Sightlines Initiative

promoting creative and reflective practice in early childhood education

Diary

This Blog (or Diary) section has a broad mix of articles, reflections, comments, position pieces, as well as requests and information from Network members. It is becoming quite a comprehensive library. You can browse using the categories and search modules to the left.

Do contact us with your suggestions for new articles - and we really appreciate comments and other feedback.
Robin Duckett
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NQT seeks post in creatively-minded primary school/early childhood centre

My name is Ben Rogers. I am a recent graduate from the in North Tyneside School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) course in the north England, and I am seeking a full-time post.

Before pursuing primary education my undergraduate degree was in philosophy and fine art studio practice. My thesis was on the theory of play with creative work and imagination, complementing my art work across media including printmaking, sculpture, photography, performance and mark making.

From this I was lucky to have worked overseas in the Netherlands, the United States, Japan and Australia with other artists. Returning to the UK I studied to work in Key Stage One and Key Stage Two primary school settings. A lot of my course was on practical placement with continuous provision and gave me chances to work across classes including with early years. Under the current circumstances I was able to witness first hand how student-focused education has benefits across the whole of primary. While on placement I started to find my voice as a teacher and try to promote open-ended thinking, creating dialogue between students and teaching staff and took advantage of outdoor learning spaces.

Throughout the pandemic I have had a chance to work on site and during the lockdowns used my time to study the national curriculum and better understand the Reggio Approach and allied pedagogies. Sightlines Initiative has been very helpful at supporting theory that I am then able to bring into my practice as a supply teacher.

I was drawn to the Reggio Approach 'family' of learning because it intersects my interests of radical thinking and a dialogic approach to making and learning. It helps to think holistically and socially and I try to lead by example: I am interested in environmental issues, supporting a climate strike at my last school, building allotments and engaging the natural world. I also understand the importance of building confidence in children in critiquing media so that they can find their own voice and interests. And finally in my classrooms I always like to learn the languages and the cultures of the children in my care to establish an international welcoming classroom.

I am looking for full time work and willing to relocate, having recently graduated in England I have Early Career Teacher (ECT) status.

Please email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are seeking an authentic and passionate person that works as a blend of educator and atelierista. 

Thank you - Ben

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Ben Rogers
I'd like to extend my thanks to everyone who has been in touch. I have had to re-evaluate my ability to move at the time being. Pl... Read More
Tuesday, 26 October 2021 20:06
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Let's hear it for Adventure - Adventure Playgrounds, and enlivening adventurousness

Baltic Street Adventure Playground, Glasgow.

"Better a broken bone than a broken spirit." So runs the mantra for adventure playgrounds - as coined by the woman who did more than anyone to establish them in the UK, Lady Marjory Allen.

This half-hour radio/podcast article is Seriously worth listening to whilst it's available (it is available for 26 days from Friday 17th September):

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/collection:p021gdts/p09w3tfp 

There are many powerful and compelling interviews - from children and grown-up children, parents, playleaders and instigators, including from Lady Marjory Allen, the 1930's instigator of English Adventure Playgrounds (you can also hear more from Lady Allen here on Tim Gill's Rethinking Childhood.)

In these current days of ours, an increasing aversion to risk means these places designed for children to swing from ropes, jump from trees and generally run free are in trouble. Many of them have been either shut down or re-purposed - a trend only made worse by local authority funding cuts. 

Josie Long thinks this is a terrible situation. Adventure playgrounds, she argues, have never played a more important role, with children ushered from bubble to bubble between home and school, after decades in which active and seemingly hazardous play has been undermined. But are adventure playgrounds much safer in their own way than the 'toyland whimsy' offered by conventional playground designs where children don't learn to assess risk? 

Josie talks to Michael Rosen about how much more creative the play offered by adventure playgrounds can be, encouraging independence and developing vital social and psychological skills alongside an amazing amount of fun. She spends two days among the children and play workers at the Baltic Street Adventure Playground in the East End of Glasgow, seeing first-hand the incredible and radical difference such a space can offer - not just to the individual children but also the community at large

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Voices in Reframing Education

The state of education is in a maelstrom, and children, educators and families with it.

There's a pushmi-pullyu situation going on - it isn't new: Mary Jane Drummond sharply outlined this in her article 'Professional Amnesia - a suitable case for treatment' for the primary education magazine Forum in 2004. Pedagogy, provision and structures of education are being led by successive governmental drives and initiatives, which have for decades focussed primarily on concerns for economic growth and global competition. In amongst it all, education is conceived as largely a business of transmitting desired knowledge, and 'preparing for the next stage.' The language of 'achievement' and practices of assessment comes with this territory of 'value-adding.' 'Delivery', 'develop, 'attain', 'targets', 'milestones' are all words which have recent UK - especially English - official descriptors of early childhood (and later) education.
Not only the terminologies, but the organisation, habits and environments are also shaped by this discourse. England has one of the poorest minimal standards for educational environments in Europe – if knowledge transfer is the chief definer of desirable education then smaller spaces are adequate – children need to be uniform, passive, obedient and receptive. Programmes of rote-learning are commercial and are pushed as 'effective' and 'efficient.' The situation is diagnosed by many – Professor Peter Moss, Sir Ken Robinson and increasingly parents who have withdrawn their children from school.
We know that learners are not passive receptors. Children are born lively, curious, dynamic, sociable, expectant, creative – in Professor Colwyn Trevarthen's words 'humans (children) are born seeking relationship.' It follows that the education we construct, with the tools of time, organisation, space, professionalism should support this basic human zest, not constrain from the narrowing external concerns about 'upskilling tomorrow's workforce.' But it is a construct – and the lived reality of schools and early childhood centres is of course very nuanced, with many heads, staff groups, managers, committed to 'getting it right'. But it remains a muddle, and it is draining the natural energies of children, and of educators, and is a worry to many parents.


Let us be bold, open and incisive. There will be politicians who want to be led out of the deep hole that has been dug – we can see that in the examples from Italy, Portugal, Finland, Toronto for example, where educators and parents have articulated and led a vison of education focussed on empathy, sociability and enquiry. It does not begin with 'looking for measurable attainment outcomes'; it begins with amplifying and nurturing the possibilities of relationship and enquiry.This needs owners, managers, heads who will champion the construction of incisive, creative systems in which children can immerse themselves in enquiry. The construction of this relationship-rooted education expects educators to be listeners, researchers, co-constructors and proactive. Internationally speaking, UK early childhood educators are comparatively under-supported, under-qualified and under-paid. But all staff groups are able to become wonderful, researchful teams – we have seen this transformation as staff prioritise the setting as a place of relationships and find the courage and energy to ask good questions:
  • What are ways in which we can resource and support children in enlivening their curiosity, confidence, daringness, absorption, questioning, exhilaration? 
  • What are  ways we can find to bring these children together to discuss, agree and disagree? To engage in significant learning groups, delving into important ideas, experience and construction of knowledge? 
  • What are ways in which we can enable their sociable autonomy and rightful importance as citizens?
Our pre-schools, centres, schools can all be places of delight and research for children, for educators, families, communities. The aspirational journey can have a sound beginning in the fundamental enquiry – 'How do we learn to live well together?' It can't, I'm afraid, begin with drilling, rote-learning, or 'measuring milestones.'
Sightlines Initiative: principles & characteristics for a relational pedagogy
Our pre-schools, centres, schools can all be places of delight and research for children, for educators, families, communities. 
The aspirational journey can have a sound beginning in the fundamental enquiry – 'How do we learn to live well together?'
It can't, I'm afraid, begin with drilling, rote-learning, or 'measuring milestones.'
It can begin by considering more generously the ways in which humans learn, and engage with the world.
This is the aim of our summer series 'Learning to Live Well Together' of six internationally-renowned contributors, which begins on 6th July (we also have a complementary introductory session on the 29th June.)
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