23 Jan 2017, Catherine Gaunt
They embrace the world – sometimes even the smallest things – with joy and inquisitiveness. When it snowed recently, most adults greeted the wintry weather with reluctance, but the young children could not resist stopping to play a little in the snow. When I see children finding something positive in nature (even the kind of weather that cause disruption and difficulty), it gives me heart.
We are living in strange and worrying times – the international impact of Brexit and the outcome of the election in the US have sent messages of division and difference rather than unity and cohesion. And within this context of global change we, in this small island, still face unresolved dissatisfactions in the early years.
Two issues that will continue to trouble us this year are the working conditions for a large part of the early years workforce, and yet again, the threat of baseline assessment of our four-year-olds.
With all this comes our own responsibility to seek to challenge and change. If we really respect young children, we must invest in the people who work with them. If we really respect young children as learners, we should let them learn, rather than waste their time on testing. Whatever their role in a setting, we need well-educated educators whose working environments, and conditions, are fair and equitable and give them status and recognition for the important work they do. These people know the children they work with and they know how to support their learning and development – no test can tell them that.
Ex-president of the US, Barack Obama, said in his farewell speech ‘… change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.’
Whether we are seeking to bring about change to better support children and their families in general, in an ever-changing geo-political climate, or whether we are seeking to develop smaller changes locally – change comes from within us. Bringing about change for good when there are so many obstacles, different perspectives, financial constraints and political disagreement is far from easy. But it is important always to seek the best for children – and that means seeking the best for those who work with them. As Obama often said, ‘Yes, we can!’