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TEC2 Table Top Discussion ‘Reflective Practice and Approaching New Policy Documents.’

At our second Tapestry Education Conference (TEC 2) in November 2019 we held three table-top discussions led by members of the Early Years community. The theme was Reflecting on Curriculum Changes and we were joined by colleagues from the Tapestry team to scribe for each workshop. Here, Ben records the conversation led by Dr Jen Colwell, Educational Researcher, assessor and trainer, on Reflective Practice and Approaching New Policy Documents.’  

Jen’s original overview for the discussion was: hand filling in form.jpg

 ‘When we review new policy documents, we often take an approach which involves looking at what we are required to do and how we can achieve this. Critical Reflection can offer us another way. We will discuss how we can use our understanding of politics, our own experience and knowledge of the children and families with whom we work to analyse and implement the requirements of new policies in a way which enhances our work.’  

During my own time as a teacher, I remember having a number of new policies and documents brought in that were always ‘very important’ (!) so I was really interested to join this discussion.  

Jen’s first question to the group was; 

How do we approach a new document?’  

This really hit home with me as it made me think back to all those staff meetings I sat through about new documents wondering how onboard I was? Had I ‘bought into’ the document?  

The discussion started with the group asking what changes would be needed at your setting to implement the document successfully? Whilst studying for my NPQSL, one of the big focusses of the course was about change and how to implement it. Therefore, hearing others in the group say that they would need to reflect on the document before even raising it with other staff was very positive! Considering how a new guidance or policy will affect the setting and what changes it will bring, allows a manager to share their understanding of the document with others more confidently. There are far too many stories about managers who introduce a new document without thorough thought over what it means for their setting, and then wonder why staff are resistant to the changes. The group discussed that sometimes when a document is released there is no need to make any changes – you are probably already covering it and you just need to do some clever relabelling! If change is required, it was agreed that, once the document has been read and understood, it is important to look at what is already being done that satisfies the requirements. This will then highlight the areas that actually need changing.  

The group felt that new documents should be implemented in a way that sits within the values of your setting. If the changes don’t follow your ethos, then you may be altering what the families of the children at your setting joined you for. As with everything in education, it was agreed that the child should be placed at the centre of any change. The group discussed that, when appropriate - and if a new guidance document doesn’t follow your core values, a setting could say “We don’t do that here.” But you must be prepared to fight your corner if you do decide to say that!  

The discussion about changes fitting in with your values continued with an example of ‘Cultural Capital’ - a phrase from the Ofsted Inspection Framework that has been looked at closely by settings and the media alike. Reflecting on what it means for your staff, families and children is key.  What ‘funds of knowledge’ do the children, and you, bring with you each day? One setting said the children visited a care home for the elderly. On reflection, staff noticed that they only took the oldest children and they wondered what the effect of including the babies at the setting would be. They began taking the babies along to the care home and the reaction from the residents was amazing. This example of intergenerational learning shows how reflective practice, in response to a new phrase in a document, can implement positive changes.

 This discussion led Jen to ask:

“How do we know what we’re doing is ‘good enough’?” image.png

After a lot of conversation, the group agreed that, quite often, we don’t know whether what we're doing is good enough. The consensus was that this was partly because what works for one child doesn’t always work for another. The group reflected that asking questions, being curious and not taking things at face value, was good practice, showing you have the children’s best interests at the heart of your decision making.   

It was discussed whether keeping everything ‘in-house’ could cause us to miss what can be improved/changed as we become too insular and comfortable. It was felt that inviting others into our settings may help provide a fresh pair of eyes to spot things that could be improved. This led us on to discussing how much we share with other settings. Those who have several settings said how useful it was to give staff the time to visit the other nurseries as they could see things that were done differently and help drive change back at their ‘home’ setting. Everyone agreed that working together was very important, but that it was not always easy to implement – which moved us on to our next point about social media!  

Social media provides an area for people to share ideas easily and it can be a great resource for early years practitioners. The downside to having all this shared information is that sometimes educators may feel under pressure to introduce something without thinking about why they are doing it, or how it fits into their setting’s values. Managers and staff need to understand the reasons behind a new venture in order to feel motivated and invested in it.  

The group remained positive that good reflective practice was key to improving and implementing new requirements as it helps everyone spot the areas that need work. We agreed that it all leads back to making sure changes benefit the children, their families and your staff, and reflect your ethos. Investing in the staff and their CPD is also key to ensuring that the education you offer the children is the best and prepares them for the future – whatever that may hold!  



Ben Case
Ben moved from teaching Primary (although he trained in Secondary!) to joining the Foundation Stage Forum (FSF) in 2019. He has taught in Reception and in Years 1 and 4. When he’s not answering Tapestry customer support queries, he can be found writing content for the FSF and Tapestry websites, browsing Twitter or running the Facebook ‘Tapestry Support Group’ account. He still dreams of being an F1 driver but makes do with watching races for now!

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