Ask the Expert – David Wright, Paint Pots Nurseries
This year, we’ve launched a blog series – ‘Ask the Expert’.
It provides a platform for all Early Years (EY) professionals, where they can share their experiences and advice with the industry, on their chosen specialist subject.
So, whether you’re a policy expert, nutrition specialist, or knowledgeable practitioner, we want to hear from you!
This month, we speak to David Wright who established Paint Pots Nurseries with wife Anna to provide a ‘love, laughter, and learning’ approach to EY childcare. Here, he chats about curriculum focus, confidence in the sector, and what more we should do to promote diversity and inclusion.
Tell us a little more about your early years sector background…
We started Paint Pots Nurseries around 28 years ago because my wife, Anna, initially trained as a nursery nurse and always wanted to work with children. The opportunity arose when she was at home with our own children, and she’d end up looking after her friends’ little ones!
She later registered our home as Paint Pots Pre-School – the name’s based on the potential of each child and if you open a pot of paint, you can create a unique picture. We want to provide care and development that’s focused on what we draw out of children, rather than what we want from them.
In 2000, we outgrew our home and bought our first property, which we established as a day nursery. Since then, we’ve grown organically and now have 10 settings throughout the Southampton area.
Your book on ‘Men in Early Years Settings’ has received huge reviews and awards following its launch. When male professionals make up less than 2% of the sector, how important a role do we all play in order to address diversity and inclusion throughout our industry?
It’s vital we challenge things ourselves – especially nursery staff who are on the ‘frontline’. I believe it’s so important that children get to experience all walks of life, where they can build values and interact with people from different backgrounds – helping to tackle inequality, discrimination, and gender stereotyping.
At Paint Pots, we’re focused on providing for the children, our team, and the community we’re in – and that means recognising that every setting has different needs and a mix of demographics. We must support everyone if we’re to continue to offer a diversity-rich and inclusive experience for all who come through our doors.
What more could be done as a collective to ensure we continue to bang the drum for inclusivity?
There mustn’t be any tokenism – it’s not a tick-box exercise. We just need to be open and reflective in terms of how we operate and be mindful of what more we could be doing to provide accessibility.
That means being conscious of how we interact, the activities we carry out, and how we can offer a better experience for all. As a team, I’d encourage settings to look at their recruitment and see if there are ways to make job applications more inclusive – it might be a simple language change in some instances, for example.
It’s also a worthwhile exercise to get a better understanding of your diverse community and challenge yourself as to whether you’re doing enough to build a team that’s more representative of the children that you take care of. The same can be said for families coming into the settings too, it’s important to be inclusive and represent the area you’re in.
But this isn’t about criticising anybody – we all know how difficult it is in the EY sector currently. However, there are always moments where you can reflect and explore ways to do things better.
We’ve spoken before about your thoughts concerning the EY curriculum and pedagogy*. What would you say are the challenges and opportunities for settings in terms of their focus on child development – especially as we countdown to the EYFS reforms?
I think a big thing to stress here is that people shouldn’t panic. We’ve got to remember that everything we’re doing must have children at the forefront of our minds. So, when we think about the revised EYFS framework, we need to keep telling ourselves that we’re not doing things just to pass an Ofsted inspection – good practice is good practice.
The principles of the EYFS remain the same, and two key elements are ‘positive relationships’ and a ‘unique child’ – if we focus on these areas and how to build upon them further, we’re not going to go far wrong.
Our curriculum needs to be focused on each individual child’s needs and settings will do that instinctively anyway. Now’s the time to instil confidence in ourselves and our teams because we’re doing a fantastic job – despite some tough challenges – and continuing to provide the best environment for our EY.
*If you’d like to read more about David’s blog on pedagogy and more, visit here.
And finally, how much emphasis should we place on expectations around the level of academic attainment throughout a child’s development?
There is a real pressure downwards to formalise an education and we need to be confident to talk against that because it’s not all about academia. Having said that, the seven areas of learning and development in the EYFS are important – particularly language – so we need to make sure we’re having meaningful conversations with children and helping them to build their social skills, as a result.
When schemes are developed – that cost money – and suggest they’re prescribed as the method for developing language skills, problems arise for me, personally. I believe it’s about providing positive, warm relationships, and the learning comes through engagement with each child via receptive adults who are able to offer ‘serve and return’ conversations.
The same thing applies with other subjects too, for example mathematics. It’s not like we’re sitting down doing long division, but we do use rhymes and songs to develop counting skills – it’s important we have the confidence to keep doing that and not worry about pressure to use developmentally inappropriate, formal teaching methods.
After all, every child is different and will learn how they learn. You never know if you’ve got the next prime minister, Olympic medallist, or World Cup winner for example, so whatever they’re going to go on and do with their lives, we mustn’t restrict them and instead help and support them to be the best versions of themselves.