This weekend I was lucky enough to go to a BrewEd with a very specific focus.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of BrewEd, it’s an idea which was first realised in Sheffield in November 2017, following a twitter discussion between  Ed Finch   (@MrEFinch) and Daryn Simon  (@DarynSimon) who I’m fortunate enough to be able to call my friends, thanks to the power of BrewED.

To find out more visit the BrewED site.

I was at the very first BrewEd in Sheffield back in 2017 and have attended many and spoken at quite a few (heck, I’ve been to so many, I was an answer to one of the quiz questions at BrewEDNotts!) but this was my very first BrewEDEY which has a very specific focus on Early Years.

Thanks to Simona McKenzie (@SignoraMac) Early Years has its own BrewED brand.

What struck me straight away was the diversity of the group. There were people from all backgrounds and all sectors, all ages, many cultures, all parts of the country. Some people have been working in EY for years, some are new to EY, some have never worked in EY but were interested in finding out more.

The second thing which struck me was imposter syndrome, because Simona had organised a line up of very impressive speakers, people I’ve admired from afar (and near) professionally for many years. There were some serious “big -hitters” in the world of EYFS in that room yesterday! But (and this is the beauty of BrewEd), everyone who wanted to speak had a say, there was no hierarchy, all voices were equal, all questions and opinions valid, and all were treated with respect. Almost the antithesis of a social media debate!

We were also fortunate to have Ed Finch (co-founder of BrewEd) come and join us to explain a little bit more about the concept of BrewEd, to learn more about EYFS, and to share some songs with us. We were treated to classics such as the tidy up song, “caring, sharing, kind hands”, and there was even an attempt to come up with some new classic EYFS songs, my favourite title was “Whose pants are these?” (Thanks @ClaireEYFS) Gill Jones HMI put in a special request for Ed’s now famous “Bad data” song, and he kindly obliged. Gill also sang to us as part of her presentation.  It was lovely to have Gill and Wendy Radcliffe join us, to share their thoughts on the new Ofsted inspection framework, and its impact on schools and settings. It was particularly reassuring to hear Gill and Wendy talking about the importance of telling stories, sharing rhymes, singing songs and playing with sounds, and not rushing on to grapheme-phoneme correspondences and worksheets about letter sounds in Nursery, before children have had a chance to develop and practise their auditory discrimination. Having spoken about the importance of the Prime areas, and “Earlier isn’t always better”, in my presentation, I was relieved to hear this message.

Jamel Carly (@JamelCarly) shared his passion for working with young children, asking us to consider why we do what we do, and reframing the question “Why not?” it was impossible not to be uplifted by his obvious passion for his job, it’s clearly infectious, because we were all buzzing and he seems to have recruited half his family to the profession!

Listening to Dr Pam Jarvis (@Dr_Pam_Jarvis)  is always fascinating, and a reminder that no matter what, we must take biology and child development into account when considering our work with young children. Pam has a way of making what is a very complex subject easily accessible for all, without being patronising. I have learned so much from listening to her speak on this subject, which has really made me reflect on my practice and perspectives on young children’s learning.

I have heard Jan Dubiel (@Jan_Dubiel) speak about the “otherness” of early years more times than I can remember, and yet I always take something new away from his thought- provoking presentations. He challenged us to think about the word “play”, and whether it is problematic. Shouldn’t we just talk about learning instead?  Earlier in the day I had talked about reclaiming the word and having a debate and discussion about what we really mean by it. I had called for a ban on the phrase “just play”,  we could have debated this for hours, I think.

The final speaker, Nancy Stewart, updated us all on some of the changes facing the sector and the challenges these will present to practitioners who strive to put children at the heart of everything they do. A fascinating, well researched and informed presentation which left us with many things to consider about the challenges ahead. I had started the day with a brief history of the EYFS, how we got here in the first place, and why it is more important than ever before, and it really felt as if we had come full circle when Nancy shared her knowledge of current developments with the room.

Every single person who spoke at BrewEDEY talked about research and knowledge and had a strong understanding of very young children and how they learn. Everyone I spoke to in the room said what a great day they had had and how much they had learned, whether they were an expert or novice, everyone gained something from the day and so many commented on how positive and uplifted they felt. We hadn’t agreed on everything, but we had had a fascinating and challenging debate.

One of the key messages of the day was reaching out to the rest of the education sector. Jan spoke about “The secret garden” that is Early Years, it can be all too easy to work in isolation, but if we are to support our children throughout their life then we have to make links with the people who will work with them after they move on to their next phase, it’s important that they understand why we do things the way we do.  I’d said earlier in the day “It’s ok not to know, but it’s not ok not to find out”. We need to open the door and welcome people into the secret garden, so we can show them what an amazing place it is. Who wouldn’t want to sing the “caring, sharing, kind hands” song every day? Or to spend their days being a super hero? But we also need to step out of the garden and work with those who take our children on to the next stage of their education, and the next. We have so much to learn from each other and the benefit to the children would be beyond measure.

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