Childcare Conversations

Interview with Childcare Consultant Laura Henry

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Laura Henry is an award-winning international Early Years specialist who trains thousands of individuals across the globe every year. She writes for a number of sector press publications on a range of Early Years topics and has written several books on Early Years.

First Discoverers caught up with her to chat about how she got into childcare, her thoughts on media technologies and any advice she has for those hoping to make a career out of working with children.

Can you take us through how you got into childcare?

On leaving school I worked as a clerk typist in a busy solicitor’s office. I found the job to be very tedious! Reflecting on two weeks of work experience that I did within a nursery whilst at school, I remembered how much I enjoyed working with children and even recalled doing ‘string painting’! I applied to my local college. The qualification at the time was the NNEB, certificate in nursery nursing.

I loved studying for my qualification. The lecturing staff were really inspiring – they were from a social work, health visiting and Early Years teaching background. We studied theories and research, as well as practical classes such as woodwork, cookery and textiles.

I also undertook a range of placements: in a paediatric department within a hospital, a nursery class, reception class, special needs school, with a nanny and in a day nursery. Without a doubt the NNEB was a solid Early Years qualification. I have gone on to study further qualifications over the years.

laura henry happy child

What makes you passionate about the job?

Working as a trainer and consultant on an international level. Hearing from colleagues I have worked with on how I have inspired them to make changes in their practice and how this has had an impact on children’s learning and development.

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As an Early Years specialist, I also love being inspired by my peers, listening to their passions and reading their work. I believe that we should never stop learning. Every day is an opportunity to learn and develop!

“I agree that we should embrace technology, as that is the way that Generation Y communicates and shares information. Generation X folks will need to up-skill or we’ll get left behind.”

What skills would you say are absolutely vital for a childcare professional?

  • Solid knowledge in child development, theory and research.
  • Being able to connect personally on an emotional level with children.
  • Emotional maturity and intelligence.
  • Being able to communicate well, both verbally and in writing with parents.
  • Having real fire in the belly and a can-do attitude.
  • Prioritising continuing personal and professional development (CPPD).

Working with children can’t always be easy, what’s been the most difficult part of your job?

When working directly with children, the child protection cases that I had to deal with and also now, as an expert witness. It is imperative that educators are trained effectively and receive ongoing CPPD to assist them in their role.

“Children do need to be exposed to a certain amount of risk, so that they are able to self-regulate and manage their own risks.”

Do you think children can ever be too safe?

Educators should be aware of safety issues when working with young children. However, children do need to be exposed to a certain amount of risk, so that they are able to self-regulate and manage their own risks. We also need to have discussions with parents on the importance of ‘risky play’ and how this supports children with their long-term independence and safety.

Read more about risky play: Benefits of Risky Play – Balancing caution and hazard

In your view, what should children ‘learn’, or ‘gain’ from their time in early years care?

Top of the tree should be that every child has a solid grounding in their personal, social and emotional development. These are essential skills for life. With the sensitive support of educators, children should be supported in how to self-regulate their own behaviour, which essentially sows the seeds for their life-long learning.

laura henry image

What’s your view about the impact of media technologies?

I believe that we should have sensible discussions regarding the use of technology within settings. I have seen young children using technology to record their learning, send texts and emails. This can only support children with their literacy and communication.

It is training and support that is needed for educators and parents in the use of technology as a learning tool.

In addition, we must look at how technology is used to record children’s learning and development and how it is shared with parents. As a latecomer to technology, I feel I’m still learning every day – mostly, helped by my sons! I wholeheartedly agree that we should embrace technology, as that is the way that Generation Y communicates and shares information. Generation X folks, like myself, will need to up-skill or we will get left behind. We must be mindful too that most parents are also Generation Y and so we should be joining them in their usual methods of communication.

If you could make two changes within the early years sector, what would you like to see?

More investment in early support and guiding educators to support parents. Research informs us that investment in the Early Years makes a difference.

I would like to see the Government provide educators with CPPD vouchers, to access a range of support. Although many providers already support their staff with CPPD, it would be great to see these vouchers going directly to the educators, so that they take responsibility for their own continuing development. Of course, educators should also be able to be given the opportunity to self-evaluative and reflect on their practice.

Special Educational Needs in the Early Years

What would be your advice to anyone considering a career in childcare?

Be the best that you can be! Even once you have your qualification, never stop developing personally and professionally. Visit a range of settings. Join forums and member groups for peer support and advice. Attend conferences and training, save your pennies and try to go to some of the conferences overseas and visit settings in other countries as well. Read sector journals and research papers.

And finally, If you could choose just one, what would you say has been your best ‘ I love my job’ moment?

One of my key-children, who I worked with over 26 years ago, is now an actor and starring in a West End play. His mother, who contacted me a couple of years ago, stated “I remember when you put on the Christmas show, which made him more confident and he is now an actor!!” This puts a massive smile on my face!

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laura henry book

Laura Henry is an expert international award-winning Early Childhood specialist. She is the founder of the community interest company for Early Childhood trainers and consultants, NEYTCO; vice-president of Early Education; and national representative for the World Forum on Early Care and Education. For three decades Laura has used her skills to support those who work directly with children. Every year she trains thousands of individuals, using her engaging and inspiring style. She is a highly regarded and popular trainer and writer. She is passionate about quality in Early Childhood, making sure that children receive the best possible care and education to help them reach their full potential. Laura regularly contributes to education and parenting publications. Laura has sat on the judging panel for, GESS, Nursery World and Nursery Management Today awards. She has used her specialist knowledge to work with government departments as well as national and international organisations, forums and working parties. Laura set up and hosts the popular global free weekly Twitter chat #EYTalking for teachers and educators, which has over 10,000 individuals sharing and connecting.

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