School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning

School ReadinessTamsin Grimmer explores the concept of school readiness by unpicking what the term means for children in her new book School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning, here is a synopsis of what you can expect from the book taken from the introduction.

Children’s firsts are celebrated around the world. The first smile, the first wave, the first time they crawl, walk, or talk and one hugely celebrated milestone, the first time they go to school.

When we consider the phrase ‘school readiness’ and its use and misuse in policy and practice, we perhaps open up a can of worms. There are conflicting views over definitions and the term provokes strong feelings. It is my hope that my book will play its part in the debate and ensure that the views of practitioners, parents and most importantly children are taken into account. It will offer parents ideas of how to support children at home prior to starting school, as well as practitioners in settings and schools. It aims to keep children central to the discussion because they are, after all, the ones who will be starting school.

The transition into school for the first time requires children to cope with many changes. They will have hugely different expectations placed upon them, major changes in their daily routine and changes in their learning environment. This necessitates children to have within them the ability to cope with these challenges and display attributes such as self-confidence and resilience to name but two. Continue reading

An interview with Debbie Garvey, early years education expert

Debbie Garvey

Hi Debbie, thank you for agreeing to answer some questions about your new book, and indeed on your growing collection of early years titles! What can readers expect from Nurturing Personal, Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood and how does it differ from your previous work?

Well, I suppose the first major difference is that this book is about children, whereas the other books are about staff. This was always the book I wanted to write, it just took a little time to come to fruition, and I am so glad it did. The time in between first thinking about the PSED book, and starting to write it, meant time to develop ideas, read more research and really plan what themes I wanted to explore.

Another difference is perhaps that this book is a little more controversial as Dr Suzanne Zeedyk warns in the foreword, “It’s going to be a bit of a bumpy ride.” I didn’t set out to be controversial – I simply hope that practitioners will maybe think about things in a slightly different way. So, for example, I’ve asked readers to consider how we approach Christmas, Graduations and behaviours, and imagine being a young child in those situations. Often, putting ourselves in a young child’s shoes  allows us to see things in a very different way.

Who would you say your books would be most useful for, and what have you done to maximise their practicality? Continue reading

What does the government mean by British Values and the Prevent Duty in the Early Years?

British ValuesAs a formal part of the Early Years Foundation Stage, educators are now required to deliver instruction of British Values and the Prevent Duty in classrooms, nurseries and other early years settings.  In response, Kerry Maddock, author of British Values and the Prevent Duty in the Early Years, outlines what exactly the government means by this legislation and offers clear advice to early years practitioners on how to implement British Values in such a way that also fosters individual liberty. Through case studies, research, and interviews with OFSTED inspectors, her book is an essential guide for any Early Years professional seeking guidance on this statutory requirement.

Click here to read the extract

If you would like to read more articles like Kerry’s and hear the latest news and offers on our Early Years books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer. You may also be interested in liking our Special Educational, PSHE and Early Years Resources Facebook page.

Tips for promoting young children’s wellbeing

Young children's wellbeing

Sonia Mainstone-Cotton, author of Promoting Young Children’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing, provides some very useful and easy tips for supporting young children’s happiness at this important stage in their development.

Wellbeing is a term we hear a lot about for adults and young people, but we don’t hear so much about it for young children. We know that the rates of teenage mental health problems are rising alarmingly, and we are aware that children and young people are feeling increasingly stressed and distressed. I passionately believe if we can help young children to have a good wellbeing then we are setting them off to a great start in life. But to help children have a good wellbeing, we need to be proactive about it.

One critical aspect of a child having good wellbeing is by them knowing that they are loved – that they are loved for the unique and precious individuals they are. Parents and grandparents clearly have a crucial role in letting children know that they are unconditionally loved, but I also believe that key workers, teaching assistants, children’s workers also have a role in showing children that they are loved and wanted. We show this through the words we use and the way we hold children. Part of my job is as a nurture consultant; I have seven children and schools that I support throughout the year. Every time I see one of my nurture children I ensure I show delight in seeing them that day. I smile at them, I look them in the eyes and tell them how lovely it is to see them today, how much I have been looking forward to our time together. Continue reading

Read an extract from Shelly Newstead’s ‘The Busker’s Guide to Risk, Second Edition’

Newstead-Thread_Buskers-Guide-t_978-1-84905-682-3_colourjpg-printWelcome to the second edition of The Busker’s Guide to Risk – and for those of you who are used to these little books by now, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that starting off with a few jokes is not at all out of keeping… so here goes…

Have you heard the one about the children who were banned from making daisy chains in case they ate them?

Or the school that stopped doing egg and spoon races in case a child dropped an egg and then turned out to be allergic to it?

Or what about the children who weren’t allowed to play with cardboard boxes because they were a fire risk? (The boxes, that is, not the children… although any day now…!)

Laugh out loud?  Well, I would- if any of those were actually jokes- you know, like those urban myths that get passed around and exaggerated with every re-telling… But here’s the punchline- they’re not.  All of those seemingly ludicrous things have really happened- to children whom you and I know, up down the UK, in a neighbourhood near you- all in the name of health and safety.

The Busker’s Guide to Risk is part of the Busker’s Guide series for adults who work where children play.  Each Busker’s Guide provides succinct and down to earth introductions to key areas of theory and practice.  Written in a light-hearted style and illustrated with witty cartoons, Busker’s Guides are accessible to practitioners working in a wide range of settings.

>>Click here to download the extract<<

JKP attends the BASPCAN 12th National Congress in Belfast

Last month, JKP Commissioning Editor Steve Jones and I packed our bags, books and banners and headed to the beautiful main campus of Queen’s University Belfast for the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect’s 12th National Congress.

Photo: BASPCAN 2012 was held at the beautiful Queen's University Belfast campus.

Photo: Spring in bloom at the beautiful Queen's University Belfast campus.

The weather was mercifully kind for a few snatched days and, with attendance of over 700 delegates and thanks to the BASPCAN organisers, this year’s congress was a great success.

The JKP stand was busy and we were pleased with the keen interest in our new titles, particularly those on child protection, neglect and working with families. Titles from our series of books on ‘Safeguarding Children Across Services‘ were snapped up, particularly Brigid Daniel’s book, Recognizing and Helping the Neglected Child, following her eloquent keynote. For anyone who missed us at the conference, or was not able to attend, you can view some of the titles we had on display here.

It was fantastic to see so many of our authors at the conference, including Nicky Stanley, Brigid Daniel, Anne Stafford, Julie Taylor, Cathy Humphreys, David Westlake, Danielle Turney, Stephen Pizzey, Jane Wonnacott, Emma Kelly, Dendy Platt and Angie Hart, many of whom were giving presentations relating to their books.

Steve Jones managed to meet and talk to a good number of prospective authors, but for those who wanted to make contact at the conference but missed him, Steve’s email is You can also send him a message on Twitter @Steve_JKPBooks.

Finally, we’d like to offer our congratulations to Peter van der Linden, MSc, from the Netherlands who won our prize draw! A copy of Safeguarding Children Across Services by Carolyn Davies and Harriet Ward is on its way to you now.

We hope to see you at the next BASPCAN, and in the meantime do stay in touch. To keep up to date with information about new titles, related news and exclusive interviews and blog content, do sign up to our Social Work Newsletter.

You can also follow the latest new from JKP through our dedicated Social Work Facebook page and on Twitter.

Claudine Harris
Marketing Executive
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
May 2012

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Safeguarding babies and very young children from abuse and neglect – An Interview with Rebecca Brown

Rebecca Brown is a Research Associate at the Centre for Child and Family Research, UK.

Together with Harriet Ward and David Westlake, she’s co-written the latest book in the Safeguarding Children Across Services series called Safeguarding Babies and Very Young Children from Abuse and Neglect, which explores key issues surrounding the safeguarding process and coincides with NSPCC’s All Babies Count campaign, highlighting the abuse and neglect of very young children.

In this interview she discusses some of the findings of the research study upon which the book is based, and the affect of the “Baby P” scandal on this research.

Can you talk a bit about your research study, and what you intended to discover in carrying out the research?

The study explored the decision making processes that influenced the life pathways and development progress of these very young children. Research tells us that the first three years of a child’s life are key in their emotional, social, psychological, behavioral and physical development, and as such, the decisions made by professionals about these children, are also likely to be key. Therefore, the study aimed to: trace the decisions made on behalf of these very young children; examine the rationale for those decisions, as well as the part played by the parents in that decision making; and understand the consequences of these decisions for the children.

During the period that you were carrying out the research, “Baby P” died of maltreatment and the subject of safeguarding babies and young children became the focus of intense national scrutiny. What kind of additional challenges did you experience trying to produce the research in such a charged environment?

This was a coincidence; we did not know this when we started the research. All of our sample children were born in the same year as Peter Connelly, and many of them experienced very similar circumstances to him. Peter Connelly died about half-way through our data collection, and we noticed a difference in the type of data we were collecting as a consequence. Firstly, local authorities became wary of giving us access to case files and to practitioners to interview due to the intense media scrutiny social workers were under at around this time; secondly, there was an increase in case activity in the months that immediately followed his death; and thirdly, we suspect there was an increase in the use of expert witnesses by the courts.

What are some of the key findings that arose from the research?

Much of the decision-making for these very young children was of high quality, showed evidence of extreme care and was based on hard evidence. However the study also raised a number of concerns: firstly about the level of inter-agency working, and in particular considerable tensions were identified between adult and children’s services; secondly, the findings revealed a number of gaps in social worker knowledge and understanding, especially in areas of attachment theory and child development; thirdly, there was evidence that delayed decision-making had detrimental consequences for the outcomes of these children – practitioners need to be fully aware of these consequences and the importance of taking swift action when babies are suffering significant harm; fourthly, there was a focus on the birth parents to the exclusion of the child; and fifthly, the study raised concerns about the quality of some kinship care placements.

The study also found that some parents can overcome many adversities to provide a loving and nurturing home for their children within an appropriate timescale, and found factors which were indicative of parents’ ability to do so. However, it also highlighted that where parents are able to overcome adversities, there is a need for careful monitoring in the long-term to ensure these changes are sustained.

Identifying the problem of neglect seems to be a key issue. Why do you think it is so difficult for professionals to recognise this type of abuse and to act on it?

The findings from this study add to a wealth of evidence showing that, despite a growing body of knowledge of its adverse impact on early development, children are often left with inadequate support in grossly neglectful homes. There were a number of reasons why, for these babies, neglect was so difficult to recognise and respond to, which includes an over-identification by practitioners with their families. This meant that they occasionally lacked professional objectivity and their constant exposure to these families meant that they sometimes became inured to the evidence of neglect. Evidence of neglect was also often difficult to act upon unless a crisis occurred, such as a baby found home alone overnight, or a toddler found alone wondering the streets.

What changes do you think professionals and policymakers need to make to improve the protection of babies and young children at risk of harm?

We make a number of recommendations in the book for improvements to both policy and practice, all of which emphasise the importance of minimising delay where babies are identified to be suffering significant harm. Our study showed that often practitioners waited fruitlessly for parents to change their abusive behaviour, which ultimately did not happen and had severe consequences for the welfare and long-term outcomes of these very vulnerable children.

What do you hope that the readers will take away, having read the book?

Unlike Peter Connelly, none of the children in our study died. However the sample did include children who were not fed for so long that they stopped crying, and were severely underweight as a consequence; who were allowed to taste amphetamines from a spoon; who could describe how to prepare heroin for consumption; and who were left to forage in the bin for food. The future life chances for these children were substantially compromised as a result of their experiences of abuse and neglect, which continued to occur for many of them whilst their cases were open to children’s social care.

I hope that the readers will ask much more stringent questions of what constitutes an acceptable and unacceptable level of care and parenting in a civilised society.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Little Volcanoes: Helping Young Children and Their Parents to Deal with Anger – An Interview with Warwick Pudney

Warwick Pudney is a social ecologist and relationship therapist who has spent the last 25 years working with men, couples and families in New Zealand. He specializes in the areas of anger, abusive behaviour, men’s welfare and parenting. He is a lecturer at AUT University in Auckland and writes and gives workshops and training courses in his chosen fields.

His new book, Little Volcanoes, offers strategies to combat negative feelings and minimize outbursts, and even provides a selection of poems and stories to help adults pass on the lessons of the book to children.

In this interview, Warwick explains why it is essential that children learn to deal with anger from a very young age, and provides some helpful advice for parents and other adults about their own behaviour.

You have previously written a popular book about anger in children called A Volcano in My Tummy. Tell us about your new book, Little Volcanoes – co-written with primary school teacher and novelist, Éliane Whitehouse – and who it is for.

Volcano in my Tummy was a more general book about children’s anger. We soon realised that a more specialist book for under 5’s was needed. My work with early childhood educators and with families convinces me there are a number of issues that could be looked at that would greatly assist young children. If constructive patterns of responding to children are formed and if assistance is given earlier to our children, we would have much better ways of dealing with anger as older children and later as adults. The book is aimed at professionals but in a way that parents can also easily pick up and read.

 Little Volcanoes focuses specifically on anger in young children. How does the experience of trying to help young children with their anger differ from helping older children?

Younger children have a much better chance to learn how to handle anger and do so easier. The formative years are really what we need to target. Giving young children simple but powerful words to express anger and hurt means many will have fewer problems with anger than older children, so as professionals we need to have a dual target for behavioural change. It’s also important for the young child to really get that ‘abusive behaviour is not OK’. Learning that 20 years later in a courtroom or through a painful break-up is so much harder on the person and society.

In the book there’s also some specialist information around early childhood issues like tantrums and working with boys.

Do you think that adults’ responses to anger in younger children differ from those when responding to older children?

Adults are more likely to disregard young children’s anger because they can more easily ignore it or tell the child to not be angry or to go to their room. When they are older, children or adolescents may be less inclined to comply with such demands and also they may channel ten years of ignored anger simply because they weren’t respected and allowed expression and because they are now bigger and so they can!

In the book, you describe anger as an empowering force. How can it be a good thing?

We all are born with a set of emotions that each have a use for the good of our lives. Anger is there to protect us when things go wrong, when there is injustice, and when we feel disempowered. Take that away and you have a very vulnerable, dependant person who needs another person capable of feeling anger for them.

You stress the key role of parents within the book, and are particularly interested in the role of the father. Tell us why this is, and the role the father plays.

Parents shape children’s behaviour. This behaviour needs to be shaped in a secure and trusting atmosphere that parents provide. Listening hard to children and, especially with young children, figuring out what they mean or what the real issue is, is so important to their feeling that they have a voice and are safe and the world is fair. Boundaries and regulation can then take place in an atmosphere where the child wants to do a thing due to the respect and love they have for the parent. Research clearly shows that fathers are vital to this, not just as an equal parent but for the differences that they bring. Fathers tend to be more firm on boundaries and reassuring to the ways boys think. Males tend to get more social permission to express anger. They provide male models of how to handle anger and conflict and have respectful differences.

You also write about the impact of society on young children’s behaviour. What kind of environmental factors can contribute to angry behaviour in young children?

Children are never angry about nothing. It stands to reason that if they feel angry then we should listen to them and help them deal with it. They have a clear set of needs that vary: from food and warmth, to love and affirmation; or the need may be as simple as the fact that ‘Ann has taken my favourite pens and won’t give them back’ or ‘Stephen had more than me’. All of these are things worth getting angry about if you are four. If their environment is not supplying them with coping strategies then there is a consequence and anger as the survival emotion kicks in. Our families and homes and society have a responsibility to provide support – otherwise someone has a right to feel angry. That doesn’t mean that we always get what we want; an important lesson in life is dealing with not getting what we want. Good anger management helps us know when to let go. Having Dad’s support in getting the pens back (or coping with their loss) is as important to a four year old as crossing the road safely.

A child’s behaviour is inextricably linked with that of their parents. Tell us about the book’s coverage of working with parents as well as the child.

Kids don’t learn disrespect from nowhere. Parents model good anger expression, listening, talking and respect. Often not only do parents not know that they may be doing something that may cause some anger in their children now or later, but they may need some training to parent in a different way.  The book goes through a number of parenting patterns that are not so helpful and suggests helpful ones – for example: promoting consistency; giving affirmations; and looking to other adults, not children, to get a parent’s own needs met.

What are some examples of the kind of advice you give to professionals faced with a young child who is exhibiting angry behaviour?

  • Listen, listen, listen! Empathy dissipates anger.
  • Ask what’s behind the anger. What’s the disempowerment?
  • Then ask them how they would like to fix the problem – generate a plan. You may have to help them with this and with a young child you may need to do the fixing.
  • If there is destructive or disrespectful behaviour then set boundaries and consequences and keep to them.

How do you hope children will be helped by this book?

They will get clarity about what acceptable behaviour is and isn’t, and they will learn to keep within the boundaries set out for them. They will learn to get what they need without hurting others. And they will also learn that anger is OK and they’ll learn to not be so frightened of it. It’s normal and we all have it.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.