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Early Years conference 2017

The 6 of October marked an exciting first for NAHT with the launch of our first ever Early Years conference. A success from start to finish the event was a hive of industry with over 100 early years practitioners and sector experts under one roof to celebrate and share the principles of high quality early years provision.  


Laying the foundations of the learning to come

Chair of the NAHT Early Years sector council, Judy Shaw welcomed attendees to the inaugural Early Years conference. Judy highlighted the importance of NAHT’s early years council and its importance in creating a strong voice within the sector. She stated, ‘Those of us working in the Early Years play a crucial role in the lives of children and families - simply put, we are laying the foundations of the learning to come.’

Susie Owen from the Department for Education followed by outlining the DfE’s focus on narrowing the social mobility gap. She said, ‘We know there’s no silver bullet’ but the DfE is committed to an ‘open dialogue’ with the early years sector in identifying the areas to target to address these gaps.

Social mobility was a running theme throughout the conference with Sue Robb from Action for Children championing the need to address the question; ‘Have outcomes improved for all children?’ Robb spoke about the need for partnerships and a collaborative approach to children’s learning in order to formulate an approach that is in the best interest of every child

Finally, Gill Jones outlined Ofsted’s vision statement: ‘A force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation.’ Examples of best practice were also shared which included early years children learning through play and storytelling. Jones concluded with a clear message to delegates: ‘Never underestimate the difference you make.’ 


Early Years conference hosted a variety of inspiring workshops covering a wide range of early years topics. 


No more pretend thinking! Cognitive challenge in the Early Years

Helen Moylett, Early Years Consultant and Vice President of Early Education hosted an insightful workshop that explored ways in which teachers can provide real cognitive challenge by building on children's interests and modelling the thinking processes they want to nurture in children. Delegates also discussed how play and active learning can support the development of creative and critical thinking.

Why it's OK for children to fall out of trees 

A workshop title that elicited curiosity from many delegates; Leanna Barrett's workshop sparked a lively discussion about the benefits of a child-led, play-based education in nature. The workshop championed giving children the gifts of freedom and time and also provided practical advice on safeguarding in a forest setting.   

Mental health and emotional wellbeing in the Early Years

A timely discussion with World Mental Health Day just next week, this workshop focused on social and emotional development in the Early Years, and explored how Early Years practitioners can promote positive mental health and emotional wellbeing. Hosted by Paula Nagel from Place2Be, the workshop identified some key strategies to promote emotional wellbeing in the Early Years.  

Untapped potential: supporting the childcare workforce in England so that every child sees the benefits of high quality, affordable childcare

Centred around Save the Children's recent campaign on childcare and early education in England, Jerome Finnegan from Save the Children considered the critical role that the childcare workforce plays in supporting children's early development. Delegates discussed the key gaps in support for the sector, how this is impacting on children's lives and were given further information on Save the Children's campaign for the Government to address these gaps.

Better Together: A practical and reflective exploration of effective partnership working with parents 

Early Years Consultant, Clare Cossor hosted an interactive workshop considering principles and approaches to working with parents in the Early Years. In addition to practical strategies, the workshop also encouraged delegates to recognise the influence of their own experiences and the impact of unconscious bias on the way in which they interact with and seek to support parents.

Teaching, Learning, Assessment and Accountability in the EYFS 

The National Director of Early Excellence, Jan Dubiel highlighted the importance of a ‘working knowledge’ of the principles of effective EYFS pedagogy. The workshop drew on up-to-date research and looked at some of the wider issues and challenges presented by the current landscape of the EYFS in schools.

Highlighting the importance of early years intervention

Later in the afternoon, delegates were treated to a spot of role play with Kathy Sylva, Honorary research fellow and professor of educational psychology at the University of Oxford. Delegates were asked to identify the ‘killer pedagogy’ displayed by the teacher. Sylva used substantial research to shine a spotlight on the importance of encouraging young children to respond critically whilst learning. She stated that children who experienced higher quality childcare provision in early years had predicted higher lifetime earnings than those who experienced lower quality provision.

NAHT’s general secretary, Paul Whiteman concluded Early Years conference by formally introducing himself to early years members. Whiteman stated that highlighting the importance and impact of early years intervention was high on the agenda for NAHT.

Early years talking heads

Page Published: 05/10/2017