TODDLER PROJECT – ensuring quality for all toddlers

Child looking out of a window

A recent EU-funded project brought together experienced teacher trainers from nine European countries, including Helen Sutherland, senior lecturer in the School of Education, to examine and develop different approaches to toddlers’ learning.

High quality education and care from a very early age creates a good foundation for lifelong learning, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Unfortunately, children from poor or migrant families, or those whose parents have low educational attainments, often do not experience equality in education. The aim of this project was to strengthen the education of reflective practitioners to give toddlers – children aged between 18 and 36 months – a fair chance for lifelong learning.

Each of the European partner universities was responsible for creating new materials that enable students and early years’ practitioners to explore strategies and examine examples of good practice. Representing the UK, Helen Sutherland looked at areas such as language support in multicultural settings and enhancing parental involvement.

Together with the other European partners she collated examples of good practice which are now stored in a virtual learning environment. The partners also participated in several one day seminars to disseminate their project ideas and findings to students, policy makers, parents and practitioners in the field. At the final conference in Ghent, Belgium in 2013, the project’s recommendations were presented to European professionals and politicians.

The main outcomes of the project are two courses based on the tools and best practices developed and tested by the partners: a European in-service course for early years practitioners working in toddler settings; and a course module for students in initial training for early childhood education and care which will be embedded into the Bachelor programmes of the partner institutions.

These flexible course materials will encourage practitioners to explore different strategies that support toddlers and their families from disadvantaged and diverse backgrounds. This has been achieved by practitioners using reflective practice to deepen their knowledge and by exploring, comparing and contrasting the examples of best practice.