Early Years Strategic Roundtable: progress update

The Early Years Strategic Roundtable has been informing government, making the case for early years, analysing the arts and early years sector, assuring quality and collecting resources.

The Early Years Strategic Roundtable is a national alliance of organisations supporting creative experiences in the expressive arts for children in their early years. It brings together mainly organisations from the Early Years and Arts (including music) sectors with a national remit, as well as the Youth Music-funded regional Early Years networks. Since 2012, the Roundtable has been hosted by Earlyarts, with Youth Music Networking funding, having been established by Youth Music in 2009. A list of participant organisations is at the bottom of this post.

The Roundtable brings together a group of organisations, chiefly through quarterly meetings, to look at how we can work strategically to influence policy and practice, and to ensure national coherence, aspiring for all children in their early years to have sustained, high quality, creative experiences in the expressive arts.

This post gives an update on some of the things we’ve been focussing on.

Informing government policy through consultations and meetings

One of the key activities of the Roundtable so far has been to feed a collective voice from arts in the Early Years into Government consultations and reviews, related to Early Years and the arts, and to follow these up with discussions and meetings with civil servants at the DfE. We have so far fed into the Tickell Review of the EYFS, the Nutbrown Review of the Early Years Workforce, and most recently the Government’s consultation around the recently proposed Early Years Teacher standard.

Making the case for arts in the Early Years

For a wide variety of reasons, the Early Years are often largely overlooked in big debates around education, arts, children’s development etc. For example, the two Henley Reviews (for music and for culture) don’t address Early Years, Early Years professionals don’t have the same teachers’ pay and conditions as those in education for older children, and proportionately few arts organisations working in education work with young children. So a key part of the Roundtable’s work is championing arts in the Early Years. We have spoken at events for ACE Bridge Organisations, Arts Awards, and the Music Education Council around the importance of arts in the Early Years. And we work closely with the Cultural Learning Alliance, to whom we bring a strong Early Years voice.

We are currently working on mapping evidence of the impacts of arts in the Early Years against the areas for learning in the revised EYFS, which we hope to release over the next couple of months.

Sector analysis

Much of the value in networks is in providing participants with an opportunity to find out what else is going on, outside their patch. As a national group, feeding in our collective insights into analysing the landscape of the Early Years and Arts sectors is a recurrent focus.

You can read about some of our findings. Firstly, in September 2012 we worked on a map of the issues and challenges for arts in the Early Years, as well as some of the solutions. This is written up both as a mind-map and as a Word document.

Secondly, in January 2013 we worked collectively on a broad-view map of the Early Years and Arts landscape, available as a poster.

Please note that neither of these are authoritatively researched reports but they do hopefully provide a useful digest of the insights of a broad range of different organisations working in arts in the Early Years.

Assuring quality of Early Years Resources and Professional Development

Over the past year, the team at Earlyarts have been supporting the Roundtable by developing and piloting a quality assurance certification for organisations producing resources and/or providing professional development opportunities related to arts in the Early Years. This is currently in development – more information to follow soon.

Collecting resources, case studies and evidence

The team at Earlyarts have also been supporting the Roundtable by collecting a huge collection of research reports, case studies and practice-sharing resources for arts in the Early Years. You can access these at www.earlyarts.co.uk.

Coming up next…

The Roundtable is currently working on how it could most effectively support parents to understand and support their children’s abilities and potential in arts and creativity, as well as continuing to raise the profile of arts in the Early Years.

We have also been looking at a wide variety of different sets of principles, ingredients and criteria for effective practice in arts education, including Early Years, to inform a set of ingredients for arts in the Early Years. We hope to publish this within the next few weeks.

Getting involved

If you’d like to find out more about the Roundtable, or get involved, please contact Susan Hirst at Earlyarts.

Roundtable participants

To date, the following organisations have participated in the Early Years Strategic Roundtable: Arts Council England, Community Dance, Creativity Culture and Education, Cultural Learning Alliance, Derbyshire County Council, Early Arts, Future Creative, London Early Years Foundation, Mac Arts, Meryc UK, Music House for Children, National Children’s Bureau, Nursery World, Nymaz, The Sage Gateshead, Sound Connections, SoundLincs, Thomas Coram Foundation, Youth Music.

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