Early Childhood at the Heart


Following the very successful Wellbeing for All in Early Years conference in February 2020, I had decided to hold another event later in the year, but with the onslaught of the COVID-19 Pandemic it became clear that this would not be a face-to-face physical event but would need to be an online event, similar to the BrewEdEYOnline Events, but on a larger scale.

On talking this over with my close colleague, Aaron Bradbury, (Early Years Reviews / #TeamEarlyChildhood) we decided that rather than him supporting me, which was the original plan with the physical conference, that we worked so well together that we would run it as a joint enterprise and we would create a brand that combined both of our brands that we could use for any of our events and Early Childhood at the Heart was born!

Our first online Conference in January 2021, sold out within weeks of the tickets being launched, the country was back in Lockdown and once again it felt like we hit the time just right to stage this kind of event. With eight keynotes booked, we decided that we wanted to provide more of an experience for the delegates, so we set about compiling a Conference bag, that were to be mailed out including tea, coffee, biscuits, sweets, a thank you card, conference programme and a special pin badge. These were well received and this is something we will continue to do for each of these conferences, but perhaps with a different gift as our loyal followers will not want a pin badge each time!


Keynote Speakers and Presentations

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Dr Sue Allingham, Children are People Too!
In her keynote, Sue reflects on some of her recent thoughts about how children are perceived and explores how we can get away from the distractions of the every day tasks and really engage with each child and get to know them so we can support them in the way that they need. In essence, keeping The Child at the Heart of our practice.

Elaine Bennett, Starting School in 2020 – A Journey Like No Other
Elaine reflects over 2020 and all that it has meant to her, the children she cares for and for all of us; she describes the methods of contact she has maintained with the children she cares for and also how it has been for the children moving from nursery to KS1 education last September. This presentation from Elaine would not be complete without references to the new EYFS, Development Matters and the campaigns she is involved with, Right From the Start, Birth to 5 Matters and the National Education Union.

Greg Bottrill, The Verb ‘To Childhood’
During this exclusive keynote for Early Childhood at the Heart, Greg will be exploring whether talk of play and Early Years isn’t enough and how we need to turn the narrative towards a much bigger picture. This presentation is not ‘slide heavy’ they are used more as prompts as Greg, as always, speaks from the heart, sharing his passion for childhood and the ‘magic ‘.

Gary Coffey, The Current Narrative of SEND and Inclusion in the Early Years
Gary is passionate about his work within the special education sector and during his keynote he explores, as the title suggests, the current narrative of SEND and Inclusion in the Early Years including looking at the relevant legislation and frameworks that support our work, strategies to support our own reflection and provision and the importance of fostering each child’s view to ensure inclusivity.

Dr Valerie Daniel, Perceptions of a Leadership Crisis in the Early Years
Valerie’s keynote is based on her research and she shares her journey with us exploring the disappearance of nursery schools, looking at the two different models for Early Childhood Care and Education, (the Private Voluntary and Independent – PVI – settings and Maintained Nursery Schools – MNS) and how they are structured and funded, the confusing qualifications landscape, recruitment and retention of staff and the lack of consistency across the two models and how they are both duty bound to delivery EYFS and are subject to the same inspections and grading by Ofsted.

Dr Eunice Lumsden, Adverse Childhood Experiences: Pedagogy of Transformation or Just Another Trend?
Eunice explores Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACESs) and how they relate to safeguarding, child abuse and trauma, how we can put the child’s right to care as well as education back into Early Childhood and Care, and the importance of strengthening practice through training, supervision and working together.

Dr Emma Maynard, A Focus on the Experiences of Complex Families
Emma will be presenting findings from her doctoral and post-doctoral research, which considers how parents experience intervention and change, in context of their own life stories. She will be focusing on the needs and experiences of parenting young children, and explaining how the threat and cognitive dissonance experienced by traumatised families may impact their ability to learn, and adapt to new parenting behaviours. Overall Emma will be asking us to consider the journey travelled for parents at the heart of their young families

Kathryn Solly, Outdoors for Everyone – Making the Most of Weather in a time of Pandemic
Join Kathryn in her inspiring presentation where she looks at the possibilities for Outdoors Play all the year round and also considers how to improve children’s access to play during the pandemic and across the seasons plus provides a range of ideas to inspire you to do more outside.

The day was a great success, we had added in some music, that we felt suited the Presenters and this was played as a reminder for the participants to switch of their videos and microphones at their end of the networking / Q & A sessions so we could move on to the next Keynote; this proved popular and we ended up hosting a dance & sing-a-long session in one of the breaks!

What we did learn was that eight speakers were too many, and taking on board the feedback we received, we are limiting future events to a maximum of 6 keynotes and longer Q & A / discussion sessions between the presentations!

The filmed presentations (minus the Q & A sessions, discussions, networking and of course the dance/sing-a-long are now available on the EY Matters Online Training and Resource platform.

This was the first fee-paying event we had hosted, and as EY Matters is not-for-profit, after paying the Speakers their fees, the proceeds are being used to finance further EY Matters events (fees for Speakers), the Online Training & Resource platform and development of more resources to support the Sector.


Keynote Speakers and Presentations

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As with the first conference, this second event was a resounding success! We will shortly be releasing the recordings of the Keynotes in the EY Matters Online Training and Resource Platform. 

Aaron Bradbury (yes I persuaded him!), The Early Years Child: Nurturing children through an Inclusive and Diverse Lens
Aaron will be focusing on the Unique Child. Exploring the word, the context and links to how Birth to Five matters non-Sstatutory guidance supports this and to mean something when looking at the child through a lens of inclusion and diversity. The session will focus primarily on children and families who are from the LGBTQ community. How are we gaining the voices of the child when it comes to representation within our Early Years settings? There will be a range of takeaway ideas on how to achieve some of this when working within your setting and flipping the narrative and position of our own practices when it comes to our Early Years environments and partnership with parents/carers. practice.

Ann Marie Christian, Child Protection in Early Years
The importance of creating a proactive approach in child protection in our settings. We will explore how we can ensure we put our polices, procedures and training into practice.

Hattie Campbell, Decolonisation of the Early Years Curriculum
Hattie's presentation explores the enacted professionalisms of looking outwardly and inwardly at decolonisation in early years, how it might be transformed from tokenistic gestures to meaningful change. ‘.

Donna Gaywood, Birth to 5 Matters: Guidance and Support to meet the Challenges of the 21st Century
As Project Co-ordinator of Birth to 5 Matters, Donna will be setting this valuable document into context, looking at the values, ethos and pedagogy and how to use it and how it helps. She will also reflect on where 'we' are as a country, a sector and the subsequent changes Early Years Practitioners/Teachers face and also the impact of the last year for children, their parents and staff.

Dr Julie Ovington, Being and Becoming Colourful
Julie will be presenting some of her PhD research findings which explored two-year-old children's experiences of school readiness. Using a unique analogy of colour Julie’s research (re)tells and (re)presents how the children in her research emerged with agency and autonomy in classroom spaces and events. How and when they emerged is integral to understanding how we can support children's transitions and their wellbeing in settings moving forward. To do this Julie will be sharing what is coined as 'affective intensities' as a provocation to rethink old practices, calling to question what can and should be considered as a 'voice'.

David Wright, The Passion and Compassion of Early Years Teaching
David's presentation challenges some of the dogma around teaching as a detached profession and education as process separate from society, focused on achieving a discrete set of academic results for everyone. It argues for an holistic view of the child as a physiological, emotional and spiritual being who needs above all things, relationship, connection and love in order to learn and to thrive. .

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