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Diary

In this blog we are posting news from around the network, reflections on general news items and other broad-ranging items of interest. Current contributors are Sightlines Initiative directors Robin Duckett, Liz Elders, Debi Keyte Hartland and Chris Merrick.
We have a Library View (see left column) to help you find past articles.

Japan-UK Early Childhood Education Dialogues

I am just back from encounters with a network of early childhood educators in Yamanashi prefecture, a large district to the West of Tokyo.

The plan has grown over conversations spanning a few years, following Professor Asami Akiyama's participation in a Sightlines Initiative Reggio Study group some years ago. We have been able to have good discussions during this time, as she has been doing research at Newcastle. We discussed many things, including the action-research projects of Sightlines (in 2018 we held an online seminar on 'Adventuring in Early Childhood Education') the varying fortunes of early childhood education in the UK, governments' general attitudes to education and creating autonomous professional development movements.

Professor Akiyama is involved with a network of early childhood educators in the district of Yamanashi, and also working to influence the direction of the Prefecture's early childhood policy and services, and her invitation was intended to help shift thinking and practice. From my perspective it was a wonderful opportunity to test out how our work and principles would be examined by an entirely fresh group of educators, and also to begin to discover how this new-to-me culture valued children, and education.

For me, it has been extremely energising, refreshing and reassuring to encounter early childhood services - I was able to visit three centres of different types – and the network group – which weren't ground down by effects of egregious government policy.Consistently I met with happy places and people – children, educators, parents. The educators and schools were all in their different ways committed, grounded, researchful, curious and above all loving and humane with their children and their overall intents. A phrase from the UK Children's Act came to mind – 'the welfare of the children is paramount' – would that were actually the case in the UK. We have all learnt much from the encounter so far, and are motivated to continue and develop further. 

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Here comes the SATs hammer again. But adults and children say - We Are More Than A Score!

The government and its departments continue to march  determinedly over the lives of children, with yet another round of its damaging test regime*. 

We have produced an inspiring film for SATs results day, reassuring children that the tests do not measure all that they can do. The film features famous faces including author Michael Rosen, actor Adil Ray, musicians Andy Gangadeen and Dunstan Bruce, Caroline Lucas MP, comedian Zoe Lyons and podcasting duo, the Scummy Mummies, as well as parents, teachers and children. It has received over 150,000 views in 24 hours on social media.

Sara Tomlinson, spokesperson for campaign group, More Than A Score commented: "The Department for Education's announcement comes at a heavy price for schools, teachers and, most of all, pupils. Over a third of year 6 pupils have been told that they have 'not reached the expected standard' based on a very narrow set of tests, taken under pressurised exam conditions. Branding children as failures just before they start secondary school risks turning them off learning altogether. Many of those pupils will have spent months focusing on just English and maths to prepare for SATs. They will have missed out on a broad and stimulating curriculum at a critical point in their education. It's not right or accurate to base a school's overall performance on the test results of 10 and 11-year-olds. There are more supportive ways to assess children and fairer ways to measure schools, without the need to turn pupils into data-points. The tide is turning in the assessment debate. Over 90% of primary school leaders want the current system to change and all opposition parties have pledged to a fundamental review. 

The time has come for the government to listen to those who know pupils best. Parents, teachers, heads and experts agree: our children deserve better."

See more about the campaign at More Than a Score

*In multiple Parliamentary questions, government ministers have re-asserted that they fully intend to continue with this regime (See The Cat is Out of the Bag)

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Rethinking Education

exploring a computer at Lotties's WoodenHouse Preschool

​Network member Lottie Child recently participated in a seminar in the House of Commons, hosted by  ex-teacher Emma Hardy MP and TED Prize winner Professor Sugata Mitra,  to consider 'Rethinking Education.' 

Here is her reflection, in which she considers the themes:

  • Should schooling be for 'pouring information in'?; 
  • Children are competent and resourceful learners;
  • Rethinking Education;
  • Where to with children's agency? 

There is an important and recurring thread which seems to run through all: the call for democracy and children's agency in schools. It is so encouraging that the hosting MP also makes this call - read on:

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Guest — Jo
This is soooo important for our young learners! Mary-Jane Drummond was my tutor at Cambridge - she has so much sense - why can th... Read More
Tuesday, 01 January 2019 19:23
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