Early Years Influencers by Andrea Turner

16th March 2017

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Andrea Turner left her 15-year legal career to become a well-known and much loved early years mentor, blogger and owner of an Andrea Turner pictureestablished childcare business. Andrea’s passion has allowed her to grow both professionally and personally over the years and Childcare Expo are delighted to have her on board to share her stories and opinions on the early years sector.

There are times (many actually) when I think…”am I the only one who thinks and feels like this?” I can’t be the only practitioner who doubts myself from time to time: who wonders whether it’s just me being pedantic (or lazy even) and then I read the latest blog from Julian Grenier; the latest post from Tom Shea; the latest status update from Tom Hobson. Then, and only then, is harmony restored.

Whether it’s funding and sustainability; assessment and continuing personal & professional development; pedagogy and education reform – I just know they’ll be voices of reason – even when I don’t always start out from exactly the same perspective. Take play-based learning – I hate that term but love the sentiment. I’m not alone though (thank goodness) for Sara@happinessishere appears to feel the same. She’s no way of knowing this but she helped validate my whole ethos of child development. (Sometimes we just need to be told we’re doing okay don’t we?) And while I’m on the subject of things I hate there’s that other bug bear of mine too – managing behaviour – and I’m in good company because Laura Henry also questions its usefulness as a term in early years.  Her doubts prompted me to review and amend some of my policies nearly 3 years ago and yet I still can’t quite believe that the term is still widely used in the sector. Then there’s my one true anathema – planning.

Fanfare for Anna Ephgrave and her “planning in the moment”. (See guys… it’s not about me just being lazy).  She didn’t change me exactly – or even what I do for that matter – but she did affirm that I’m not mad afterall. That what I’ve been doing all these years is right for me. I love that. What I don’t love is that I didn’t think to write the book myself. Ah well, I probably wouldn’t have done it as well as her anyway. Without these influencers in my life though I’d just be going with the flow, following the sheep, keeping my head down. (I love a good idiom me). Now where’s the fun in that?

They take time out of their busy lives to analyse news, challenge practice and scrutinise policy and okay, so they don’t always do it completely altruistically (they’ve got a living to earn too right?) but hey, they don’t have to do it at all do they? They could just watch us flop around like fish out of water but they don’t. So just when I’m feeling all comfy and cosy with things in my perfect little bubble they go and fling the doors wide open and kick me out into the freezing cold.

And boy do I need that from time to time. They make me re-think things through. Make me question why I do this particular thing in this particular way or choose not do that thing that in the same way all of the other practitioners seem to be doing it. Because, let’s face it, some of us are better at reflecting on our practice and provision autonomously while some of us need poking with a stick. It’s horses for courses. What is important is that we keep challenging ourselves and not think ourselves so smart that we’ve nothing more to learn because remember, even outstanding practitioners can’t rest on their laurels. There’s always that one thing that needs to be done to improve further. And so the process of constant evaluation continues…

(extract from my own 2014 inspection report)

But look, we don’t have to act on those recommendations you know? And I really don’t think you should if they just don’t sit right with you. I mean, who’d pin a plastic coated “tree” label onto a tree? As if our montage of family photos with names and places and events wasn’t quite up to par – even where some of the children had written those things themselves? As if our huge outdoor collage where each child had given some kind of meaning to their marks and bursts of creativity wasn’t good enough? As if our packets of seeds, restaurant menus, shopping lists and insect tally charts weren’t even evidence of literacy in the outdoors…? [Sigh]

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