Fay Flude is Early Years Setting Manager and SENCO lead at a Pre-School in Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

Building on Success is phase 2 of the Early Years Professional Development Programme, part of the national government initiative to improve children’s outcomes in early language, mathematics and personal, social and emotional development.

It forms part of the wider £180m Early Years Education Recovery package, which provides evidence-based professional development, including through new programmes focusing on key areas such as communication and language development for the youngest children.

When I heard about the opportunity to be a part of the Department for Education funded Building on Success professional development programme, I seized it with both hands.

I started working in the early years sector over 11 years ago and I hadn’t done such a long course in a while, so I was excited to see what the course had to offer. In the end, our manager decided our whole team would do it, and that was such a great opportunity to all learn together.

I’ve always been passionate about speech and language development in children and am the SENDCO lead in our setting. The impact of the pandemic has definitely been noticeable and since returning to some level of normality, I’ve made the highest number of referrals I’ve ever had to make to the speech, language, and development service, and to the childhood development clinic. This course has definitely come at the right time.

The content around Speech, Language and Communication, developed by Elklan, really appealed to me as it was so relevant and comprehensive. I always used to emphasise the importance of visual strategies for all children, not just children with additional learning needs, but this programme made the whole team realise that visual tools are relevant for all children, and this has had a big impact on learning. One of the things we now use, as a result of the programme is an audio and visual songbook which the children love and respond really well to.

Following the maths module, we’ve been able to see the progression with maths in our setting already, and the learning videos added an extra level of explanation. All of my team members clearly listened to what they’d learnt, and it’s been accessible and memorable enough for people to start using it with the children straightaway in their small adult-led learning groups. The programme provided us with new ways to think about implementing learning, such as using block play to learn more about shapes and their properties.

It hasn’t just been about the children, though. The skills we’ve learnt are useful for supporting whole families, especially parents who we’re noticing have been a little more anxious especially about separating from their child as they’ve been together so long during the pandemic. The content in the Personal, Social and Emotional Development module (PSED) which was created by the Anna Freud Centre, provided practical tips on how to involve parents and carers in their child’s learning. It also included a unit on supporting staff in their mental wellbeing which led to us deciding to create a new policy around mental wellbeing as we realised the link between staff happiness and the impact on the children’s learning.

I found the flexibility of the programme really useful, so even though my children are all older now, it was great being able to do the online learning at a time that suited me. We also had to attend weekly group webinars where we had the chance to talk to other practitioners from various settings across the country and gain valuable support and ideas from our programme tutor, who was lovely.

I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to do this professional development programme and felt really well supported by the team at Education Development Trust throughout. I am lucky in that I already felt confident at work, but in this field especially, you don’t want to become complacent. Learning by myself, but then also being able to talk things through with other practitioners on the webinar really revitalised my practice and just improved my confidence further.

Learning for me is hugely enjoyable on a personal level but being able to do the whole programme as a team has been invaluable for both ourselves and the children we work with.

I would definitely recommend a programme like this to others. Refreshing your skills and learning new ones makes you reflect more on why you are doing what you are doing and makes you ask is it having an impact? If not, what do you need to do about it?

About the Early Years Professional Development Programme

Building on Success is a professional development programme providing evidence-based and fully funded CPD for pre-reception practitioners from schools and private, voluntary and independent (PVI) settings, who meet the qualifying criteria. It is funded by the Department for Education and delivered by Education Development Trust in partnership with Elklan.

For further information, visit www.earlyyearspdp.com.