and parents could do to be ready for children’s desire and innate drive to learn – reminding us that readiness for learning is about how the child is supported to learn and that it is the adults and the adult world that might have to do things differently to improve readiness for learning not the child.

Christine Stephen Powerpoint Presentation

Readiness for Learning

On the 6th may a seminar was held at the McSesne conference centre in Mayfield, Dalkeith – looking at the concept of readiness for learning. The seminar was attended largely by Support from the Start service champions for Mid and East Lothian, but also by a number of headteachers and other interested professionals.

Dr Rosemary Geddes is a part of the Scottish Collaboration on Public Health led by Professor John Frank

The remit of the Collaboration is: to identify key areas of opportunity for developing novel public health interventions that equitably address major Scottish health problems; to foster collaboration between government, researchers and the public health community to develop a national programme of intervention development, large-scale implementation and robust evaluation; and to build capacity within the public health community for collaborative research of the highest quality which will have maximum impact on policies, programmes and practice.

Dr Geddes opened the session with a presentation on the health implications of  ‘readiness for learning.

A further two posts will follow with the other presentations from the seminar

Rosemary Geddes’ Presentation

Forest School

The Fast tracking of forest school is one initiative within Support from the Start – over the last year we have commissioned two forest school leader training courses for East Lothian staff that priortised staff in the target are.. The folowing year we hope to train more forest school leaders in partnership with Edinburgh Forest Education initiative, but also to offer training to staff who are supporting forest school leaders – known as level two training and a bespoke training course for nursery staff.

Here is a progress report on Forest School in East Lothian, giving an update on training delivered and equipment and kit purchased.

Forest School in East Lothian (2)

Also a Forest School edubuzz group has been started that may be of interest

Civic Conversation & Homestart

Linden Ross a community champion from the Homestart organisation has been hosting a series of civic conversation events focused on bringing together services to look at early years issues effecting local communities.

Here is the summary document from the Civic Conversation event held in the Early Years Centre a little while ago.  I attended this discussion and found it fascinating – particularly the gap in awareness about what was being being offered by local housing services and the needs that community based staff were identifying in relation to housing.  My impression was that community staff often frustrated over a particular need of a client, weren’t aware of services that could help with that need. It underlined for me the value of services investing a little bit of time in talking to each other face to face about what they are providing, where the overlaps are and where the gaps are.

Housing Summary

Doula Seminar – A Civic Conversation event

Volunteer Doula Project Executive SummaryVolunteer Doula Project Executive SummaryPosted on behalf of Shauna Powers

Support from the Start: –  Civic Conversation

“A Volunteer Doula Project: Could it work here?”


Liz Cregan the chief nurse for East & Midlothian opened a  ‘Civic conversation’, event at The Quay on February 22 to discuss the work of a successful Volunteer Doula project in Hull. The event was to raise awareness of a new initiative developing in England that appears to show promise in tackling early health inequalities. The participant discussed how these benefits could be extended to women in East and Mid Lothian.


A Doula is a trained and experienced partner who accompanies a woman through pregnancy and childbirth and the first few weeks of family life. Traditionally hired privately, training volunteer doulas who then offer their services free of charge to pregnant women is a growing trend. The Goodwin volunteer doula project trains women as doulas who then volunteer their services to women in the community. The project works closely with pregnant women from the asylum seeker community, teenage mothers, and women in sex work.

Heather Barnes, the current project manager in Hull ( was the keynote speaker at this event. 


Through presentations and panel discussions, the morning session brought together mothers, doulas, midwives, members of the voluntary sector, NHS Lothian health professionals and a member of the Scottish Government. The session brought up many topics from how constant labour support can help improve outcomes for both mum, baby and their family to the importance of peer support and advocacy for women during this important time. 


It proved to be a very interesting session which brought together a wide range of experiences and stories. We have attached the PowerPoint presentations for the day. Any comments or questions can also be directed to Shauna.

From this event, a mailing list was created to keep delegates informed about the progress of this idea. To be included on this mailing list, please contact

Volunteer Doula Project Report

Volunteer Doula Project Report

Volunteer Doula Project Executive Summary

Volunteer Doula Programme Canadian Presentation

Goodwin Replica Volunteer Doula Service

Volunteer Doula Project

Champions Get Together

Just before xmas the  Service and Community champions met to review how the test site had developed over the last year. The first part of the session was an informal chance to catch up with each other and review the year using a timeline. The timeline showed key activities since the test site was announced and champions were asked to record their impression with sticky post its.

Below are photographs of the Support from the Start Storyboard which was displayed at the Champions Get Together, held on Monday 21st December 2009 in John Muir House Haddington. Th notes from the discussion are linked get-together-group-discussion-notes

This event was a good opportunity for the Service Champions and Community Champions to meet each other, the Project Board members and East Lothian council Chief Executive Alan Blackie was in attendance. It was a fun event with relaxation and culminated in a facilitated group discussion looking at future priorities.

The storyboard is a timeline for the test site from initiation in October 2008 to the time of the Get Together in December 2009, which details major events and deliverables from the project and lists the outcomes driving the project forward. There is also a list of the Service Development Fund proposals and many of the activities which have taken place. The Champions were encouraged to add their thoughts to the storyboard of what inspired them/disappointed them and what have been the achievements or barriers. These thoughts are also listed here.

Champions Thoughts

Play @ Home training rolled out in East Lothian

Play@Home is a programme designed to encourage parents and carers to help the development of children from birth to five years through the use of exercise and physical activity, and to educate parents in ways of handling and exercising their children. 

Free 2 hour training sessions were provided for Childcare Practitioners to become trainers for the play@home programme. This equipped them to work with parents to provide the foundation for a physically active life.

The programme concentrates on birth to age 1 and the trainees were provided with a pack to enable onward training.

The first 4 sessions took place on Thursday 15th October 2009 attended by 35 people and the second 4 were on Wednesday 2nd December 2009 attended by 28 people.

Here is some of the feedback on the training.