Learning and Development

How Sharing Practice Can Boost Standards in the Early Years

In the final article of her series, Mary Barlow considers the importance of early years practitioners from different ages and stages working together…

Sally was looking forward to the early years meeting; although it had been a hectic day at school, and it was a rush to get there after the staff meeting, she always found the meetings a great opportunity to catch up with others working in similar situations. There were usually practitioners from many settings in the locality attending, from those working with babies to Reception teachers.

Little pointer: If you are lucky enough to work in an area where early years cluster meetings are organised it is worth making the effort to attend, even if it is the last thing you feel like after a busy day at work! They are a great way to share ideas with others working in similar circumstances.

When Sally arrived she found the organiser looking flustered. “Didn’t you get my message?” he asked. The speaker had cancelled; nevertheless a few people had turned up! Although Sally recognised faces from previous meetings, she realised guiltily that she did not know their names or where they worked; she always tended to sit in a group with other Reception teachers. Soon they had all introduced themselves; there was Bella who worked in a baby room, Suzy who worked in a play group and Penny who had recently moved into the toddler room at her nursery.

Bella pulled a book from her bag. “I went on a course recently and there were lots of ideas for this story,” she explained. Sally flicked through the book. She loved the bright illustrations and the simple text; it was about an owl who stayed up all day and was amazed by the bright colours. She could see lots of potential for her own age group but could not think how Bella could use it with babies. Bella described how they had played with tissue paper in rainbow colours scrunching it and tearing it. She became very enthusiastic as she described how eight-month-old Martha had been particularly absorbed and excited by the experience. “She recognised the basket of paper straight away when we got it out the next day” she told Sally.

“I think someone from our nursery must have been on the same course,” laughed Penny. “We had a Pass the Parcel, with lots of different coloured papers. All the children had tiny soft owls and we bounced them on a piece of Lycra fabric while we sang songs; they loved it!”

“That’s one of our favourite stories at preschool too,” exclaimed Suzy. “We took the children outside with some of those paint charts you get in DIY shops, all in shades of green. They had a lovely time trying to match the shades of green to all of the different leaves and grasses in the nursery grounds. It certainly made them look more closely at the world around them as they realised how many shades there were.”

After taking down the details of the trainer who had run the course, Sally planned how she could use the story in her setting. “I’m going to take my children for a walk in the woods, we can look for holes in the trees where owls might live, and we can look at all the different colours!” she enthused.

Little pointer: Although there is a huge difference in the ages and development of the children in early years there are many similarities in their needs and interests and it is worth sharing ideas with different ages and stages.

At the next cluster meeting Bella asked her how she had got on.

“Brilliant!” laughed Sally, “although not exactly as I’d planned… Bertie had other ideas! It turns out that his dad works nights and struggles to sleep during the day; Bertie was worried that the owl would not be able to sleep with the sun shining in his hole. We shone torches through fabric samples till we found one that would make good curtains for the owl!”

Little pointer: However… when it comes to planning we must always let the children have the last word!

Missed out? Read the first part of Mary’s series, on caring for babies.

Mary is an early years consultant and trainer, and has worked across the private, public and voluntary sectors, including management roles in Barnardo’s and Sure Start programmes.