Playing Foundations

The Arts In Schools Title Page - A new conversation on the value of the arts in and beyond schools.
The Arts in Schools
May 26, 2022
Call Out for Curious Associates
August 3, 2022
The Arts In Schools Title Page - A new conversation on the value of the arts in and beyond schools.
The Arts in Schools
May 26, 2022
Call Out for Curious Associates
August 3, 2022

Building Curiosity in Early Years

Early Years education and the lingering impacts of Covid-19 on the youngest learners has been in the news recently, after the publication of an analysis by Ofsted in which they highlight ongoing concerns about the adverse impact the pandemic has caused in younger age group; paricularly in terms of children's personal, social, emotional and language development.

This brings into sharp focus the value early years settings bring to a child's development journey and the crucial role that, what some would glibly dismiss as 'only play', has in the growth of the whole person. Future health and happiness is at stake here, just as much as anywhere else.

Curious Minds has long recognised the importance of the early years stages as key children's future to educational, emotional and social development. Over the past nine years, we have been bringing early years specialists together across the cultural and education sectors; developing initiatives to support early years providers, engaging families and offering joyful, enriching experiences to young children.
Affordable, inclusive access to high-quality creative experiences for early years age groups and their carers has always been important, but it is even more so today - as the long-term implications of the pandemic and the challenges of 'learning recovery' become more apparent.

There is much that the arts and cultural sectors can and should be doing to help address these challenges, and we see our role in this clearly - as facilitator, advocator and catalyst of best and next practice in provision and pedagogy.
The pre-school years play a vital role in readying children for school, as well as helping to set the compass for future creative and cultural activity and wider success in life.

Arts Council England - Let's Create Strategy 2020

A curious approach to early years

How Curious Minds is working to develop practice in this sector:

Early Years EAG
Curious Minds has an Education Advisory Group (EAG), comprised of Early Years Foundation Stage (EFYS) head teachers from across the region. This group meets twice a year to advise tour Executive Team and Board of Trustees on priorities for their sector.
Participatory Project Evaluation
We've evaluated early years arts activities for organisations such as School Improvement Liverpool, identifying why creative approaches are good for child development. Also for the Burnley cluster of EYFS head teachers.
Funding Support
We have provided direct advice and support to nursery school settings and clusters, helping them to prepare and submit successful funding bids for high quality arts projects with specialist cultural practitioners.
Early Years SLiCE®
In 2019-20, five EFYS head teachers on our Specialist Leaders in Cultural Education fellowship programme looked at how working with a cultural organisation can support wellbeing of both staff and children.
University Doctoral Partnership
2-Curious, our early years language development pilot, was conducted in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University’s School of Childhood Studies, with research led by PhD scholar, Charlotte Arculus. It involved cultural organisations and nursery settings, and produced a research paper that was published in The Chartered College of Teaching’s Impact magazine.
Building Regional Capacity
In 2021, Curious Minds reached out to cultural organisations across the North West, to conduct an audit of early years arts provision. This information enabled us to better understand the regional mix of experience and skills and we will be soon be delivering targeted early years training for community artists and support staff.
Cross-Bridge EY Network
We are a lead partner, with three other national Bridge organisations, in developing early years work across the Arts Council England Bridge network. This year will see the network collaborate to deliver a series of 'Sandpit Symposia'; a series discussion, development and training events taking place across the country.
Best & Next Practice Networks
We have developed a network of arts practitioners and cultural organisations in the North West, who meet to discuss specific aspects of early years work and further develop their practice. We use this and our teacher networks to broker collaborative links between specialist practitioners and early years providers.
Advocacy and Resource Sharing
We partnered with Ruth Churchill Dower at Early Arts and with PACEY, the professional association for childcare and early years providers, to raise the profile of early years suitable creative and cultural opportunities in the North West. Hundreds of childminders and early years settings across the region received practical toolkits in 2020-21, signposting resources and encouraging them to explore more of what our region's rich and diverse creative sector has to offer.

Climb aboard!

We continue to work with the education, childcare and creative sectors to build to develop pedagogies and promote skills development in this important area of childhood learning and development.

Most recently, we have been working with partners to share innovation, reseach and best practice with those in the sector. Here's a taste of some of the opportunities we've shared:
Bridging the Distance
A two-day professional development programme delivered in partnership with Ready Generations, focusing on intergenrational work and designed to enhance creative interactions between early years children and older people. This training offered 12 paid bursaries to creative practitioners.

Applications have now closed but the programme may run again in the future.
More-than-words: Early Years Pedagogy Workshop
A workshop with Manchester Metropolitan University exploring communication through movement, sound and gesture with very young children. Doctoral researcher and early years artist, Charlotte Arculus, together with dancer, Anna Daly, and practitioners from Martenscroft Nursery School presented artist and educator perspectives from the More-than-words project. They shared some of the simple, talk free and open-ended approaches and materials that was used throughout their research.

We are always keen to hear from anyone who is interested in joining our existing networks or wishes to explore with us how we can help to support their creative work with children in their early years.

If you have questions for us, please send an email to Emma Bush, Director of Sector Development.

You can also sign up to receive our email newsletters, ensuring that you're always amonst the first to hear about new programmes and opportunities.

Emma Bush

Director of Sector Development

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