2011 Conference/AGM

Date: 11th and 12th November 2011
Venue: Marriott Hotel, Tadcaster Road, York, YO24 1QQ
Topic: ‘Ready’ for School? Research, Reflection and Debate. A research into practice conference

Yet again, it seems that TACTYC pulled out all the stops and created a stunning conference. Delegates came from far and wide, a majority being UK-based, but also with people from South Africa, the United States, Italy, Finland and the Republic of Ireland. It was a very packed day and a half but, according to delegate remarks, very worthwhile:

"Presenters were particularly ‘cutting edge’ and presented new material for consideration."

"I found the whole conference informative, interesting and more importantly enjoyable and would love to repeat the experience."

"I liked the emphasis of basing practice on research – understanding the framework for what works and why – implications of pedagogy on shaping practice as critical for providing learning opportunities."

"Thematic approach really well linked between keynotes, occasional papers and workshops."

"I thought it was the most informative conference I’ve ever attended – excellent in every way."

"[gave me] renewed faith in my EY philosophy and enthusiasm to talk to everyone involved about our practice."

"Inspired me to further my own studies".

"I think a themed research conference like this is invaluable."

FRIDAY
Language Development and the Brain: A Phonological Perspective
Usha Goswami
Read her keynote here.

We started on the Friday afternoon with a mind-blowing talk from Usha Goswami (Language Development and the Brain: A Phonological Perspective) – there was so much to absorb that was of such unique importance to young children and early years practitioners. Usha’s talk supported the notion that phonics testing is not appropriate for our young children, emphasising how involved learning the English language is for young children because of its complexity in terms of sound/symbol relationships, morpheme and grapheme structures and the richness of our syntax/semantics. She emphasised the importance to young children of hearing as much language as possible, ‘rich’ language and oral interactions with parents/carers, language enhancement in story reading interactions and activities that emphasise rhythms and metrical structure of speech, for example, nursery rhymes, poetry, music and singing.

This was followed by an introduction to our two Occasional Papers the first by Maulfry Worthington and Janet Moyles on research undertaken by the TACTYC Exec and others related to reception class practices in English schools, and the second by David Whitebread and Sue Bingham on the research, commissioned by TACTYC, into the concept of ‘school readiness’. Both talks were very well received by delegates who raised interesting questions and comments in relation to both issues – they created quite a buzz! We feel sure that delegates and TACTYC members will, once the implications of these studies have been absorbed, have further thoughts on both. When you do, please contact either Janet Moyles or Trisha Maynard respectively. More information was given about the ‘school readiness’ research in the final keynote of the conference (see below).

SATURDAY
Constructing ‘school readiness’: European perspectives and practices
Pamela Oberhuemer
Read her keynote here.

On Saturday, Pamela Oberhuemer took us on an exciting whirlwind tour of ‘readiness’ in a wide range of European countries (Constructing ‘school readiness’: European perspectives and practices) and examined the concept from a variety of different standpoints, including the developmental, political, economic and pedagogic. She confirmed how the perspective on school readiness varies from country to country along with the age for starting school, younger in the UK than in the majority of other European countries. She concluded that ‘readiness’ is construed as either a readiness of the child for school (a relatively deficit model) or as a readiness for life with its wider focus on a range of developmental issues and learning/living experiences.

The wide-range of workshops was well received by delegates, who had the opportunity to attend one/two presentations in the morning and a further one/two presentations in the afternoon Abstracts of the sessions. However, we need to give thought to how we might make more time for these as although there was many comments such as: Workshops were very interesting and thought provoking, delegates also felt that they were very rushed and needed more time. Swap-overs from one activity to another needed more time than incorporated into the programme, something from which, be assured, we have learned. Several people suggested that we should have a full two-day conference next time!

Lunchtime saw us engaged in the AGM at which the Chair’s Report focused on a number of important achievements by TACTYC Exec this year and the need to sustain and even extend this level of activity. To this end, she outlined the Exec’s belief that there was a need for a further two elected members, a proposal agreed wholeheartedly by the members present. What we have achieved this year certainly represents a lot of work on behalf of the (unpaid) Exec this year of which we believe TACTYC can be proud! Do you feel the same? Or are there other things you would like us to be doing on your behalf? Now’s your chance to comment (t.maynard@cant.ac.uk). The Treasurer/Membership Secretary’s report outlined our healthy financial situation and the current membership standing at 450, a rise of 36 since last year’s AGM. Other reports were given by key members of the Exec and these can be found in the Minutes of the AGM which will be posted soon.

Our final keynote of the Conference on Saturday was a wider discussion of the concepts and constructs involved in our commissioned research into ‘school readiness’ (David Whitebread and Sue Bingham). This lively presentation really engaged us with the variety of issues relating to ‘readiness’ particularly focused on:

  • readiness for school and ‘schoolification’ (OECD Report, 2006);
  • readiness to learn;
  • readiness of schools.

These have led to the literature-based research identifying four main areas for consideration:

  • early childhood development;
  • children’s diverse early experiences, including family and parenting;
  • starting school and transitions;
  • schools readiness for children: pedagogies for self-regulation.

For more information, see Occasional Papers.

David and Sue informed us that they hope their full report will be published as a book (a publisher has already approached them): something to look forward to in the not too distant future!

Wendy Scott, our President, implored us all at the end of the Conference to use the vast amount of information we had received to fight for young children to receive the most appropriate education, especially in England at present, where there are currently intended policies and curriculum practices which, in our view, are not conducive to quality early years pedagogies.

"Thank you for the opportunity to listen to some passionate, inspirational and highly knowledgeable speakers."

"I think a themed research conference like this is invaluable."

"I found the whole conference informative, interesting and, more importantly enjoyable and would love to repeat the experience."

It was sad to report at the end of the Conference, that we had received no submissions for the TACTYC Award this year. We will discuss at future Exec meetings whether we should continue with the Award and would be happy to receive comments/ideas from members (please contact Wendy Scott).

The Marriott Hotel in York really looked after us and we would like to thank all the staff there for their support of our conference. Any ideas for future conference venues and topics would be much appreciated (send to Trisha Maynard).

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