Walk down any street, any place, any time (well, not term time). The person you see whose face looks vaguely middle aged but whose hair is distinctly grey is very probably an early years practitioner.
The ratio of grey hair to trips outside the foundation setting is proportional. Educational research shows that even stepping outside the gates with children for a few minutes increases grey hair in a proportion of 10 grey hairs to every minute spent outside (depending on the thickness of the hair of course, i.e. the number of hairs per square centimetre of head multiplied by the number of children you have taken out). Early years staff will be confused by the maths involved which is the only reason they ended up working in the early years in the first place.
Practitioners spend their entire working lives counting children in and out of their setting, counting them constantly while they are outside and not giving up even when it is clear that they are all safely back inside. Even when they have counted them they are not convinced so they usually ask someone else to count them to make sure. This doesn’t actually mean they will believe the other person either, which achieves nothing apart from boring the pants off the other person, who has already been asked to count the children twenty times that day.
On one occasion when I must have been either extremely tired or finally convinced that I was competent to take care of a small group of children, I failed to fulfil all the counting procedures. We took the children a short distance from the foundation unit to the hall in school for a PE/movement session. The lesson went very well, until we finally realised why. Two of our more interesting children were missing.
My partner raced back to our unit and after a long search finally found them giggling gleefully while hiding under a table. We discussed with the children our concerns about them getting lost, etc. but it was quite clear they didn’t give a damn and found the whole episode great fun.
On their return to the hall they were made to leap about, grow like trees, stomp like elephants and crawl like spiders with a vengeance.
The only way to stop grey hair from happening is to ensure you never take children out. In fact it is probably easier to count them accurately if you don’t allow them to move at all while they are in your care. And your Head Teacher is bound to be supportive because they don't want their school to end up in the local newspaper with headlines like ‘Children Mislaid in PE Fiasco’.
Not convinced? Take your children out on a trip. Welcome to the grey hair club!
Exclusively for the Foundation Stage Forum - copyright Dee Hayday © December 2004. All rights reserved