I attended the second day of the Nursery World Show 2019 quite late in the day. I was greeted by some half-interested staff who sort of said ‘Hello’ and I wandered through to the main hall. I climbed some stairs after helping myself to my free goody bag and saw the show laid out in front of me.
There was a mix of stalls; resources for sale, random products which would be great with an unlimited funding supply, recruitment stalls and lots of technology tables. I was surprised by how small the event was, but after speaking to the exhibiters and other attendees, it seems that the Early Years sector isn’t in great shape (shocker). Frozen low funding, difficulty recruiting qualified staff, the introduction of the 30 hours and the increasing minimum and living wage mean that as a sector, we are struggling. I visited the always wonderful Community Playthings stand, I wanted literally everything but couldn’t afford a thing (which I told the lovely representative) Something she said she had heard repeatedly over the two day show. The TTS was equally as magical and I could clearly see that they have embraced Loose Parts theory with gusto, offering leaflets and new resources. After chatting with a TTS rep, I learnt that she too had experienced lots of practitioners worrying about funding and the future.
Feeling a bit sad, I wandered over to the Live Theatre and caught the magnificent Elaine Bennett of Keeping Early Years Unique fame giving a presentation against testing 4 year olds in primary schools. It was wonderful, full of passion and energy and reminded me of why I work in the Early Years sector. The crowd were nodding and clapping along with her words and were so fired up by the end of her spot. This is what the show needs more of, free events for everyone to hear about current issues effecting the sector. Filed with a new hope I continued around the show, enjoying the atmosphere and listening to managers having conversations with their staff.
Heading back to the Live Theatre, I then listening to Gary from LEYF talk about the principles of their settings, it was heart-warming. I looked at the faces of the people around me, all enthralled as he talked about the importance of changing the world one child at a time. It was then that I realised what an important event it was. Here, at this show, you realise that you are part of something, not just isolated in your setting, but linked to a huge network of like-minded individuals all fighting for the best outcomes for children, all over the county. Please attend next year if you can, make it a staff trip, feel part of something bigger, you won’t regret it.