Northumberland Early Years Professionals Network is a forum of early years practitioners who act as champions of change with the aim of improving provision, attainment and outcomes for young children and families. It is run in collaboration with Northumberland County Council and Northumbria University, with contributions from related organisations both within and outside the immediate area.
The network is collegiate. Its 52 members have a variety of roles including childminders, nursery nurses, managers and teachers, and collectively have a wealth of experience. Group meetings are held twice termly and an active social media presence is maintained. Some members have been part of the early years team in Northumberland for many years, while others have joined recently, including two practitioners who have benefited from the network support when opening a new provision.
The biggest impact made by the network so far relates to health and well-being for children and practitioners. To address the increasing rise in stress levels and mental health concerns, the network invited a guest speaker to talk about the benefits of mindfulness. Some settings carried out additional research to take this initiative forward, and have now successfully implemented mindfulness activities and child yoga within their daily practice.
The network also liaised with the NHS to hold a training event related to the North East Better Health at Work Awards. Many members have signed up to participate in the awards scheme and several settings have achieved their bronze level, with three working towards silver.
A successful network requires commitment from members and supporters with a common purpose. Members of the Northumberland Early Years Network have diverse interests and experience yet have a passion for working with, or for, young children and a desire to improve practice. The network is inclusive, welcoming and supportive, and keeps its focus on improving outcomes for children.
As part of the Early Years Workforce Strategy produced by the DfE in March 2017, the network began to explore ways to address the gender imbalance in early years and to encourage more men into the sector locally. This affected recruitment adverts and led to the establishment of a male network group, which in turn is supporting work in schools. Links have also been made with a local college where some members eagerly share their expertise to support students in child development and the EYFS in practice. Members offer placements to students, to help nurture them so that they can gain a firm foundation within their chosen career. In turn, it is hoped that this will help to retain and grow local talent.
At a time when the early years sector is stretched, faces complex and challenging issues and is rife with competition, the network offers an ethos of listening, care and supported challenge. There are opportunities for all to participate in a way which suits them and their provision, there is support from the local authority and university, and horizons are broadened for all participants.
“Keeping EYPN going is great in these hard times
Honey Pot Day Nurseries, Liverpool
Sunbeams Day Nursery, Enhanced Quality Training and Video Blogs Program, Leeds
Open to early years and childcare service providers who have built a high-quality staff team through good practice in recruitment and retention, training and career development