Stronger Together: The launch of the St Edmund’s Early Years Stronger Practice Hub for Yorkshire and The Humber
“Stronger Together”, this was our launch event title and wow, it certainly felt that that was how the whole sector is seeing things too. The event brought together 130 practitioners from across Yorkshire and The Humber, in person, to what we think may be the biggest cross-sector gathering in Bradford for many years.
The Stronger Practice Hubs programme forms part of the Department for Education’s (DfE) Covid-19 recovery package. It is being led by the National Children’s Bureau, with support from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).
St Edmund’s Early Years Stronger Practice Hub for Yorkshire and The Humber will work in partnership with early years providers across the region to support them to improve outcomes for children across the EYFS, focusing on areas of development that research indicates has been most impacted by Covid-19 - personal social and emotional development (PSED); communication and language, early literacy and maths.
Our events were replicated over two days, to ensure that the whole early years workforce had an opportunity to join us. As we had predicted, there was higher representation from the maintained sector on the Friday and more Childminders on the Saturday, but both days saw people from each type of early years provision.
We wanted to make this mix visible to all, so on arrival each delegate was handed a sector related, colour-coded ribbon. However, they didn’t know it was coded! Why did we not tell them? Because as all early years practitioners know, loose parts ignite your (children’s) curiosity and create the perfect opportunity to encourage discussion. It wasn’t until the end of the day that it became apparent that there was a reason for the ribbons.
As an organisation that claims that “We are passionate about Play, generating excitement for what we do and how we do it” it was important that this value was threaded through our event. So we began the day by throwing a ball around the room. The ball held questions, and catchers were asked to share joys, pride and challenges from their week of working with children. The challenges shared, not surprisingly, were recruitment, retention and funding, but on the whole it was a really positive 10 mins.
Sian Hudson, the Executive Headteacher of St Edmund’s Nursery School, introduced our Hub offer to the delegates, sharing the EEFs Early Years Evidence Store and Toolkit, our EEF programmes on offer to 25 settings and our plans for professional networks.
Keena Cummin's gripping keynote presentation explored the theory of why mutual face watching is of significance in the development of children's patterns of behaviour, their social interactions, their ability to learn, their language, speech, fluency and communicative confidence. It enabled delegates to reflect on their role in supporting children and gave strategies to consider our own communicative patterns in order to foster optimum development in each child. Using relatable examples and video footage, she demonstrated how the use of video footage of adult/child interactions can provide a better understanding of each child's unique habits of interaction and reminded delegates that reflecting on video observations of adult child interactions is likely to have the most impact on the child's developing skills, confidence and wellbeing.
Delegates were visibly tuned in to what she was saying, there was much note taking. Our feedback sheets contain many specific references to her session and a clear desire to do/hear more about her approach.
After the break we returned to our playful approach, with an interactive story from Bradford based storyteller, Irene Lofthouse. Her story was developed to share the diverse backgrounds and experience that the St Edmund's Stronger Practice Hub Strategic Leadership team has. We believed that this was an important message to give the delegates, to demonstrate that we have an understanding of and genuine interest in working with the whole sector. But more than that, we recognise that through telling stories we build language and help (children) people learn more about their community. The story ended with the tying of the coloured ribbons, creating a visual representation of the diverse early years workforce in the room, and symbolised that we are indeed “Stronger Together”, because the St Edmund’s team has recognised for many years that collaboration and partnerships has the potential to improve working practices and outcomes.