Friday, 22 February 2019

The Next Generation of Voters quiz the First Minister

FMQ's Next Generation

I have just taken time to watch this special edition of Scotland Tonight with the Next Generation of voters quizzing the First Minister.

The questions the children and young people ask are eloquent, well thought out and informed. It reminds me of how proud I was of Rhona making her own informed choice about whether she wanted to live in an independent Scotland. She took time to listen to all the arguments and then mulled them over in her own mind. She then carefully took her views to the polling station and cast her vote. For her first ever vote, at 16, a privilege of young people living in Scotland, it was an important, life changing one for her.

I was proud Scotland gave her the opportunity to have a say in her own future. These children give our First Minister a grilling, and rightly so! Go the Next Gen!!!

Make a cup of tea and take time out of your day to watch this.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

25 Calls - Children in Scotland

To celebrate their 25th anniversary Children in Scotland presented 25 Calls to change children's lives for the better. 25 Calls is about sharing Scotland’s hopes and ambitions for future generations and achieving real change.

A call went out for responses to each call and I asked if I could respond to one of the calls. The call I chose to respond to was Call 17

I was absolutely delighted to have my blog response accepted and here it is:

Please take time to read the other calls. Ensuring children's lives get better should be at the heart of everything we do for children.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Policy leads practice - Why we have to get it right!

I picked up a tweet on
Friday 11 Jan

The article Suzanne was commenting on was a blog by Mona Delahooke, PhD https://www.MONADELAHOOKE.COM. In her blog Mona tells a story about the experience of young boy who has autism. She says:

"Not long ago, at an autism treatment forum, I heard about a painful and frustrating episode a teenager recalled from his childhood. At five years old, the boy was 45 minutes into an autism treatment session when he ran to the window, pressed his nose against it, and stared intently at the family car. Unable to use spoken language or even point or gesture, he was simply trying to express to his behaviour therapist and his mother that he was weary of the incessant drills and ready to go home.

The therapist didn't get the message, dismissing his attempt to communicate as mere "stimming" - that is, a form of meaningless self-stimulation. "he's fixating on the care", she told the boy's mother. "Let's just ignore and try to get him back to the table". Now the boy recalls his great frustration trying to make himself understood.

The therapist wasn't being intentionally harsh. She was merely following an autism treatment protocol that uses reinforcement and other strategies such as "planned ignoring" to help children with autism learn and acquire new, adaptive behaviours."

Mona continues in her blog to discuss the hidden costs for this commonly used tool for the young person, however for me this is another example of how policy, guidelines and procedures lead practice.

I don't doubt for one moment that the therapist in this example felt she was doing absolutely the right thing for the family. I had never heard of planned ignoring, however as I have never worked directly with a child on the autistic spectrum, only supported families and staff through the nursery, it is not unusual that I would not have heard of it, Suzanne Zeedyk herself said the same. So a quick internet search revealed that "planned  or tactical ignoring is a strategy where you give no outward sign of recognising a behaviour (e.g. no eye contact, no verbal response, no physical response). However, you are aware of the behaviour occurring, and you monitor the child to ensure their safety and the safety of others. Often, you will be able to continue with a conversation with others without acknowledging the attention-seeking behaviour" For me this is as far from loving, caring practice as you could get. 

My limited experience working with children and adults with autism has taught me that their behaviours often represent communication. I worked with a young woman, who was on the autistic spectrum, who held a soft toy in class. When she would become uncomfortable or uneasy about something she would begin to pull quite vigorously at the limbs of this toy.  Her behaviour was distracting and often alarming for others in the class but to ignore this behaviour would have been wrong, she was telling me she was unhappy. To support her and to show I was listening to her and to maintain her sense of dignity, we arranged that I would simply go up to her and lay down a flower shaped eraser (we agreed this was her chosen signal). This signal told her silently, without fuss, that I understood she was uncomfortable and needed to leave this difficult situation. She would then leave my class and go to find her learning development tutor. Had I just ignored this behaviour, she probably would have quietened down, but she would have felt frustrated, not listened to and unloved. This was not written into any guidelines but I used my knowledge and experience to know that for this young woman this was the most loving thing I could do for her. 

Mona makes the point that one of the hidden costs of this practice are that it sends "the wrong emotional message to the child. In short, the adult is saying "I'm not interested in what you are trying to convey, and I'll pay attention only when you comply with my demands". As the young man in the example above shows he still recalls frustration at not being understood. The therapist was following guidelines, guidelines which will have been developed following policy created at a much higher level. There is nothing wrong with this process, however in order for the practice to not cause this kind of harm to young people as they grow and develop it is crucial that the policies reflects practice which is enabling rather than restricting. This therapist should have had the freedom to use their own knowledge, understanding, experience and learning to work with each child in a loving and individual way. While a child on the autistic spectrum may not be able to recognise or acknowledge love they will recognise when someone is working in a loving manner. 

Getting the language right in the initial policies will underpin practice guidelines and protocols in a way that allows the practitioner to work in a professional way which allows them freedom to work with integrity and know they have cared for the child, young person or adult in a way which represents their own values. 

That being said, as Mona points out this doesn't mean there won't be occasions where ignoring unwanted behaviours isn't the right thing to do however, ensuring the guidelines practitioners work with aren't restricting them to carry out practice that may not be right for the child is the key to good practice. 

Monday, 31 December 2018

Looking back at 2018 and looking forward to 2019

Well, what a whirlwind 2018 has been for me academically!

I started the year by sending in an abstract for EECERA 2018 on a whim really, not thinking I would get accepted but I did and the plans for heading to Budapest began!

In January I began by reflecting upon the year past and the year ahead, with a great deal of imposter syndrome going on. Not sure I am quite past that yet, if anything it has just gotten worse! The more I get asked to do the worse it gets. I keep expecting to be found out. But I suspect all academics feel like that at some point in their academic career.

Through the Beast from the East and the early spring months I began work on the early chapters of my thesis. I found writing the actual process of writing easy but it was slow and I struggled to 'find my voice'. However, practice makes perfect and once I discovered the mantra "don't get it right, get it written" things got a lot easier from then on. I spent less time fiddling with my writing and more time just getting the words down on paper! Things speeded up at that point.

In May I met Sue Palmer at a screening of Resilience, and we shared similar views and opinions about what we had seen. I posted my views here on this blog (May 2018) and shortly after Sue asked me if I would like to write a guest blog for Upstart, this was an amazing opportunity and brought about a lot of new connections

One of those connections was Lisa, the Education Team Manager at Falkirk Council. She asked me if I would like to go along and share my research with a team of Early Learning and Childcare practitioners who were attending a training seminar. What an amazing group of practitioners. What always amazes me is that once I break through the fear and reticence to discuss love I can't get practitioners to stop talking about it. As my research has shown, love is already there in practice but the conversation and permission needs to be granted to allow practitioners to talk and deliver love-led practice freely.

Through July I got my head down and really started to crack on with my thesis. The chapters were coming together nicely with my paper copy folder growing by the week. It really was getting quite exciting. Meanwhile I had to start work on my PED talk for EECERA. At the same time I got a message on LinkedIn from Linda Harrison, an academic from Australia, who had been given my name by Dr Jools Page as a possible co-author for a chapter she was writing about the child's right to love. I met with Linda in Budapest and shortly afterwards, and have since written a draft for her to include in the chapter she is writing.

I really quite enjoy giving talks, particularly when I am so passionate about the subject, but this one was to be a challenge. The format for the short talk in Budapest was to take the form of a TED talk. No notes, no power point slides, ten minutes. I don't normally memorise what I am going to say, I usually just put together slides which prompt me to talk about different parts of my presentation and I usually just talk from the heart. However, on this occasion as I had to stick rigidly to 10 minutes, I thought I ought to write something and memorise it. My wonderful PhD friend Liz kindly took me for a walk along the shoreline at Dalgety Bay and listened to my talk. I just did not feel comfortable trying to remember what to say. So I decided on a checklist in my head of sections of my talk. This worked! My talk went down really well. I was approached by a number of people afterwards who had enjoyed it and in particular one woman from the Australian Government handed me her card and took mine. She said I should film my talk as it would be of interest to lots of people. More on this connection made later!

After an amazing trip I came home, uploaded the transcript of my talk .
After posting a comment on twitter I was approached by TESglobal to write a blog for them about my research. This was another amazing opportunity, one which I grabbed! Again this helped me make further connections with others interested in my research. Shortly after this was posted I was approached by the team I work alongside at the Scottish Government to join them at their ELC Directorate huddle where they share new research and ideas around early years. By being able to present to them I really felt I was influencing policy to ensure children get the loving care they have a right to. This lead tome being told by one of the ELC team that 'love' was included in the introduction section of the Funding Follows the Child and National Standard document published in Dec 2018:

I was also asked by the Care Inspectorate to take part in a working group developing a Compassionate Care Resource for use by all care services. Being able to influence policy development at these levels really makes the effort involved in my thesis worth it.

In November I was approached by Pupil Inclusion Network Scotland to speak at an event they were putting on to discuss love. Unfortunately timing was against us and I wasn't able to speak at what was a successful event however I was asked to contribute with a guest blog which I was thrilled to do. Again this opportunity generated opportunity to network with a number of other interested people.

I was also asked to speak at the SERA Early Years Network Spring Event in Feb 2019.

 Having all of these opportunities to share my research is fabulous and really feels like I am getting the message out there.

That brings us up to the end of November. After 2 months of working 5am - 1am (with work in between) I finally finished my thesis. It was exhausting but exhausting and fun to finally bring it all together into one huge 80,000 word document. I have to admit to crying after printing out the first copy! I spent a wonderful weekend in Keswick completing the final draft, interspersed with enjoying the Keswick festive offerings (Keswick Christmas Proms and the Keswick Victorian Fayre).

So with my thesis sent off to my three supervisors for a final edit, I sat back ready to enjoy the Christmas break. But just as I did that an email came in with a heading of "Touching base from Australia". Now initially I thought it was from Linda Harrison, who I spoke about earlier but this is what it said:

" Dear Jane

I am writing to you on behalf of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL). We plan to hold an early childhood leadership conference which showcases the current thinking and research from within and outside the early childhood education sector. I am reaching out to explore the possibility of you delivering a keynote address at our 2019 Conference which is scheduled to be held in Sydney on the 2nd and 3rd of May 2019. We expect to attract around 600-800 early childhood leaders from Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific region across all sectors of education. Your work is well known and regarded here and I am sure you will find the experience worthwhile as well.

The theme for the conference is Sharing the Responsibility – Inclusion in the Early Years. I have attached the initial announcement of the event which should give you more context.

I have given below a short overview of ACEL below. You can also get more information on our website – ACEL Website

ACEL short profile:

ACEL is the largest professional association operating in the education sector in Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific region. It is an independent, cross sectoral and progressive organisation As Australia's peak professional organisation ACEL is a forward thinking, relevant and responsive agent of change and innovation.  We have over 7000 members and over 60000 educators in our network around Australia, New Zealand and wider region.

ACEL actively supports the development of leadership capabilities across Australia through its national and Branch initiated professional learning activities, international conferences, publications, online programs, and other partnership initiatives in leadership development. Access to these leadership-focused opportunities is available for classroom to system leaders.


I look forward to hearing from you and would be happy to talk further in the coming days to give you a fuller understanding of the event.


I was blown away to say the least. Apparently there were a few people who listened to my PED talk in Budapest and were interested in my research. So having had a phone call with the organisers I am now planning a trip to Australia in April next year! Yikes that doesn't sound so far away now. 

And hopefully in late February or early March I will be submitting my thesis for examination and planning for my Viva in early summer. I have also started putting together my first journal article to lay claim to my thoughts from my findings. 2019 is going to be one hell of a year!

And 2018 wasn't all bad either....

Happy and prosperous new year to everyone

Love to all


Thursday, 29 November 2018

Latest Blog - Pupil Inclusion Network Scotland (PINS)

Delighted to contribute this blog entry to the PINS Blog to support their discussion about love in education.

Please have a read.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Te aroha

I received a lovely email back from Diana who I met in Budapest, from New Zealand. Her colleagues sung the most beautiful Maori song after her PED talk and I had emailed her to ask what it was. She sent me a lovely email back and links to two songs, she couldn't quite remember which it was. Both are beautiful. The second one is about love. They are Maori songs to sing with children:

E tu Kahikatea:

 Te Aroha

Te aroha - love
Te whakapono - Faith
Me te Rangimarie - Peace
Tatou tatou e - For us all.

Beautiful words. Have a listen.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Why do we find love so difficult in Education? - TES blog.

Here is the link to one of my latest guest blogs. The focus as always for me is on Early Education and Childcare, although some of the wording has been changed to suit the readership of

Thanks as always for your interest.


The Next Generation of Voters quiz the First Minister

FMQ's Next Generation I have just taken time to watch this special edition of Scotland Tonight with the Next Generation of voters quiz...