Saturday 1st November, 2014
Successful Pedagogy: Advocating for strong evidence to support early learning
With around 135 delegates, TACTYC’s 2014 Conference and AGM was a popular event! Once again, we found the International Convention Centre, Birmingham an excellent venue, in terms of its location, accommodation and staff team. We hosted the History of Birmingham Nurseries exhibition and welcomed a good range of stands in our marketplace.
Introductory brief talks  by TACTYC’s President Wendy Scott, Chair Dr Jane Payler and Executive member Nancy Stewart opened our Conference on a rousing note. Exploring TACTYC’s work through its aims of advocacy and lobbying, they used the strategies of Creation, Development and Enactment to give a flavour of where we are now in early years and where we’re heading. Wendy first outlined the influences on early childhood care and education over the last several decades to indicate how we have arrived at our current position, politically and in policy and practice terms. Jane then explored TACTYC’s activities and development in this climate of change and accountability, outlining our collaboration with other groups such as BERA and EE and our continuing responses to consultations and letters to politician and policy makers especially during the last year. Using the heading ‘Enactment’, Nancy then focused on professional pedagogy, considering practitioners’ values and the relationships with their knowledge, understanding and practice and the influences upon these from such bodies as OfSTED and current policies such as EYFS. Nancy then launched TACTYC’s campaign against baseline assessment explaining that the divergent ways in which children learn are not conducive to linear assessments and could well be extremely harmful to practice, learning and parents.
For our first Keynote, we were delighted to hear the findings of a research report commissioned by TACTYC: Two year olds in early childhood settings . Dr Gill Boag-Munroe outlined the literature review then Dr Verity Campbell-Barr, Dr Jan Georgeson and Sandra Mathers gave an overview of the key findings. As the current government encourages schools to create places for funded two year olds, this very timely research project gives an account of current provision from a range of different early years settings through views, thoughts and concerns from the workforce. It was encouraging to find that there was support from the sector for a minimum level 3 qualification to be held by all staff working with young children and of the importance of understanding how young children learn. The sector acknowledged the importance of training for their continued professional development, especially for supporting two year olds in the setting. The report is available on the website and makes interesting reading.
Our next keynote – Professor Kathy Hall –gave a most thought provoking speech on Networks of the Mind.  She highlighted the hallmarks of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and the relevant sociocultural ‘nets’. This included the historical perspective where ECCE is built on the work of the early pioneers. She made the point that nurturing of children is above the need for evidence as it is a moral and ethical objective in its own right. Kathy then emphasised the active role of children in their own development and discussed the policy nets including how the child is positioned as a typical universal child being assessed as an individual independent of the setting so that relational and sociocultural aspects are overlooked in assessments. She noted that England has a particular emphasis on assessment and she also highlighted how literacy and maths are valued, with other aspects such as play and informal learning, art and PE devalued and she suggested that this leads to children being positioned as children as consumers and users with rights. Kathy spoke about the ‘new net of neuroscience’ and how powerful this is in influencing new policies so that there is a danger that early childhood is seen as critical period rather than the brain is recognised as malleable and changing throughout the lifespan.
We enjoyed a busy AGM before lunchtime then conference delegates enjoyed an excellent range of workshops focused on themes including Journeys through practice’ Learning together and Young children in their settings’ Research Briefing papers from the workshops are now available in the Reflections page  of the the website. Alongside the workshops, two Discussion Fora also took place: Rod Parker-Rees chaired discussion on 2-year-olds in early childhood settings and Professor Janet Moyles  and Maulfry Worthington led a ‘Playshop’ focused on the value of play in children’s learning.
Our final Keynote was June O’Sullivan, MBE , who is Chief Executive of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF). June spoke inspiringly about Practical ways to retain key values and principles despite policy challenges. She explained how the LEYF purpose ‘Together with families and communities we enable each child to be the best they can be through wonderful experiences that enrich and extend their learning’ – is a catalyst for change and feeds their ambition – ‘Changing the World, one child at a time’. June then shared many of the ways that LEYF enacts its ambition and purpose within a shared enterprise model and she exhorted us all to take up Gandhi’s call to ‘Be the change you wish to see’.
Dr Jane Payler closed the conference by summarising the day’s proceedings and she emphasised how much we look forward to seeing delegates again next year. Most importantly, our delegates gave us some good ideas for next year’s conference and told us how much they appreciated this year’s – here are just some of their comments following the TACTYC Conference 2014:
- ‘The power of positivity’
- ‘Time to think, talk and explore’
- ‘Opportunity to have beliefs and pedagogy reinforced and ideas supported’
- ‘A really pleasurable experience’
- ‘It reminded me of the importance of being brave!’
- ‘I came away invigorated’
- ‘Excellent as always’.
Dr. Jane Murray and the Conference Team