Sightlines Initiative

promoting creative and reflective practice in early childhood education


Conferences & Seminars

(including Reggio Study visits)

Reggio Approach E-Learning

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Events Archive

How do children make meaning through multiple modes or ‘languages’, including the visual? How can we recognise, value and support all children’s metaphorical thinking? What can we learn about our own understanding in the process?

Stickman"Furry Stickman" - Winnie, Little Jungle School of Early ChildhoodLondon ReFocus has been considering these questions throughout a two-year project exploring ‘Visual Metaphor’, initiated as a Sightlines Network project in 2019 & inspired by a recent project focus in Reggio Emilia’s preschools and infant-toddler centres. You can read initial project descriptions and papers through following the link. 

The event will showcase some of the ongoing collaborative reflection and enquiry from early years settings in and around London. We will consider the importance of materials, environments and the adult’s role in supporting children to make visual metaphors, and what insights these can offer into children’s thinking.

 London ReFocus is part of the Sightlines Initiative Network, bringing together educators, artists, researchers and others interested in developing a creative and reflective approach to early years education, inspired by the practice of Reggio Emilia. 

All are welcome to hear about our work and we will share an invitation to join us for the next stage of the project.

Our language is full of metaphor; arguably it comprises metaphor: as educators working to attune ourselves to a way of seeing the world metaphorically, we also are working to attune ourselves to the way others see the world , and can see the word metaphorically. We are also working to figure out the ways in which we can present educational opportunities or constructs for children  in order to amplify  their potentials, to exercise their own competencies  …

Date Thursday 18th November 2021
Presenters Members of London ReFocus
Please Note: You will be sent a Zoom link upon registration, so look out for the email.
Times 4.30 - 6p.m.
Location/Map: online

Have you always wanted to hear directly and in detail about the Reggio Emilia Approach® from Reggio Emilia’s own educators and pedagogistas; and to have the opportunity to engage in live discussion?


With Reggio Children, Reggio Emilia’s organisation dedicated to international professional development, we are collaborating to offer a friendly and live substantial online study opportunity, especially for educators and others who are relatively new to encountering Reggio Emilia’s early childhood principles and experience.

Here is advance information and special participation opportunities.

It is a full immersion in the Reggio Emilia Approach® with 20 hours of live and recorded materials and the times of live events are specifically scheduled to make it easier for those in UK and similar time zones: most of the live events will be at 4pm UK time.

This will be a Reggio Children study group with international participation.

Sightlines Initiative has a priority registration access. When you activate the 'Book' button below, your browser will open a seperate registration on Reggio Children's website. From that page, you can register.The coupon "UK2021" must be inserted at the end of the shopping cart. By using this code, you will additionally be registered to participate in supplementary November/December seminars and discussion hosted by Sightlines Initiative:

  • Listening and relationship as a foundation of practice in your setting
  • Educators reflecting and building knowledge together: seeing & working with children’s fascinations
  • Formations of children’s learning groups in an environment of enquiry.
  • along with Background and introductory articles.

These are intended to contextualise the experience of Reggio Emilia, and initiate pathways for you and your colleagues to make relational pedagogy the heart of your work with children and their families. A further programme will also be available to support the continuing evolution of your practice.

Date Friday 15th October 2021
End Date Friday 22nd October 2021
Please Note:

Download the Advance Information pdf and share with colleagues.

Location/Map: online

Co-constructing learning in the English EYFS - an introductory course

The English EYFS Statutory requirements have four overarching principles – unique child, positive relationships, enabling environments with teaching and support from adults, who respond to their interestsand needs and help them build their learning over time.

Children and adults construct the curriculum together: practitioners….build on children’s motivations and interests to support and extend their development and learning. The curriculum is co-constructed between children, practitioners and families. Children bring funds of knowledge-based interests to the setting, and they are motivated to learn through connecting new experiences to what they already know and can do.

Birth to Five Matters 2021 p.39

This introductory four-session course focusses on working with principles and characteristics of social co-constructive early childhood education pedagogy in relationship to these statutory requirements and related non-statutory guidelines. It provides an opportunity for educators to develop their practice, expertise and capacity to build environments in which children’s learning flourishes. It is founded upon building learning environments of ENCOUNTER, ENQUIRY, EXCHANGE, EXPRESSION

encounter pic enquiry pic  exchange pic  expression pic

Using examples from Sightlines Initiative reference projects work available on the Birth to Five Matters resource library, and from our long-standing experience of the work of Reggio Emilia’s preschools, the course will discuss:

  1. Understanding and enabling co-construction;
  2. Exploring processes of enquiry;
  3. Being responsive & responsible educators;
  4. Building your reflective systems.

It is ideal for managers, nursery heads and teams of educators who are actively developing their pedagogy together.

Everybody knows that early years’ educators can be creative, critical and reflective; that young children are creative, strong, powerful learners, and that educators and children thrive in creative enabling environments … It’s very difficult to turn beliefs, values and aspirations into practice … there’s a gap between what we want to do and what actually happens. This work is designed for everybody who wants to bridge that gap.

Mary Jane Drummond, Early Childhood Education Consultant

Date Wednesday 13th October 2021
End Date Wednesday 1st December 2021
Cut off date Tuesday 12th October 2021
Available places 0
Price £140
Member Discount 10%
Group Discount

2 - 3 people = £125 p.p.

4 - 8 people = £120p.p.

Please enquire regarding larger groups. Discount is calculated during Group Registration process.


Dr. Christine Merrick

Robin Duckett

Liz Elders

Please Note:

Seminar Dates:

  • 13th October
  • 3rd November
  • 17th November
  • 1st December
  • The online platform will be Zoom: the link will be issued on the previous working day.

    You can download the information pdf below and share with colleagues.

    Times Wednesdays @ 4 - 5.30pm
    Location/Map: online

    Sukhomlinsky with children

    Vasily Sukhomlinsky was a Ukrainian school teacher. From 1948 to 1970 he was the principal of a combined primary and secondary school in the rural settlement of Pavlysh. His school was made famous through his many books and articles, which have been read by millions. Thousands of educators, from the length and breadth of the Soviet Union and beyond, travelled to see his school with their own eyes, and millions of educators around the world have been inspired by his example.
    Sukhomlinsky was born in the middle of a civil war, and survived the famine known by Ukrainians as the Holodomor. He was nearly killed on the battlefield during the Second World War, and his first wife and child were brutally killed by a Gestapo officer, aided and abetted by local collaborators. He could easily have become an embittered man, but he found a catharsis for his suffering through his work as a teacher and his love for children.
    Working in very difficult circumstances, he created a model school, and a holistic educational theory to support it. Those of you familiar with the educational philosohy of Reggio Emilia's Loris Malaguzzi will find much in common.

    For two years before they join the compulsory school program, I work with little children in a preparatory group. I would call this period a school in curiosity. This is first and foremost an educator making contact with a child’s brain, which is so plastic and responsive during the preschool years. The main method employed in making this contact is to inspire children with wonder and amazement. The main instrument is a teacher’s words, and the main form of activity is excursions to the source of thought and language, in the midst of the inexhaustible richness of nature.
    My aim is that a growing curiosity should become an autonomous force, governing the interests and aspirations of children.
    If I manage to establish curiosity as an inextinguishable flame, I know that children will never lack ability.

    butterflyYuliya Kiva (16) illustrating Sukhomlinsky's tale 'Morning Breeze'

    This special session is led by Dr. Alan Cockerill, in Brisbane Australia (hence our choice of time.) Alan is translator of many of Sukhomlinsky's works, and collaborates with Sukhomlinsky's daughter Professor Olga Sukhomlyns’ka.

    To our knowledge this is the first presentation to a UK audience (we hope worldwide) of the work of this remarkable educator, from whom there is much to learn in our ongoing challenges to build humane and creative education.

    You can access on our website e-versions of Sukhomlinsky's book 'My Heart I Give to Children' and Dr. Cockerill's biography of Sukhomlinsky  'Each One Must Shine.' They give immense food for thought and action for any conscientious educator or parent today. 

    Registrants will be sent further introductory material, in order to make best use of this precious time, and we welcome participants' questions before the session: registrants will be invited to submit questions. 

    Date Saturday 2nd October 2021
    Price £35
    Member Discount £5
    Presenters Dr. Alan Cockerill, Brisbane
    Please Note:

  • Recorded sessions: to support the participation of registrants in other time zones, we will be making a recording of this session available to registrants.
  • The online platform will be Zoom: the link will be issued on the previous working day.
  • Times 9.30 - 11a.m.
    Location/Map: online

    Learning to Live Well Together ~

    investigating the shaping of education from ethics of relationship & listening.

    Seminar Six: Te Whariki: A woven mat which empowers the child

    Dr. Lesley Rameka, Waikato, New Zealand

    The whāriki or woven mat is a metaphor for New Zealand's ECE curriculum, in which four curriculum principles are interwoven with five curriculum strands: 




    Whāriki  have symbolic and spiritual meaning for Māori. Weaving a whāriki takes knowledge, skill and time. It is almost always done collaboratively.  In Māori tradition children are seen to be inherently competent, capable and rich, complete and gifted no matter what their age or ability. Descended from lines that stretch back to the beginning of time, they are important living links between past, present and future, and a reflection of their ancestors. These ideas are fundamental to how Māori understand teaching and learning.

    Picture2In Te Whāriki children are positioned as confident and competent learners from birth. They learn by engaging in meaningful interactions with people, places and things – a process that continues throughout their lifetimes; they are valued as active learners who choose, plan, and challenge. This stimulates a climate of reciprocity, ‘listening’ to children (even if they cannot speak), observing how their feelings, curiosity, interest, and knowledge are engaged in their early childhood environments, and encouraging them to make a contribution to their own learning.

    This influential and culturally-grounded policy work, published originally in 1996, wove a new story of possibilities for children, families, educators and society, going against the grain of prior, narrower expectations. 

    Lesley profile circleDr. Lesley Rameka was instrumental in the 2017 edition of the national policy, working closely across cultures, and presents its core ethics and values. Lesley is a Senior Research Fellow at the Wilf Malcom Institute of Educational Research, and Poutama Pounamu Māori Education Research Centre at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and president of Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand.  She is a kaupapa Maori researcher, who developed kaupapa Maori assessment for learning resources in early years, was a member of the group updating the early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki in 2017, and has done research in kohanga reo, Maori bilingual centres and general ECE centres over a long period of time. She brings new insights on ethics, relationships and formative experiences of Te Whariki from a Maori perspective.

    Date Thursday 16th September 2021
    Price £40
    Member Discount 10%

    Dr. Lesley Rameka, Waikato, New Zealand

    Please Note:

  • Recorded sessions: to support the participation of registrants in other time zones, we will be making a recording of this session available to registrants.
  • The online platform will be Zoom: the link will be issued on the previous working day.
  • Times 7 - 8.30pm (U.K. time)
    Location/Map: online

    Learning to Live Well Together ~

    investigating the shaping of education from ethics of relationship & listening.

    Seminar Five: Education for Happiness

    Dr. Satish Kumar, UK

    The current educational system was designed to meet the needs of the Industrial Age - the age of mass production, mass consumption and unlimited economic growth.

    Young people were trained in whatever skills were required by the market. This was education for jobs rather than education for life. Any of the jobs for which the students were trained led to the demise in biodiversity and the increase of carbon emissions which cause climate catastrophe.

    We are entering a new era, an era of the environment. So we need a new system of education which can respond to our times and can help to develop a regenerative culture.

    The present educational system looks at nature and sees it as a resource for the economy. Thus, nature becomes a means to an end: the ‘end’ of economic growth. Human beings are also considered a resource for the economy. We call them “human resources”. Thus, people become a means to an end.

    Our education system in the modern Western world is not education, and it is not happy. It’s a mis-education. We don’t even encourage children to imagine. Imagination is missing. If you can’t imagine, you can’t make, you can’t feel. The knowledge of ecology and of our human dependence on nature have been exiled from the mainstream educational process. As a result, ecology and economy have been separated. Education of this kind is detrimental to social cohesion and disconnects people from the natural world. This is a great tragedy.

    My idea of education is that we go out in the world not to serve ourselves, but to serve the earth, serve the people in the service of the earth. Then earth will look after us and our needs. We are in the service of the earth caring for the earth, looking out for the environment, not polluting, not wasting, not destroying, not undermining, not undervaluing.

    Kumar BookEducation should involve educational head, educational, heart, and educational hands. At the moment, our education mainly is of head: thinking, analysing, information - knowledge a little bit, but mostly: ‘information.’ That should be complemented with experience, and experience comes by feeling: heart and by making: hands.

    Educational head, educational hearts educational hands: these three hand-in-hand can renew education. Every school should ask, from the start: how we are going to cultivate our feelings? How are we going to get compassion for each other? How are we going to be compassionate for the earth? How are we to create compassion for humanity? How do we respect each other, how do we have kindness in our heart, how do we love each other? How love nature?

    We need nature friendly education: education as if people and planet matter.

    We need to engage in the study and understanding of the intricate web of life and ask: “What is a healthy and regenerative relationship between humans and nature?”

    Every school must have a garden .. a permaculture garden, an organic garden, where will know and learn how to cultivate, how to plant trees, how to grow orchards, fruit, vegetables, greens and energy, and how to do store water, how to cultivate a food, but how also, how to harvest sunlight and energy. It’s a complete cycle of energy and food and our selves.

    It is also an education for happiness.


    Peace-pilgrim, life-long activist and former monk, Satish Kumar has been inspiring global change for over 50 years. Aged 9, Satish renounced the world and joined the wandering Jain monks. Inspired by Gandhi, he decided at 18 that he could achieve more back in the world and soon undertook a peace-pilgrimage, walking without money from India to America in the name of nuclear disarmament. Now in his 80s, Satish has devoted his life to campaigning for ecological regeneration, social justice and spiritual fulfilment.

    Satish founded Schumacher College as well as The Resurgence Trust, an educational charity that seeks a just future for all. To join Satish in protecting people and planet, become a member of Resurgence (with 20% off), entitling you to this charity’s change-making magazine, Resurgence & Ecologist.

    Satish appears regularly on podcasts, radio and television shows. He has been interviewed by Richard Dawkins, Russell Brand and Annie Lennox, appearing as a guest on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, Thought for the Day and Midweek. Satish presented an episode of BBC2's Natural World documentary series, which was watched by 3.6 million people. An acclaimed international speaker and author, Satish’s autobiography sold over 50,000 copies, inspiring change around the world.

    Founder: Small School, Hartland; Human Scale Education; Resurgence magazine; Schumacher College

    Author: No Destination;  You Are, Therefore I Am: A Declaration of Dependence; The Buddha and the Terrorist; Earth Pilgrim; Soil, Soul, Society and Elegant Simplicity.

    Hon Doctorates: Law (Plymouth; Literature (Lancs); General Doctorate (Suffolk.) Oxfam Ambassador; vice-president RSPCA

    Date Tuesday 14th September 2021
    Price £40
    Member Discount 10%

    Dr. Satish Kumar, UK

    Please Note:

  • Recorded sessions: to support the participation of registrants in other time zones, we will be making a recording of this session available to registrants.
  • The online platform will be Zoom: the link will be issued on the previous working day.
  • Times 4 - 5.30pm
    Location/Map: online

    Learning to Live Well Together ~

    investigating the shaping of education from ethics of relationship & listening.

    Seminar Four: Democracy in education: steps in reality

    Harold Göthson & Malin McConnachie, Stockholm, Sweden

    Harold Göthson introduces a current action-research publication from Sweden:

    We are interdependent on each other throughout our world - and all human life is connected to the health of our planet. It is something we are constantly reminded of in our time. In this, everyone can see themselves as insignificant or we can instead choose to become responsible and involved citizens. When we do that, and even if we disagree, we are helping to give new meaning to a democratic world citizenship. Our view is that this is necessary for a sustainable future. 
    It is not obvious that all preschools function as a democratic meeting place and a resource for a sustainable future: that is why we emphasize that preschools can be democratic meeting places. Because it's easier said than done. It requires a long-term and persistent effort.

    Malin Mc 2Democracy depends on a learning, educated citizen who is able to change in the face of new arguments. Exercising democratic citizenship requires training and skill. It requires a general education school for all. It requires an education where we learn to learn together even though we are different. In fact, democracy needs us to be able to interact with those who think differently. 
    To be able to defend dissent, we must create a broad agreement on some shared social values. At the same time, the stability of these values must be constantly allowed to be the subject of reconsideration and criticism. These are some more aspects of the paradox of democracy. From this paradox, agreements must be reached, above all on:
    • to value each citizen's right to his or her unique voice;
    • to add value to contrasts, variation and differences in voices;
    • to value our mutual dependence as a basis for negotiations and compromises;
    • to value learning that is based on and defends the right to change perception - “to change your mind and point of view ” - to change one's consciousness.

    Malin McConnachie lets us meet a group of children with three to five-year olds in a municipal preschool in central Stockholm. Children who have been allowed to create hypotheses, negotiate and test their ideas in an exploration based on the focus 'Sustainable Future' with a focus on ecology.
    Malin Mc 3Malin shows how a reflective culture in project work with children can create conditions for children to "position themselves in the world as democratic citizens." Children depend on the teacher's ability to listen to and see the children's abilities. The narrative shows how teachers can work to connect democratic values in a dialogue with innovative theories, becoming more sensitive to children's rich ideas,  and creating intelligent situations and a way of working where children can flourish.
    We follow a group of children who gain experience of forming their own and common perception by meeting their peers in dialogues that enrich their own thinking. But also in dialogues with a games company, with street spaces, labyrinths and libraries. It is about seeing learning as an issue and based on that give children the opportunity to get many ideas through a social activity with others: ideas that can then be processed together and that can lead to kids form is to their own beliefs.
    In this story, the children get to see the different purposes and difficulties of dialogues and they are confronted with the difficult art of using different perceptions as access in negotiations and compromises. The project started with a child asking a question during a walk in Stockholm's inner city. The question was captured and continued into labyrinths, the creation of maps in the city and on to maps out into the world: "I wonder where all the people are going?" That question aroused the interest of the whole group of children. Who were all the people who’re out on the road? Shouldn't they be at work?

    Malin McMalin McConnachie is a trained preschool teacher, educator and studio artist. She currently works as a pedagogue for Håbo municipality's municipal preschools, and was previously a preschool teacher and pedagogical development leader in the city of Stockholm.

    HaroldHarold Göthson is a social scientist who has followed the Swedish preschool's growth as a preschool director, teacher educator and municipal child care strategist. He participated in the Preschool Pedagogical Program before he in 1992 became one of the founders of the Reggio Emilia Institute. Since 2011, Harold Göthson has been a director at Loris Malaguzzi center of Reggio Emilia.

    Date Thursday 9th September 2021
    Price £40
    Member Discount 10%

    Harold Göthson & Malin McConnachie, Stockholm, Sweden

    Please Note:

  • Recorded sessions: to support the participation of registrants in other time zones, we will be making a recording of this session available to registrants.
  • The online platform will be Zoom: the link will be issued on the previous working day.
  • Times 4 - 5.30pm
    Location/Map: online

    Learning to Live Well Together ~

    investigating the shaping of education from ethics of relationship & listening.

    Seminar Three: Dividing the brain: the dimming of sensibility in the West

    Professor Iain McGilchrist, UK

    IMcG1The real problem is inside our heads: we act like people with right hemisphere brain damage – treating people like things to be sorted, used, and thrown away, But there is an alternative, a more balanced way of thinking:  we need to relearn how to use our brains before it is too late.

    The subject of hemisphere differences has a poor track record, discouraging to those who wish to be sure that they are not going to make fools of themselves in the long run.

    Beliefs about the differences between the hemispheres have passed into the popular consciousness. These beliefs could be characterised as versions of the idea that the left hemisphere is somehow gritty, rational, realistic but dull, and the right hemisphere airy-fairy and impressionistic, but creative and exciting. In reality, both hemispheres are crucially involved in reason, just as they are in language; both hemispheres play their part in creativity. Perhaps the most absurd of the popular misconceptions is that the left hemisphere, hard-nosed and logical, is somehow male, and the right hemisphere, dreamy and sensitive, is somehow female.

    IMcG2There is little doubt that the issues of brain asymmetry and hemisphere specialisation are significant. The question is only – of what? I believe there is, literally, a world of difference between the hemispheres. There is a plethora of well-substantiated findings that indicate that there are consistent differences – neuropsychological, anatomical, physiological and chemical, amongst others – between the hemispheres. But when I talk of ‘meaning’, it is not just that I believe there to be a coherent pattern to these differences. That is a necessary first step. I would go further, however, and suggest that such a coherent pattern of differences helps to explain aspects of human experience, and therefore means something in terms of our lives, and even helps explain the trajectory of our common lives in the Western world. My thesis is that for us as human beings there are two fundamentally opposed realities, two different modes of experience; that each is of ultimate importance in bringing about the recognisably human world; and that their difference is rooted in the bihemispheric structure of the brain. It follows that the hemispheres need to co-operate, but I believe they are in fact involved in a sort of power struggle, and that this explains many aspects of contemporary Western culture.

    Iain McGDr. Iain McGilchrist is committed to the idea that the mind and brain can be understood only by seeing them in the broadest possible context, that of the whole of our physical and spiritual existence, and of the wider human culture in which they arise – the culture which helps to mould, and in turn is moulded by, our minds and brains. He has been Lecturer in English at Oxford University;  Clinical Director of London NHS Acute Mental Health Services; Research Fellow in neuroimaging atJohns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA; leader of Community Mental Health Team in South London.

    His books include Against Criticism (Faber), The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Yale UP), The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning; Why Are We So Unhappy? (Yale UP), and Ways of Attending (Routledge).

    Date Tuesday 7th September 2021
    Price £40
    Member Discount 10%

    Dr. Iain McGilchrist, UK

    Please Note:

  • Recorded sessions: to support the participation of registrants in other time zones, we will be making a recording of this session available to registrants.
  • The online platform will be Zoom: the link will be issued on the previous working day.
  • Times 4 - 5.30pm
    Location/Map: online