2021 Brightstart Conference: Early Years Excellence in Practice
PEN had the privilege of being invited to speak again at the annual Bright Start conference, which took place between Thursday 18th – Saturday 20th November. The international conference, which usually takes place in the Middle East, was held online this year and attended by delegates from over 50 countries. The conference aims to engage participants in quality improvement in Early Years settings, facilitate deep reflective practice & enhance individual professional learning and development.
Rachel Greeves (PEN's Membership and Training Manager), Jane Coogan (Head of Safeguarding at Stanley Grove and PEN Director), Kate Greer (Parental Engagement Lead, St Oswald's Primary School) and Naomi Christopher (EYFS Lead, Phoenix Primary School) all spoke at the session entitled Children's Social & Emotional Development Beyond the Pandemic, facilitated by Lorraine Allman, founder of Can Do Child. Can Do Child is an organisation that, like ourselves, supports schools with parental engagement. They provide schools with a toolkit of resources, ideas, and inspiration to support learning through play to nurture a can-do mindset and life skills.
PEN's work with schools was discussed during the session. Particularly in relation to how parental engagement has changed during the Covid 19 pandemic. Naomi and Kate are both members of PEN and use Mouse Club at their schools.
Mouse Club is a transition unit for children moving from EYFS to primary school, initially funded and researched by a grant from the Esme Fairburn Foundation. The project allows practitioners to meet parents as partners in their child's development and share their child's knowledge, strengths, and aptitudes. At the beginning of the project, each child gets given a toy mouse that they then have to prepare for school, using a range of resources and activities delivered in partnership with teachers and parents.
Naomi, Kate and Jane (all practitioners with experience using Mouse Club in their school) told us of their experiences implementing the project first-hand. They had used it to build positive relationships with families and ensure children were 'school-ready'. They shared anecdotes of how Mouse Club had supported children with their learning and helped them develop essential life skills like sleeping in their own bed and using the toilet independently.
A couple of parents had also kindly volunteered to speak on camera about their experiences of using Mouse Club with their child. It was clear from what they said that their children had enjoyed the responsibility of looking after and getting 'Mouse' (and in turn themselves!) ready for school. One parent said Mouse Club had helped her daughter overcome her anxiety about moving house and starting a new school. Mouse and associated activities had given her something to focus on and communicate 'through'.
We then discussed PEN's Active Families Project. This National Lottery funded Sport England project supports families to get more active together. It also engages families in their child's learning and development and connects schools with their local communities.
Jane spoke about her experience of piloting this project in her school in Manchester. She testified to the effectiveness of the project in building relationships, getting families fit and engaging parents with their children's learning.
It was fantastic to hear such a positive conversation about parental engagement in schools and EYFS settings. Hearing from the teachers and parents about their positive experiences implementing our projects is really heartening. It shows the importance of engaging parents in terms of improving outcomes for students and improving relationships between home and school.
If you are interested in watching this session or any of the other fantastic presentations and conversations, all of the sessions have been recorded and can be watched at your convenience. It's still possible to register for the conference retrospectively until December 1st 2021. Click here if you'd like to register for the Brightstart conference, and be sure to use the code PEN for a discount.
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