Bright Horizons is the home of passionate experts in early years care and education. For more than 30 years, our dedicated Early Years practitioners have been delivering truly unique learning experiences, helping each child reach their full potential. Caroline Wright, our Director of Early Childhood, discusses her career in childcare and the extraordinary role of early years in helping children and families look forward to a brighter future…
Caroline started her journey in Early Years as a Practitioner. She gained a NNEB qualification when she left school and was working as Residential Childcare Officer, with children in care of the local Authority home in the Midlands. But it wasnt all plain sailing.
I loved my job but sadly at that time services for looked after children were being cut, so I had to re-think my career options. Caroline went on to work as Paediatric Care and Play assistant, working with neonatals and children who were receiving treatment in hospital. Eventually, after moving to become a nursery nurse in a school, and the driver of a double decker play bus, Caroline found herself as a Pre-school manager in a village pre-school in Essex.
I was a single parent at the time striving for independence, explained Caroline. I knew I was struggling financially to support my child, so I explored options on how to progress my career. Eventually I enrolled at Newcastle University to do one of the very first Early Childhood degrees available.
Four years later, Caroline not only achieved a Masters degree but was able to unlock doors to a career pathway that had previously seemed to be non-existent. She successfully progressed within the industry gaining experience over the years in both the public and private sectors. She became Head of Early Years support in a Local Authority, worked for many years as an Ofsted Inspector and held notable roles at universities and helped to develop the initial Early Years teacher training programme at the National College of Teaching and Leadership.
Caroline joined Bright Horizons in 2020 with the responsibility for guiding best practice to enable practitioners to develop the full potential of our children. Last year, led by Caroline and her Early Childhood team, the new Bright Beginnings curriculum was introduced at our settings across England.
A new approach to learning
Bright Beginnings at Bright Horizons, focuses on childrens emotional wellbeing as the key to learning and was designed to acknowledge the importance of giving children a voice and promoting decision making, to grow confidence, promote their wellbeing and inspire a genuine love for learning. It is based on extensive pedagogical theory and research, and focuses on the significance of the adults role as the educator.
Caroline explained: As early childhood practitioners and researchers, we reflected on our experience of young childrens learning needs, parents aspirations for their children, and how we could best contribute to the open-ended notion of ‘school readiness, whilst remaining compliant with the conditions of registration under EYFS.
Integral to Bright Beginnings are Bright Horizons Childrens HEARTS Values for Wellbeing, which provide the underpinning ‘conditions for learning:
So how do the practitioners do that? They use the Bright Beginnings five areas of learning, known as Opportunities and Experiences for Learning. They focus on: Feelings and Friendships, Sharing Thoughts and Ideas, Technical and Life Skills, Thinking Creatively, Exploring and Learning About My World.
Caroline said: A recurring concern amongst our Early Childhood specialist team was that nursery practitioners were not clear about the interconnectedness of childrens learning, despite a rhetorical use of the word ‘holistic in their day-to-day conversations. Promoting positive emotional and physical wellbeing is at the core our Bright Beginnings curriculum and is an essential condition of successful learning. We believed that starting afresh, with new areas of learning, would help Practitioners to extend their provision and understand that children dont learn in boxes. Bright Beginnings supports and transcends the seven ‘subject areas of learning in the EYFS by focusing on ‘skills and opportunities for children to experience.
Extraordinary people doing extraordinary thingsObservations about practitioners confidence in using Bright Beginnings and their understanding of the holistic nature of childrens learning and development has itself grown. Feedback from practitioners about the approach is as follows:
"Implementing quality experiences for the children enabling the children to thrive and achieve the best outcomes in their environment, we teach by modelling and scaffolding children's learning."
"Every opportunity has teaching potential and that we don't just look after them 'baby sit' but are there to teach them and help them grow."
Caroline commented: What matters most, is to fill each day with the simple joys of childhood, and thats made possible by our family of dedicated, passionate professionals. Warm, welcoming people, collectively charged with the care of 12,000 children every day. Real people with HEART who believe in Honesty, Excellence, Accountability, Respect, and most of all building that bond of Teamwork with every child and every parent. For our experienced and valued team, we offer extensive training to help them grow, thrive, and build a career for life.
I have been working in quality improvement within Early Years for around 35 years and I really do believe that everyone involved always tries to do the absolute best that they can. The most important thing is that children are always at the centre of everything we do
Recent research published by The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood Royal Foundation saw half (55%) of the public recognise a persons future mental health and wellbeing is most likely to be affected by their development in the early years, followed by their ability to make and maintain relationships (51%) and their future happiness (40%).
Caroline noted: Our own research report has provided initial evidence that a bespoke wellbeing curriculum can support practitioner knowledge, improve teaching skills and childrens learning, as well as having a measurable impact on childrens engagement, self-regulation, and wellbeing levels.
The broader importance of early childhood development to society cannot be understated. Our own research report has provided initial evidence that a bespoke wellbeing curriculum can support practitioner knowledge, improve teaching skills and childrens learning, as well as having a measurable impact on childrens engagement, self-regulation, and wellbeing levels.
A second phase of research into the impact of Bright Beginnings is now underway to explore its support to childrens personal, social and emotional development in our nurseries. More information on Bright Beginnings and its impact can be found in our executive summary, which can be downloaded here.