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Underpinning Principles: Valuing Children

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“Every child is unique and learns from birth. Resilience, confidence and independence is valued and promoted. Children are entitled to the freedom to play, to take responsibility for their learning and behaviours, to identify and solve problems and to enjoy the excitement of being outdoors.”

(DCSF, 2008)

Valuing children and childhood within The Mead Academy Trust is characterised by:

Child Centeredness

Children get one chance to experience childhood. It should be precious and memorable. The best interests of children are the top most priority in decision making processes, whether it is the deployment of staff, curriculum design, the development of the learning environment, the choice of language used, or the use of rewards and consequences. “Allow us to tell you what we are thinking or feeling. Whether our voices are big or small; whether we whisper or shout it, or paint, draw, mime or sign it – listen to us and hear what we say” (Unicef, 2012, right number 13)

Individuality

Children’s individuality, personality, characters and energy levels are recognised and taken into account when planning activities and learning opportunities. Children are given time to ‘be’, to grapple with concepts and solve problems using practical methods, experimentation and quiet contemplation. Children’s innate ability to self-regulate and recognise their own personal needs is valued whether that be knowing when they need the toilet, when they need to rest or need to drink.   “We know that it’s only possible to make the biggest difference we can by listening to children and helping them to have a say in shaping the services there to support them.”  (The Children’s Society, 2017, p5)

Relationships

Children are capable of making good decisions, of cooperating with others, and of taking the needs and feelings of others into account.  Children are supported to understand what factors motivate behaviour, including their own, and how to put themselves in the place of others. They are supported to build relationships with adults and children alike, to avoid conflicts, to repair relationships and to establish interactions based on trust. “All children grow and thrive in the context of close and dependable relationships that provide love and nurturance, security, and responsive interactions.” (Joseph and Strain, 2010, p1)

Play and Exploratory Learning

“All children shall have time to play” (UNICEF, 2012 right 31). Play is a central pedagogic approach enabling children to learn with enjoyment and challenge. Play spaces are designed and organised so that children experience adventure, overcome challenges, manage risk and take responsibility for their own safe behaviours. Free play and free association is championed, allowing children the space (temporal, physical, and psychological) to explore and interact with the world in ways directed by them.

Capability and Competency

Learning environments reflect children’s capacity to be creative, flexible, open minded thinkers who can make sound judgements and construct knowledge in complex ways. Resources are well organised, accessible, at child height, well-spaced and visible to all. There are multiple opportunities for risk taking –emotional, physical and cognitive. Adult fears and anxieties do not unnecessarily ‘confine’, ‘over protect’ or disempower children.

Children’s Voice

All children are listened to and respected. Children are fully involved in the democratic life of the school. They share responsibility for decision making and are supported to develop leadership skills, attributes and behaviours. Children’s views are sought through range of positive and proactive forums. Children understand that their ideas are taken seriously and that their views and opinions count and matter.

Family Involvement

Children’s individual family circumstances are valued. Warm, caring, empathic, respectful and contextually relevant reciprocal relationships are built with families. Family engagement is encouraged and valued through a range of activities including parent forums, volunteering, celebration events and assemblies. Ways in which to develop closer more wide ranging and productive relationships for the benefit of the children are continuously considered and explored.

Natural Curiosity

Environments are developed in such a way that they enable children to express their potential, their abilities and their curiosities. Learning spaces are vibrant and stimulating offering a range of multi-sensory opportunities and provocations. Children are encouraged to express their ideas, thinking, personality and individuality in a number of ways that respect and celebrate their ‘100 languages’. “Children have a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts and a hundred ways of thinking, playing and speaking.” (Edwards, et al. 2011)

Social Learning Experiences

Learning experiences respect children’s rich capacities, abilities and creativities and stimulate intellectual growth. Pedagogical approaches are based on learning through interrogating and investigating provocations and questions, which is exemplified in the use of open ended resources, experimentation, discovery and authentic contextually relevant problems to solve. Learning opportunities promote cooperation, collaboration, community and negotiation. They are designed to provoke rich dialogue, active listening and sustained shared thinking between all participants. There are spaces for social collaboration, partner talk, group activity and the co-construction of learning. Adults and children work together in a negotiated, shared learning experience.

Celebrating Difference

Difference is celebrated. Children are supported to recognise and articulate the value of what is the same and what is different between themselves and their peers, and how they demonstrate a ‘common humanity’. Different approaches and opportunities are embraced to ensure that children understand that barriers do not have to limit their lives and that there is an equitable experience for all. Provision enables children to develop their unique personalities, talents and abilities irrespective of ethnicity, culture or religion, home language, family back ground, learning difficulties, disabilities or gender. Children are supported to pursue their own interests and talents through a responsive curriculum and a diverse range of enrichment activities and extra-curricular opportunities. Practice and provision is constantly reflected upon to consider how to challenge stereo typing. Children are supported to act as active agents in relation to attitudes that may stereotype them.

Health and Wellbeing

Children are supported to understand how to keep themselves healthy, physically, emotionally and mentally. Evidence is reviewed and utilised to inform practice in areas that are nationally, locally or individually of concern. A range of strategies are implemented to develop understanding of the physical, personal and social aspects of children’s development.

References
DCSF (2008) Practice Guidance for the Early Years Foundation. Setting the Standards for Learning, Development and Care for children from birth to five.  Crown copyright : London
Edwards, C and Gandini, L and Forman, G (Eds) (2011) The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation.  Praeger: Santa Barbara
Joseph, G and  Strain, P  (2010)  ‘Building Positive Relationships With Young Children’, online resource revised and updated for the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, Vanderbilt University http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/modules/module1/handout5.pdf  [accessed 30 January 2018] (pp. 1–3); first published version in 2004 in Young Exceptional Children 7.4: 21–28
The Children’s Society (2017) The Good Childhood Report.  The Children’s Society: London
UNICEF (2012) The rights of the child in words and pictures. Red Fox: London