We must never forget that as early years educators working in the UK, we exist on the back of a long and esteemed tradition that by articulating, challenging and presenting ideas of early years pedagogy and leadership has constantly fought to reassert the importance and nature of how we work with young children. Within this tradition we have always had, and continue to have, our notable and recognisable champions, our advocates, our heroes – or, more accurately, our heroines.
These are people whom we hold in affection and respect, in awe of their achievements and a sense of security that while they are here, still talking, still writing, still contributing, then we know that what we believe, what we know to be important, will continue to be said.
We rely on these people as they have the skills, ability and knowledge to articulate what might be considered to be obvious but still needs to be presented in a way that protects and enshrines those traditions.
Among the Parthenon of living early years experts there are only a handful of names that fit this description, that consistently manage to unequivocally command a universal respect for their intellect, astuteness, vision and perception. Combined with the critical attributes of integrity, foresight and sheer determination, they take on the mantle of truly significant, influential and precious individuals.
Professor Julie Fisher is, without doubt, one of those names, and one of those people. She is undeniably an early years heroine and it is an honour to introduce her for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Julie has the knack of foreseeing and identifying the pedagogical zeitgeist of the day, and with her trademark intellect and natural articulacy, is always able to describe, present and challenge us all to reflect and understand what this means and why it is so important. This is an ambition many people may aspire to but very few manage to attain it with such success.
Whether this be issues posed by the transition from Reception to Year 1, the nature of learning in the EYFS or how we interact effectively with children, Julie’s voice is unfailingly clear, accessible, informed and inspirational.
For me, part of the essence of Julie’s work is typified by the title of one of her books, Starting From the Child, because as Julie herself might put it – where else would you start from? Although this is obvious to us who work with children, we are living in a time when this tradition of child-centred and child-driven pedagogy is under a real threat, and it is more important than ever to realise the need to protect and describe it. Julie’s work empowers us to do that.
Her most recent book, Interacting or Interfering?, has rapidly become a seminal text and, in my opinion, is without doubt the most important and influential early years book that has been written in recent years. Built on her own action research, her clinical analysis and the ease with which she represents and transmits complex ideas in an accessible way, she presents us with an intellectually charged practical overview of how to approach this – adult child interactions – probably the most essential skill to master as an early years educator. She even manages to provide us with a definition of that most elusive but critical concept – what we mean by the word ‘effective’.
Her contribution to early childhood education in the UK has been immense; her writing, her training and her conference presence have inevitably inspired and emboldened generations of early years practitioners and leaders, and continually enable us to rediscover and reassert our confidence in, and passion for, what we know is right for young children.
Julie Fisher is an independent early years advisor and visiting professor of early childhood education at Oxford Brookes University. She held the post of early years advisor in Oxfordshire for 11 years, before which she was lecturer in early childhood education at the University of Reading. She has taught children from three to 12 years of age and has been head teacher of two urban, multi-cultural schools.
Julie has held a variety of national posts as chairperson of different early years organisations including the National Association of Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants and the Early Childhood Forum.
In her work, Julie draws on ongoing research projects with practitioners and children in both schools and early years settings. This has to led to numerous publications.
Interacting or Interfering?, Open University Press (2016)
Starting From the Child, Open University Press(4th edition 2013)
Moving On to Key Stage One, Open University Press (2010)
The Foundations of Learning, Open University Press (2002)