Being two… I wonder how many of us can remember what that feels like? My earliest memory is going to a day nursery around about that age - it was enormous, a white Victorian building with a garden that wrapped itself around it and a solitary swing in the corner.

I vividly remember the smell of something resembling gravy and as it is etched so heavily in my memory I can only assume it was on the menu every day! Now I have no problem with gravy but I wonder how many of our two-year-olds in settings today are forming their own lasting memories.

Looking back, I have no doubt my parents spent time looking for a suitable place to keep their child safe whilst they earnt a living, but there were no Ofsted reports back then or the EYFS to ask about. So how did they know this provision was excellent, did it matter?

What is excellence?

‘Excellence’ like ‘quality’ is very subjective. Whilst I happen to think that “Green and Blacks” dark chocolate is the superior chocolate bar, I know plenty of people that prefer “Bournville”! That doesn’t make either of us right, just different. Can we say the same about early years’ settings?

In my opinion, excellent provision for two-year-olds begins with inclusive practice, all two-year-olds have the right to feel welcomed; valued; listened to and to have endless opportunities to have fun whilst all the time learning and developing. Inclusive practice should be proactive and not reactive. It should form part of the ethos of the setting and you should be able to “feel it”, not just see it in the resources available.

So how do you feel it? The answer is by seeing quality interactions between practitioner and child and practitioner and parent – having practitioners that understand the uniqueness of every family that joins the setting. However, it is tricky to measure quality interactions. Ofsted, environmental rating scales and quality assurance programmes all try, but many of us will also have our own view of what this both looks and feels like and I’m pretty sure our two-year-olds have an opinion too!

How do we ensure inclusive practice is achieved? Does it require practitioners who have had training, who are experienced, confident, and able to lead by example but also have a shared understanding, and a “can do” attitude? The answer is yes.

The importance of training

A lack of confidence is a key barrier to being truly inclusive. I have spoken to practitioners who worry about caring for a child who may have English as an additional language (EAL) or have a special educational need or disability (SEND).

Upskilling is important and PACEY was delighted to work with Achievement for All on The Childminder Professional Development Programme to support childminders to raise the aspirations, access and achievement of all children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, looked-after children and children who may be vulnerable to poor outcomes.

The three interactive modules, Parents in Partnerships, Working in Wider Child-Centred Partnerships and Understanding Behaviour specifically enable childminders to explore and enhance these elements of their practice.

However, training is only one part of the jigsaw - I always advise practitioners to consider the uniqueness of every child and to be curious. Find out all you can about them and work with the parents to see how the setting can accommodate their needs.

And lastly… just think back and remember what it feels like to be two.

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Join Theresa at Achievement for All’s annual conference! 

Theresa is one of the many experts participating in Achievement for All’s Every Child Included in Education conference on 17th October 2018 at Newbury Racecourse. Together with other industry experts, Theresa will be looking further at what excellent provision looks like in early years, providing delegates with top tips and strategies to take back to their setting. 

Keynote speakers will include Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner for England, Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Minister for Education (children and families), June O’Sullivan MBE, Chief Executive of London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) and Thelma Walker MP, member of the Education Select Committee, amongst many others.

There will be 11 other expert panel-led sessions discussing and debating a range of topics such as managing transitions in early years, understanding children looked after, engaging children in reading and behavioural policies and vulnerable children.

A full listof speakers and breakout sessions can be found here.

Tickets cost £90 and can be booked here. Achievement for All schools and settings are eligible for a 50% discount.

Parents and carers join free and group discounts are available. Email tickets@afaeducation.org for more information.