Helen Moylett earned a law degree before realising that she wasn't cut out for an office. Perhaps it was because she is much too gregarious for that. A dry legal system couldn't possibly compete with spending time with lively, unpredictable, ever-changing people. And who is more exciting – and more fun – than a young child engaged in exploring and ready to invite you to join them?
So she switched to teaching, and found both an endless source of fascination in watching and supporting young children's learning and development, as well as a deep commitment to doing what she could to help every child develop, safely embedded in positive relationships and enabling environments.
‘Positive relationships’ and ‘enabling environments’ hold a particular resonance for Helen, who was instrumental in framing the principles and structure of the EYFS. In her role as senior director for early years with the National Strategies, Helen had a direct voice in influencing government policies. She was responsible for co-ordinating a new early years framework, bringing together care and learning for birth to fives, growing out of the existing standards for birth to threes, the Foundation Stage for three to fives, and daycare.
I am fortunate to have Helen as my friend and to have worked closely with her over several years. Lately I have heard her occasionally muse about slowing down, but I see little sign of it. She is busy writing, training and speaking at conferences, engaging with policy issues, teaching Master's students, and serving as an active vice-president of Early Education.
When I think of what keeps her involved, I am reminded of a morning a few years ago when a national election had brought in a new government. Overnight, the logos and all the approved terminology changed. We were in the canteen of the Department for Education, and Helen found in her bag some remaindered, and now banned, stickers from the previous government, showing little pictures of rainbows, with small children and the central statement ‘Every Child Matters’.
With her typical forthright and free-spirited approach, Helen started placing the stickers here and there around the tables. ‘Because,’ she said, ‘whatever the ministers say – every child still matters.’
“‘Positive relationships’ and ‘enabling environments’ hold a particular resonance for Helen
Helen began her teaching career in 1978, and has been a primary, nursery and home school liaison teacher, and a local authority senior advisory teacher on early literacy. She joined Manchester Metropolitan University in 1988 as a senior lecturer in primary and early years education. She was on the national steering group and a national trainer for Birth to Three Matters. In 2000 she left academia to become head of an early years centre.
In 2004 she joined the National Strategies and was centrally involved in developing the Early Years Foundation Stage as well as many materials associated with the EYFS. She was the national lead for the Every Child a Talker programme, and an expert adviser to the Tickell review team. She is an independent early years consultant, trainer and writer. Helen also serves as a vice-president of Early Education and tutors on the MA and PGCE courses at the Centre for Research in Early Childhood in Birmingham and is a Visiting Fellow of Oxford Brookes University.