Early Years Leadership in a Post-Covid World – transcript, briefing & videos of the event

The relaunched Leadership in Early Years Education RIG held an online symposium on Tuesday 10th November 2020. We were fortunate to welcome a fantastic trio of speakers to the event, bringing local, national and international perspectives to the problem of how we move forward as a sector in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Our speakers were:

  • Julian Grenier, headteacher of Sheringham Nursery, working with the DfE on EYFS reforms
  • Sharon Quamie, baby room leader at the New Cross Nursery, part of LEYF
  • Professor Julie Nicholson from Mills College CA, trauma-informed practice specialist

Each speaker gave a ten-minute talk on their professional views and experiences. These talks were followed by breakout room discussion for participants and then the opportunity to pose a few questions to the speakers.

We want to make the lively discussion as accessible to as many as possible, and so we’ve published the following outputs:

Event: Gender Matters in the Classroom – Free Middlesex University Webinar, 25th Nov 2020

On Wednesday 25th November, Middlesex University a free webinar focused on what can practically be done to address gender stereotyping in the classroom.

About this Event

Gender stereotyping in the classroom limits expectations and confidence amongst children, and reinforces unhelpful ideas about what women and men can do in adult life. This webinar, co-hosted by the Middlesex University Department of Education and the Gender & Diversity Research Cluster, offers insights from recent initiatives designed to recognise the significance of gender in the classroom. Significantly, speakers consider what can practically be done to address these gender issues.

The webinar includes presentations by:

• Professor Jayne Osgood (gender and childhood expert, Middlesex University),

• Caren Gestetner (CEO of Lifting Limits),

• Catherine Fraser-Andrews (teacher and recent graduate of MA Gender & Sexualities who has altered her school policy and practice to be more gender inclusive),

and will be introduced and chaired by Professor Suzan Lewis and Dr Bianca Stumbitz (Gender & Diversity Research Cluster, Middlesex University).

More about the presentations

Based upon years of research into gender and childhood Jayne Osgood advised the production of the 2018 BAFTA nominated (BBC2) documentary ‘No More Boys & Girls: can our kids go gender free?’. She subsequently contributed to a book aimed at teachers, that built upon the success of the TV series:‘The Equal Classroom: life changing thinking about gender’ (2020). Jayne will speak about the importance of research to inform practices designed to tackle gender issues in childhood.

Teachers’ direct experiences of being involved in such initiatives will be shared; a short pre-recorded contribution from Graham Andre (the teacher featured in the BBC2 documentary) provides a sense of what it was like to become aware of the embedded nature of his stereotypical language and practices, and the difference small changes made in his classroom.

Lifting Limits shares a similar concern with gender stereotyping in childhood and is actively working with primary schools to tackle gender stereotyping through a whole school approach. Caren Gestetner will talk about Lifting Limits’ schools programme, findings from the year-long pilot in 5 London schools (in the Borough of Camden) and the impact that supporting school staff to recognise and address stereotyping can have for schools and their pupils.

This will be followed by a presentation from Catherine Fraser-Andrews, a teacher from Cambridge who recently revised her school’s policies and worked with her staff team to action change to tackle gender issues.

Participants are invited to discuss the implications in relation to gender related issues that they themselves encounter in their practice and to consider changes that could be made in their classrooms (for pupils and students of all ages).

The event is part of a broader commitment by Middlesex University to incorporate greater gender awareness into its teaching programmes with the aim of improving practice and developing approaches to gender inclusivity in education.

Event: Early Years Leadership in a Post-Covid World, 10th Nov 2020

Early Years Leadership for a Post-Covid World
An Online Symposium
4.30-6pm (GMT), 10th November 2020

What kind of early years leadership do we need over the next few years?
What are the challenges we face and how can we overcome them?
How important is the early years sector and early years leadership in post-Covid social recovery?

As we move towards the end of an exceptionally challenging year for early years education, we would like to relaunch the Leadership in Early Years Education Research Interest Group (BELMAS) with an online event about the role of leadership in the recovery and outlook of the sector. Early years settings have a vital part to play in the post-Covid world, though their situation is more precarious than ever. Through brief presentations and open dialogue, the 90 minute symposium will explore the future of early years leadership, the challenges ahead and the road to recovery.

Three speakers will open the discussion with their thoughts:

  • Professor Julie Nicholson, specialist in trauma-responsive early childhood education
  • Julian Grenier, headteacher of Sheringham Nursery School, author and advisor
  • Sharon Quamie, baby room leader at the London Early Years Foundation New Cross Nursery

The event is free, but places are limited. Sign up for the event here:

Special Issue: ‘Reimagining Childhood, Motherhood, Family and Community’

Professor Jayne Osgood and Dr Allison Sterling Henward have together edited this important special issue of the journal Genealogy. The SI reimagines central concepts relating to family life, extending and problematising current conceptualisations through new theoretical lenses, including critical humanist, speculative post-humanist and feminist new materialist approaches.

We ground this Special Issue in our commitment to critical, feminist, worldly knowledge production that actively works to interrogate existing modernist ideas of childhood and motherhood as well as the institutions, discourses, and histories that work to limit conceptualizations and practices. For decades, various fields in social science and humanities have supplied multiple narratives, tropes, and discursive archives about family, community, mothering, and childhood (Foucault, 1977). Following Foucault (1977), through these processes, families, mothers, communities, and children become discoverable and ‘knowable’. Discourses are ‘constituted by a group of sequences of signs, in so far as they are statements, that is, in so far as they can be assigned particular modalities of existence’ (Foucault, 1972, p. 107) and the way they operate in the research and the power/knowledge nexus is inherent in the construction (Popkewitz and Brennan, 1998). These and other ‘depoliticized discourses function to naturalize socially constructed concepts’ (MacClure, 2011, p.129).

By inviting critical humanist and speculative post-humanist or feminist new materialist approaches to this conversation, we focus on temporality, the complexity, and the overlooked occurrences that typically make up family life. The collective scholarly aim is to generate and extend knowledge about childhood, motherhood, family, and community as inherently contextual, contingent, conflicting, contested, dynamic, uncertain, and, in the tradition of genealogy, socially and historically produced within contexts. Neoliberal versions of parenting, family, motherhood, and childhood have been heavily critiqued for their limiting, essentializing, and containing effects. As these framings become translated into policy and practices, too often, contemporary families feel the brunt. Through modernist understandings, families are normalized, categorized, and too often excluded- deemed insufficient and abnormal within educational and social service policy and practice.

Ways of thinking otherwise become particularly urgent in the Anthropocene, where human activities, conceptualizations, and practices are having world-changing effects on the earth’s ecosystem (Braidotti, 2016). With heart-wrenching speed, families, mothers, communities, childhoods, and kin are being torn apart. The global increase in migration caused by human and non-human factors (i.e., global capitalism, environmental desecration) highlight the failings and crumbling of existing epistemologies and ontologies. Modernist, humanist understandings make even less sense now. We view this SI as an ethical response that invites speculation, complexity, and bravery to meet the uncertainty and instability of our times.

This issue would not be possible without the authors. Your papers have invigorated, sustained, and pushed us to reimagine what is possible when thinking otherwise. We are especially grateful to the production team at MDPI headed up by Allie Shi, for their careful work and thought that went into helping us bring this issue to life.

Guest Lecture: Alternative Understandings About How Matter Comes to Matter in the Baby Room. Presented by Dr Jayne Osgood.

Jayne Osgood delivered this presentation as part of her speaking tour in Australia and New Zealand in the early part of 2020. This lecture was delivered at the Graduate School of Education in the University of Melbourne.

In this lecture, Dr Jayne Osgood attempts a reconfiguration of ‘diversity’ in early childhood contexts by turning attention to everyday matter(s). Considering data that draws into sharp focus multimodal materials and embodiment to argue for an opened-out view of diversity. The aim of the lecture is to examine how we might move beyond narrow formulations of ‘diversity’ in early childhood and instead attend to the possibilities that arise through thinking deeply and sensing ordinary routines and everyday situations. Inspired by Haraway (2016:35) Dr Osgood tells different stories about childhood diversity than those generated through curriculum frameworks, inspection regimes, and pedagogical practices. Haraway stresses: “It matters what thoughts think thoughts. It matters what knowledges know knowledge. It matters what relations relate relations. It matters what worlds world worlds. It matters what stories tell stories.”  In order to generate other stories, this lecture pays attention to how stories come about, how they come to hold currency and the affects that they have. Considering the material-semiotic-discursive and affective entanglements that unfold during the ‘celebration’ of festivals, events and celebrations within an early years setting to try to gain some purchase on understandings about other stories. Particular attention is given to the materialised and embodied celebration of Chinese New Year as it plays out in the baby room. Professor Osgood argues that adopting a feminist new materialist approach demands that the world is viewed differently – as material-discursive and that our human-centric place in the world must be reassessed.


New Research Report: ‘Musiceum’ – museums as spaces for early childhood music-making

The Musiceum report – written by Professor Jayne Osgood and Dr Alex Elwick from CERS, alongside Professor Pam Burnard (Cambridge University), Dr. Laura Huhtinen-Hildén (Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland) and Dr. Jessica Pitt (Roehampton University) – has today been published and is available to download here:

The report looks at museums as spaces for early childhood music-making and was funded by the Research Committee, University of Cambridge Faculty of Education.

Consultancy: ‘No more boys and girls’ – BBC Program

CERS professor, Jayne Osgood, has acted as a consultant on the new BBC documentary ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’ – which will be broadcast on 16th August in the UK.

More information about this 2-part documentary, which details an experiment to see whether a Year 3 class can think differently about gender, can be found on the BBC website, and the programme will be available to watch via this link.