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Date: December 8, 2021

Catching Up and Lessons From The Dancefloor

Read our latest blog by Jude Twani, who is an Associate Consultant for Early Excellence.

I have been dancing now for about 8 weeks and it is the first time in my life I have ever danced “properly”. I always imagined I could dance but never tried it. I have serious dance envy when I watch some of the dancers glide and wiggle across the floor effortlessly. This evening I bravely moved from the beginners to the intermediate group desperate to fast track and catch up with everyone else. However, I cannot learn in 8 weeks what many have been doing for several years. I have to go through the process of learning to follow someone’s lead, learning the 12 basic moves slowly so they become part of my muscle memory, learning to glide rather than bounce like Tigger.

Having said that, I have been told that I am a quick learner and what I lack in grace and finesse I make up for in enthusiasm and in fact I’ve already earned myself the accolade “Here comes trouble!” I think there are several factors contributing to being a “quick learner”:

  • Confidence and a “have a go” mindset
  • Risk taking
  • Watching Strictly Come Dancing for years
  • Learning some basics at home during lockdown
  • Sense of rhythm and musicality
  • Intrinsic motivation due to years of having wanted to dance

It reminds me of the current rhetoric about “catch up” and “lost learning” following the 18 months of disrupted education. Intensive catch-up programmes may fill some of the superficial knowledge gaps and appear to be very successful with older children but my concern is for those in KS1 who have missed out on huge chunks of the all-important EYFS. Staff at a small school told me the other day that none of their current Year 1 children had achieved the early learning goals the previous year and yet they were expecting them to sit at tables on chairs for their learning all day, every day.

Similar to my online dance learning at home during lockdown, children received information and tuition at home but had no opportunity to practice and embed this in a real-life context alongside their peers. What many of these children need now, and I would argue, have always needed, are the opportunities to continue to develop the characteristics of effective learning, to achieve a good level of development particularly in the prime areas of learning, to become independent, collaborative learners etc. A highly effective way is to continue to offer rich play-based learning opportunities through well-planned, age & stage appropriate continuous provision. Many children in Year 1 are still 5 years old for a large part of their year and so it is appropriate for them to have this provision even if they hadn’t missed out on valuable time in the EYFS. There are many aspects of their learning and development that are key foundations for their future learning, similar to the factors I identified as being important to my dancing:

  • Confidence and a “have a go” mindset
  • Risk taking: not being afraid of getting things wrong; resilience; perseverance; challenge
  • Intrinsic motivation: following their interests; allowing choice and autonomy; building independence
  • Watching and learning from others (Watching Strictly Come Dancing for years)
  • Direct teaching of skills needed (Learning some basics at home during lockdown)
  • Developing the building blocks that are essential for ongoing progress (Sense of rhythm and musicality) – consider what the building blocks are for reading and writing and maths for example

So, I challenge the current “catch up” strategy which largely focuses on tutoring, intervention groups and programmes. Instead let’s celebrate, value and build on the learning that has taken place. And, championing a key principle of the EYFS, take the time to fully understand the Uniqueness of each Child, so that we can identify what it is that they need on their journey of learning and be a truly effective dance partner!

Jude Twani, Early Excellence Associate Consultant

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