Doncaster’s Early Years Conference

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Using the Arts for Children’s Wellbeing and Communication: A Holistic Approach.Tuesday 2nd July 2024 from 10AM - 1PM ONLINE VIA ZOOM FREE Doncaster is hosting a national conference for Local Authority Commissioners, Family Hubs, early years professionals, nursery staff, teachers, childminders, creative practitioners, funders, policy makers and partners.

The conference will showcase Doncaster’s successful Tuneful Chatter programme and excellent track record in maximising the potential of a place-based approach to support children and families. The aim of the conference is to share proven approaches to using the arts for very young children’s wellbeing, personal development, and communication.

The event offers an informative and inspiring opportunity for discussions and networking, and hosts are delighted to announce that keynote speakers Dr Eunice Lumsden and Samantha Weeks will be sharing their knowledge and expertise.

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The conference is hosted by Doncaster’s Tuneful Chatter consortium made up of darts – Doncaster’s participatory arts organisation, Cast, Doncaster’s performance venue, and City of Doncaster Council’s Early Years Intervention and Prevention service. The three-year programme is funded by Arts Council England’s Place Partnerships Programme and City of Doncaster Council, with evaluation partners Sheffield Hallam University and the National Literacy Trust.

Tuneful Chatter sessionTuneful Chatter session
Tuneful Chatter session

What we experience in our early years, from conception to the age of five, shapes the developing brain, which is why positive physical, emotional, and cognitive development during this period is so crucial. Investing in creative play is one of the most important aspects of improving children’s health and wellbeing.

The arts play an important role in enriching young people’s learning and educational experiences. Exposure to the arts can unlock potential in young people, helping them to develop skills in communication, collaboration, creativity, and problem solving.

Tuneful Chatter uses proven approaches to improving very young children’s communication, language, and social skills. Music, dance, and drama specialists design programmes of early years provision enabling under-fives to take part with others in a safe environment. Creative play and movement stimulate turn-taking, being kind and listening, encouraging independent choice and decision-making. Music and singing focuses on language and communication. We use repetition, structure, and familiarity to give all children a voice and build self-esteem. Children are supported to develop the skills to thrive, enabling them to catch up and be school ready.

Book through Eventbrite soon to reserve your place:

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Contact Sarah Eastaff for further information – 01302 493844 or [email protected].

The Consortium

darts creates art with people in Doncaster to improve life, learning and health. darts makes high-quality, inclusive, creative experiences across the borough of Doncaster. Programmes are open to everyone, particularly those who have the least access to the arts. darts is one of the UK’s largest participatory arts organisations and is proud of the national and local reputation built over more than 30 years. The company has an experienced team of artists, creative professionals and support staff and work closely with a skilled pool of experienced and inspiring freelance artists delivering across a range of art forms. All work is person-led and programmes are shaped directly around resident need, adapting the offer as demands change. darts delivers at The Point and in communities across the borough. The Point is their home – a purpose-built arts centre in the middle of Doncaster to make and share art. It is a fully accessible and welcoming building, where creative activity happens alongside family-friendly, world-class exhibitions and events.

Cast in Doncaster celebrates being 10 years young in 2023. The theatre welcomes over 100,000 audience members every year, and runs a vibrant participation programme, engaging with people of all ages from communities across Doncaster. It also supports and commissions work with exciting local artists. Still young and dynamic, it has established itself as a distinctive arts centre, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. The 620-seat theatre presents a wide-ranging programme throughout the year, including music, dance, family shows, comedy, and drama. The Second Space can accommodate up to 200 people and features the very best of small-scale touring shows. There is also an increasingly ambitious programme of large-scale spectacular outdoor work taking place within the city centre. Through Cast’s creative partnerships with theatres and artists across the region and the country it offers excellence in performing arts, with long-term programmes of engagement and performances from world-renowned companies such as the National Theatre and Royal Ballet taking place alongside the newest freshest work from early career artists. Cast strives to be an inclusive organisation, open and welcoming to everyone. @CastInDoncaster (Facebook & Twitter) | @CastDoncaster (Instagram) |

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Doncaster Council Early Years Intervention and Prevention Service

According to the Doncaster Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019, nearly 19% of Doncaster’s neighbourhoods fall within the 10% most deprived in England, and 53% are among the 30% most deprived areas. The Early Years Intervention and Prevention Service has ambitious and high aspirations for Early Years children including those with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND). Our Early Years Inclusion Team currently offer SEND and transition support to 470 children. Here in Doncaster, we have 98% of our settings with a Good or Outstanding Ofsted grading and our GLD is in line with national at 67.2%. (CLL 80.2% compared to national 79.5% and PSED 82.7% compared to national 83%). Our comprehensive offer ensures the right support is in place at the right time for every child within Doncaster. Talking Together is Doncaster’s strategy to support children’s communication in Doncaster led by the Family Hubs and overseen by a qualified speech therapist. It aims to support parents, carers, practitioners and the community with vital speech, language and communication skills that will enable a child to flourish. Between October 2022 and December 2023, 461 referrals were made in to the Talking Together service. With the exception of those children identified with SEND, 43% of children who have completed their Talking Together support were able to confidently access universal provision with no further support required. In contrast to this our EYFSP scores for expressive arts and design fall lower than the national average at 80.4.% compared to 84.5%. For this reason we are incredibly passionate about our links with our arts partners and the value the Tuneful Chatter programme brings to our practitioners, children and families.

Funder - Arts Council England

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. They have set out their strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 they want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where every one of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. From 2023 to 2026 they will invest over £440 million of public money from Government and an estimated £93 million from The National Lottery each year to help support the sector and to deliver this vision.

Keynote Speakers

Eunice Lumsden is Professor of Child Advocacy and Head of Childhood Youth and Families at the University of Northampton. She is a Route Panel Member for the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and has several academic advisory roles for governmental and non-governmental organisations. Nationally, she has been a member of several external expert groups advising the Government on Early Years qualifications and health inequalities. Eunice led the development of the Early Childhood Graduate Competencies for the Early Childhood Studies Network. She has also advised on workforce development and Early Years for French Administration in Belgium, UNICEF and the Professional Association of Child Development in Turkey, Save the Children, the International Step by Step Association, the Royal Society of Arts and Camden Borough Council. The Mayor of Istanbul and UNICEF invited Eunice to participate in activities that led to Early Childhood being included in the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Samantha Weeks is a Senior Lecturer in Education within the Faculty of Health, Education and Society at the University of Northampton. She originally trained as a Primary teacher, over 20 years ago and has specialised in Early Years with a specific focus in the area of Creative and Expressive Arts. Samantha has taught in inner city London, overseas, as a Local Authority advisory teacher, as Children’s Centre teacher and taken on a range of leadership roles including Deputy Head and Acting Headteacher. In addition to her work in schools, she has trained as a Play Therapist currently practicing alongside her role here at the University of Northampton. Samantha teaches on a range of Undergraduate and Postgraduate modules within the subject area including the MA Education. Her research interests relate to children’s communication through creative and expressive Arts, with a growing interest in the development of positive relationships and the role that attachment has in this. She has a particular interest in the relationship between the role of teacher and therapist, focusing on the significance of positive support for mental health provision – for both children and adults.