South West College (SWC) hosted its seventh Early Years Conference on 21 October at the Erne Campus, bringing together around 100 early years practitioners to help support, inspire and facilitate information sharing and best practice, via interactive workshops and thought leading insights.

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Holding on to Childhood,’ which featured a comprehensive programme, including eight professional workshops and an exciting line up of industry leading speakers.

Pauline Walmsley (Chief Executive Officer at Early Years - the organisation for children and young people) keynote speaker at the conference, delivered an informative and inspiring presentation and spoke at length about the importance of early childhood development with an emphasis on physical development and play.

“Good child development will lead to good societal outcomes, but we also know the stronger the link between child, family, and setting, and that the more positive those relationships are the better the outcome for those children.”

Pauline also shared eyewatering figures detailing the number of children in NI living in poverty and its effects.

She added, “It is important on a day like today to remind ourselves that all children are not born equally and that children do experience challenges and not least in terms of challenges that arise from poverty, homelessness and substandard housing that impact on the outcomes and life chances. For those children, it is vital that we see them as unique and we see the abilities that they bring and that we focus on all development domains.”

Alastair McCarley, Head of School for Health and Social Care at SWC, said:

“We are delighted that this event has become a valuable annual professional development opportunity for employees in the early years sector within the South West region. As a college we take great pride in the quality of the learning experiences we provide for our students, and we value the role the early years sector play in helping support and develop them while on work placement.”

Camilla James, Deputy Head of School for Health and Social care, was delighted with the event.

She said: “There has never been a more crucial time to ensure that our children have an opportunity to hold onto their childhood as global events of late have contributed to growing anxiety and mental ill-health among our young people.

As educators, at this fundamentally important time in a child's life, we need to take opportunities to refocus on the importance of allowing children to be children and to develop and utilise strategies to foster a sense of curiosity and wonder, while building resilience and confidence.”

Childcare is a rewarding, fulfilling career, with a variety of options that allow you to progress in your working life while also giving back to others and to the community around you. SWC can help you work towards this. To find out more or apply, for free ‘Skill Up’ training opportunities or a course, see below.