Annual National Conference 2022

Inspiring Early Years across the UK

Friday 13 May 2022


8.00am            Welcome

8.15-8.45am            Play is the Way, Sue Palmer, Upstart Scotland & primary practitioners

The book Play is the Way was written by supporters of Upstart Scotland, a campaign for a developmentally-appropriate kindergarten stage (3-7 years). Despite a cultural attachment to an early start on formal learning, many Scottish primary schools have introduced rights-focused, relationship-centred, play-based pedagogy (as often as possible outdoors, in nature) for 5- and 6-year-olds. In this live presentation, early primary practitioners tell about their experiences and hopes for a future in which play is the way for all Scottish under-7s.

8.45-9.15am            Changing the culture of play based learning within a large inner city NI primary school- moving from adult  to child led learning, St Clare’s Abbey PS Newry, Co Down (pre-recorded)

The principal and Early Years staff illustrate the work they have undertaken to develop more effective child led play over a 5 year period.  Having undergone a comprehensive development programme influenced by research and support from a highly skilled Early Years Advisor, Clare Devlin; their practice has improved beyond recognition. This is evidenced in:

  • pupil engagement and skill acquisition 
  • staff understanding of their role in developing quality play by responding to the child's needs and interests rather that dictating the direction
  • parental understanding of the multifaceted learning that emerges  from quality play

They look forward to sharing their practice with you.  

9.30-10.00am          50 Things to do before you're five, Sian Hudson & Rachael Dennis. The Lilycroft & St Edmund's Nursery Schools' Federation

50 Things is a simple idea that works!  50 Things To Do helps parents develop their home learning environment, suggesting a wide range of low-cost and no-cost local activities. The 50 Things approach improves early language and literacy, motor skills and resilience. As a result children thrive cognitively, physically and emotionally. Through engaging with 50 Things experiences at home, families bring their own ideas, interpretations and cultural diversities into play. This supports us as early educators to gain an understading of our families and the different ways in which they play, learn and have fun together. Using 50 Things to support our 0-5 curriculum at our maintained Nursery Schools, enables us to engage families in their children's learning. We encourage our families to get out and about locally and know that this supports them to visit new places that they later revisit independently.

10.00-10.30am         From Generation to Generation: the benefits of Intergenerational partnerships, Judith Ish-Horowicz, Apples and Honey Nightingale

Apples and Honey Nightingale, a daycare and pre-school co-located in the grounds of Nightingale Care Home opened in 2017 with a vision to provide a daily programme of meaningful intergenerational engagements. As co-founder and intergenerational lead, I am delighted to share our experiences and our learning.

11.00-11.30am         Overcoming the effects of poverty and disadvantage, Maureen Hunt, Early Years Consultant

The presentation will outline some of the challenges that children from disadvantaged backgrounds face and looks at what settings and practitioners can do to enable every child to succeed. Drawing on the latest research and using the insight gained from many years of working in early education the presentation will consider the impact that disadvantage can have on children’s development and argues that building strong relationships with children and families is key to helping children thrive.

11.30-12.00    Collaborative working between Health and Education to support communication and language, Lynsey Weston & Sian Ansell, A Better Start Southend Early Years C&L Consultants and Isobel Wratislaw, Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist for EPUT

This presentation will focus upon the important role that early identification and intervention play in improving SLC outcomes for children and their families. It will demonstrate the positive impact that occurs when Health and Education come together, with a joint focus. It will draw on the experience of Communication and Language Project Leads, from A Better Start Southend.

12.30-1.00pm           Connecting Classrooms project with Nepal on Sustainable Development Goal 3, Maintaining Good Health and Wellbeing,  Jacqueline Merry, Seascale Primary School (pre-recorded)

It’s never too soon to help children understand they are part of a Global Community. And what better way to do this with our youngest children than through Gardening and Cooking! An illustrated overview of the partnership established between a small Cumbrian Primary School and a Nursery School in Kathmandu, Nepal.

1.00-1.30pm             Whole school approach to mindfulness, Angela Spencer, Lead Practitioner Mindfulness Wellbeing, Horsham Nursery School (pre-recorded)

Angela Spencer has been an Early Years practitioner for 15 years, and is the Lead Practitioner for Mindfulness Wellbeing at Horsham Nursery School, maintained by West Sussex County Council. She is also a meditation and breathwork coach and has trained through MISP (Mindfulness In Schools Project) to teach dots Mindfulness Curriculum for 3 to 6 year olds. Angela is a passionate advocate for bringing Mindfulness Practices to the EYFS curriculum using a Whole School Approach; in today’s presentation she will be talking about this via the lens of her work with the 3-4 year old age group.

2.00-2.30pm             The impact of Foundation Degrees, Kath Hickman, SEFDEY National Committee member/University of Hull (recording)

Committee members of SEFDEY (Sector Endorsed Foundation Degrees in Early Years) have conducted a small scale research project in collaboration with the University of Hull and the University of Warwick. The aim of the research was to find out the impact of Foundation Degrees on practitioners' self-confidence, their professional practice and how they feel they have impacted on the lives of the children and families in their care.

2.30-3.00pm            Trainee Early Years Teachers as Change Agents: A tale of self-regulation and two-year-olds, Debra Laxton, University of Chichester & Abi Horn, Reflections Nursery

This presentation will highlight the effectiveness of the graduate employment based early years initial teacher training (EYITT) programme in guiding the individual development of trainees to become knowledgeable, competent, inspirational teachers who lead practice change. Abi, a trainee last year, is a mature arts graduate, working full time as Atelierista in a 70 place Reggio Emilia inspired day nursery. Abi introduced new approaches within the setting to improve the promotion and development of self-regulation so that two-year-olds were given increased opportunity to grow into emotionally healthy people. The EYITT training gave her the time, space, and support to update knowledge through the exploration of current research and pedagogical approaches and use this to reflect on practice.

3.15-3.45pm             Holding onto the unique children in the reception class in a time of top down pressures and catch up, Elaine Bennett, Friars Primary School

Talk to reception teachers, dip your toe in to the world of Early Years social media groups and the reality of life in a Reception class in 2022 becomes very clear. A new EYFS framework with goals which seem further aligned to the National Curriculum in parts, accredited phonics schemes dominating children's days, scripted irrelevant catch up programmes and an increased focus on knowledge led learning to meet the "learning means remembering more" narrative.

Many reception practitioners know what children need. Many feel right now they are not giving it to children who have lived (and are living) through a global pandemic.  As a practising Reception teacher Elaine will share a little snippet of life in her setting. She will share some insight into how Reception teachers can be those "pedagogical anchors for turbulent times" that the children in their care need them to be.

3.45-4.15pm            Coaching and mentoring in early years: enabling space for "thinking room" to grow teacher confidence, Cathy Gunning, early years coach, mentor and adviser

Becoming better in EYFS requires time and thought.
Having 'thinking room' to grow and be confident is important. It helps us to ensure our best responsive and principled practice for young children. Often we may work hard without 'thinking room': that breathing space to think, connect, reflect, share and grow. Cathy shares how coaching and mentoring in early years can enable this, for the best for all in the EYFS. She has studied coaching and mentoring in education and uses a bespoke approach with adults working in early years. Coaching is included as part of effective supervision in the 2021 EYFS statutory framework.

4.15-4.30pm       Closing remarks

To access the recorded sessions from this event at a cost of £10 (members) or £20 (non-members), please email us