I have finally managed to watch Michael Morpurgo’s Richard Dimbleby Lecture. How refreshing to hear someone from outside of the world of Education recognising how undervalued the Early Years profession is. The lack of financial reward and status means that many of the UK’s brightest individuals are discouraged from entering the Early Years profession. Working with our youngest children is one of the most important occupations of all, as Morpurgo put it
‘a pound spent in the early years can save ten pounds later’
Thank goodness some of us care enough not to desert the profession.
The lecture also decried the target driven education system we have in this country. When everything relies upon targets and league tables it is easy to forget about the individuality of each child and how their needs can be met. Morpurgo explained how in New Zealand children enter school on their 5th birthday, thus allowing teachers time to get to know each child individually , rather than having a class of 30 all arriving at once. Also in Finland, which comes 2nd in the OECD World Education rankings, children do not start school until they are 7 years old. With an education system built on targets and children starting school at such a young age we are setting our children up for failure. No wonder we keep seeing headlines about how boys are failing to read.
Morpurgo argues that the most important part of a child’s education is building trusting relationships, focusing on the unique qualities of each child. When teachers and adults are passionate about a subject, be it reading, music, sport or science they enthuse children to enjoy those things too. This reminded me of Sir Ken Robinson’s book ‘The Element’. In this he talks about how each of us have something that we excel at , that we enjoy and is at the core of our very being. Many of these things are discovered by perceptive and enthusiastic adults when we are children, others of us do not find our ‘element ‘ till much later in life, if at all.
There are a number of people who helped me to find a passion. My mother read me books, took me to the library and showed me that books were special, instilling in me a love for reading. The primary school teachers who first put me on the stage in school shows and sowed the seeds for a love of performing and my secondary school English teacher who recognised my talent for writing and called me her ‘shining star’ helped me to believe that I could.
It also made me think of another thought I had earlier in the day as I taught my eldest daughter to play clock patience. I thought about all the things my grandfather taught me to do when I was young. Not only clock patience, but how to make a paper hat and paper aeroplane, how to play pick up sticks and two little dickie birds with pieces of paper on your fingers – things that I hope I remember well enough to pass down.
Working in Early Years Education I am sure that we touch children’s lives in many ways, with the experiences we give them, through listening to them and sharing their worlds and understanding their needs. In some ways it’s a bit sad that few of the children we teach will remember the influence we had on their lives, they wont cite us as someone who touched their life, but I’m pretty certain we did.
For a full transcript of the Dimbleby Lecture http://www.michaelmorpurgo.com/news/read-michaels-dimbleby-lectur/