Interview with Early Years Author Kathy Brodie
An influential and respected childcare professional whose books are well-known, Kathy Brodie talks to First Discoverers about some current issues. In an interview crammed with common sense, she discusses subjects such as the impact of early years teachers, supporting children as they learn about risk, and the absurdity of adopting a negative stance on new technology.
A ‘mum who started helping out’
Currently dividing her time between Early Years consultancy, writing numerous books, articles and blogs, and designing and delivering training courses, Kathy Brodie unostentatiously describes herself as the ‘classic mum who started helping out’ in childcare. Careerwise, voluntary preschool work for Kathy proved a gateway to a college qualification, leading on in time to a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Sheffield – a notable academic achievement for any postgraduate, let alone those with parental responsibilities.
‘See the world from their perspective’
If anything, being a mum has heightened Kathy’s passion for childcare work where, she feels, the non-negotiable priority is:
‘Knowing we are doing the absolute best for the children in our care. It is a massive responsibility, and you only get one childhood, so striving to ensure every child has the most positive experiences is essential.’
Among the skills she considers vital for a childcare professional, Kathy Brodie mentions the art of ‘not being afraid to look foolish!’ Though this could (possibly) appear frivolous to some, experienced practitioners will understand that authentic and meaningful communication with young children becomes very much harder for those who, in an early years context, allow themselves to be overly constrained by a misplaced sense of adult dignity. In Kathy’s view, what is important is actually ‘being able to connect with the children, emotionally, so you can see the world from their perspective’. Doing so, she believes, is one of the best ways to observe children at first hand, especially if you are looking to capture ‘that sense of awe and wonder they have when they experience something for the first time’.
‘Childcare is not an economic equation to be balanced ’
Focusing upon childcare roles, an area which Kathy herself encounters and influences via workforce education and training, she first mentions the statutory framework, which she considers broadly positive:
‘I really liked the EYFS when it first came out, and I still think it has much to offer, even in its current format.’
Moving on to the issue of Early Years Teacher Status, in which Kathy has a particular interest, she clearly supports the advent of such developments designed to motivate childcare staff and upgrade the early years experience:
‘The EYPS (Early Years Professional Status) or Early Years Teacher Status was a fantastic initiative. This has created a clear career path, and has given national recognition to practitioners who have worked hard to get further qualifications.’
Despite her endorsement, Kathy is sure that further adjustments – such as parity with professional teacher salaries elsewhere in mainstream education – would go a long way to help maximise the impact of such measures, and goes on to suggest:
‘Making it mandatory to have an Early Years Teacher in every setting, along with the money to pay them. We know this raises the quality of care and education for children and there are some fantastic practitioners out there who should be rewarded for their dedication.’
Like many childcare professionals, Kathy has some reservations about the depth of commitment behind some government childcare interventions. It’s now time, she says, for ministers to start ‘… really listening to the sector, and understanding that ‘childcare’ is not an economic equation to be balanced, but is so much more important. Every year that goes past is another childhood missed.’
Read Kathy’s veiws on CPPD in her guest post: The Changing Face of Continuing Personal & Professional Development
Underlining her points, Kathy lists some of the benefits children stand to gain from truly high-quality childcare settings which lay good foundations for future learning: ‘… a sense of self-esteem, well-being and social interactions, [as well as] a mastery disposition, a sense of curiosity and the confidence to follow these through …’
‘Children should be encouraged to understand and calculate risks’
Talking through the genuine dilemma childcare providers face over the vexed question of safety and risk, Kathy notes the need for overall security but cautions that there is also a need to undertake a responsible, gradual and nuanced introduction to risk in the world a growing child will soon encounter:
‘Safeguarding is an absolute priority and early years settings have a big role to play in this.
During play, children should be encouraged to understand and calculate risks, supported by practitioners. This will vary from child to child, but is an important part of growing up. Ironically, being overprotective can make children more vulnerable later on because they don’t have the experiences to guide them.’
‘We do children a disservice by trying to turn the clock back’
The subject of childcare and new technology is an equally polarising debate, but one which Kathy clearly approaches with reasoned common sense:
‘I am certain that every generation has been concerned about the way that the ‘modern’ world is impacting on their children. For us, it is the explosion of technology and its ready availability to children. The fact is that children will grow up in this world. It will be absolutely normal to them and we do children a disservice by trying to turn the clock back.’
Furthermore, she believes, there is an important opportunity not to be missed:
‘What we can do is to give children the self-confidence and motivation to be able to use media technologies in positive ways. After all, who knows what innovation is just round the corner?’
‘It has been wonderful seeing students I’ve taught go on to do amazing things …’
As an early years trainer, Kathy continues to make a unique contribution to childcare provision, and acknowledges one of the special advantages this affords:
‘It has been wonderful seeing students that I’ve taught go on to do amazing things in settings, and for the sector as a whole.’
She is, of course, keen to support those with ambition to aim high and stresses the particular importance of ‘valuing your own professional development, including being reflective and constantly thinking about improving’. And for those possibly considering childcare as a career, she has some warm-hearted words of enthusiasm, plus some practical reassurance:
‘If you truly love being with children, exploring the world with them and just get a buzz out of watching them develop, then this is the career for you! It is an amazingly supportive and nurturing sector to work in – we all help each other wherever we can.’
Kathy Brodie is an Early Years author and training specialist. She delivers tailored training for practitioners to help them to gain the skills and knowledge to become a more effective practitioner in their unique setting.
Her key areas of focus are:
- Sustained Shared Thinking – particularly how to embed this powerful technique into every day practice
- Observation, Assessment and Planning – how to use observations to their best effect to inform planning and to develop meaningful next steps for children
- Schematic Play – how identifying and understanding this fascinating area can improve practice and fully support children in their preferred learning methods.
These are all available as online, lifetime access training courses at www.earlyyearstraining.org.uk as well as face-to-face training. Kathy has worked in the childcare industry for over 15 years, during which time she has worked as a practitioner, Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) and Early Years Professional (EYP) in a variety of settings. The University of Sheffield awarded her a Masters in Early Childhood Education in 2011. Kathy’s mix of practical experience and up to date thinking enables her to provide realistic, achievable training for practitioners that can make a difference immediately. For more information see: www.kathybrodie.com