Sightlines Initiative

promoting creative and reflective practice in early childhood education


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Sightlines Initiative Network 2022-3 Research & Development Group - Introduction


During the holidays our core group have been in discussion about how to maximise support and transformation: we are planning a general programme for Network members and those who are attracted to our pedagogical principles.  

We are also proposing a focus group for centres of the network who are particularly engaged in evolving their pedagogy and who will be eager for a researchful collaborative base.

NetgroupBanner2022 3

The Focus Group will be a small group of centres (envisaged around five) committed to evolving 'Environments of Enquiry' pedagogy, through systemic evolution, researching one another's practice through dialogues and coursework, and examination of other reference pedagogy, particularly that of the preschools of Reggio. We may also invite collegiate participation from network colleagues engaged in appropriate academic research.

We aim to develop a public visits programme and documentation library for other educators and network members, showcasing work of the participant group. 

On Wednesday 21st September at 4pm we are hosting an introduction session for Centre Managers/Heads who may be interested in participating. If you can't make the date but are interested in participating, then contact Robin directly: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 0191 261 7666.


All the best, Robin Duckett & Liz Elders

Sightlines Initiative
Heaton Education Centre, Trewhitt Road, Newcastle, NE6 5DY
0191 261 7666     

Education Creatively Done

Here is a digest  of articles and videos to be a resource bank in informing public awareness and future directions for UK education.  Do please send in your suggestions - see details at foot of this page.

20C Pioneers of Insight and Practice


    20th Century Pioneers of Insight & Practice

    Click on individual tabs to go to the content.


    froebel from sprouts

    Born on 21 April 1782, Friedrich Froebel was a German educator who invented the kindergarten. He believed that “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child’s soul.” According to Froebel, in play children construct their understanding of the world through direct experience with it. His ideas about learning through nature and the importance of play have spread throughout the world.

    Froebel considered the whole child’s, health, physical development, the environment, emotional well-being, mental ability, social relationships and spiritual aspects of development as important. Drawing on his mathematical and scientific knowledge Froebel developed a set of gifts (wooden blocks 1-6) and introduced occupations, (including sticks, clay, sand, slates, chalk, wax, shells, stones, scissors, paper folding). It seems appropriate to mention Froebel’s gifts and occupations in conjunction with this new course. Particularly as the gifts and occupations are open-ended and can be used to support children’s self initiated play.

    Froebel believed that it was important for practitioners to understand the principles of observation including professional practice, the multiple lenses through which they see children- and that children see their worlds, as well as offering children freedom with guidance and considering the children’s environments including people and materials as a key element of how they behave.

    Because Froebel based much of his understanding of children on observing them this has changed the way we think about children’s play.

    We have Froebel’s insights to thank for placing child initiated activity with adults working with children to give them freedom with sensitive guidance and symbolic and imaginative play at the heart of our curriculum.

    Froebelian principles as articulated by Professor Tina Bruce (1987, 1st edition and 2015, 5th edition).

    • Childhood is seen as valid in it self, as part of life and not simply as preparation for adulthood. Thus education is seen similarly as something of the present and not just preparation and training for later.
    • The whole child is considered to be important. Health – physical and mental is emphasised, as well as the importance of feelings and thinking and spiritual aspects.
    • Learning is not compartmentalised, for everything links.
    • Intrinsic motivation, resulting in child-initiated, self directed activity, is valued.
    • Self- discipline is emphasised.
    • There are specially receptive periods of learning at different stages of development.
    • What children can do (rather than what they cannot do) is the starting point in the child’s education.
    • There is an inner life in the child, which emerges especially under favourable conditions.
    • The people (both adults and children) with whom the child interacts are of central importance.
    • Quality education is about three things: the child, the context in which learning takes place, and the knowledge and understanding which the child develops and learns.

    Link to Main Article / Video


    The aim of education is to create people who are not only self-disciplined and free in spirit, gifted in work and enjoyment, worthy and desirable as persons, but also responsible and generous in social life, able to give and take freely from others, willing to serve social ends and to lose themselves in social purposes greater than themselves.

    Susan Isaacs in 'Susan Isaacs, The First Biography': Dorothy Gardener (1969 Methuen)

    Susan Isaacs with children at The Malting House School

    One of the early exponents of play, and open air play in particular, was a psychologist called Susan Isaacs (1885-1948), amongst whose many initiatives was the Chelsea Open Air Nursery, which she founded in 1928.

    Isaacs argued that children’s play was a form of self-expression that enabled them both to release their real feelings safely and to rehearse ways of dealing with a range of emotions. She also emphasised the importance of social interaction within play.

    Isaac developed these theories through the observation of children whilst head of an experimental school in Cambridge called Maltings House between 1924 and 1927, just prior to the opening of her Open Air Nursery.

    The school included plenty of garden space and equipment with which the children could explore the physical world, the ways things are made, and the manner in which they break apart! 

    Isaacs was a leading member of the Nursery School Association (now known as Early Education - The British Association for Early Childhood Education) which campaigned for recognition of the benefits of early education. She was also the instigator of the British Psychological Society Committee for Research in Education from 1923 and in 1931 Chairman of the BPS Education Section.

    Her interest in child and educational development was not confined to the pre-school age group – she also observed and made recommendations for older children (Isaacs, The Primary School, 1931), and her later work as Director of the newly established Department of Child Development at the Institute of Education in London included the early development of child guidance clinics. In 1936 Isaacs recommended that a dedicated playroom should be included in the clinics (Isaacs, Child Guidance. Suggestions for a Clinic Playroom, 1936).

    Throughout her career, Isaacs remained committed to engaging directly with the public. Her book on nursery education sold 100, 000 copies (an anniversary edition was reprinted in 2013), and she wrote for parents in popular magazines such as “Parents’ Review”, “Mind, Mother and Child”,” Home and School” and” New Era”.

    Source: The British Psychological Society

    Free PDF - The Educational Value of the Nursery School  by Susan Isaacs (1937)

    Discussion Article: Does Early Childhood Education in England for the 2020s Need to Rediscover Susan Isaacs: Child of the Late Victorian Age and Pioneering Educational Thinker?
    by Professor Philip Hood, Nottingham Uni:


    Education is not a preparation for life, it is life itself.

    dewey from sproutsJohn Dewey was a pragmatist, progressivist, educator, philosopher, and social reformer (Gutek, 2014). Dewey’s various roles greatly impacted education, and he was perhaps one of the most influential educational philosophers known to date (Theobald, 2009). Dewey’s influence on
    education was evident in his theory about social learning; he believed that school should be representative of a social environment and that students learn best when in natural social settings (Flinders & Thornton, 2013). His ideas impacted education in another facet because he believed that students were all unique learners. He was a proponent of student interests driving teacher instruction (Dewey, 1938).

    With the current educational focus in the United States being on the implementation of the Common Core standards and passing standardized tests and state exams, finding evidence of John Dewey’s theories in classrooms today can be problematic (Theobald, 2009). Education in most classrooms today is what Dewey would have described as a traditional classroom setting. He believed that traditional classroom settings were not developmentally appropriate for young learners (Dewey, 1938). Although schools, classrooms, and programs that support Dewey’s theories are harder to find in this era of testing, there are some that still do exist.

    Paper: John Dewey in the 21st Century Morgan K. Williams University of West Florida

    The Readmore link is to a short video by Youtube Sprouts Channel.

    Link to Main Article / Video

Conservative Counter-voices & influences


    Conservative Counter-voices & influences

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  • DOMINIC CUMMINGS' 2013 paper on education

    Education secretary, Michael Gove, is followed by special adviser Dominic Cummings

    Dominic Cummings was a special adviser on policy to the then education secretary, Michael Gove.

    In this document he discusses everything from maths, IQ and quantum computers to what is wrong with MPs, Whitehall and education policy. The section on education (pages 62-83) is probably the most controversial and political.

    In one of the most controversial passages of the thesis, Cummings maintains that individual child performance is mainly based on genetics and a child's IQ rather than the quality of teaching.

    He denies his views are embarrassing for either Gove or the government, but says he wants to see an attempt to build in a more scientific way to develop a more ambitious education and training system.

    But his views on genetics, government inefficiency, the examination system and the quality of teaching will confirm the worst fears of some in the education system about the underlying direction of Gove's reforms.

    Cummings is highly critical of the quality of teaching, writing: "While some children will always be blessed by a brilliant teacher, by definition that is not a scaleable solution to our problems: real talent is rare and mediocrity is ubiquitous."

    source - The Guardian Oct 2013

    Link to Main Article / Video

Possible Futures Today: Early Childhood Education


    Possible Futures Today: Early Childhood Education

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Possible Futures Today: Primary Education


    Possible Futures Today: Primary Education

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Possible Futures Today: Secondary Education


    Possible Futures Today: Secondary Education

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  • XP School, Doncaster - CREW

    XP School, Doncaster


    Link to Main Article / Video

  • XP School, Doncaster - EXPEDITIONS

    Link to Main Article / Video

  • MICHAEL MOORE: Why Finland Has The Best Education

    on Finland videoMichael Moore wanted to find out why Finnish schools were at the top of the PISA tables and the USA was near the bottom. This film is full of answers to that question. Here are a few of them.

    There is no homework. As one teacher says, ‘The whole term “homework” is obsolete.’ A group of teenagers is asked how much homework they do in a day. The answers vary from twenty minutes to no time at all.

    Younger children spend only twenty hours a week in school. Finland has shorter school days and shorter school terms than anywhere else in the world. One teacher declares that if you constantly get just work, work, work, then you stop learning..

    In Finland it is against the law to set up a school and charge tuition. That means that the rich kids have to go to the same kind of school as everyone else, and their parents make sure that all schools are good. Michael Moore comments that in the USA they have stopped teaching art, music and poetry. To the shocked Finnish reaction, he gives the standard American response. ‘We got rid of poetry. How does poetry help you to get a job?’

    One of the teachers interviewed remarks that what he teaches is how to be happy. ‘And you’re a math teacher?’ says Michael Moore, incredulously. ‘Yes,’ the teacher replies. ‘School should be about finding a way to learn what makes you happy.’ Watching this film might make you happy.


    Link to Main Article / Video

Each submitted item needs:

  • A very short intro (1 – 2 sentences);
  • A pdf if article, or link to a video or longer article;
  • Ideally an image.

Email your content proposals to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Click on the desired link  to view. 

You need to have first signed up to the individual recording in order to access it.

The signup page is here.

Bicycles & Bricks, Vision & Determination
Online Conference set: narratives of the real and possible in shaping education

The Power of Blockplay: a language of construction, imagination and ideas
This session discusses a short history and principles of blockplay; what block play offers: reflecting on practice; a celebration of children’s wonderful ideas; practicalities of blockplay organisation.

We want to know if these proposed sessions sound attractive to you and your team. We have not yet advertised them – we want to know from you whether they catch your interest, before we finally commission them.

Read on, then ctrl-click the picture options below to open a quick-response email:

Open-eyed listening, thinking and dialogue

– are you getting the most out of your understandings? And are your children being seen and supported in the rich ways they deserve?

Two cpd sessions for Network member staff groups and other staff groups keen to enrich their discussions and collaborative analyses
1. The languages we think in and see the worlds of children’s learning
2. The enjoyment of participation & exchange
How we talk about the learning of the children we support directly affects how we support them. Even before we talk about it there is a ‘language of understanding’ which filters how we see.
We have been encultured to recognise and describe instrumental processes and engagements (she was able to build a tall tower etc); we are less ready to see and build on altogether richer areas of learning and engagement (she was sorry for the spider who had got stuck in the corner of the window.)
When we meet and discuss we may be shy to say what we feel, or to ‘look silly’ if we have an idea about what’s going on that is ‘unusual’ or ‘not what the leader thinks’. That doesn’t make for a strong learning group.
These sessions are intended for those groups of colleagues who want to leap energetically with fresh eyes and minds into becoming pedagogical research teams, not simply trotting out mundane mantras from official documents about learning goals.

These would be 1 ½ or 2 hour sessions, probably after the Christmas break. We will begin with the session on ‘languages of seeing’ and follow with ‘the enjoyment of exchange.’ They will be playful as well as participative and delightfully challenging.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Exhibit: Reggio Emilia's 'The Hundred Languages of Children' • Newcastle • 1997

Exhibit Tour: Reggio Emilia's 'the Hundred Languages of Children' • Cardiff, Belfast, Exeter, Bristol, Bradford, Glasgow • 2000

Exploratorium: The Fantastic Attic • Newcastle • 2000

Exploratorium: The Magic Wardrobe • Newcastle • 2001

Exhibit: Experiments & Encounters • Newcastle • 2002

Exhibit Tour: Reggio Emilia's 'The Hundred Languages of Children' • Manchester, Newcastle, Cambridge, Swansea, Folkestone, Birmingham, Liverpool  • 2004 - 5

Exploratorium: Floor Four • Newcastle • 2004

Evaluations etc

Cambridge Hundred Languages exhibit 2004 report - Enemies of Boredom