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early years


moving cfe forward in the early years // Issue 16 // Autumn 2009

Curriculum for Excellence Moving forward


Active learning Parents as partners Outdoors – The best free resource Literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing



The Early Years team (left to right): Linda Lauchlan, Annette Burns, Jean Carwood-Edwards, Avril Robertson, Jane Stirling


Dear Colleagues

We look forward to hearing from you!

18 4

What’s keeping us busy? Delve into the diaries of the Early Years team

18 Take learning outside


Bringing research to life

Snapshots The latest news for Early Years practitioners

11 The view from Holyrood

Adam Ingram on the Early Years Framework

12 Meet the parents

How parents and practitioners are in it together

Jean Carwood-Edwards Early Years Team Leader

14 The big three essentials

Focus on literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing

Why outdoor learning is key

21 Waken the sleeping giant

Ready for take-off

25 8 features of effective planning Our essential guide to planning best practice

28 Active Learning

Engaging children in their learning

30 Postcard from the Highlands

Improving outcomes for children and young people

31 What’s happening?

Events not to be missed

Picture: Graham Hamilton/Epicscotland

Welcome to the new-look Early Years Matters. You will have noticed some big changes to this issue and we very much hope you enjoy the fresh look of the publication. We’ve also extended our distribution, so this may be the first issue of the magazine that some of you have received. This reflects a highly encouraging trend towards multi-agency partnerships across the Early Years sector. We’re therefore very keen that Early Years Matters is not only available to practitioners in pre-school and primary settings, but to everyone with a keen interest and involvement in the sector.  We have a compelling mix of content in this issue, including outdoor and active learning, planning within Curriculum for Excellence and the importance of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. Many thanks to the numerous contributors that have helped with these excellent articles. Myself and the team at Learning and Teaching Scotland hope you find Early Years Matters a genuinely useful and interesting read. However, we’re always looking for ways to improve, so please do get in touch with any suggestions or post a comment on the online version of the magazine.


Children at Kilbowie Nursery and Primary School, Clydebank, go outdoors during filming for the ‘Curriculum for Excellence – Supporting the Early Level’ DVD resource. T o find out more, visit: www.curriculum

what’s keeping us busy?

snapshots Look no further for a round up of all the latest news that Early Years practitioners are talking about

The last few months have been action packed for the Early Years team

Working with practitioners and partners towards implementing Curriculum for Excellence

Supporting and developing the visionary National Early Years Glow Group – it just keeps on expanding!

Taking forward national advisory groups, such as Transitions (TAG) and Under Threes (NUTAG)

Working collaboratively with national bodies and agencies, including Scottish Government, HMIE, SQA, further and higher education, Care Commission, Scottish Out of School Care Network, Scottish Social Services Council, Childminding Association and others

Strengthening links with the Scottish Childminding Association to support childminders with CPD

Supporting practitioners in local authorities through events and online content

Planning for Excellence at the Scottish Learning Festival 23–24 September 2009 – register now!

Presenting updated news, information, research and examples of good practice on Early Years Online – uk/earlyyears

Organising the conference: Play and Active Learning in the Early Years 3 October, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Sharing Scottish Innovation in Early Years Internationally

Contributing to new national Early Years Qualification Developments

4 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

Supporting practitioners to translate Research into Practice

Organising the Further Education Conference for Lecturers Strengthening Connections between Curriculum for Excellence and Early Education and Childcare Courses, 7 November, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

  Finalising ‘Curriculum for Excellence – Supporting the Early Level’ DVD resource to be distributed to all settings in autumn 2009

Curriculum for Excellence – Supporting the Early Level Support

A new multimedia resource to help Early Years practitioners reflect on Curriculum for Excellence is coming soon


urriculum for Excellence aims to achieve a transformation in education in Scotland by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from 3 to 18. As practitioners work towards full implementation of the new curriculum in August 2010, it is understandable that some may approach the challenge with both excitement and perhaps a little apprehension. That is why the Early Years team at Learning and Teaching Scotland has been working hard to put together a range of resources that will help to support practitioners working with the Early Level during this transitional phase. ‘Curriculum for Excellence – Supporting the Early Level’ is a multimedia resource, which will be distributed to every pre-school and primary setting in the autumn and will also be made available online. This DVD resource will help practitioners to review the background to Curriculum for Excellence, reflect on why it is time for change and investigate what

the values, purposes and principles are. This is a CPD resource with built in flexibility. The DVD is accompanied by a booklet and interactive CD ROM. The resource offers further CPD opportunities, additional film clips, reflective questions and links to relevant documentation. It is envisaged that staff in pre-schools and primaries will find these innovative materials invaluable as they highlight Curriculum for Excellence in action in a range of settings across Scotland. Furthermore, ‘Supporting the Early Level’ will steer practitioners in helpful directions in terms of facilitating them to ensure children’s learning experiences are more meaningful, creative, challenging and active. more information: To find out more, please visit: www.curriculumforexcellence

Transitions Advisory Group The Transitions Advisory Group was established to identify and agree positive approaches to transition arrangements across the Early Level. It has been supporting the development of the DVD resource ‘Curriculum for Excellence – Supporting

the Early Level’. The group will also share discussions and key messages in the National Early Years Glow Group later this year and via the Scottish Learning Festival discussion group, ‘Exploring Effective Transitions’ on 23 September at 11am.


snapshots LTS Early Years Online

Website Update Early Years Matters The Spring edition of Early Years Matters is now online. Readers can leave feedback on articles on topics such as integrated working with children and families, CPD, the Play@home physical activity programme and much more. To read the online edition, please follow this link: www.LTScotland. Under 3s case study A new under 3s case study is now available on the Early Years Online website. This case study aims to build the capacity of practitioners working in 0–3 group care settings in Midlothian and improve the quality of service for children and parents. To read the case study, please follow this link: uk/sharingpractice/w/ midlothian0to3/aims.asp?strR eferringChannel=earlyyears A discussion zone session based on the group, called: ‘A Fresh Approach to the National Birth to Three Guidance?’ will take place at the Scottish Learning Festival on 23 September at 10am. Growing Up in Scotland The recent findings from the Growing up in Scotland report (GUS) are now online. GUS is the longitudinal research study following the lives of 8000 Scottish children and their families from birth through to adolescence. To read about its background and find a summary of key findings from Year 3 of GUS, please follow this link: www.


Children’s Day Care Services: the vital statistics Care Commission

The findings of the Care Commission’s inspection of children’s Day Care Services have been revealed


s part of its remit to ensure that care service providers meet the Scottish Government’s National Care Standards and strive to improve the quality of care they provide, the Care Commission has started to grade children’s Day Care Services from 1 April 2008. At each inspection, the Care Commission grades the service according to four themes – quality of care and support, quality of environment, quality of staffing and quality of management and leadership. The Care Commission conducted 2273 inspections of children’s Day Care Services

from April 2008 to April 2009. Inspections of children’s Day Care services conducted by the Care Commission in the 12 months to 1 April 2009 of 2273 Day Care Services found that services scored more highly for the quality of care and support provided compared to any other criteria, with a high proportion of services achieving the top grades of 5 (very good) and 6 (excellent). Services were rated less highly for the quality of environment and staffing. Just 2 per cent of services inspected were allocated a Grade 6 (excellent) and 37 per cent a Grade 5 (very good) for the quality of environment offered. A fairly high number of settings, ie 42 per cent, scored a Grade 4 (good) and 15 percent a Grade 3 (adequate). The distribution of grades was broadly similar for the quality of staffing provided. Services were awarded the highest proportions of grades

Chart of the matter 4% Quality of environment:


The Care Commission rated every setting’s quality of environment. Below are how the results break down. A grade of 1 being the lowest and 6 the highest.


● Grade 6 (excellent) ● Grade 5 (very good) ● Grade 4 (good)

● Grade 3 (adequate) ● Grade 2 (weak) ● Grade 1 (unsatisfactory)

6 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

37% 42%

1 (unsatisfactory), 2 (weak) and 3 (adequate) for the quality of management and leadership. ‘We are particularly interested in inspections where services have only scored grades 1 or 2 for all themes (the poorer performers) and where they have scored only Grades 5 or 6 for all themes (the higher performers),’ said Bryan Livingstone, Development Manager, Children’s Services. ‘We have found that the quality of day care of children’s services is generally good, with around 80 per cent of services achieving Grades 4 or above at inspection for each theme. But almost one in four day care of children services scored a 5 or 6 in all of the themes. In the private sector only 17 per cent of the services achieved Grades 5 or 6 for all themes and 4 per cent a Grade 1 or 2 compared to the same proportion of services in the voluntary sector who achieved Grades 5 or 6, but only 2 per cent scored 1 or 2 in all themes,’ said Bryan. ‘More than one in three local authority services scored Grades 5 or 6 across the board.’ As Bryan explains, the Care Commission is committed to supporting practitioners to improve the standards of care provided: ‘The Care Commission will continue to work with providers to improve services. We are developing a page on our website, which will give examples of innovative practice and services. The intention is that it will give ideas that providers may wish to adapt and introduce into their own services.’ more information: To find out more, visit:

The Scottish Government is to provide funding of £4m to improve play opportunities for young people aged 5–13 years

Meet the new Commissioner Tam Baillie was appointed as Scotland’s new Commissioner for Children and Young People in May. Here he explains his aims and objectives for the next five years How have the first few months been? Have they matched your expectations? I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I was advised to take a break between my last job and this job to recharge the batteries, as it were, but I didn’t, because I was so keen to start! What do you see as your main priorities? There are three main areas that I want us to concentrate on. The first is increasing awareness and understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I want to do that by drawing attention to cases where we are already satisfying the Convention’s articles – for example, every time a parent is providing a loving home

The key is to get the right support to parents early on, and for me that means combining our health services with an element of family and parental support environment or an Early Years worker is providing nursery education. If we start to understand that the Convention affirms a lot of the good things that we’re already doing, that will help us get a better understanding of where we need to do better for children and young people.

The second is about capturing the voices, experiences and opinions of young people, and making sure that they influence the work of our office and general policy. In particular, nurseries are a major issue because there’s the challenge of finding ageappropriate ways of engagement. The third area is discrimination. There are a whole group of youngsters for whom we do need to do things better, and we will highlight that through specific areas of work. How do you view the importance of the Early Years Framework? I believe it is the most important policy development within Scotland. In my opinion, placing a greater emphasis on Early Years development and our Early Years services is the biggest single chance we have to create a generational change to the future wellbeing and resilience of our children and young people. The key is to get the right support to parents early on, and for me that means combining our health services with an element of family and parental support. If we are going to achieve some of the changes we’re looking for, that’s where we’ll have to put our time and energy.

What do you think are the strengths of our current system? I’m very encouraged by the Scottish Government’s response to the conclusions of the United Nations Rights of the Child monitoring committee and its decision to publish an action plan. It forms a good basis for the future direction of my office. We also have international recognition for our Children’s Hearing system, and we’ve scored consistently well in our educational outcomes, so there’s lots of things that we can build on. But we mustn’t be complacent. Where would you like to be in five years’ time? I would like us to be where a lot of our policy plans say they want us to be. We’ve actually got very good and positive aspirations for our children, we have a number of policies and pieces of legislation in place. The issue is about the good and consistent implementation of that. If there was one thing I could alter, it would be the level of inequality that we have in Scotland. We have an unacceptably high number of children brought up in poverty, so we have to have a renewed and refreshed approach to that.



tim wallace: curriculum for excellence

Equal health opportunities LTS Early Years Online /earlyyears

New downloadable resources Image Library New downloadable images have been added to the website to depict food, drink and physical activities. Visit the resources section to find out more.

The Curriculum for Excellence Early Level DVD resource A promotional video has been produced to promote a forthcoming Curriculum for Excellence Early Level DVD Resource entitled, ‘Curriculum for Excellence Supporting the Early Level.’ This DVD will be delivered to every pre-school and primary setting in Scotland in autumn 2009.

To see the promotional video and to find out more please visit: news/2009/educational/june/ news_tcm4552057.asp?strRef erringChannel=earlyyears

Tim Wallace, Professional Adviser, Scottish Government, shares his views on the next stages to deliver Curriculum for Excellence


An Early Years test site centre will address inequality in service pathways for children


ast Lothian is the Early Years test site centre for a new initiative to tackle health inequality across Scotland. The local authority has been selected to pilot ‘Equally Well’, a Scottish Government project designed to address the underlying causes of poor health before they develop further. The first priority in East Lothian will be to review service pathways of health and wellbeing for children. This is being addressed by encouraging collaborative working between the community and service providers to identify what needs to be done and how it can be carried out. Early Years is a particularly important part of the health inequalities jigsaw as encouraging positive attitudes towards health at an early age will have an impact that will

Improving service pathways for children in East Lothian influence this generation and future generations too. The programme intends to reach out to children from birth to the age of 8, by improving community engagement, and providing extra support to those families who need it. ‘This is a new approach for Scotland,’ says Karen Grieve, Programme Manager, Health Improvement and Health Inequalities for the

Scottish Government. ‘We are putting into practice ideas that could make a real difference in improving the way public services work together.’ A further seven test centres will look at other areas of health inequality. more information: scripts/documents_info.php?doc umentID=392&pageNumber=2

SSSC Early Years toolkit coming soon Support


o support Early Years and child care workers, and those interested in pursuing a career in this area, the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) will launch an online Early Years toolkit later this year. ‘In 2006, the National Review of the Early Years and Childcare Workforce identified a need for clearer career pathways within the sectors,’ says Nina Roberts, Learning and Development Adviser, Scottish Social Services Council. ‘The Scottish Executive’s response in ‘Investing in Children’s Futures’

8 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

Making Curriculum for Excellence happen in Early Years

asked that a toolkit which supports career pathways be in place by September 2009.’ The online toolkit will be a one-stop shop, helping anyone currently working in, or considering a career in, Early Years and child care, such as nursery workers or play workers, to identify career pathways. It will include an interactive section showcasing case studies of Early Years practitioners explaining how they have developed their careers. The SSSC was established in October 2001 under the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act, as part of a drive to raise

standards in social services and to promote a competent, confident workforce. Registration update Following the announcement of required registration, managers and lead practitioners of day care of children services must register with the SSSC by 30 November 2010, practitioners by 30 September 2011 and support workers by 30 June 2014.

We are now entering a really important phase when all establishments should be moving forward with the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. Most of the guidance is now in place to support this implementation: the values, purposes and principles have been shared, ‘Building the Curriculum 1, 2 and 3’ have been published, and, in June of this year, the final set of experiences and outcomes for each of the eight curriculum areas were distributed to all practitioners. Further guidance on skills development and assessment will be published over the coming months. From August 2010, all learners should be experiencing learning and teaching based on the guidance provided. Central to this is a description of the curriculum that encompasses the experiences and outcomes, interdisciplinary learning, opportunities for personal achievement and the ethos and life of the school as a community. This is certainly not about ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ but is about building on current good practice. The journey that each practitioner, pre-school establishment and school takes is a local decision based around their identified development needs. There are, however, some additional sources of support

From August 2010, all learners should be experiencing learning and teaching based on the guidance provided

available to help Early Years practitioners on this journey: • Curriculum for Excellence website – Learning and Teaching Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence website has been updated to provide specific support in building the curriculum. It also links to a section called Sharing Practice, which demonstrates how establishments and local authorities are approaching Curriculum for Excellence in their local contexts (www. curriculumforexcellencescotland. sharingpractice/index.asp). • A video clip that provides a flavour of the new DVD resource, ‘Curriculum for Excellence: supporting the Early Level’ can be viewed at: www. curriculumforexcellencescotland. stages/earlylevel/purpose.asp These materials aim to support practitioners as they implement the early level. As Early Years Matters goes to press, the design and production of the resource is being finalised, so that every pre-school and primary setting can receive their materials in the autumn.

This is an exciting time for Scottish education. Across the country, we continue to see examples of innovative and creative practice, building on the values, purposes and principles as outlined in ‘Building the Curriculum 3’ and earlier guidance. There is a clear focus on the child at the centre and a real understanding that change is necessary when striving for an education system fit for the challenges of the 21st century. Curriculum for Excellence offers a real opportunity to ensure that our young learners really do become: • successful learners with enthusiasm and motivation for learning, an openness to new ideas and a determination to reach high standards • confident individuals with physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, self respect and ambition • responsible citizens with respect for others and a commitment to participate responsibly in society while developing a knowledge of the world and Scotland’s place in it • effective contributors with resilience and self-reliance, who can communicate in different ways with an enterprising attitude.

more information: The Early Years toolkit will be available at later this year 9

kate cherry: curriculum for excellence

Adam Ingram: The view from Holyrood

The HMIE perspective

the early years framework

Kate Cherry, HM Assistant Chief Inspector at HMIE, provides a progress report on Curriculum for Excellence within Early Years settings

Adam Ingram MSP, Minister for Children and Early Years, explains why developing the Early Years workforce is a key priority

In HMIE inspections over the last year, inspectors have had discussions with staff in all centres and nursery classes about how they are engaging with Curriculum for Excellence. We have highlighted good practice and positive progress being made with the curriculum. Our new inspection models have given us more opportunity for professional dialogue with all staff. Staff have found this a very helpful part of the new inspection process and have readily shared their ideas and sought information about developing their curriculum. We have been encouraged by the work being done in many centres. The existing willingness of staff in the Early Years sector to embrace change has encouraged them to take a new step on the road of continually improving children’s learning experiences. Developments such as outdoor learning, children taking decisions in their learning, and staff liaising with colleagues across sectors on the Early Level have been most encouraging. In the HMIE report on inspection and review 2005–2008, we said: ‘Curriculum for Excellence embodies a new way of working. It recognises that sustained and meaningful improvement should, to a significant extent, be shaped and owned by those who will put it into practice.’ In the Early Years, we need to build confidence on the firm foundations already in place with the 3–5 Curriculum Framework. Staff now need to look much more closely at the Curriculum for Excellence Principles and Practice Papers and engage with the Experiences and Outcomes now published. As the Curriculum for Excellence itself puts it: ‘The

The Scottish Government is strongly committed to giving every child in Scotland the best possible start. In December 2008, we published the Early Years Framework in partnership with COSLA, setting out a vision for long-term, transformational change in the Early Years. High-quality, pre-school education has a vital role to play in the successful implementation of the Framework, and there is a significant volume of evidence on the relationship between quality and the presence of well-qualified staff in pre-school settings, particularly teachers. That is why, in our concordat with COSLA, we pledged to ensure that all pre-school children have access to a teacher. In May 2009 we published supportive guidance for pre-school providers on the implementation of this commitment. As research into how much of a teacher’s time is required to improve children’s outcomes in a pre-school setting is not conclusive, there would be no basis for setting a minimum level for what counts as ‘access’ and that is not what the guidance aims to do. What we do say, however, is that, given the strong evidence base on the benefits brought by teachers in pre-school settings, it is important that teachers are deployed in ways that make the best use of their skills and experience. It is important that teachers are utilised in ways that contribute positively to the learning experience for children, and it is likely that this will entail the provision of teacher input on a regular and consistent basis. For some providers, deploying teachers on a full-time basis in centres will prove difficult – particularly in remote or rural areas.

10 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

It will be important to ensure children’s experiences are planned across the Early Level from age 3 to 6’

title ‘Experiences and Outcomes’ recognises the importance of the quality and nature of the learning experience in developing attributes and capabilities and in achieving active engagement, motivation and depth of learning.’ Over the inspection programme for 2009 and 2010, HMIE will be looking for clear signs that Curriculum for Excellence is being taken forward. From August 2009, we will still be looking at examples of good practice and, from January 2010, we will expect to see a more coherent curriculum strategy having an impact on each school or centre. In particular, we will look for an understanding by teachers and other educational staff of what Curriculum for Excellence is about

and how they will approach the change. Curriculum for Excellence should be reflected in selfevaluation and improvement plan priorities. In pre-school and early primary settings, it will be important to ensure children’s experiences are planned across the Early Level stage from age 3 to 6. This will mean even better liaison and transition within and across the sectors. Staff will be using the experiences and outcomes to improve teaching, learning and achievement for children. The existing good practice in the Early Years of delivering the curriculum in an active and integrated way offers an exciting chance for learning and teaching to become even more innovative and creative.

There is a significant volume of evidence on the relationship between quality and the presence of well-qualified staff in pre-school settings’

We acknowledge that, in this case, alternative models of deployment, such as part-time or peripatetic models, may need to be explored.

Working together As the guidance makes clear, the role of teachers in pre-school must be considered in the context of the wider workforce in centres. The Scottish Government is committed to developing the Early Years workforce – we have already made significant progress on this through the introduction of the Childhood Practice qualification for Early Years and childcare managers, and the ongoing process of SSSC registration for the wider Early Years workforce. As set out in the

Early Years Framework, we are also looking at the development of roles working across sectors. While teachers have an important and distinct role to play in the delivery of pre-school education, centres should consider how teachers can be deployed in ways that complement the valuable work done by all members of the team in pre-school settings. In Scotland, we have much to be proud of in terms of our preschool education provision. To give all our children the best possible start, we must now build on the high-quality practice that already exists, and increasing the overall level of teacher involvement is key to this.


wo rking with par e n ts

Meet the parents

particular attention. ‘It’s impossible to underestimate the role of practitioners in supporting parents and raising awareness of their rights,’ says Linda Alexander, Senior Manager at Enquire, the national advisory service for additional support for learning. ‘Enquire exists to help practitioners and parents, and young people, get the information and advice needed to ensure children are supported towards maximising their potential.’ Enquire urges Early Years staff to raise awareness among parents of the services it offers. ‘No problem is too small or too big, and we are here for practitioners as well as parents through our information service and telephone helpline. Partnership working is crucial for effective communication and it’s what works in the best interests of the child,’ says Linda. Full details of the service provided are available on the Enquire website ( With a shared agenda, joint planning and a true partnership with parents, the potential rewards for children in Early Years are very exciting. Parents and practitioners have made great strides working independently, but together they will achieve so much more. ●

The opportunities for parental involvement in early years provision are more plentiful than ever as Curriculum for Excellence becomes embedded in practice. Charlotte McNeill reports


ith the number of lone parent families on the increase and the pressure of work commitments, life can be a juggling act for families with young children. Another factor to consider is the decline of the local extended family, and the opportunities for young children to enjoy quality time and interact with adults are not as plentiful as they might once have been. Yet, as practitioners know, playing with children and talking and listening to them is paramount to their physical and mental wellbeing and development. The role of parents in nurturing their children’s development doesn’t end at their own front door – parents also have an important role to play working in partnership with Early Years practitioners. ‘Research tells us that the life chances of a child can be hugely enhanced if parenting is right in the early stages,’ says Lorraine Sanda, National Parental Involvement Co-ordinator at Learning and Teaching Scotland. ‘There’s no doubt about the gains for the children, families, communities and practitioners of getting the partnership with parents right.’ While true partnership cannot be achieved overnight, Lorraine is confident that it can work. ‘The starting point in terms of developing real parental involvement is the shared belief that practitioners are working alongside parents to get the best outcomes for children in Early Years. If we truly believe this, we can start working towards creating a partnership. This means asking ourselves how we can support parents, how we can involve them at all 12 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

stages of their children’s learning, and thinking about how parents can support us in what we are trying to achieve,’ explains Lorraine. ‘I would encourage all Early Years practitioners to self-evaluate how they involve parents at present, and to meaningfully involve parents in that evaluation.’ How can practitioners help these partnerships thrive? ‘Building trust, respect and open, two-way communication is crucial to forming the relationships that lead to real involvement. So much of a child’s learning in the Early Years takes place outside of nurseries and we have to think about how we can work in partnership with parents, grandparents and other key people in children’s lives,’ says Lorraine. ‘When you think about ‘relevance’, ‘personalisation and choice’ and ‘challenge and enjoyment’ – three of the principles for design used in Curriculum for Excellence – how more relevant can you make the curriculum to young children’s lives than by involving their parents?’ Early Years settings across Scotland are introducing innovative approaches to capitalise on the valuable contribution parents and other family members can make to their children’s development. Highlighted on the Learning and Teaching Scotland Video website ( video) is Inveralmond Early Years Centre Nursery School, West Lothian, where they are supporting parents through the Peers Early Education Programme (PEEP). The programme gives parents tips on how to play and interact with their children, and provides opportunities to meet with other parents to share experiences.

Find out more

‘PEEP aims to help parents learn to interact with their babies and children from a very young age, and to create an interest in literacy and numeracy experiences among young children before they come to school,’ says Aileen German, Headteacher at Inveralmond Early Years Centre Nursery School.

In it together Meanwhile, Clentry Nursery in Fife adopts a whole-nursery approach to involving parents in their children’s learning. Listening

to parents’ views at the planning stages of Early Years experiences and encouraging their active involvement in the life of the nursery has paid dividends. ‘The nursery does a lot of work around health promotion, involving parents in cookery lessons and a fruit and vegetable stall for families who use the nursery,’ says Lorraine. ‘Parents also take part in positive parenting classes and regularly volunteer to participate in forest walks and swimming trips. It’s a great example of sharing learning experiences. Parents really appreciate the advice they

receive in the non-threatening Early Years environment, so we have a wonderful chance to gain parents’ support.’ In Argyll and Bute a group of 10 nurseries and schools have come together to develop parental involvement in active learning. One of the initiatives introduced, ‘Shared Start Shared Finish’, sees parents join the classroom each week either for the first or last half hour to work with the children and see active learning in action. ‘This enables parents to understand the benefits and rich experiences that active learning facilitates,’ says Lorraine. Another approach involves parents and staff sharing ideas on planning learning opportunities. Lorraine states, ‘This is real partnership, parents and staff are learning from each other, valuing and taking account of each other’s experiences and perspectives, and at the same time getting the best possible learning experiences for children.’ Further details can be found at: www. sharingideas/argyllandbute.asp

Additional support needs The involvement of parents of children with additional support needs demands

Visit Default.aspx to find out more about Clentry Nursery and other examples of good practice. Shifting focus from simply communicating to true involvement emerged as a key finding of the Parents as Partners in Early Learning (PPEL) Project, which provides a snapshot of policy and practice in Early Years Settings in 150 local authorities in England. • To find out more, visit: www.surestart. A Scoping Study commissioned by the South East Forum illustrates how Family Learning approaches can support children’s learning and development, and raise parental aspirations. • For further information, visit: www. Final%20Report.pdf Lorraine Sanda will deliver a session on making parental partnerships work for Curriculum for Excellence, at the Scottish Learning Festival on Thursday 24 September at 2pm. • For further ideas on involving parents, visit: www.parentzone sharingideas/index.asp 13

li teracy, Numera cy, H e alth an d W e l l b e i n g

The big three


1 Literacy 2 Numeracy 3 Health and Wellbeing

By the time a child reaches three, 85 per cent of the brain’s core structure is formed. Most of the brain’s growth occurs during the first two years of life, when vital neural connections are made in response to the child’s environment. A newborn baby’s 100 billion neurons have tentative connections which, through the child’s experiences, will become the hard-wired connections responsible for all their major cognitive and emotional functioning


ut science is only one side of the coin. Anyone who has ever spent time with small children will have witnessed for themselves the remarkable transformations that take place from one day to the next. New skills are learned, new words are spoken and young personalities come to the fore. Set against the backdrop of Curriculum for Excellence, Early Years practitioners, families and communities across Scotland are recognising the importance of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing as building blocks for lifelong learning. Even for our very youngest children, knowledge and awareness of these three key areas can have a powerful impact. But with that power comes great responsibility, as three specialists in each of the fields explain.  

Bringing words to life

‘Over the last year we have been developing the concept of literacy across learning,’ says Fiona Norris, Literacy and English Team Leader at LTS. ‘The phrase ‘literacy across learning’ wasn’t a well-known phrase in the past, we had “literacy across the 14 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

curriculum”, but this needed to change in order to emphasise the fact that literacy is not a subject,’ she says. The embedding of basic literacy skills is something that cannot be taught in isolation. ‘You cannot access other aspects of learning unless you are literate. It is not just down to language teaching,’ says Fiona. Curriculum for Excellence has helped to bring about a change in thinking regarding the teaching of literacy. ‘Good primary school teachers have always understood that literacy is not a subject, but something that needs to be taught in conjunction with every other curriculum area,’ she says. ‘The 5–14 curriculum encouraged teachers to split the language modes into discrete subjects: reading, writing, listening and talking. This resulted in each component being taught in isolation and removed the possibility of language developing in an interconnected way.’ Fiona talks positively about the impact that Curriculum for Excellence will have on the teaching of literacy. ‘The great thing about Curriculum for Excellence and literacy is that people now have the freedom to develop language within a context,’ she

says. ‘It is through listening and talking in the Early Years that children develop many of their skills.’ Kilmacolm Primary School in Inverclyde has introduced innovative approaches to help its pupils develop skills in this area. ‘From the Early Years, the children are introduced to the benefits of questioning, through using Bloom’s Taxonomy,’ says Fiona. ‘Staff have established a colour coding approach, where each of Bloom’s questions is written on a different coloured flower.’ This was a particularly innovative system, as it could be easily adapted to the home environment. ‘In order to ensure that parents were fully involved, the school put together a workshop on Bloom’s Taxonomy. This gave parents an insight into this talking and listening strategy, and allowed them to continue developing it at home,’ says Fiona. This approach is particularly relevant in light of the many references made to questioning in the Literacy and English Early Level experiences and outcomes. ‘The words that are appearing are questioning, exploring, playing and choosing,’ says Fiona. ‘What we are seeing is that literacy is best developed in an active, collaborative and

li teracy, Numera cy, H e alth an d W e l l b e i n g

interactive way. Curriculum for Excellence has really given us an opportunity to reinforce this.’

child has learned at home, before they even start nursery, links in with what they learn at nursery. And, going forwards, how that knits in with what they’ll learn when they move on to primary and eventually secondary school. Health and wellbeing runs right through the Curriculum for Excellence from 3–18, but for the Early Years it’s about building on what has gone before,’ adds Iain. Iain says that an awareness of health and wellbeing at all levels, in families and in the nursery or school, helps nurture social, emotional and mental skills that form the basis for a child’s lifelong development. ‘It’s vital that everyone who works with children understands the social and emotional impact of their actions and behaviour,’ he says. And it’s in the process of ensuring

• For more information on Bloom’s Taxonomy, follow the link: www.teachers.

Counting on us Joe McLaughlin heads up Learning and Teaching Scotland’s Numeracy team. His experiences echo those of Fiona and the belief that effective teachers are teachers of children, not solely teachers of a particular subject. ‘Creating the foundations for good numeracy skills and a well-rounded understanding means creating a real buzz, an excitement about numbers, right from the very Early Years upwards,’ says Joe. For children from the earliest of ages, numeracy can translate into simple everyday examples, like dividing an orange into equal parts, sharing their lunch with a friend, or simply recognising their front door number. ‘Numbers can become very personal to children,’ says Joe. ‘Even something as simple as their age or the number of the bus they get to nursery. It’s important we acknowledge this early recognition of numbers and use the numbers that already exist in a child’s environment to best advantage.’ It’s here that active learning has a part to play. Joe points to instances where even very basic ‘active’ techniques such as dropping objects into a cup and listening for the noise as they hit the bottom, one by one, can form an early awareness of ‘adding up’ and help young children understand the idea of progression in a sequence. ‘Capturing young children’s imagination is key,’ he says. Early exposure to numbers and sharing best practice has been boosted by the ability of nurseries and schools to log on to the virtual learning environment Glow. ‘Glow can really help generate fresh ideas and allow practitioners to talk openly about what works well for them and share what might be helpful to another nursery or school. The chat board is also a great source of inspiration,’ says Joe.

With health in mind ‘Early Years development is about learning and living,’ says Iain Ramsay, Health and

16 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

It isn’t only the children’s awareness we need to raise and harness, it’s the adults’ and the learning communities’ the children are part of

Wellbeing Team Leader at Learning and Teaching Scotland. For Iain and his team, a holistic ethos underpins every aspect of health and wellbeing and the way these areas interact with each part of a child’s learning. ‘Everyone who makes up part of a child’s learning environment has a responsibility to develop, reinforce and extend learning in these areas. And it’s about so much more than learning, it’s about developing a real awareness of how learning works in practice,’ he explains. While the phrase ‘responsibility of all’ might sound like jargon, Iain stresses the importance of breaking down what it means in hands-on terms. ‘That means thinking about how we engage with children. We’re all key in relation to their mental and emotional health. In real terms, that might be about celebrating achievement but it might just as importantly be about teaching coping skills and resilience. Health and wellbeing isn’t as simple as teaching

children about eating healthy foods or doing exercise, it crosses all disciplines,’ says Iain. Wellington School Nursery in Ayrshire fully understands the impact health and wellbeing has on a child’s development. Nancy Allan, Head of Nursery, ensures that a range of activities are available each day which demonstrate its commitment to health and wellbeing. ‘There are a number of physical activities available for the children to participate in on a daily basis, and we ensure that the children spend part of each day outside,’ Nancy says. ‘The children consider hand hygiene carefully, and understand the importance of tooth brushing.’ Iain says a holistic approach to health and wellbeing extends beyond the nursery or school setting. ‘Health and wellbeing must be supported by knowledgeable adults. It isn’t only the children’s awareness we need to raise and harness, it’s the adults’ and the learning communities’ the children are part of. The environment that the school

or nursery provides to support all this is also key,’ he says. Iain calls these ‘enabling environments’ and explains: ‘Things like what food they serve, and how play time and rest time are organised are important.

These are day to day examples of how the issues on paper translate into practice.’ Wellington School Nursery recognised this need to improve its partnership with parents. “We wanted to get parents fully involved in health promotion at Early Level. In order to do this effectively, we decided to organise a Health and Wellbeing Fair. We also got the local health community to raise awareness of the services they provide.’ On the day of the event, displays were set up by a professional who provided key information about health and wellbeing in the Early Years. The event turned out to be a success as Nancy explains: ‘The Health and Wellbeing Fair was very well attended by parents who commented on the usefulness of the information provided,’ she says. ‘They also appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Curriculum for Excellence Early Level, and the importance it places on health and wellbeing.’ ‘Consistency is also crucial and that’s where we need to think about how what a

good transitions that partnership working and joined up thinking has a valuable role to play. ‘Health and wellbeing crosses all disciplines. It has to be a partnership effort between schools, communities, parents and carers, in fact all those who interface with children,’ he says. Considering that health and wellbeing is broken down into six ‘organisers’ with issues such as relationships and substance misuse making up two of the curriculum categories, you would be forgiven for thinking these aspects simply don’t apply to the Early Years. But they do. Iain explains that substance misuse could cover making sure young children understand that some dangerous items are stored in kitchen cupboards and medicine cabinets. ‘It might also cover making young children aware of how and when to get help in an emergency situation,’ he explains. All teachers and Early Years practitioners have a responsibility to promote literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. These core building blocks will enable children in the Early Years to be successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. ●

more information? To find out more, visit: www. 17

Th e great outdoo r s

Take learning outside If education is a voyage of discovery, why not explore the opportunities to take learning outside? Chiara Pannozzo reports


he Early Years are a time of unrivalled personal discovery, in which each day holds the potential for adventure for a child – and nowhere offers greater potential for adventure than the great outdoors. ‘The benefits of outdoor play are really very basic,’ says Harry Harbottle, a consultant in play and risk management, who was formerly appointed by the EU as a child safety expert to the European Standards Organisation. ‘If children aren’t allowed to engage with the elements – mud, water, air, even fire – how can they begin to understand the world that they live in?’ Harry argues that there is a need to move away from a culture of reluctance to let children explore outdoors. ‘We are at last realising the consequences of children spending most of their time indoors,’ says Harry. ‘There are too many children who have been adversely affected by a lack of exercise and stimulation.’ A solution to counteracting the effects of spending too much time indoors is to begin to embrace outdoor learning. ‘From working across the EU, I have seen the benefits of taking learning outdoors,’ says Harry. ‘Children in Northern Europe, in particular Germany and Scandinavia, have much more independent mobility.’ In order to create a similar effect in Britain, official guidance on play now advises practitioners to undertake a risk ‘benefit’ analysis, when they are concerned about the nature of a certain activity. ‘Perceived negative risks 18 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

surrounding health and safety seem to have become part of our culture,’ says Harry. ‘It is often hard for practitioners to remove this barrier. However, a risk benefit analysis encourages practitioners to look more closely at the associated benefits rather than just the risks. By doing this, practitioners can take a more balanced approach to ensure that only relevant and proportionate provisions are put in place to reduce the likelihood of accidents. It is important that practitioners use safety rules and regulations to enable children to do things, rather than stop them from doing things.’ Harry also believes that parents and practitioners should not underestimate the level of expertise they already possess in the field of risk benefit analysis. ‘In my view teachers, rather than parachuted-in experts, are the real specialists,’ he says. ‘They know the children and the area, and are better equipped to handle any behavioural issues, which very often are the causes of problems rather than technical ones,’ says Harry. It is important to remember that accidents are rare. ‘Provided you have taken the proper, logical steps, and have completed a risk benefit analysis, then you should have demonstrated that you have taken the appropriate level of care,’ he says. In addition to the health and developmental benefits, outdoor education also helps to increase awareness of the environment. ‘If we want people to become more environmentally conscious, what better way to do this than to encourage children to engage with nature?’ asks Harry.

Children at the Cowgate Under 5’s Centre develop Early Level science experiences and outcomes whilst outdoors

North Lanarkshire So what is happening in Scotland? Well, one local authority that has been active in the outdoor learning arena is North Lanarkshire Council. ‘There is now much more of a focus on going outside with the children,’ explains Marian Cairns, Early Years Development Officer. ‘These experiences cannot be recreated indoors. It would be easy to mistake outdoor learning as simply expanding children’s knowledge about nature and the ever changing landscape. While of course these factors are one of the main benefits, being outdoors lends itself to the whole curriculum. We do not see the outdoors as a separate area but as indoors

and outside being one planned learning environment. Staff are encouraged to view the area they plan for as being from the nursery entrance to their perimeter fence – and beyond. They are encouraged to use the learning potential of the local community, and country parks.’ Embracing outdoor learning has required a great deal of hard work, but the rewards make it all worthwhile. ‘We knew if this were to be a success, we would have to support our early years practitioners appropriately,’ says Marian. This process began by accessing New Opportunities funding to provide safe and secure play areas and by North Lanarkshire Childcare

Partnership funding training opportunities to all of its nursery establishments. This allowed staff to explore opportunities for children to learn outdoors. Furthermore, Early Years establishments were provided with a number of resources, guiding them in how to use the outdoors appropriately to create worthwhile learning experiences. Materials such as Mindstretchers ‘We Go Outside’, began to be distributed to facilitate their use of the outdoors as a challenging learning environment. Conferences, specialist site visits, Forest School Taster sessions, resource allocation and development officer support have assisted staff in recognising the value of being outdoors.

If children aren’t allowed to engage with mud, water, air, even fire – how can they begin to understand the world that they live in? 19

Th e great outdoo r s

re se a rc h in to pra c tic e

The importance of play

Early Years practitioners could clearly see the benefits for children. Not only were they more comfortable in an outdoor environment, the children were being presented with more spontaneous challenges, encouraging their holistic development. ‘The colours change, the temperature changes, the feel of the outdoors changes all the time, and that in itself creates a more sensory outdoor

Practitioners have reported that taking learning outdoors has had a positive effect on them – they are healthier and less stressed experience and offers greater challenge,’ says Marian. ‘Taking learning outdoors also provides the children with more freedom to explore. Indoors they can take part in activities that are stimulating and interesting, however, outside children are exposed to more opportunities to explore and ask questions about the natural environment.’ The benefits of outdoor learning have also extended to practitioners, some of whom have reported feeling healthier and less stressed. 20 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

Aberdeen and Edinburgh The Nature Nurture Project is an early intervention programme, that runs in partnership with Aberdeen City Council and Camphill School. It accredits its success with using woodland spaces to provide a calm environment for the children. Terri Harrison of Camphill School describes the positive effect the outdoors has on children: ‘Being out in nature with staff that are focused on understanding their needs, gives them the opportunity to test their skills, push themselves a little further each time and then celebrate their success.’ The Cowgate Under 5’s Centre in Edinburgh also has a strong ethos in outdoor learning. Lynn McNair, Head of the Centre, discusses their ethos: ‘Our aim is to help the children become experienced risk assessors who are resilient and thoughtful about their own personal safety, and who can make good choices about what risks to take.’ Lynn believes that anxiety is underpinning a reluctance to take learning outside, and it is crucial that this anxiety is not passed onto children. ‘If we are anxious and prevent children from taking risks, we are not encouraging them to persist with challenging tasks,’ she says. ‘By removing the challenges, we are not developing resilience in our children.’ In order to help facilitate outdoor education, Curriculum for Excellence has embedded a number of principles associated with outdoor learning in the experiences and outcomes for the Early Level. ‘There are a number of references to exploring the outdoor environment,’ says Juliet. ‘And there is clearly going to be a great deal more expectancy about what is possible.’ ●

‘Play is central to how children learn, both in terms of cognitive skills and softer skills around relating to other people. It is a fundamental part of children’s quality of life and is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Outdoor play in particular can also be a major contributor to outcomes around physical activity and healthy weight. Developing play spaces and play opportunities for children and removing barriers to play is therefore a priority.’

Early Years Framework, p11

Waken the sleeping giant Research is all too often left to gather dust on library shelves. Jean Carwood-Edwards explains why it’s time to waken the sleeping giant and bring research to life


he Early Years Framework, which is designed to give our children the best start in life, stresses the importance of research to ensure that our work is rooted in robust rationales, rather than habit and hearsay. Most practitioners would agree that being able to explain their practice by citing evidence gives confidence and credibility to both the providers and the users of a service. So why does the mere sight of the term ‘research’ often make people run for cover? There is no doubt that some research findings are so camouflaged by obscure and complex terminology that any potential value is easy to miss. For this reason, some research is destined sadly to reside in dusty library tomes, never achieving a practical impact. Practitioners also speak of difficulties of time, finance or distance that prevent them from accessing continuing professional development (CPD) initiatives that might otherwise provide opportunities to engage with research. If relevant information that could inform and improve our practice is available but is not being accessed, we could view research as a ‘sleeping giant’ – a great force that lies dormant but has explosive potential if roused. So how can we stir this giant? How can we begin to remove some of these barriers to promote professionalism and strengthen evidence-informed practice? It’s sometimes easy to forget that ‘research’ is actually a simple everyday activity about ‘finding out’ so that you can then make informed decisions – such as buying a mobile phone or switching insurance provider. The principle is the same in Early Years education – and finding out which approaches and activities have been proven

to work makes sense. Indeed, it may be that by making some fundamental changes, we could all work together more effectively to strengthen the ‘research into practice’ bridge. This is an agenda that Learning and Teaching Scotland is very committed to promoting and supporting. A recent piece of research commissioned by Learning and Teaching Scotland and undertaken by the University of Strathclyde, reviewed CPD provision for Early Years practitioners and managers who work with children under 3 years of age. Involving staff in 29 local authorities, the research set out to look at the ways in which CPD could be improved to more effectively support and equip practitioners. The full research report with the key findings, messages and recommendations can be accessed at whatwedo/research/publications/ ltsearlyresearch/index.asp. Learning and Teaching Scotland placed an emphasis on the practical impact of the

research from the initial planning stages by incorporating case study examples and agreeing that the publication of the report would be followed by extensive dissemination, including conferences, publications and online communications. It was also agreed that LTS would help practitioners and policymakers interpret some of the recommendations and implement them in practice contexts (see recommendations on p22).

more information? Jean Carwood-Edwards is Leader of the Early Years team at Learning and Teaching Scotland. She will present the full paper, ‘Research: A Sleeping Giant’ at the EECERA Annual Conference in Strasbourg on 27 August 2009 when Learning and Teaching Scotland will share its role in supporting research into practice with colleagues across the world. Visit http:// to find out more 21

r esearc h into p racti ce

Bringing research to life


Looking for effective ideas for converting research into practice? Jean Carwood-Edwards offers some recommendations from the Early Years team at Learning and Teaching Scotland What can researchers do to strengthen the research into practice bridge? • Plan the timing of research projects so that findings will fit with priorities. • Involve the end users at the outset to enhance awareness and ownership. • Ensure the focus is relevant and will be regarded as useful by end users. • Build practice links into the research brief to aid conversion into practice. • Use inclusive language that will be meaningful to the majority of end users. • Produce tailored summary reports as well as full technical reports. • Make the research findings accessible to end users. • Agree the presentation format and style at outset, in line with target users. • Generate curiosity and expectation by communicating intentions and keeping in touch with end users through updates as the research process progresses. What can practitioners do to strengthen the research into practice bridge? • Make known the questions you think need to be explored to improve the quality of provision for children and families. • Overcome the notion that research is ‘academic territory’. • Talk about research findings with colleagues, children and parents. • Use online facilities such as the LTS websites and Glow to keep up with new research. • Share your own experience of what works with others via LTS online, Glow and other websites. • S elect different aspects of practice with colleagues and discuss why you do what you do in the way that you do. • Acknowledge elements of practice in your setting that are underpinned by evidence and discuss this with others. • Subscribe to a new e-bulletin, publication or website. • Encourage children to adopt a ‘finding-out’ culture so that research is regarded as a natural tool.

What can LTS do to strengthen the research into practice bridge? • Ensure relevant research evidence is made accessible and available. • Influence researchers to undertake studies that fit with practitioners’ needs and interests. • Encourage researchers to build explicit practice links into research plans. • Examine existing research messages and make available to the Early Years community in accessible forms. • Use research findings as a starting point for dissemination rather than regard it as the end of a project. • Identify potential users of the research in policy and practice contexts and communicate with them. • Organise online and other CPD opportunities and invite practitioners and others to participate. • Build research findings and related practice examples into publications, conferences and other media. • Convert research messages into practice by highlighting case studies that exemplify key findings. • Facilitate practitioners and policymakers to plan how they can convert research into practice in line with their own context. • Assist practitioners, policymakers and researchers to identify key gaps and priorities for future research. • Support practitioners and policymakers in sourcing, making relevant connections and using existing research. • Disseminate research findings which encompass international, national and local perspectives. • Communicate effectively with researchers to help mediate and strengthen the research into practice bridge. • Provide mechanisms for planning, debating, evaluating and sharing across the children’s workforce to help build capacity and improve evidence-informed practice.

22 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

Glow – An Example of Research into Practice in Action Jane Stirling explains how Glow makes a perfect medium for effective research into practice


hen Learning and Teaching Scotland carried out research into Continuing Professional Development (CPD) provision for practitioners working with children under the age of 3, the following barriers were among those identified: • lack of time to participate in CPD • lack of funding to access CPD • lack of suitable CPD opportunities for staff working with this age group. As a result of the research, a number of recommendations were made. North Lanarkshire Council (NLC), which was identified within the study as one local authority demonstrating effective practice with this age group, has been working in partnership with LTS to examine and implement the following two recommendations: •C  PD initiatives with a specific focus on the under-3s should be developed on a multiagency basis, including key stakeholders such as education, health and social work. Such initiatives should involve managers and practitioners from private, voluntary and local authority sectors. • L ess frequently used approaches such as distance and online learning, staff exchanges and job shadowing should be encouraged p24 and supported.

Growing up in Scotland Growing up in Scotland is a valuable example of how research can influence and inform practice


efore GUS was set up, our only source of data was from a UK study, which only incorporated the results of 2500 children living in Scotland,’ says Lesley Kelly of Growing Up in Scotland (GUS). ‘Since GUS is solely representing children in Scotland, we have now been able to study 8000 families, which will give us a great deal more data.’ GUS was commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2005, in response to a lack of information regarding the lives of children under the age of 5. The 8000 children were divided into two cohorts. The birth cohort consisted of 5000 children, who have been interviewed annually since birth. The remaining 3000 children were all under the age of 3 at their first interview. This allowed the researchers to make comparisons in their data early on. ‘When interviewers visit participating families, they ask a number of questions

regarding the child’s development,’ says Lesley. ‘They also measure their height and weight. The children will also have been participating in exercises prior to the visit, which test their vocabulary and problem-solving skills. These results give us an insight into the child’s cognitive development.’ In recent years the style of GUS reporting has been adapted. ‘For the first two years, we produced lengthy reports, covering all of our findings,’ says Lesley. ‘More recently, we have moved towards producing shorter reports, which provide more detailed, comprehensive information.’ The topics of these reports have varied, along with their findings, but a recent report on the effects of parent–child interaction on cognitive development, generated a great deal of media attention. ‘We removed the

effect of socio-economic disadvantage, and looked purely at the developmental impact of parents and children spending time together,’ says Lesley. ‘Activities such as reading and talking produced positive results, reinforcing the notion that, from a young age, parents should be spending time with their children.’ This will be further highlighted in autumn when a social advertising campaign funded by the Scottish Government will appear on television. ‘We are hoping our research findings will impact on parents, and encourage them to see the advantages in spending time and engaging with their children.’

more information? All of the report findings are available to be downloaded from the GUS website (


r esearc h into p racti ce

Glow, the Scottish national intranet for education, provides the infrastructure to enable online learning and the exchange of ideas and practices to support virtual learning communities. Glow provides a range of web resources that can offer unique learning opportunities. Chat rooms (Glow Chat), newsgroups and instant messaging are built into the system, along with resources on net conferencing (Glow Meet), which allows text, voice and video conversations between users across the intranet. Practitioners can also use an online whiteboard to share their presentations with others.

Evidence-based practice can be improved through effective CPD opportunities Through this partnership working with North Lanarkshire, Learning and Teaching Scotland organised two Glow Meet sessions: • The North Lanarkshire Council Early Years settings along with their multi-agency partners (eg health, social work, psychological services and so on) shared examples of practice in real time, facilitating multi-agency group discussions. • Jacqué Fee, from the University of Strathclyde Research Team, linked up with the NLC Early Years Centres and their respective multiagency partners. The session focused on the theory and practice of how to achieve effective integrated working and included interactive question and answer opportunities. This partnership has highlighted that evidence-based practice can be improved through effective CPD opportunities, enabling practitioners to discuss, collaborate and share their practice through the use of online learning environments. ●

Speak to me Liz Attenborough, Manager of the National Literary Trust campaign, ‘Talk To Your Baby’, reveals how a simple research project could change the way buggies are designed


n November 2008, ‘Talk To Your Baby’ published the first ever research into the psychological effects of life in a baby buggy. The report set out to answer a simple yet important question: does the direction a buggy faces alter the quality of interaction that parents and carers have with children? A study of nearly 3000 parentinfant pairs across the country was carried out by Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, from Dundee University’s School of Psychology. The findings revealed that 62 per cent of all children were travelling in away-facing buggies, and only 22 per cent of carers were observed speaking to the child. Dr Zeedyk also carried out a study of 20 babies being wheeled in pushchairs across a one-mile stretch in the centre of Dundee. Half the journey was spent in an away-facing buggy and half in a towards-facing buggy. Only one baby in the group of 20 studied laughed during the awayfacing journey, while half laughed

during the face-to-face journey. One factor was startlingly clear – infants and carers were twice as likely to be interacting when using face-to-face buggies. There is no doubt that communicating with babies and toddlers – making eye-contact, talking and singing, listening and enjoying ‘conversations’ with them – helps to develop their speech, language and communication skills. In today’s modern, fast-moving society, babies are spending more prolonged periods of time in buggies and prams. What better way to make that time stimulating for both the child and the carer than by talking, laughing and engaging with each other along the way? A flurry of media coverage after the publication of the research has brought the issue to the top of the agenda. We hope that this increased awareness will inspire manufacturers to make front-facing buggies more affordable and readily available.

24 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

features of effective planning

Planning is a big issue for practitioners preparing to implement Curriculum for Excellence – and there is a thirst for guidance and examples of best practice. So what lead can local authorities take to help? Fraser Allen spoke to three participants from this summer’s National Early Years Local Authority Forum (NEYLAF) in Stirling The panel Kirsteen McCartney, Quality Improvement Officer, East Ayrshire Council

Frances Rodman, Quality Improvement Officer, North Ayrshire Council

Myra Struthers, Quality Improvement Officer, Glasgow City Council


1 Support for Practitioners

more information? Jane Stirling is a Development Officer with the Early Years team at Learning and Teaching Scotland. She will deliver a session entitled: ‘Making Connections Across the National Landscape’ along with Jean CarwoodEdwards at the Scottish Learning Festival on 24 September at 2pm

8 e ffe c tive pl a n n in g

Enjoying conversations with babies and toddlers helps to develop their communication skills

Myra: In Glasgow we used to have a very prescriptive approach to planning and paperwork but the Curriculum for Excellence ethos promotes autonomy – and with autonomy comes responsibility. However, we’re certainly not abandoning practitioners, or saying ‘do whatever you want’. People need guidance to point them in the right direction and we’re offering a flexible approach to providing support when and where it is needed. Frances: I agree. We’re trying to ensure that practitioners are fully supported. The

Local authorities can point practitioners in the right direction to make their planning more effective


effective p l annin g

5 Encourage Reflection

process should be focused on opportunities for the child’s development through Curriculum for Excellence rather than trying to fit the child into the outcomes. Planning should not be about ticking boxes, it should be a process to support children’s learning and development.

Myra: In both the guidelines that we have produced and the planning proforma that practitioners can use, we have stressed the value of ‘reflection’. That means practitioners are reflecting on learning as it happens, and also encouraging the children to reflect. We have also stressed the importance of play in learning.

Myra: We have commissioned a working party this year, made up of the Early Years Quality Improvement Officers, of which there are four at present in Glasgow, and the heads of various different centres across the whole city. We’ve discussed our thinking with them and other practitioners and will gain more feedback in the months to come. Glasgow’s vision so far is based around a general set of guidelines and a graphic device, a bit like a pie chart, that emphasises principles of effective planning – from observation and consultation, through to sharing outcomes for learning, and then reviewing your work. It’s still in draft form at the moment, but it does give exemplars of good practice and we feel it is quite innovative. It provides a starting point.

6 Incorporate Transition

Kirsteen: Reflecting on the transition process is also important. We have changed what we called the ‘skills profile’, which was created during the nursery stage and passed on to be validated in October by the P1 teachers. We thought it was impractical to say a child had developed specific skills within that time frame. Instead we are placing an emphasis on involving the child and their parents in identifying what the child’s interests are and what he or she needs to learn. We call this a ‘transition profile’, which is completed in stages from home to nursery and nursery to primary. It puts a greater focus on continuity and progression in their learning.

2 Sharing Best Practice

7 Opportunities for Training

Myra: We have looked at some useful exemplars from England and have also urged our own practitioners to share their

Having more time to spend tapping into children’s interests is a key priority

To gain the biggest impact on a child’s learning, practitioners should plan an activity that they would expect children to enjoy

best practice ideas with us. People can be apprehensive about this, – especially when it involves other local authorities. Putting your thoughts ‘out there’ can seem a bit frightening. The meeting in June this year of the National Early Years Local Authority Forum (NEYLAF) was a really good approach to sharing approaches and ideas. It gave people the opportunity to talk to each other and share ideas about good practice, without having to publish anything for the whole world to see. Kirsteen: Working together and sharing best practice is helpful in understanding what Curriculum for Excellence is all about. The NEYLAF forum was a great idea. Meeting people in the same field is so valuable and it’s very important to receive information from a strategic point of view.

26 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

3 Less Paperwork, More Action

Kirsteen: We are trying to move away from driving practitioners into filling out countless sheets of paper and instead ensure that it’s more about working with the children and tapping into their interests. Although we have issued general guidelines, we are very much encouraging people to develop what suits their situation best. We have developed an A3 planning sheet but if practitioners are using their own format that they are happy with, they can continue to use it, providing they are consistent with Curriculum for Excellence. Frances: Any format that we pursue has to be manageable for practitioners – it’s important to minimise the paperwork and maximise the time that they can spend working with children.

Myra: We don’t want to swamp people with paperwork. Also, the planning process must have the flexibility to reflect the needs of each establishment, rather than restricting practitioners.

4 Know the Child

Frances: It is important to ensure that planning always starts from a sound knowledge of the child. There should be a focus on individual children, with individual planning for each child – and regular evaluation built in around it. That means speaking to the parents about their child’s development and interests, and enabling the child to have a say in what they do too. We also believe there should be involvement from the whole staff team and any relevant agencies.

Kirsteen: More and more practitioners are asking for training in planning. We have been holding twilight sessions, with homework assignments and quiz elements that make planning issues more relevant to participants’ own settings. We also started providing one-to-one surgeries last year. Initially it was offered to support partner providers in the voluntary and private sector, but it is now being offered to anyone who requests it.

it Relevant and Enjoyable 8 Make

Kirsteen: Kate Cherry from HMIE (see p10) made a simple but illuminating observation at the NEYLAF event when she pointed out that some evaluations contain comments relating to how the children have enjoyed an activity. As she quite rightly said: ‘Who would plan an activity that they wouldn’t expect children to enjoy?’ Our message is very much that we shouldn’t just hope children enjoy activities; we should be actively planning to ensure that experiences are also relevant, challenging, developmentally appropriate and have an impact on learning. ●

more information? To find out more about planning, contact Kirsteen: Frances: Myra: 27

ge t active

What is active learning?

Bright ideas for active learning

‘Active learning is learning which engages and challenges children’s thinking using real-life and imaginary situations. It takes full advantage of the opportunities for learning presented by: • spontaneous play • planned, purposeful play • investigating and exploring • events and life experiences • focused learning and teaching supported when necessary through sensitive intervention to support or extend learning. All areas of the curriculum can be enriched and developed through play.’

An initiative in the Scottish Borders is pioneering fresh approaches to active learning. Chiara Pannozzo reports


ctive learning allows children to be more involved in decisionmaking,’ says Susan Sutherland, a nursery teacher at Newtown Primary in Newtown St Boswells. ‘We use the children’s ideas to find out what they would like to learn, then we take their ideas forward. This allows the children to take greater responsibility for their own learning, rather than dictating what they are to learn. As a result, children are now more fully engaged in their learning.’ Susan was a member of a working group created to help pioneer a fresh model for active learning across the Scottish Borders. The group, which was co-ordinated by Eleanor Byrne, Quality Improvement Officer at Scottish Borders Council, has recently created a set of active learning guidelines for the Scottish Borders authority. 28 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009

Active learning creates opportunities for investigation and exploration, taking full advantage of spontaneous play

‘The working group was made up of a number of Early Years practitioners from both pre-school and primary, who were committed to reviewing current thinking on active learning,’ says Eleanor. ‘We recruited a diverse group of people in order to cover as wide an area as possible. The practitioners were already committed to developing approaches to play and active learning in the Early Years, which was to prove invaluable when citing good practice.’ The aim of the group in putting together the guidance was to look closely at reviewing current thinking in conjunction with the ‘Building the Curriculum 2’ document. They also looked at learning and teaching approaches to develop current practice. One of the first discussions the group had was to agree on what was meant by the term ‘active learning’. Susan wanted to remove any confusion surrounding this. ‘Some practitioners are under the impression

that active learning is mostly concerned with play, but this is not the whole story,’ she says. ‘Active learning promotes wellplanned, purposeful play and learning, where direct teaching does take place, but in a more discreet fashion.’ To build upon this understanding, it was important for the group to develop a cohesive approach across the Early Level – for ages 3 to 6. This would set out the necessary continuity and progression, and would take account of prior learning. Susan emphasises the importance of continuity between nursery and primary one. ‘It is essential to ensure continuity between the stages as it allows for a more seamless transition. As children in P1 and pre-school work together, they become more aware of similarities in their day, thus making the transition process smoother.’ The Curriculum for Excellence Early Level is now giving practitioners the opportunity to develop a more progressive curriculum.

As practitioners make connections between nursery and primary one, the working party is moving forward with a number of recommendations to Borders Council, in order to develop this way of working. ‘One of the main recommendations we put forward was that future CPD should be a joint experience between nursery and P1,’ says Eleanor. ‘Not only would this allow for the development of the Early Level, but it will help to eradicate the boundaries between nursery and P1.’ As well as developing the guidance in line with the main reference point of ‘Building the Curriculum 2’, the working group was keen to ensure that the finished document was workable. ‘We wanted to present the information in a way that would be easy to follow,’ says Eleanor. ‘This prompted us to produce a single set of guidance for managers and practitioners

that would provide a clear message to whoever was reading it. We also wanted it to be rooted in best practice. A number of the comments and exemplars were based on practical examples from practitioners.’ Susan Sutherland adds that her school has since adopted some of the principles from the guidance. ‘We have now adapted the start of day routine in primary one to reflect the nursery morning,’ she says. ‘For example, rather than the children gathering together on the carpet, we have introduced “Soft Start”, where the children have 20 minutes free play. Here they are able to choose from planned play activities, which has proved to be very effective in primary one and primary two.’ Christian Robertson, Head Teacher at St Peter’s Primary School in Galashiels and a member of the working party, firmly believes that the guidance will be helpful in

Building The Curriculum 2, page 5

smoothing the transition between nursery and P1. ‘Our nursery nurse has been working alongside teachers in the infant department, supporting them in taking active learning into the primary one and two classrooms,’ she says. ‘It has proved very successful.’ Eleanor and her team have worked hard to produce a comprehensive set of guidelines that will continue to support the early years in creating more active learning experiences. This guidance is expected to be with nurseries and schools in the Scottish Borders for the start of the 2009/2010 session. Initially, this guidance will only be distributed in the Borders region, but Eleanor will be happy to share this guidance with other local authorities in the future. ●

more information? To contact Eleanor Byrne, email: 29

a postcard from...

A new regular featu re highlighting exciting n projects across Sco ew tla kicks off with a look nd a collaborative workin t how g the Highlands is he in lp to improve outcom ing es children and young for people


onfident individuals, effective contributors, responsible citizens and successful learners – the four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence paint an attractive vision for Scotland’s children and young people. Achieving these outcomes will not be simple but Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) is one initiative which is helping to make it happen. GIRFEC is a Scottish Government programme that aims to improve the outcomes for all children and young people by ensuring that all relevant agencies – education, health, social services,

All the key agencies have a role to play but this should not supersede the needs of the child and their family

What’s happening? Calendars to the ready – here are some exciting training and networking events for the autumn

The Highlands police and the voluntary sector – are working together and sharing key information to get the right help to children at the right time in their lives. The Highlands local authority has been working as a pathfinder area, pioneering the principles of GIRFEC for three years and is reaping the rewards from interagency working. ‘All the key agencies have a role to play and the main focus must always be around the needs of the child and their family,’ says Ann Brady, Chief Executive of the Care and Learning Alliance, which offers a broad range of childcare and family support services throughout the Highlands and promotes the importance of collaborative working. ‘A unified approach from all agencies at the right time is important in ensuring that each child gets the help they require,’ explains Ann.   Every child is different Recognising each child’s individual needs and gaining a holistic view of their circumstances – family life, health and their community – is vital. Once this has been established, agencies can then pull together to put into practice a plan for each child.  GIRFEC allocates each child

a named contact who ensures the plan is followed and that all agencies do what is required of them. In an Early Years context, this is likely to be the child’s designated health visitor, so it’s essential that the health professional can liaise effectively with other agencies. ‘Each professional must be aware of their individual responsibilities to the child and, when appropriate, how to work effectively with others to ensure they are met,’ explains Ann. For Gillian Newman, Voluntary Sector Lead of the Getting it Right for Every Child team, although it may signal a step change for many organisations, the positive results of the GIRFEC approach are indisputable. ‘Working in the Getting it Right for Every Child processes will bring changes in culture and practice for all practitioners working with children and families,’ says Gillian. ‘As it is an early intervention model, some of the most powerful benefits will not be seen until the children grow up but we’re already seeing many great benefits from this collaborative, child-centred way of working.’  The rollout of GIRFEC across Scotland could help make the aim of providing a personalised level of care for each child in Scotland a reality.

Further Education Conference for Lecturers

Strengthening Connections between Curriculum for Excellence and Early Education and Childcare Courses

Other Events

The Scottish Learning Festival Date: 23–24 September Venue: SECC, Glasgow

Date: 7 November

Venue: Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Following the success of last year’s conference for Further Education staff who are involved in the Early Years and Childcare Programmes, we are delighted to offer a second event, which will consider how Curriculum for Excellence can become embedded into Early Years Training Programmes. Invitations to this conference will also be open to private training providers.

This year’s Scottish Learning Festival will include a variety of exciting Early Years events, including Professor Carlina Rinaldi as a spotlight speaker and Professor Ferre Laevers, who will deliver a keynote presentation and an Early Years seminar. There will be a number of other Early Years seminars and discussions, an education showcase area, the Scottish Education Village and the Early Years zone.

Further information: Visit: www.scottish

Further information: Email Felicity Bowen at 30 early years mat te r s | Autum n 2009


Play and Active Learning in the Early Years An Early Years Curriculum for Excellence Saturday Conference

Date: 3 October

Venue: Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Further information: Visit

Come along and join in the debate on the role of play and active learning as our new Scottish Curriculum is implemented. This is a unique opportunity, not to be missed, to engage with first-class speakers who are experts in the field: • Pat Kane (accomplished Scottish musician/songwriter and author of ‘The Play Ethic’) • Dr Christine Stephen (Institute of Education, University of Stirling) • Kevin Kelman (Programme Leader, BA Childhood Practice, Faculty of Education, University of Glasgow) • Juliet Robertson (Creative Star Learning Company)

Early Years Matters Autumn 09  

As the name suggests, Early Years Matters focuses on the education of children in nursery and primary school settings. Working closely with...