Newsletter Spring 2018

Issue 11 Spring 2018

Welcome to the Froebel Network Newsletter 2018

Last year was a busy year for the Network – the new Facebook Group was launched and by the end of the year membership had passed the 200 mark. The new website has had lots of ‘hits’ and we have been keeping the events and news items up to date, although the Facebook Group is probably the more interactive way of keeping up to date. The year also saw the first ‘Networks Gathering’, held in Richmond, an opportunity for all those involved in the various Froebelian Networks to get together. It was a great success with over 50 members attending. The second Gathering is planned for April – see details below.

On the wider Froebelian front – 2017 saw the launch of the Froebel Trust short courses, managed for the Trust by Early Education (BAECE). These courses are run by a team of accredited Froebel Trainers who undertook the pilot with Yellow Dot group of nurseries.

There was disappointment at the end of the year throughout the early years sector with the publication of Bold Beginnings by Ofsted in November and the controversy that followed. This continues to rage both on social media and in the national press. See Opinion below. In contrast, November also saw the publication of several White Papers by the Lego Foundation, reviewing current research into play and providing a positive reaffirmation of the intrinsic value of core Froebelian principles in early years today.

NEW short courses from the Froebel Trust

The new Froebel Travelling Tutor short courses are now available. The programme of courses are designed to be flexible and can be organised in different ways, for example at the request of a nursery group or chain, who may want to introduce their practitioners to a Froebelian approach, local authorities who may want to offer CPD training for practitioners and childminders in their authority, or individual nurseries or childminder groups who may want to run the courses and sell-on spaces to other local nurseries, practitioners, parents or grandparents.

Early Education (British Association of Early Childhood Education) has been commissioned to manage the delivery of the courses on behalf of the Froebel Trust which were designed in response to requests from practitioners in early childhood education for short, practically focused local courses supporting them in understanding, studying and implementing a Froebelian approach to their work in group settings (schools, daycare, playgroups, children centres etc) and home settings (childminders, parents, grandparents etc).

The courses were piloted with Yellow Dot Nurseries. During the pilot it was found that practitioners valued taking away ideas and practical tasks from day one and trying them out, and returning to revisit them on day two, which helped to review the practice reflectively. This has therefore been built into courses.

external link to Early Education Froebel Short Courses

A Pedagogy of Play

We want to build a future in which learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. This ambition is more critical than ever. Children grow up facing rapid change, global challenges and a highly interconnected world, all of which affect their future prospects.”

These words come from the aims of The Lego Foundation which it states are to re-define play and re-imagine learning.

The Foundation’s website is a  gold mine of useful research papers, articles and resources.

In November 2017 the Lego Foundation published three White Papers which reviewed evidence on different aspects of Learning Through Play. Co-author of the reports is David Whitebread, Acting Director of Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) Research Centre at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge University. PEDAL was launched in 2015 with funding from the Lego Foundation.

A read of these resonates with Froebelian practice so deeply that I strongly recommend that all Froebelians take a look.

WHITE PAPER: Learning through Play: a review of the evidence

This white paper looks at the most recent research on the role and importance of play for children’s life and learning concluding that the evidence on learning through play is mounting; engaging with the world in playful ways is essential for laying a foundation for learning early in life and learning through play is also proving to be an effective pedagogical technique beyond infancy and toddlerhood.

WHITE PAPER: Neuroscience and learning through play: a review of the evidence

Neuroscience helps explain how playful experiences can support learning. We find that each characteristic – joy, meaning, active engagement, iteration, and social interaction – is associated with neural networks involved in brain processes.

WHITE PAPER: The role of play in children's development: a review of the evidence

Current evidence base suggests that different types of play have a role in supporting the development of communication skills, of abstract thought, self-regulation, and more adaptive, flexible, creative thinking.

The website for the Lego Foundation is from where you can download the research papers and find out more about their work on promoting play from early years, through primary up to age 12.

Details of current research at the Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) research centre at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge can be found here.

Froebel Networks - the second gathering

It looks like the Networks Gatherings are set to become an annual event with the announcement of a date for the second gathering in 2018. Last year’s gathering was held as part of a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Froebel opening his first school in Keilhau and was held in Richmond-upon-Thames.

Read a report on the 2017 gathering here

This year the gathering will be held on Froebel’s birthday – 21st April 2018. Tina Bruce will again be chairing the event and after an introduction by Mark Hunter, it is hoped that there will be presentations on transition from nursery to primary school, sharing observations as a team and  teacher narratives in their Froebel training at Roehampton. There will be reports from the various Networks – in particular the Edinburgh Network reporting on the storytelling project by the Masterclass group from Edinburgh as well as the expansion of Froebel training courses in Scotland - Edinburgh, Glasgow, Midlothian and Falkirk. The international networks will report on their projects in India and South Africa and we are pleased that we will be joined by Benedykt Biegun who will be reporting on the growth of Froebelian education in Poland. The travelling tutors network will update us on the first phase of the roll-out of the Froebel Trust endorsed short courses in partnership with Early Education.

The gathering will be held in Richmond-upon-Thames and is open to members of all the Froebel Networks as well as practitioners who have completed some elements of Froebel training and other guests by invitation. The event will be linked with an ‘Open Day’ at Annan The Froebel School, in East Sussex, the preceding day, for those who wish to make it a two-day event.

Further information on the Froebel Networks Gathering

Froebel Gifts

Don’t forget that the full range of Froebel Gifts made by SINA (Germany) are now available in the UK through the Froebel Network. New additions to the range include a wooden bead pattern set based on Gift 10 and My First Froebel – the Little Frobel Toy set designed by Heinrike Schauwecker-Zimmer, well known for her workshops at International Froebel Society conferences.

See the full range of Froebel Gifts, wooden boards and books on the Froebel Network website.

Where do I Begin? A personal opinion on Bold Beginnings

It would be difficult NOT to have an opinion on Bold Beginnings, the report published by Ofsted on 30th November 2017. Indeed, as if things weren’t bad enough, Gill Jones, Ofsted deputy director, early education, writing a response to criticism of the Ofsted report compounded rather than diffused the controversial ‘research based’ report. In her Nursery World article in December she raises the question …. ‘Is the Reception year a time to learn or play?’ She goes on to add, however, that ‘Ofsted isn’t against play in the reception class’ but ‘schools should also make sure that children sit at tables and hold a pencil correctly when they learn to write’. Let’s remember Reception is still a key part of the Early Years Foundation Stage, 4 and 5 year olds. It is not as Justine Greening, former Secretary of State for Education, indicated ‘a bridge between early years and key stage one’.

Gill Jones comments follow on from Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Ofsted who continues to be surprised at the reaction to the Bold Beginnings report, perhaps, she suggested, it had been misinterpreted. It is difficult to misinterpret ‘evidence’ from the report. In ‘good and outstanding’ schools, for example, the report states that EYFS ‘reception teachers use direct, interactive whole class instruction, particularly for reading, writing and mathematics. Leaders and staff ignored the perceived tensions between the principles of the EYFS and teaching a whole class directly. They recognised that teaching the whole class was at times the most efficient way of imparting knowledge.’

In other ‘good’ schools, ‘some headteachers did not believe in the notion of ‘free play’. They viewed playing without boundaries as too rosy and unrealistic a view of childhood…. some did not endorse providing free-flow provision’.

The report concludes that ‘all primary schools should make sure that the teaching of reading, including systematic synthetic phonics, is the core purpose of the Reception Year’.

Already social media is awash with reception teachers being asked by their Senior Leadership Teams to have regard to the report, putting early years under further pressure to become ever more formal. Indeed, the EYFS is the last remaining outpost of child centred learning and all that is at the heart of our Froebelian beliefs. The report will feed into next year’s EYFS and Inspection Framework review, continuing the top-down move of the key stage 1 curriculum into reception, rather than a child centred, play based EYFS feeding upwards into Years 1 and 2. Less than 10 years ago this seemed a real possibility, but the Bold Beginnings report shows that the direction of thinking is moving, at an alarming rate, in the opposite direction.

My concern is that with reports such as Bold Beginnings dominating the discourse, it will become harder and harder for early years practitioners to hold on to long established, sound early years practice. When I trained as a teacher, primary schools were still revelling in a post Plowden ‘discovery learning’ endorsement. Over 30 years later it is difficult to recognise primary school practice of the 1980s in the present day primary classroom. I think it is probably impossible for a Froebelian approach to ever be re-introduced into primary schools, the direction has moved so far away from this approach. We cannot let this happen in the early years.

Mark Hunter

Read more: A Collective Open Letter in Response to Bold Beginnings Report coordinated by Keeping Early Years Unique

Froebelian books and publications

Two more books with a strong Froebelian influence appear in the Routledge International Handbooks series.

The Routledge International Handbook of Early Childhood Play (Routledge International Handbooks of Education) edited by Tina Bruce,‎ Pentti Hakkarainen and‎ Milda Bredikyte
Published 7th June 2017
More information on this book - external Link to Routledge

The Routledge International Handbook of Froebel and Early Childhood Practice: Re-articulating research and policy (Routledge International Handbooks of Education) edited by Tina Bruce, Peter Elfer, Sacha Powell and Louie Werth

Due to be published in late Spring 2018. Details will be circulated to Network members on publication.

Also just published by Routledge in January 2018 - a very practical handbook and comprehensive guide to theory and practice from Pete Moorhouse.
Learning Through Woodwork: Creative woodwork in the Early Years
by Pete Moorhouse with a forward by Tina Bruce
Published 6th January 2017

"Ever so often a book is written that helps practitioners develop their practice in deep and far reaching ways. This is that sort of book". Tina Bruce CBE

More information on this book - external Link to Routledge

Peter has also recently produced a paper entitled:

Froebel and Woodwork - The Froebelian Occupation of Woodwork: A symbolic language of shape, form and space

To learn a thing in life and through doing is much more developing, cultivating and strengthening than to learn it merely through the verbal communication of ideas
The Education of Man (Froebel 1826)

Open a copy of the PDF here

Conference Round-up

Full details of upcoming conferences and exhibitions which may be of interest to Froebelian practitioners can be found on the Froebel Network website. Here’s a summary…

Tuesday 20th February 2018
BECERA 2018: Creativity and Critical Thinking in the Early Years
Venue: mac Birmingham

2nd-3rd March 2018
Childcare Expo
Venue: Olympia London

Saturday 21st April 2018
Froebel Networks Annual Gathering
 Venue: Richmond upon Thames

Saturday 28 April 2018
Minding the Gap Conference 2018: Ensuring the well-being of every child
Venue: University of Brighton

Saturday 12 May 2018
Early Education Annual National Conference 2018: Partnership and interaction in language development
Venue: University College Birmingham

11 & 12 May 2018
Nursery World NORTH 2018
Venue: Exhibition Centre Liverpool

Friday 1 June 2018
Pre-school Learning Alliance Annual Conference 2018: Minds matter: protecting the wellbeing of children and practitioners in the early years
Venue: London

Friday 22 June 2018
National Day Nurseries Association Conference 2018: Celebrating 20 years of NDNA
Venue: Coventry

Thursday 6 Sept. - Saturday 8 Sept. 2018
8th International Froebel Society Conference: Education for peace: Froebelian contributions at global and local level
Venue: Hiroshima, Japan

Saturday 22 September 2018
Edinburgh Froebel Network Conference, Gifts for our Future 10
The conference will take place on Saturday 22nd September 2018 at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. We are currently finalising the programme and more details will be available soon.
Venue: Edinburgh



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