Working and Teaching in the Early Years

Elle Gentle

Hi I am Elle Gentle I am a second-year student studying a BA (Hons) Working and Teaching in the Early Years, currently researching the benefits of children being allowed to take risks. Has health and safety gone too far and are we restricting their development if we wrap them up in cotton wool?

Kids Club on a beach

Over the years I have spent a lot of time working abroad in places such as Egypt and Malaysia looking after children as a Kid’s Club representative, providing various activities and a range of arts and crafts for all different ages. However, for this article I wanted to focus my attention on the work that I did in Malaysia on a small island resort called Sea Gypsy Village Resort. The island where the resort is located is called Pulau Sibu Besar and I have worked there on and off for about three years. As described on their website, the place is “A resort surrounded by jungle with a beautiful, safe, secluded, virtually private sandy beach. Perfect for families and couples who are looking to escape the stress of the city. Transport yourself back to a time before phones and email, engage in a digital detox to rediscover the value of time spent together”.

People crossing a foot bridge

I think one of the reasons why I have fallen in love with this place is this last point, the digital detox. I have been able to see families coming together, children playing outside, running around and exploring both jungle and ocean. As for the parents, they are able to relax as they know that their children are safe on this secluded island. This is something so often lost to the industrialised world as our children become increasingly surrounded by technology. Whilst there are many benefits to this technology, are our younger generations playing outside like we used to do? The benefits of outside play are endless, as stated by Greenfield (2004, cited in Little and Wyver, 2008: 36) ‘the risks and challenges of being outdoors provide rich opportunities for learning, problem-solving and developing social competence’.

Building a shelter on a beach

The resort also provides educational school trips several times a year. From the minute the children set foot on the island, they take part in games and tasks that promote teamwork, leadership skills, problem solving and survival skills. The activities can include anything from making bandanas to creating team chants, from gutting fish to making shelters and from orienteering to beach competitions. The children are constantly surprised by what they are capable of and go home exhausted and elated. The necessary risks assessments are completed by the resort and standard operating procedures are put in place to ensure the safety of all children. One of the main activities which could be described as risky, is the Survivor game. The children are taught basic survival skills such as making fires with flints, building shelters from natural materials and even how to gut fish. Once these skills are taught, we take them to a small deserted island and make out as if they will be staying there overnight. The children must work as a team, gather the resources needed, put together a shelter and make a fire. The skills that the children develop from this are incredible and include resourcefulness, team-work, perseverance, problem solving. So much learning happens from such a hands-on experience. According to Craig (2007, cited in McArdle et al, 2013: 249) ‘Confidence to face up to new and challenging situations is a condition that, we suggest, encourages resilience’. Could we be doing more in the UK to facilitate these types of experiences?


LITTLE, H. and WYER, S., 2008. Outdoor play. Australian Journal of Early Childhood. 33 (2), pp. 33-40. Available from: [Accessed 31 January 2020].

MCARDLE, K., HARRISON, T. and HARRISON, D., 2013. Does a nurturing approach that uses an outdoor play environment build resilience in children from a challenge background? Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning. 13 (3), pp 238-254. Available from: [Accessed 31 January 2020].

Learning beyond the classroom

It is surprising sometimes how significance can mushroom from quite small projects. My family are lucky enough to own and run a small private nursery and I’m frequently asked to create resources by our staff. One such recent request came from our pre-school room leader who asked if I could make a robot for the children. Now, I am no engineer, so mechanics were out of the question… but junk modelling? – that is another matter, so the germ of an idea was born. Pet food boxes, Pringles cannisters and other likely raw materials were accumulated over a couple of weeks, till I had enough to start building. Armed with my trusty glue gun my robot began to take shape over a weekend.

When I have created resources for the nursery before I prefer there to be a ‘back story’ rather than a new resource simply ‘arriving’, so when we did some work in our ‘secret garden’ one weekend, I took pictures and printed them into a little book showing the adventure ‘Daisy’ had been having and setting the children a bit of a treasure hunt (Daisy was actually a straw scarecrow bought for 50p from the local garden centre ‘end of stock’ bin). I therefore decided the robot had to have come from somewhere and there had to be a rationale for him/her to be here. Thus, alongside the construction, the back story began to take shape.

I suppose my childhood diet of sci-fi and outer space during the 50s and 60s fuelled my imagination, so that’s where he came from… a planet where robots worked hard, but no-one ever thanked them for their endeavours. Because of this, robots never learned to experience emotions. I’d found the key for the robot resource!

As the construction developed, I coincidentally discovered that there is such a thing as magnetic paint, and this is where the masterplan came together. I gave the robot a magnetic face and made interchangeable facial features so that his/her expression could be altered. I also wrote the accompanying story to get the children thinking about showing care and gratitude, practicing good manners, thinking and talking about emotions and showing empathy.

An informal follow up evaluation a couple of weeks after the robot arrived showed the following:

  • Children loved changing the robot’s face and trying to copy his/her expressions.
  • Boys were particularly animated and engaged
  • Key workers were able to incorporate number work with the resource
  • The children talked about the different shapes making up his/her body
  • They walked like robots at music time and talked in ways they thought robots might talk
  • Children were heard encouraging each other to say please and thank you and generally be aware of their manners
  • It captured their imagination and follow-on activities included using tin foil to make and decorate their own robots.
  • With the teacher they built their own giant model of a robot they could climb inside

I have now had a request to develop a sequel linking into the theme of recycling – this may just become the reason s/he stays on Earth rather than returning to his/her own planet.

Ian Currie
Ian Currie

Supporting Children to be Mentally Healthy

Supporting Children to be Mentally Healthy: A Whole School Approach (CPD Session)

Written by Elisa Fellone-Scott, Year 3 student trainee on the BA (Hons) EYE with QTS  programme

In this article I will be discussing the information for the recent training session ‘Supporting children to be Mentally Healthy: A Whole School Approach’. The speaker at the CPD Session, Professor Jonathan Glazzard was clearly passionate about mental health, being a Principal Researcher in the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools. This is a great research project supporting schools in making positive changes to the educational system through providing information and resources on mental health (Leeds Beckett University, 2019)

The World Health Organisation (2003:1) defines mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’

Often people think about teenagers and adults when poor mental health is discussed, however, it is essential to understand how poor mental health can impact children from the early years of life. The National Health Service (2017) highlighted the child mental health is continually rising and reported that 5.5% of children between the age of two and four experienced a mental disorder. This raises questions as to why mental health is not discussed more in primary schools and early childcare settings if it is a growing concern (Nagel, 2016).

Potential Causes for Poor Mental Health

Poor mental health in children can be a result of a range of factors including, individual disability, family conflict, neglect, social deprivation, poor attachments and school culture. It is essential to acknowledge that children are often more aware of things happening in their environment that many people believe. Furthermore, school culture is a big cause for stress due to testing, expectations and being in a new and busy environment. Meyer’s (2003:8) model of stress explains that although stress may affect everyone, people of minority tend to struggle with more stress due ‘distal’ and ‘proximal’ stress. Distal stress occurs when an individual experience violence due to discrimination, on the other hand, proximal stress is experienced when the individual anticipates that they we be discriminated against. It is fundamental that practitioners are aware of the different types of stress to get a true understanding of the child’s lifestyle and mental health.

A Whole School Approach

To improve mental health, it is essential that all areas of school life are involved. This model taken from Public Health England (2015) highlights that leadership and management teams are fundamental in implementing effective strategies. To promote an ethos and environment grounded in respects and diversity, schools should represent all faiths and cultures. This can be done through multi-cultural displays and stories demonstrating different traditions and beliefs.  Curriculum teaching and learning can support mental health through providing opportunities for the children to discuss their feelings and reflect on their experiences. Student Voice is evident through providing autonomy in the classroom, this could be choosing stories to read to class representatives. The saying ‘you can not pour from an empty glass’ is clear when it comes to teaching. Teacher’s mental health needs to be healthy to ensure that they can help others around them. Therefore, the staff should be given training on how to support their own mental health as well as the children’s mental health and wellbeing. Identifying a need through recognising the signs of mental health issues and using interventions to help the child’s mental health. It is important to note that in specific cases the practitioner should refer them onto specialists to help the child. Finally, it is essential that practitioners work alongside parents to help them support their child in their home life, this support could include converting a part of the child’s room into a calming area or encouraging the parents to help the child reflect on their feelings.

Signs of Mental Health Issues

  • Physical signs for example, bruises, cuts.
  • Become withdrawn
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Decline in progress
  • Lack of personal care
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lower attendance in school
  • Self- blame
  • Tiredness/ lethargic



Ask the child to rate an aspect of their life, for example, their teamwork skill from one to ten. Once the child has answered the question, the practitioner should ask questions such as,

  • Where would you say you are now?
  • What are you doing that makes you think you are at this number?
  • What will tell you that you have moved one point up the scale?
  • What might you be doing then that you are not doing now?
  • ‘Where on the scale do you hope to get to over the next [e.g. week]?
  • What will you be doing then that’s different?’

Exception Finding aims to find a time where the child was not struggling to discover what could be the trigger for the problem.

  • When are the times that (the problem) doesn’t happen as much?
  • Tell me about a time when (the problem) happened but didn’t last as long?
  • When are the times when other people would notice you (e.g. behaving, working, being kind…) in a good way?
  • When were things a little bit better for you? What was different then?
  • Tell me about a time when (e.g. you stayed calm) in that difficult situation?

Complimenting is focusing on small things that the child has done well to help their self-esteem.

  • ‘It seems to me you’ve somehow been able to keep going with that, when things have been difficult, that you’re a person who can keep going even when things are tough. Is that true about you?’
  • ‘Something I’ve noticed today is that you’ve answered every question I asked you, maybe with an “I don’t know” answer, or maybe something else’.

Peer Mentors (Nagel, 2016) research found that children are more likely to talk to their peers about problems as they fear that adults will tell their parents. It is suggested that schools could train some pupils to be key listeners and understand when to inform the teacher of any problems.

Meditation helps children relax and gives them the opportunity to reflect on their day in a non-stressful way. These can be short daily sessions or long less frequent session.

Calming Jar- Put water and glitter into a jar and the child turns the jar and watches the glitter fall through the liquid, this is beneficial as it calms the child down.

Nature- There is a vast amount of research on the benefits of the outdoors on child mental health for example, children tend to speak to more children when they are playing outdoors meaning that they are more likely to build strong relationships.

Useful Links

  • Wellbeing Measurement Framework for Primary Schools (Evidence Based Project Unit, 2017) is a framework in partnership with Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families. This framework a method of measuring how mentally healthy children are by working with the child to answer statements such as ‘I break things on purpose’ based on a never, sometimes and always scale. Link:
  • Mentally Healthy School Website (2019) is sponsored by health charities such as Young Mind to provide information on mental health as well as resources to support children with mental health issues. Link:

How do you support children wellbeing in your setting?


Welcome to Early Years Education 2019-20 academic year

A very warm welcome to The Early Years Education Department for all our new students joining us in 2019 and of course, all our returning students – welcome back!

The Department offers a suite of programmes that provide high quality learning and training experiences to those who wish to work with young children in a variety of roles across the EYE sector. We are really pleased that you have decided to study with us at Edge Hill University and particularly in the EYE Department.

The Early Years Education Department has some key strengths identified by a variety of quality procedures and our own students’ comments (NSS/SSCF 2018/19 meetings):

Strengths of the Department include

  • Quality of overall student experience (strong ISS/NSS scores and highly positive Bristol Online Survey End of programme responses and Student Staff Consultative Forum Minutes). For the past 3 years now, our students are 100% satisfied with our programmes overall.
  • Successful academic achievement across all programmes – you will get there and do really well in your chosen career!
  • Strong retention across all programmes – we have good support mechanisms in place for all students, so please talk to your tutor team if there is anything you are concerned about, so that we can signpost you and help, where possible.
  • Consistent high quality and complimentary partner feedback and a strong collaborative working relationship (Partnership BOS feedback and PQO Reports).
  • Consistent highly positive External Examiner feedback – all our programmes are reviewed by an External Examiner.
  • Partnership Training and Development Opportunities across the partnership, with future plans to enhance and develop as an area of enterprise – we offer free CPD, so please do look out for this opportunity alongside your studies.
  • ‘Forest Edge’ and outdoor learning developments – we are early years, so you will be outside often!
  • Cross-Faculty collaborations to support teaching and research – your tutor team are researchers, so ask them about their work and read their publications in journals, books etc.
  • An investment in Paediatric First Aid Training for all Final Year and PGCE students to comply with DfE ‘Millie’s Mark’ with Millie’s Trust Foundation at no extra cost to you. You will be thoroughly ‘employable’.
  • Distinctive Department for Early Years Education, which we are very proud of and you will benefit greatly from being immersed in early years ‘ness’
  • Our students tell us that we are welcoming, supportive, engaging, knowledgeable, inspiring and fun. I do hope you will also think this, but if not – tell us. Do look out for our ‘Meet the Team’ events and come along.

I would also like to share with your the ‘Vision for Early Years Education Department’ as you are an essential part of this vision and ethos.

The Early Years Education overarching vision is to raise the status and quality of the early years workforce (ECEC workforce) and to work in partnership with employers and early years settings/schools across England, to ensure high quality teaching and learning, reflective practice, leadership and research is at the heart of our early years training and professional development programmes.

This vision is based on our aspiration to lead early years research, learning and teaching on both national and international levels through providing a dynamic student-focused learning environment, offering our students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) high quality learning experiences that are inextricably linked to the needs and interests of young children, who are at the heart of our early years provision. We aim to provide an outstanding, sustainable and inclusive learning environment through continuous enhancement of our provision by responding to identified learners’ needs, developments in the fields of research, wider community interests, including those of employers, while ensuring a thoughtful, process of reflection and evaluation”.

We hope that you thoroughly enjoy your studies with us and that you engage with the ‘student voice’ opportunities offered to you to get the very best from your teaching and learning experiences – if I have not shared this with you during induction, I will talk to you when I teach you!

Please do feel free to pop in and see me at any point in your studies and let me know the good things you are doing and if any issues arise for you. My office is in the Faculty of Education, second floor FoEL 2.50, with my name on the door. Alternatively, do feel free to email me or tweet.

Dr Karen Boardman

Twitter @KarenMBoardman

Get Involved! a note from Freddie Berry, EHU Education Society:

Edge Hill University (EHU) Education Society 

The EHU Education Society is set up by students for students! We are sponsored by the National Education Union and have opportunities for students on education based courses or those who are interested in education to join. We offer training sessions based on your interests and have a number planned for the academic year to come focusing on:

  • Supporting children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Behaviour Management
  • Children’s Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC)
  • Supporting Children’s Mental Health
  • Inequality in Education
  • Racism in Education
  • Supporting Looked After Children (LAC).

Every time you attend a session you come away with a certificate to demonstrate your attendance and commitment to your personal and professional development which can help your CV to stand out. Alongside this members are able to meet like minded individuals who are also interested in education and get involved with campaigns that the NEU runs to support teachers, schools and learners. If you are interested in joining the society and receiving news about how to sign up for these events please feel free to contact and follow us on:

  • Email: email the President of the society, Freddie Berry, on 
  • Facebook: @ehueducationsociety to follow our page / if you would like to join our group chat then please email or message us on our page
  • Twitter: @EHUEducationSoc 

We look forward to you joining our society!