Learning and Development

5 positives early years settings can take from the pandemic

  • 5 positives early years settings can take from the pandemic

It hasn’t all been bad news in recent months…

We enter 2021 with the shadow of Covid-19 lying heavily upon us. We know all about the negative economic, social and wellbeing issues it has raised, but what about the good stuff?

Let’s focus on something positive and think about what we can do with that information. This column is all about the good things we’ve learned that we need to hang on tight to.

First, here’s a response from one of our parents about her child’s return to nursery, sentiments I’m sure will be shared by many:

“This morning our little Sapphire ran into the courtyard to embrace her friend Bruno; we couldn’t stop her. Many of the residents looked on and waved from their windows, and the children and parents clapped with delight. Once downstairs there was cheering, more clapping and laughter. I hid in the office to disguise some tears.”

The power of play

We noticed that nurseries found their place in the community. Our role as a supporter was appreciated by many. Of course it wasn’t enough, but we started the national conversation we’ve been wanting to hold for so long.

We got the backing of the Duchess of Cambridge, who recognised that early years are critical to children starting strongly, and she asked the public what they thought.

Unsurprisingly 76% did not realise the impact of early years but 24% did, so we can start there.

The conversation has been launched. Let’s keep it going. Many children thrived at home and returned to nursery confident and happy. Others did less well, taking a few steps backwards, going back into nappies, exhibiting language delay, insecure behaviour and, in some cases, returning obese and with tooth decay.

So, if we’re to sensitively respond we must revisit our knowledge about how children play to learn and learn to play. We must strengthen our pedagogical confidence so we can slow the pedagogy right down. This may mean taking some children back to basics and letting others deepen and wallow in their learning.

But, most importantly, let them play: it’s the best therapy.

Technology and leadership

Zoom, zoom to the moon and back! Before COVID-19 we used every reason to avoid using technology to help us connect. Now we are all able to have meetings, settling-in sessions, training and home learning activities on digital platforms.

It’s true we introduced the new catch phrase “You are on mute!” but let’s continue to use these platforms to allow for agile and flexible contact and make blended learning a real option.

It will help us address presenteeism, give staff a bit more flexibility and, most importantly, help us appreciate the power of face-to-face contact. It might also reduce video sharing on WhatsApp!

COVID-19 highlighted the role of leadership. It wasn’t just about trying to navigate all the complexities of the changing rules, but also how people felt. We saw lovely examples of social leadership where empathy, compassion and kindness were central, and real, warm values anchored every decision made.

Let’s hope people don’t forget those organisations that put their employees at the heart of their decisions and acted in a principled way. Long live social leadership!

Going green

Most of us discovered the importance of being outside and children’s need to be part of nature and have time to look about and appreciate the things around them.

We really pushed our ‘Green Leyf’ approach because climate change and the destruction of the planet is probably bigger than COVID-19 for our small children. We must keep our focus long term and redouble our efforts to fight plastic and waste.

Prepare to grow your garden and your little gardeners. Make your 2021 action plan a green one. We owe it to our children.

June O’Sullivan MBE is the CEO of the London Early Years Foundation. Visit June’s blog at leyf.org.uk/junes-blog or connect on Twitter at @JuneOSullivan.