ECSDN Research Conference Pages


Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic we decided to continue with our Research Conference but to host it online, which has made it more accessible to so many. We also split the presentations and keynotes up into morning sessions and we recorded them so they could be viewed widely.

The recording presentations we have shared below are from the first of our mini conferences and we proud to share them.

Please feel free to download the Conference Abstract book from the button to the right.

Keynote 1: Dr Carla Solvason
Bringing the Early Years Expert out of the Shadows

Dr Carla Solvason joined the University of Worcester twelve years ago, following roles as a primary school teacher, researcher and advisor for a children’s communication charity. Over the last decade Carla has published widely in the field of ethics, considering its positioning both within research and early years professionalism.

Carla is currently developing a book with her colleague Rebecca Webb, of the University of Sussex, which explores the concept of the Early Childhood Professional being so much more than they are traditionally perceived to be. This emerges from research carried out for TACTYC involving over 100 maintained nursery schools in 2019 across the South West and Midlands areas of England.


Angela is studying for a part-time Doctorate in Education (EdD) at Bishop Grossteste University in Lincoln. Angela currently works within the primary teacher training department within the university but has always held a passion for all things ‘Early Years’ and related concepts and ideas. After initially working as a primary school teacher, Angela worked for a local authority and led assessment moderation events for Reception teachers and the assessments they complete at the end of the Reception year. It was during this time that the idea for her research emerged-such a lot of evidence being brought to meetings to discuss what children knew/could do! What could be the reasons behind this? As her research focus,

Angela is exploring the perceptions of Reception teachers regarding what they consider to be the main influences on their assessment practice across the academic year.

Jane Dorrian started her career as a nursery schoolteacher in the south Wales valleys. Following a secondment as an advisory teacher for early years she began her HE career as a lecturer in early years education at University of Wales, Newport before moving to Cardiff Metropolitan University where she led the early years education programmes.

Her doctoral thesis looked at the professional identity of early years practitioners and she currently works as a staff tutor at the Open University.

Rachael currently works as an Early Years Advisor for a local authority supporting providers who work with children aged 0-5years. She draws upon her professional relationships with key partners and institutions across education, health and early intervention to ensure young children receive responsive education and care suited to local needs, and sector professionals have access to continual, research informed development opportunities. Rachael has a particular interest in children’s well-being and relational pedagogy which has recently led to the implementation of a multi-disciplinary approach to trauma informed practice. Prior to working as an Advisor, Rachael worked in senior leadership and teaching roles in early years in primary schools, working with vulnerable families in challenging circumstances.

Keynote 2: Dr Sharon Colilles
The Birth to 5 Matters Project: Research-Informed Practice

Dr Sharon Colilles is an early years consultant and trainer with expertise in early childhood education, learning and development. As an owner/operator of a private day setting she has extensive experience across the early years sector from her work with children and their families, local authorities, and government departments. She has worked with individuals as an assessor for the award of Early Years Teacher status, as well as advising on the External Reference Group for the 2012 review of the Early Years Professional Standards.

As a senior academic, Sharon lead on the BA (Hons) Early Years with Enterprise course, as well as teaching on QTS courses, Early Years Teacher status and MA programmes. Informed by her PhD research Sharon provides training and consultancy that is particularly concerned with participatory pedagogies and their part in developing children’s ethnic and cultural learning and development through play – especially learning and development informed by child-led perspectives.

She is currently Project Assistant for the Early Years Coalition’s development of non-statutory guidance for the EYFS, Birth to Five Matters.


The study aims to critically analyse the development of the anthropological and ethnographical studies on games, play and toys. Using Vidich and Lyman (2000) model to understand the history of ethnography, the study examined the production of academic literature in the English, French, Italian and Spanish speaking languages.

Early ethnography held the underlying assumptions that cultures were an evolutionary process in which white people of the US and the UK were the most civilised; the rest of the world was primitive (Vidich and Lyman, 2000). As we shall see, anthropology and its focus on play evolved as this view died out. With the introduction of philosophical notions such as phenomenology and hermeneutics, the study of play required to include players’ points of views. Other cultures were understood as different symbolic arenas that did not need to be classified in the original evolutionary sense.

The study finishes with the post-modern views of other cultures on the West. The general reflection calls for the use of intercultural studies to facilitate a less colonised way to understand and use play and questions whether currently, professionals have the training, the tools and the time to understand the characteristics of the multicultural societies.

My journey to the world of Early Years Education has been relatively long but filled with lot of life-experiences which hopefully enable me to bring an interesting perspective to the profession.

In January 2011, I left behind a success career in secondary education to fulfil my childhood dream of training to be a Children’s Nurse. Upon completion of my degree, I initially working as a Staff Nurse at the Bristol Children’s Hospital but then chose to focus on supporting families within the community and returned to university to complete a Specialist Community Public Health Nursing (Health Visiting) training. Following this, I worked in Somerset as a Health Visitor. I have always enjoyed mentoring and supporting students and decided to return to the education environment in 2016, working as an Assessor/Trainer with Health and Social Care Apprentices at Bath College. In May 2017 I joined Norland College where I am a Lecturer in Early Years. Not surprisingly, I am interested in health – public health in particular and enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with students. I am studying for my MA in Education: Early Childhood Studies on a part-time basis at Bath Spa University. When not preparing lectures, marking, or working on my dissertation about the lived experiences of being a grandparent, I enjoy walking in the Mendips where I live and, when possible, spending time with my family.