Education seems to attract people who have a natural propensity to give themselves a hard time. We seem almost incapable of giving a pat on the back or saying “well done” to ourselves. There’s almost an at-birth inclination to see the negative above the positive. Often it’s because we’re being told by School leaders that we must do better or more, that somehow we’re not enough, we’re not doing things right. When you’re in this atmosphere then it’s easy to begin to believe it. We take it as read that our best isn’t good enough, that we’re incomplete, only living a half-life...
In these moments we want to throw our hands up in the air and despair at a world that seems beyond our control. Certainly that’s how it feels in Early Years currently. Pressure to conform, create ‘school readiness’, test and provide evidence, and adopt whole school thinking so that children are prepared for the next step along the treadmill is seeming to gain pace.
From Early Years to GCSE’s a child’s path is becoming more and more defined and constructed so that children cannot take in a wider world but most focus on a core set of skills to gain ‘value’ for themselves.
It’s an attack on the inherent magic of children, on their ability to lead their own learning, on their very beings and ‘souls’. A systematic wearing away of creativity and natural learning is bringing about a factory setting for children, where individuality, connection, emotion and joy are sacrificed at the altar of ‘performance’.
On EY forums on social media, I see post after post declaring that people have had enough, that they want to leave the profession, that it’s time to go. But really now is the time to stand firm. Now is the time to declare the right of each and every child to have an early years education based on play, on skills and on growth: growth of mind, body and soul. It’s an acceptance that children need to have environments and experiences that are rich with possibility and interpretation. Children are not robots so let’s do our utmost to keep it that way.
If just one of us walks away then that’s one less voice that sings the song of children. Instead flip the negatitivy on its head and use it as a tool.
Find your purpose. Discover how you can bring about change. Negativity doesn’t have to lead to an exit door. Identify what you can change, find peace with what you can’t but keep your voice heard as loud as you can. Walking away isn’t the answer. Passion and purpose has to one day overcome a system that’s based on outcome for outcome’s sake, on schools who have ‘a core business’ on data-driven leadership and being ‘inspection-ready’...
Change can happen but it needs you to bring it about. How? In early years answers lie in play, in knowledge of child development, in being vocal and knowing that there are thousands of people that stand beside you.
Colleagues and senior leaders will almost certainly have fear of children’s playfulness - at least don’t allow leadership teams to be blind to the value of play. Contribute to as much discussion as possible. Raise the need for child development above ‘education’ by sharing Early Years research that demonstrates effective practice, The common pursuit of scheme-based learning, data drops, quick fixes and ‘rapid progress’ is dragging children to the edge of mental ill-health, of disconnection and disengagement. Children become pushed to the side of their own lives - as an Early Years practioner you have the best opportunity to give your children richness and engagement that can be a model for the rest of their primary education - show the value again and again and again.
This very moment is the one for you to decide what it is you want for your children and begin the process of bringing about the change you want to see.
Don’t walk away.
Feel it, flip it and face it... :)
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....