Many people who live and work in Rotherhithe or Canada Water will have noticed the changes on Albion Channel as Early Excellence arrived on the canal side. Most noticeable has been the huge stencil covering their front windows and proclaiming Early Excellence in six-foot high letters. Intrigued by the extensive shelving covered in educational equipment, I arranged to visit and talk with Head of Centre Phil Armstrong about the organisation, the Centre and his plans for their work.
Passion for quality
Early Excellence is focused on building the quality of learning and teaching in the early years (2-6yrs). They work with a range of organisations providing early years education – such as schools – who are also keen to give our children the very best start. “In my work as head of an Early Years Centre in Reading, the reputation of Early Excellence (EE) was high,” says Phil. “When the opportunity to lead this new London Centre came up, it was a great opportunity and I jumped at the chance. I’ve always been interested in staff development and knew that EE had a strong track record of success.”
“…one day with teachers new to working with two year olds and the next with headteachers exploring the child-centred ethos of their whole school leadership…”
Founded by Liz Marsden in Huddersfield in 1998, EE promotes quality practice in three key areas. First they seek to help practitioners to define their values, encouraging them to nurture curiosity, creativity, competence and confidence in children. Secondly, they work within a clear set of principles to help leaders in an early years setting to reflect critically, plan with the best information available and to assess progress effectively. Lastly, as a nationally influential organisation they engage with policy makers to help shape new initiatives and with senior leaders and practitioners to implement policy well.
A Home for quality practice
“We have a really strong ethos in the company,” say Phil. “Our trainers are high quality and we aim t create a supportive and passionate atmosphere in all we do. We have a clear understanding of child development and use that to work at every level for better outcomes for the children. Prior to the Centre opening in May I visited Huddersfield to help develop sense of being part of the wider team. We’ve recruited six staff for the London Centre, most of whom live locally. At the Centre we have created three key areas: the resource area, the interactive environment area and the training area; they are all three integrated and support each other.”
“…[We] help practitioners to define their values, encouraging them to nurture curiosity, creativity, competence and confidence in children…”
Hands on opportunities
EE have been seeking to expand their locations into southern England for some time as many of their partners find it easier to get to London than to Huddersfield. “This location offers us just what we needed: an airy space for training, plenty of space to retail our learning resources and great transport links. It feels so tranquil here and our visitors often comment that it’s not like London at all,” laughs Phil. “We are passionate about early years’ education and wanted to create a home for practitioners to value. It gives them a chance to see and hold things first hand rather than having to rely on our online marketplace. We are also able to showcase inspiring practice from across the south of England.”
The new training programme for Autumn and Spring 2016/17 starts up again in September offering early years practitioners at all levels opportunities to build their confidence, meet and talk with experts and explore real life case studies. The intention is to mirror here in Rotherhithe the courses and ethos of the respected Huddersfield training provision. “Our professional development offering is clearly structured to reflect the differing stages of practitioner experience, responsibilities and development needs. Our Centre will be filled one day with teachers new to working with two year olds and the next with headteachers exploring the child-centred ethos of their whole school leadership. It all makes for a rich and inspiring environment!”
Phil Armstrong – Head of Centre – London Early Excellence
Eden House, Water Gardens Square, Surrey Quays Road SE16 6RH