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Big Childcare Conversation raises vital questions

Thought leaders in the field of childcare and early years education gathered at Middlesex University for the Big Childcare Conversation. Leena Robertson, Associate Professor at Middlesex, reports on the day's proceedings.

Big Childcare Conversation at Middlesex University 

The highly successful Big Childcare Conversation conference, jointly organised by Middlesex University and London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) in September was attended by over 70 early childhood practitioners and experts who gave one of their Saturdays to contribute to the big childcare conversation. 

Dr June O'Sullivan, MBE and the CEO of LEYF, who blogs about this conversation questioned the Government's pledge of providing 30 hours of free childcare (doubling the current 15 hours) on the grounds that it is an attempt "to reward 'hard-working families' by reducing their childcare bill" and warned that this idea may be based on very  bad thinking indeed

Other keynote speakers included Professor Jayne Osgood, newly appointed to Middlesex University, who challenged the audience to reconfigure 'quality' and Professors Chris Pascal and Tony Bertram, both from Birmingham University and Claudio Baraldi, from Modena University, Italy.  

Ruth Churchill-Dower, from EarlyArts, identified creativity as one cornerstone of 'quality' – not an afterthought.

During the day the delegates had a chance to vote on questions, such as "is there a need for a radical rethink of how we prepare new practitioners for the real world of the young child?" And almost unanimously the answer was "yes"! 

The delegates also tweeted about this event with a corresponding sister-event in Manchester, where over 600 hundred participants shared their ideas about #BigOfstedConversation.

The day ended with June's call to use the vowels to create a perfect sound:

A – agitate

E – educate

I – invest

O – organise

U – unite!

The need for a more serious conversation becomes now urgent as the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan announces that schools in England will be responsible for providing free childcare, both after school and during holidays.

Remember the vowels, AEIOU! 

Leena Robertson is Associate Professor in Education at Middlesex University. 

For more on the Big Childcare Conversation, follow the discussion on Twitter.

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