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Standing on the shoulders of Giants - 40 years of TACTYC: A conference overview

Standing on the shoulders of Giants - 40 years of TACTYC: A conference overview

Within five minutes of arriving at the TACTYC Conference on Friday I was aware of how much experience, knowledge and passion was in the room. As Janet Moyles said “here are the giants of early years education, upon whose shoulders we all stand today”.


TACTYC began with a letter sent out in November 1978 to teachers of early childhood studies across the UK. It has grown into an extraordinary family of researchers, lobbyists and consultants. It came as no surprise to find out that the first professors in education in the UK came out of TACTYC. At the conference, sitting alongside a panel of six other experienced experts, Lesley Abbott told us about the beginning of TACTYC, where the founding call came because of isolation and the feeling that “the early years person is fighting a lone battle”.

Do we still feel like that today? Organisations like TACTYC enable us practitioners to come together, to research, to share practice and negate the isolation. For us, the giants of early years (who between them are professors, inspectors, authors, advisors) at TACTYC had some very clear messages for us;

Rosemary Peacocke : “You must get yourself known. Everyone has a responsibility, so it’s important to lobby more”.

Colin Richards “5-7 year olds should not be part of the National Curriculum - the National Curriculum needs to start at 7 years of age. Every child STILL matters.”

Marian Whitehead - “There is the need for research at the heart of early years”

Pat Broadhead - “You’re not allowed to give up… there is an imperative to bring the language of play into policy documents”


“Play IS rocket science and to understand it from the learners perspective is a complicated business”

Pat Broadhead

Mary Cox: “We need to use everything in our power to make change” “TACTYC used every tactic possible to get their way.” and that we should remember is “our job to make sure the learning happens, not that teaching is delivered”

Tricia David: “Let’s be subversive in early years” “In 1851 Froebel was asked to stop educating Early Years Practitioners because it was making children thoughtful. We must not stop this today.”

Practitioner voice is so needed. And I am very glad to be broadening my membership of organisations who are advocating for evidence-led policies and practice, including TACTYC.

If you are feeling dispirited today then hear the trumpet call at the end of the conference was

“Please, please, please don’t give up the fight.”

Janet Moyles.

TACTYC made it very clear what we are fighting for. The research presented at the conference highlighted the push from government on formalised learning in early years continues to impact negatively.

“The policy context remains because practitioners don’t challenge what is happening. Their voice is not making change”

Mary Dyer

This was also echoed by Julies Fishers keynote speech. The message we give to children when they experience a non-play based education after reception is:

“You can’t play anymore because now you need to move on to the things that I, the adult, think you need to learn, the way I want you to learn it”

Julie Fisher

Testing our youngest children:

“misunderstands and misrepresents children. There is a language of deficit applied to them from as young as four”

Martina Street

It felt very exciting and motivating to be a part of the celebration of 40 years of an organisation that promotes and advocates the highest quality professional development for all early years educators. It was edifying to be able to add my own thoughts and research into that mix through a discussion forum on dance improvisation and quality interactions..


If I was ever in doubt of the child-led and playful pedagogic approach I use through dance in early years, this conference has sealed my fate forever. The call for us practitioners is not only to push forward great practice based on how we KNOW children learn it’s also to dig deep in to the why’s, to advocate, lobby, and to never give up.

TACTYC is indeed an extraordinary family. Generous, professional and inclusive. Join if you can, go to their conferences. You won’t regret it.

Liz Clark is a dance artist, Artistic Director of Turned On Its Head

Associate Artist Early Years People Dancing

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