All Qualified Teacher Status programmes and the majority of Early Years undergraduate programmes involve students going out on placements where they are expected to carry out a range of assessed tasks. These placements are an essential part of their training and provide valuable skills and experience, however they may also be highly stressful with students expected to go into new environments where they are expected to take on an increasingly professional role, when they may have little or no experience. Often they are working in small groups of two or three in settings that are new to them. For the settings too there is a pressure in terms of having a new adult on site who may be fabulous, but equally may need a high level of support. The pressure on the student and on the setting which agrees to take them is intense. Coventry University have taken a radical approach to this issue and turned the whole experience on its head – instead of students going out into the community, the community is brought into the university.
Coventry University is an award winning university which is challenging the conventional approach to education. In September 2015 they started delivering undergraduate programmes on the North Yorkshire coast through a series of locations in Scarborough. In September 2016 their campus opened in the town and three weeks after the students started their academic pathways the first stay and play session was held.
Students had the concept explained to them in the first week of their course. The idea was that each session would be focused on a children’s book around which they had to plan linked activities as well as thinking of core resources, risk assessments and healthy snacks. Sessions were planned with the aim of not clashing with existing stay and play groups in the town, and were made open to all – parents, carers, child-minders, and settings.
Students used social media to source activities and initial advertising of the sessions went out through the university Facebook site but primarily through three Facebook sites linked to one of the lecturers on the programme. This was later expanded to four sites to include one specifically linked to what was available for babies and toddlers in the vicinity.
The aim was to discover whether introducing student EY practitioners to children in their family university environment enables more successful transitions and outcomes in their work placements.
Students who are confident in planning and facilitating enriching play activities are likely to achieve more successful outcomes personally and for the children in their care, both during their work placements and beyond.
Students reported that they approached their placements more confidently and with an improved understanding of how to design and facilitate enriching play activities.
The Stay and Play sessions were a positive experience for students and families, and raised awareness of the good work of the university students in the wider community.
The sessions allowed students to build confidence and skills prior to commencing placements benefits children by ensuring that students appreciate the importance of providing diverse play activities, and feel that they have the skills to do so. This practical knowledge o the pedagogy of play will inform their future practice.