Monday, 17 December 2012


Here are some more links to useful documents should you want to know more about the Beehive Child Care and Early Years Education Course.

1.  An outline of the course content for the Introductory Course

2.  The curriculum for the Intermediate Theoretical Course

3. The timetable for the delivery of the Intermediate Theoretical Course

4.  Part 3.  The practical tasks



Have fun!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Six months on....

Here I am six months after my return from Malawi.  I have spent much of that time writing up the work I did for Beehive and Mother Teresa Children's Centre in Chilomoni for an MA in Early Childhood Studies.  I'm not quite finished yet, but well on the way.  One or two people have asked for the annotated ECD curriculum and at last I have made it available.  Here's the link

I will be adding one or two useful documents over the next couple of weeks, so watch this space!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Countdown to going home

Three weeks from tonight I shall be all packed up and ready to go on Thursday morning to catch the bus to Lilongwe on the first stage of my journey back to Norwich and home. I have begun thinking about what I shall take home with me and what I shall leave behind. Some decisions are easy, I am not going to bring home any clothes that are larger than a size 14 for example. I had acquired three big boxes of books during the time I have been here, I am a librarian's daughter! These I have distributed some to the CC, some to Bee Books to be resold, some to other volunteers. I still have quite a large pile to go back home with me, largely things I brought with me to finish my MA and which will now have to go back with me for the same reason, as the job has not been done! I have bought a few African artifacts which will be travelling with me. There is my camera, laptop and a few other bits and pieces. I would like to bring home my little rocket stove, bought on the market for MK350 but it is heavy and I suspect it will have to stay here.

It feels so strange that all the people I see on a daily basis I may well never see again. Yet at the same time I am excited at the prospect of picking up relationships with friends and family at home again.

The students are working very hard to get their Diplomas done if not before David and I leave, at least before the contracts run out at the end of August. If anyone has not completed by then it will be because they have not taken the trouble to do the work, not because they have not had the opportunity. I have been spending time with Alison the new manager, looking at the probable staffing needs for the CC in September and thinking about each Care Giver in turn, looking at their strengths, interests and enthusiasm. Who will work well with whom? Who will be best suited to working with babies? Who has the experience to ease the transition from CC to St James' School with its big classes and shortages of teachers and equipment? Who has worked hard and achieved their Diploma? Who is good at fostering creativity in children? Who can be self-motivated? Who has leadership potential?

The last few weeks are going to be a bit of a social whirl I think. This weekend we have a barbeque to welcome Zoe's dad who has come on a visit from UK. The following weekend is David's birthday and the one after that there is going to be a leaving do for David and me.

I am continuing to spend as much time as I possibly can assessing and mentoring Care Givers and urging them ever nearer to getting their Diplomas. I stood on the balcony this evening with Alison looking down on a lovely activity being assessed by Kirren in the garden below. The children were sitting on a parachute having a lovely picnic of kamba puffs (not the best thing nutritionally, but they like them!). We couldn't hear what they were talking about but the interactions between Care Givers and children were animated and everyone was smiling. This morning I watched Maria make porridge with the children using maize flour, sugar, water and groundnut flour. It was delicious. The children loved taking part and were very careful around the rocket stove. She served it with fresh papaya and the children thoroughly enjoyed having a different snack. She told them how each ingredient was good for their bodies and would help them grow, protect them from diseases etc. Moses 'read' a great story to the children today to complete his task on positive behaviour management by adapting an English story book, translating into Chichewa as he told the tale and altering the story to make it more African so that the children could relate to what the characters were doing. It was skillfully done and he is a great story teller, full of expression and interest, holding the children's attention for a long time.

Conversely, for the first time I actually put a stop to an activity in mid assessment this afternoon because it just wasn't doing the children any good at all. The candidate was trying to promote sharing between babies and she provided three trikes for six babies and expected the unlucky three to just sit and watch and wait for a turn. She provided no alternative activities. Needless to say half the babies ended up crying either because they didn't want to get off a trike to give someone else a turn or because they didn't like waiting with nothing to do! I didn't blame them, especially when there were more trikes in the store. So we fetched more equipment, the babies had fun, and afterwards the student and I picked apart what had gone wrong and why her expectations were unrealistic for children of this age. I guess it was a learning experience!

I suppose it is in the nature of volunteering that one never really finishes a job and has to accept that someone else will come along and continue the thing you have started. Indeed I suppose David and I have been lucky in that we actually did start the training part of the CC project. Most people take over from someone else at the beginning and hand on to someone else at the end of their stint. Nevertheless letting it all go will not be easy, we have put so much of ourselves into this project.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

We conquer Mulange Mountain!

Tonight I should really be tackling a large pile of marking, but I am not going to! I am going to write about the weekend and a trip up to the plateau on Mulange mountain. I have visited Mulange town and the waterfall about a quarter of the way up the mountain several times before. When I first arrived I thought how good it would be to be able to go up to the plateau, but there is no proper road and the only way to get there is Shank's pony so I thought I was too old and overweight to drag myself all that way up! (Roughly 2000m) Eighteen months later and four stone lighter here I am! It feels pretty good, despite the aching legs and mosquito bites!

Francoise, Kirren, David, Alan and I set off early on Sunday morning from Blantyre and managed to get the 70Km or so to the mountain by about 9.00am despite trouble with the car again. This seems to be a bit of a feature of volunteers trips away from Blantyre! As you drive towards Mulange the huge lump of granite looms ahead of you. It is known as the island in the sky because often the clouds are well below the level of the top of the mountain so it looks as though the peaks are floating in the sky. Sunday was one of those days so we stopped by the side of the road to take photographs. We had rung ahead to book ourselves a local guide and a couple of porters and to arrange for accommodation in one of the huts on the plateau. When we arrived at the information place in the town they were expecting us and were able to tell us the name of our guide. We arranged to meet him at Likubula Lodge, at the bottom of the ascent, but when we got there he was nowhere to be found and the office knew nothing of our booking. Malawian organization!! It took a while to sort it all out, but eventually we discovered the first guide had been called away to take a family member to hospital. A replacement was found. Next, one of the porters was called away to another family crisis and had to be replaced by his brother, but eventually at about 11 o'clock, the hottest part of the day, the party was complete and we set off. Emanuel the guide, Henderson and Alex the porters and the five of us volunteers. The first part of the walk, to the waterfall was familiar. It seemed harder work than I remembered because of the heat. After about an hour we arrived at the falls and were very glad to stop for Kirren's excellent egg salad sandwiches skillfully packed into a biscuit tin, and a swim in the pool at the waterfall. Well the others swam, I just sat in the water. I am still pretty scared of water and the currents are quite strong here, and the pool reputed to be 60m deep which is an awful lot of very cold water beneath one! We stayed there until nearly two and then set off in an upward direction. I was by no means confident that I was going to make it. The sun was beating down. My rucksack was quite heavy enough, and my back underneath it was running with sweat. I was reminded that before I came to Africa I had no idea how much it stings when sweat runs into your eyes, I never exerted myself enough to find out! The path was alternately gentle upward incline and steep scramble at first but as we went on the gentle bits got less and the scrambles longer and steeper. There were a number of streams to be crossed and we had to jump from stone to stone sometimes over quite fast flowing water. I would never have managed it without the helping hands of the guide and porters who leapt about like mountain goats despite the heavy loads. They insisted on taking my rucksack away from me so that Alex had two to carry, but it didn't seem to slow him down at all! The steep bits were a bit like rough staircases. I concentrated on one step at a time and managed to drag myself up, but in the heat I seriously doubted my ability to see it through to the top. Fortunately as the day went on the sun dropped in the sky and we were in shade for some of the time. There is quite a lot of woodland on the ascent and this helped a lot. We had to stop for regular rests and the estimated three hour climb probably took us five hours of walking time but eventually we made it to the top and onto the plateau. Here the landscape changed. The aspect became much more open. The vegetation changed completely, and although still a bit up-and-down the path was much more level and manageable. Francoise had brought her walking sticks and very kindly loaned one to me. It made such a difference.

As we emerged from the wooded climb on to the plateau the sun was quite low in the sky and the golden light came in sideways. The colours were fabulous. Most notable there were grasses that looked as though they began life with creamy green inflorescences but each had been dipped into a glass of old Burgundy absorbing different amounts of the red wine and moving gently in the breeze to form a rippling sea of colour. I lost all idea of distance really but we must have walked a couple of kilometers across the plateau before we reached the hut just as the sun was setting. I was so glad that we did not have to walk in the dark. When we arrived there were perhaps ten people in a hut equipped for about fifteen. We managed to bag a few mattresses and set ourselves up on the corner of the khonde. Throughout the evening more and more walkers seemed to arrive, unfortunately many of these latecomers were members of the Mountaineering Society and they have priority for mattresses so we had to give them up. I thought I wouldn't sleep if I was cold, so without anything to go underneath me I moved indoors to the room with a fire. Kirren and I ended up sleeping on a sort of a shelf a couple of feet wide as the floor seemed pretty cold. I think it was a good move, but it was very hard and uncomfortable! We shared the room with a group of volunteers from a German NGO who are placed all over the country but meet up every now and again for social weekends. They had been walking on the plateau for a couple of days. The other three preferred to stay on the khonde, feeling that it was worth being cold to sleep under the stars, but I could not agree! The stars were fabulous though. It was so dark up there. No electricity, and more stars than I have ever seen anywhere else. We cooked supper of pasta, creamed sweetcorn and baked beans on an open fire and with a bit of David's extra hot chilli sauce it was delicious! David was a star; far more practiced at organizing food outdoors in pitch darkness than any of the rest of us!

In the morning we were up early and on the road again. David, Alan and Emanuel to climb the peak before coming down again, and Kirren, Francoise and I to come slowly down the skyline path with Alex and Henderson, taking our time, admiring the views and in my case taking photos of the views and the flowers. At the bottom we swam in the Likubula pools before setting off to wait for the men in the handy pizza restaurant in Mulange town. What a great way to spend a Bank Holiday!

When we had almost got back to the beginning we emerged from a path onto the road through the forest to find about ten women, each with a huge bundle of wood, stopped on the road. Apparently a Government Official was charging them MK20 each to use the road to carry their bundles of wood from the forest to their homes. Our guides said if they did not pay they would have to leave their wood behind. He said that sometimes the officials confiscate the pangas and axes until the tax is paid and this means that the livelihood of these women is taken away. We found MK200 and gave it to Alex who went and negotiated with the official on behalf of the women. I recognize that this is a complicated situation, but I don't understand how, if harvesting the wood is illegal, the Government can charge a tax for carrying it down the road.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

First Diploma achieved!

I am learning a lot about my students from reading their reflective diaries. I am also learning a lot about how to teach, or more accurately how not to teach students the reflective process! I think we in the UK are probably encouraged as we grow up to think about what we are doing and be self-critical without feeling that we have failed. Simply we search for ways of doing things better next time without actually feeling that we were a terrible failure this time! As I understand it in Chichewa there is no way of saying that something was not perfect, without saying it was a failure. David and I discovered very early on that our students were very ready to describe children as having failed at something. This is not terminology we would ever use in Early Years' settings at home and we were very uncomfortable with it. When I think about it, I still am uncomfortable, but I have got used to hearing it and I do not always challenge it every time in the way that I used to do. I really think that the culture has a different way of looking at success and failure and that I haven't fully understood it yet. I think that constantly being told that one has failed cannot be good for confidence however, and without self-confidence it is difficult to be effectively self-critical. Students do not seem to have difficulty in describing things that have gone wrong, but even more than in our own culture here in Malawi it seems to be necessary to find someone to blame for what has happened. We have tried to encourage students to use the headings; observation, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusions, action plan to think about events that happen at work in the CC and work out as a result of what has happened, how to improve outcomes for the children next time, or how to be a better practitioner in a similar situation next time it should happen. When I have done this with students in England the feelings described are often detailed. Words like angry, frustrated, sympathetic, compassionate, proud, excited, disappointed and isolated are used. Here in Malawi it is an unusual student who ever says anything beyond 'I felt happy' or occasionally 'I felt sad'. This means it is harder to move on to analyzing why they felt as they did and then it is much more difficult to evaluate what is going on and then work out what could be done to improve things this time and do it differently, and better next time. I have read several diaries where students have had very negative reactions to what has happened, can say that they felt bad but can only analyse this in terms of what some other bugger should have done differently. Taking responsibility for putting things right or doing them differently themselves seems to be an alien concept!

Yesterday was a red-letter day for me because the first of our students completed the necessary number of tasks (recently reduced you will remember) to achieve the Beehive Diploma in Child Care and Early Years Education. There are three or four more who are not far behind her. This has made me feel really good. I was beginning to feel that no one would ever get there and we would return to England without seeing anyone complete the course.

David, Kirren and I are assessing practical tasks at every possible moment at the moment. I can see now that I was a bit over ambitious in expecting us to be able to keep up a pace of assessing six tasks a day each. Although I have on one or two memorable days managed to do ten, it is a huge amount of work and to do it conscientiously and give the students high quality feedback takes at least an hour per task. It is only Wednesday and David has already done 19 this week. I am trailing him at 14 because I have been at the dentist again. I now have a shiny white crown. Let's hope it stays in place and I have no more trouble with teeth for a very long time! We continue to see quite a lot of mediocre activities, which do offer the children learning opportunities, but are not particularly interesting or original, but we see more than a few which are really good. I had a student today who was supposed to show me that he knew how to make an accurate assessment of the risks involved in an activity with children and put measures in place to make it safe. Generally speaking I have been disappointed in these activities as it seems to me students have made a lot of fuss about pointing out very minor risks. Not today however. The children in the 4-5s class love riding tricycles. Even in England most children do, but I do not think we have a single child in this class who has a trike of his or her own. When we introduced them they all had to learn to pedal, not that it took them long! They love to go really fast but when we ride indoors particularly we have to slow them down to prevent crashes and spills. Moses devised a way to have a sort of mini tricycle grand prix in the Eagles Room this afternoon and it really was great fun. There were only 8 children in today. He marked out a track with beech wood blocks around the central pillar in the classroom, brought in extra Care Givers to stand in front of danger points such as the floor-level windows and the pillar itself and then got the children to race four at a time round and round the track. They were all going in the same direction and there was just about room for safe overtaking. The four children not riding were encouraged to cheer for their friends and we really kicked up a cacophony! I was heartened to note that every child was cheered on by somebody. It was quite difficult to keep track of who were the winners as children kept lapping each other, but everyone got the chance to ride at speed. The spectators were jumping up and down, applauding and shouting and the competitors were pedaling fit to bust. Everyone had a go in both roles, and the safety measures really worked, no crashes and no accidents!

I could have cried with pride yesterday afternoon as I observed Tamara lead an activity designed to demonstrate fostering creativity in babies. She had set up no less than seven separate child initiated activities on the balcony. Then she simply said to the children when lunch was over, 'Let's go and look at what there is to do on the balcony.' There was a tray of charcoal from a rocket stove. There was a small tub of flour presented with plastic cups and plates. There was a tray of runny red paint with sponges, thicker blue paint with cars and corn cobs in it, pots of paint with brushes, a variety of shapes and colours of paper, little clay animals to be painted, a sand tray with little pots and pans, and a tub of water containing little toys, bits of orange peel and ice blocks. The babies played for ages. Tamara, who is 8 months pregnant and could be forgiven for taking things easy, spent the whole time crouched in a flat footed squat to be on the same level as the children, watching them quietly, responding to their questions and comments, keeping an eye out for their safety and offering help if requested. The whole thing was a delight to see.

I even saw a hand-washing activity that warmed my heart yesterday. The hygiene task is one that I will revise if we ever do run the course through another time. David and I are utterly tired of seeing children be taught how to wash their hands properly. On this occasion however Anastasia decided to do the job in the garden. She began by encouraging the children to make sand castles with a fairly grubby mixture of sand and mud. She didn't mention washing until one of the children held out her hands and asked to go and wash. Then she showed the children a whole routine involving rinsing off the mud over the grass and then washing thoroughly with soap at the outdoor sink. She had even brought down individual flannels for the children to dry themselves thoroughly. Excellent.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Primarily a teacher again – Hoorah!

The weeks are flashing by now. So much to do, and so little time! However this project is so much bigger than any individual connected with it and even if I got on a plane this afternoon and gave no more thought to hand over, and continuity for the children, it would go on and flourish, be good for the children and continue to influence lives for the better. This week I have really enjoyed going back towards being more or less a full time teacher. It's such a relief to hand over management responsibility to someone who actually came here to do that job, and who clearly has the necessary talent and capability to do it well. Of course David and I are not just dumping everything in Alison's lap and running away, but it is a joy to see her spending time learning how we have been doing things and getting to know the key people in our team. How lucky we have been that we have this six week period of overlap so that we can support her to build on what we have done. So often the needs of individual volunteers mean that such timing is impossible, but the benefit to the project is immeasurable and where it can be arranged it should be, I feel. So many times people's work is wasted because no one knows what they have done.

The students have been delighted about the changes we made to the practical part of the Diploma last week. For a very few it means that they have only one or two tasks left to do and then their Diploma will be completed. The rush is on to be the first! Everyone has been encouraged. Students have stopped me to say how much they love me this week! Such is the power of being able to reduce workload I suppose. I know it is cupboard-love, but it feels good just the same! We have tackled head on the problem of assessment priorities taking over from preparing the best for the children. I have typed a little homily for the notice board which I tried hard to make positive and not nagging. I was encouraged when I ran it past Kirren to hear her say she thought it was inspirational, so I pinned it up! We shall see. I have a secret horror of communicating with my team through officious little notices, but because of all the part-time jobs and the distances people travel to work with us it is impossible to get the whole team together. The staff notice board is therefore a very important mode of communication. Some people are excellent about reading it every morning, others are less good I fear.

It is lovely to be out on the floor almost all day watching students working with children. I am helping the baby room staff to look at systems of planning for individual children in the room and the two Room Leaders are thinking hard about how to make it work. We are using a lot of post-it notes, so if anyone knows a source of free post-its that could be put on a container in Abbotts Bromley and sent to Malawi please let George know. Talking of resources, I am not sure if I have ever written about all the multitude of uses to which we have put the several boxes of obsolete computer paper donated by Dairy Crest. I could write a whole blog entry or magazine article about this. However the last box is now empty and we are missing it so much! If your company has such a thing mouldering in the back of a cupboard get that to Abbotts Bromley too. I can promise you the CC will make good use of it, or indeed any other useful plain paper.

One student tackled the 'Nutrition' task this week. She made a meal with six five-year olds which contained all the six food groups described by the Malawian Government's classification of foods which is designed to be a straightforward way of helping parents to understand what a balanced diet really is. Aida's meal contained spaghetti, a staple food; eggs, an animal food; tomatoes and avocados, fruits and vegetables (well both fruits actually, but the thought was there!); and cooking oil, oils and fats. The only thing that was missing was nuts and pulses, but she brought some dried beans to show the children and talked about the value to their bodies of eating these too, so she certainly covered everything. I have watched several ball games designed to support the development of gross motor skills and a variety of arty activities supposed to show me how to support the development of creativity in young children. Some were better than others! I have been heartened to note how much better the relationships between students and children have become over the four months since we opened. I am acutely aware of the debt we owe to the Room Leaders who demonstrated such good practice. I wish so much they could have stayed longer. Tamara led a musical activity in the baby room of which any early years practitioner in the world could have been proud. She chose a milestone from the Social and Emotional Domain of the Malawian ECD Curriculum concerned with 'developing a sense of self' and built upon the babies' familiar morning routine of songs and rhymes introducing a finger rhyme which deals with the place of babies in families and a new song using each child's name individually. Children were encouraged to choose their own chitenje from a heap of bright cloth in the middle of the circle and their own photograph from the photo cards they use for self-registration in the mornings when they arrive. The children's zitenje are so important to them. They are so much a part of their young lives. They are used to tie the babies to their mother's backs, one rarely sees push chairs in Malawi. They are spread on the ground for babies to sit out of the dust. They are used to cover a sleeping child. They are used to wipe noses and to clean little fingers. Above all they smell of mum and are a comfort object.

Of course we are far from providing a perfect early years curriculum. I left Tamara's assessment to pass the Toddler Room and hear the chanting of 'Calendar, calendar, I know my calendar; January, February, March…etc'. Oh dear! Rote learning at its worst! The children have no idea what these English words mean. They are only 2-3 years old in this room and the chanting was vigourous. They know the words, but context is there none! Ho hum! Back to the drawing board!

Blessings, a leader in the 3-4s, and a really promising student, is planning to make a garden in some tyres and grow some vegetables with her class. She asked me for a large tyre and I was able simply to pull out my mobile and call Dereck, the chief mechanic for Torrent Plant Hire, one of the Beehive group of companies. Alison called her husband Jason who is a foreman on the site and asked for four wheelbarrow loads of topsoil, and the project was begun. I think that the tyre must have arrived as yesterday (Saturday) I had a text from Blessings: Please could I help her cut the tyre in half as it is too deep for the children to be able to reach to garden! It must be off a big truck or a JCB or something. Now who do I need to come and slice a huge tyre in half? A welder? I guess that's a job for Monday morning……

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Labour day

The sun has been shining today, the sky was clear and blue. It has not rained for about three weeks, so I think it can safely be said that the rainy season is over. Everything is still fairly green and lush but tinges of gold and russet are creeping in to the landscape and it will not be long before there is a lot of bare terracotta earth. The hedgerows are bright gold with sunflowers. Every morning there is more brown and yellow and less green, but the change is pang'ono, pang'ono, bit by bit.

It is less than six weeks now until I must leave it all behind and fly back to England. There I shall be with family again. I shall pick up relationships with good friends. I shall begin to try to sell my house. I shall pick up my dissertation again and start to look for a job. Such big changes, and so much to miss! I shall miss the students I have been working with for 18 months. I shall miss their enthusiasm for learning. I shall miss the misunderstandings which arise from coming from such very different cultures and the laughter, frustration, irritation and delight that come from sorting them out. I shall miss the view from my khonde of Sanjika mountain where I watch the daily changes in crops, colour and movement of people as I take my breakfast , usually in the sunshine. I shall miss the constantly changing population at Mitsidi where living and working together with the same people leads to intensified relationships which can be positive or negative, but which rarely have the opportunity to develop beyond six months. I shall miss the speedy change from dark to light early in the morning and from light to dark around six pm. I shall miss the children in the Children's Centre and the singing that comes through the ceiling of the office each morning as each class goes through their morning welcome routine. The babies sing 'Moni Blessings, mwadzuka, bwanje….', once through for each child in the class, and now that there are 14 of them it takes a while! I hear 'Good day, good day to you…..', we get the Malawian National Anthem, and 'Twinkle, twinkle little star' seems to be a favourite with every class! I am sure there is not another nursery in the world with quite the same combination of music and sounds. I shall miss the formal politeness of Malawian greetings and the slow pace of life that means that everyone has time to smile at and shake hands with all their colleagues. I shall miss power cuts. I know I shall notice how cold the water is in British taps. I shall miss hot sun, and torrential, tropical rain. I have grown to like some Malawian foods that are not common at home, things like okra and pumpkin, lots of green leafy vegetables, chambo and chips. I have to admit that I will not really miss nsima. I have been quite unable to persuade myself to enjoy it.

Diddy and Dereck had a party today to celebrate moving into their new house in Fargo, one of the smarter parts of Chilomoni. They had gone to a lot of trouble. Charles was recruited to manage the barbeque and we all made salads and bread and so on to contribute to the feast. There was a good mixture of people, volunteers, workers from all parts of Beehive, members of Dereck's family and friends from the Liquor Garden and other places. The music was loud, cheerful and African. Diddy gave us a guided tour of their home and we admired the bright curtains and other touches that made it their own. It was good to be with so many people enjoying themselves together, but after a few hours I was overcome by a feeling of, I'm not sure what? Loss? Sadness? Panic? It felt as if in an impossibly short time this would all be a part of my history. Today it was real and vibrant, but in six weeks it will be the other side of the world. I left earlier than most and walked back alone to Mitsidi, only about 20 minutes away. One of my students caught up with me and walked part of the way with me. Her kindness and support was so lovely.

Today was Labour day and therefore a Bank Holiday. David said that he cannot get used to midweek public holidays, and I know what he means. It feels odd to have a day off on a Tuesday. David, Kirren and I went in to the CC this morning despite the holiday. We wanted to have a good look at the number of assessments we have managed to get the students through, and the number we have left, and to work out the best way to get as many people as possible through their Diplomas as we can in the time available. When we planned it last year we had no idea that we would have to be managing the centre as well, and certainly no idea how much time the running of the centre would take. We knew that we had not managed to keep up with our target number of 6 assessments per day each to get them all through by the end of May. We have truly done our best, and I do not think we could have done more without more people. It is with some reluctance on my part that we have decided to reduce the total number of practical tasks that each student has to complete to gain the Diploma. This was a suggestion of Vince's a couple of months ago, and I resisted it at first, feeling that this part of the course should cover the same range of subjects as the theoretical part. However we must be pragmatic and if we stick to plan A it is doubtful whether more than a handful will complete before we go home, or indeed by the time Kirren is due to finish. So we have come up with plan B! We have rejigged the assessment timetables and reduced the number of optional tasks the students need to do to 7. They still have to do all 8 of the compulsory tasks. This helps also with another thing that has been concerning me. It feels as though a significant minority of the students is more concerned with passing their practical tasks than with the quality of care that the children receive. In our feedback we have found it necessary to remind students that activities should be based upon the observed needs of children and not simply on the need to pass an assessment on a particular topic. The pressure of time has taken its toll on us all I suppose. Any way this difficulty also will be eased by reducing the volume of the whole process and I do believe that taking the pressure off a bit will have a good effect upon the children. This has to be a good thing. It is both refreshing and a huge responsibility to have this degree of control over a qualification. I guess that all new courses must be piloted, tweaked and adapted before the final version is arrived at. I have just never been involved in the process before. I still feel that we have made a good course and given the students enough opportunity to practice their skills and build on the theory they have learned. The children in the CC will be experiencing a quality of early years' education that has previously just not been available to families without money, and that is probably achievement enough for me!