Name: Jean Carwood-Edwards
Company: Early Years Scotland
Telephone: 0141 221 4148
Early Years Scotland
With a diary packed with Early Years engagements including consultation sessions with Government Ministers, keynote speeches to international conferences, and increased membership and services across the country, it’s fair to say the future of Scotland’s next generation is in safe hands!
Jean Carwood-Edwards heads up Early Years Scotland (EYS), the country’s only specialist national organisation dedicated to supporting Scotland’s youngest children. Jean’s been in post since 2013 and heads up a 50 strong team of fully qualified early years specialists, operating all across Scotland. As well as offering constantly updated information, training and support to its membership which includes local authority, voluntary and private nurseries and Parent and Toddler Groups throughout Scotland, the organisation also offers membership to Universities and Colleges as well as individual practitioners and students training for a career in the sector.
Having spent her entire career in the early years arena as an educator, policy influencer and expert consultant, now as CEO, Jean’s overriding ambition for EYS is to see the hugely topical and crucial ‘attainment gap’ reduced, thus ensuring that all Scottish children have the best possible start in life…regardless of their circumstances.
Jean notes; “We focus exclusively on Scotland’s children from birth to the age of 5, so work with early years’ specialists and increasingly young children and their parents to ensure children’s early learning and development potential is fulfilled to the maximum. With families, predominantly those experiencing disadvantage, this includes sessions where fully qualified members of our team are on hand to help children and parents play and interact positively through reading stories, playing with toys and singing songs. We encourage parents to incorporate these activities into home-life to try and ensure the children involved are fully supported and engaged during this crucially important period which underpins their future development. This may seem fundamental, however, many of today’s parents didn’t have the best start in life themselves, so it is vital to break the cycle now.”
Another area in which Jean and her team are making a huge difference is within the prison sector. Since 2012, EYS has increasingly been working in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service initially with HMP Dumfries, then adding HMPs Low Moss & Grampian and more recently, HMPs Barlinnie and Castle Huntly, as a result of funding from Big Lottery, Scottish Government, Aberdeen City and Aberdeen Drugs and Alcohol Partnership.
Jean comments; “It is scientifically proven that bonding and thereafter maintaining a relationship with parents is vital to a child’s development, so, youngsters with a parent in prison are hugely disadvantaged. Coupled with this is the fact that research indicates that prisoners who are able to spend meaningful time with their children during incarceration, thereby fostering strong relationships, are less likely to want to re-offend as they realise they have so much to lose if they return to prison.”
Recently, in partnership with Families Outside and HMP Barlinnie, EYS led the early years sector’s first ever prison-based training session at HMP Barlinnie to give early years specialists an understanding of how it must feel for young children visiting a parent in prison. Jean adds; “We are now receiving a growing number of requests for our services from other Scottish Prisons, so are seeking to secure additional funding to allow us to work with more young children of prisoners in other parts of the country.”
Jean is an expert in her field because she is a constant researcher into early years practice, often
looking to see what can be shared with and learned from other countries. And as one of the country’s most informed early years’ individuals, Jean is regularly called upon by the Scottish Government to inform, consult and challenge in order that the best policies can be adopted for the nation’s youngest. However, she heeds the words of her own personal hero, Professor Jerome Bruner, the American psychologist and educationalist who made significant contributions to early years thinking and cognitive learning theory.
Jean concludes; “To paraphrase Prof Bruner, “Education does not stand alone…it exists in a culture” so whilst there is much to learn from other countries, if we are to achieve transformational change for all of our youngest children, we need to deliver a Scottish solution that best fits our own unique set of circumstances.”
To find out more, visit their website earlyyearsscotland.org