It would be hard to argue against the idea that as a society we are simultaneously over-stimulated yet exhausted. It would be equally hard to argue against the thought that in light of this, time and space to somehow bring a sense of calm to life is perhaps becoming more and more critical.
We certainly feel it in Early Years hugely. The disparity between our own understanding of children’s developmental needs and the expectations of a system that is rooted in measurability, accountability and suspicion about high quality Early Years practice.
In a way Early Years is caught between our inner mental world and the harsh realities of blind ‘educationalism’. There is a disconnect between what we know is right and the brutalism of one-size-fits schooling. Our education system continues to be haunted by the ghosts of the past: the image of the child, the illusions of what learning is, the need for whole school approaches based on archaic KS2ism rather than the unique child.
And yet, there is hope. There seems to be a growing number of schools and their leaders who are opening up to the idea that perhaps children do have something about them, that there is no Ofsted-way, that Early Years concepts of child-led enquiry and the characteristics of learning might just actually have a real place further up in school.
The discourse of defending or protecting early years practice certainly needs to evolve into a wider statement of intent. That children deserve better. That systems which are eroding children each and every day need to be transformed and that children need to take centre stage within wider education thinking. Every moment that education is done ‘to’ a child is a moment in which we send a subtle message about control and power. It is in these moments that children are ‘disappeared’ – their creativity, their confidence, their collaborations, their curiosity begin to fade and be replaced by a shadow-self.
The one thing that we need as EY practitioners is hope and through hope, alongside the possibility for change comes an increased sense of well-being. The more that Early Years practitioners advocate children, their rights to play, their unique selves and their magic then the more we begin to play our part in the road to change. Because change needs to come. And like Hannibal of the Alps once said: we either find a way or we make a way. It is this hope, our faith in children that needs to galvanise us however hard that may feel in the moment, however challenging we might find circumstances.
Hope leads the way. Take its hand because change is coming…
Greg is a former EY lead and primary school assistant headteacher. His bestselling book ‘Can I Go And Play Now?’ has led him to pursue a role in training and CPD to show other practitioners the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of effective Early Years.