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Ashbourne Síolta Showcase

October 20, 2015

Another great Síolta showcase event took place in the GAA club house in Ashbourne.  5 settings displayed their work and shared their Síolta journey with the participants.  It was professional dialogue at its best.  The room buzzed with early childhood educators talking about children’s learning – what it means and how they support it. 

‘The new DES inspections will take the form of professional dialogue’ said Dr. Carmel Brennan ‘and these settings are more than ready for this challenge.  They have so much to say about children’s learning and they can say it with such confidence and style.  They believe in what they do and they have numerous stories and exemplars that demonstrate it in action.  I think the Inspectorate will learn a lot about theory in practice.’

Arlene Forster from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) gave a presentation entitled: Aistear: Celebrating Footsteps, voyages and stories and brought us through the experiences of early childhood educators around the country as they engage with the Aistear framework.  Arlene shared exemplars from the AistearSiolta Practice guide and engaged the audience in discussing wonderful exemplars for the Guide.  Dr. Carmel Brennan talked about the critically important processes that children engage in as they play – both as they encounter each other in play and as they build stories together that shape their understanding of how the world works.  All her stories come from early childhood settings in Ireland but we’re invited to listen and look at them with a new lens and appreciate what is really happening for children.

Again, the most important part of the day were the contributions of three of the Síolta QAP participants.  Phyllis Geraghty from Tir na nÓg told us that she joined the programme because she wanted to be validated for the great work they do in her service.  She found herself on a very exciting journey of quality improvement, moving in directions she had never thought about before.  Nicola Maguire from Little Buddies delighted us with stories of how she engages with the local community. She described making phone calls to a local restaurant, the library, local beauticians and of course parents – all of whom willingly and generously offered their services for no charge and with a heart and a half.  They created unforgettable experiences for children and loved doing it.  Mag Coogan from the ABC club treated us to images and videos of children loving the world of nature, wallowing in mud and peering through fir trees from on high and wonderful online exchanges between Educators and parents about their children’s learning.  

The attendees then walked around the room – reviewing portfolios and engaging in questions, advice and conversation.  Here are some of the comments from the participants, when asked what impressed them most:

‘The fact that this level of quality is really achievable’; ‘How proud the Validated services are’; ‘It actually made their jobs easier – because they slow down, listen to the children, talk to them and follow their interests’; ‘The use of open-ended natural materials’; ‘The validated settings were so helpful – there’s a real willingness among the group to help each other’; ‘I really got to understand documentation.’

In evaluating the whole showcase they said they were impressed by the confidence, simplicity and honesty of the Síolta participants.  They loved having time to look at their work and talk to them and were so impressed by the willingness to share.  Anne said ‘I liked the hands-on experience of seeing the setting journals and portfolios.  I really enjoyed the speakers and feel totally motivated and looking forward to stating the journey’.  Catherine said ‘This was an event for established groups- so this was really relevant to me.  It’s not about bad settings trying to improve quality but about good settings who are interested and committed to always improving what they do.  That’s us.’

The next showcase is in Springhill Hotel, Waterford Road, Kilkenny  on Saturday 7th November. Eight early childhood settings from Carlow and Kilkenny who have participated in the Síolta Quality Assurance programme over the last 3 years will share their work.  Try to make it – we promise you won’t be disappointed.

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