Early years and pre-school educators from across Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh gathered at the South West College (SWC) in Enniskillen for an early years conference aimed at addressing current issues in early years education. The conference was also attended by staff and students from a range of childcare and early years programmes at the college.
Addressing the audience, Susanne Workman, head of health and life services at South West College said:“As a grade 1 outstanding college our commitment to providing the best personal and professional development opportunities for our staff and students is well documented. Many of you, as partners of the college, provide valuable work placement settings for our students. I feel this conference provides an ideal occasion to share information about all the learning opportunities available in South West College and to update you on the current issues in early years education.
“I hope that together we can strive to provide the best possible care, learning and development for children of our region.”
Patricia Lewsley-Mooney, the Northern Ireland commissioner for children and young people delivered a keynote speech on the current policies in early years curriculum and the importance of promoting the rights of children and young people.
Mrs Lewsley-Mooney said:“The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that State Parties include human and children’s rights education within early childhood education.“The philosophy at the heart of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is that if children and young people are to become responsible citizens then implementing child rights in early childhood is an effective way to help prevent personal, social and educational difficulties during middle childhood and adolescence.
“Implementing child rights in early childhood sets challenges for all those responsible for children, as well as for children themselves, as they gain an understanding of their role in their families, schools and communities.”
The director of families and communities at the Department of Education, Linda Wilson also discussed the OFMDFM Ten Year Strategy 2006-2016 “Our children and young people – our pledge”, which addresses key areas affecting young children and young people, taking into account the roles of parents and families.
A number of workshops designed to assist with the development of classroom strategies, ranging from developing children’s thinking skills to involving parents in education, were also delivered by a diverse range of speakers including: Patricia McLaughlin–Stewart (Lifestart Family Support, Sligo); Dr Bronagh McKee (child protection & safeguarding co-ordinator, Stranmillis University College); Brian Poots (founder of Northern Ireland Forest School Association); Julie Murphy (principal, Willowbridge School); Shauneen McCusker (play development officer, PlayBoard NI) and Joyce Kullas (counsellor).
The conference was extremely well received by the facilitators and participants, with calls to make it an annual event in the calendar for all involved in local early years settings.