ASPE Executive Member Funding is funded to attend and present at the European Early Childhood Education Research Association (EECERA) conference, Glasgow.
As an organisation, ASPE is very active in supporting all kinds of research related to enhancing primary education. This includes funding for research projects with primary schools, to being involved in various primary subject areas that enhance pupil learning, to supporting primary practitioners with a range of strategies to develop their practice through their monthly bulletins and various events (conferences / seminars / workshops) throughout the year (see website for details).
In August 2022, Malini Mistry (University of Bedfordshire) and Bulletins editor from the ASPE Executive Committee was part funded to attend the European Early Childhood Education Research Association (EECERA) to present some research findings. The research consisted of looking at the role of Early Years leaders across one county in England and one county in Finland, alongside some of the similarities and differences in their day to day roles and the impact of this on teaching and learning for young children. This is the first time a member of the ASPE executive committee has worked with an international colleague on Early Years research after the pandemic.
EECERA is an independent, self-governing, international association which promotes and disseminates multi-disciplinary research on early childhood and its applications to policy and practice. The EECERA annual conference is the largest and most significant early years’ research conference in Europe, regularly attracting more than 900 researcher delegates from all over the world. The EECERA Conference is hosted in a different European city each year by a local university or early years network and to encourage networking and cross-national collaborations.
One of the similarities between ASPE and EECERA is that both organisations promote developing practice to enhance learning for all children. They also offer a range of resources and strategies to support different areas of learning / curriculum. More importantly, they both support research informed practice to develop our critical consciousness with learners.
This year the theme of the EECERA conference was Cultures of Play: Actors, Affordances and Arenas in all aspects of Early Years Education. One of the most interesting aspects of this conference and what was debated in our session is, what constitutes the Early Years age phase and how this is led and managed within local contexts. In England, it is generally assumed to be the 0-5 age phase under the guidance set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework. However, this is not as clear with our international colleagues. Especially with Early Years being viewed as 0-7 in Finland and similar ages in other European countries. One of the key findings is that all Early Years leaders want their children to achieve the best possible outcomes. However, the way Early Years is led and managed in different countries was highlighting through the debate in the workshop. This is partly to do with the fact that we in England are regulated by Ofsted, yet in Finland, there is no regulation of their Early Years and therefore their practice varies in different settings which can be perceived as both good and bad.
Naturally, a model from one country cannot be transplanted into another country, but there were important lessons from the findings that all could take away for their practice and dissemination. One example included all leaders being part of the setting teaching team so that they can see the needs of children, staff and setting. Key note speakers opened and closed the conference and were a good mix of local and international experts in relation to Early Years, including speakers from primary schools and Early Years settings. Presentations ranged from the traditional paper presentations, to workshops – which I was fortunate to be part of, to poster presentations, to round table debates.
There was ample opportunity to network with a range of Early Years professionals after sessions to spread the message of ASPE – as most were unfamiliar with this organisation. International colleagues were surprised at huge amount of useful information on the ASPE website, which was their first port of call. The ASPE bulletins were also a huge success and were welcomed at the registration / information desk.
A more detailed outline of the research findings will be presented in an ASPE bulletin on the website in due course.