Childhood practitioners can deliver a significant impact on early years

Written by Dr. Cara Blaisdell​ on 22 May 2017 in Comment

Those learning new childhood practice qualifications can deliver of Curriculum for Excellence and need solidarity from teachers, writes Dr. Cara Blaisdell 

Nursery - credit Mary MacTavish

I was disappointed to read comments in the ‘Early years expansion-quantity or quality?’ article [Holyrood's Education supplement] about childhood practitioners - comments that diminish their role in the early years workforce, as compared to teachers.

For example, it is suggested that children are in danger of being ‘de-skilled’ by contact with ‘unqualified adults’ who fail to recognise the importance of wider life skills such as using scissors or putting on coats.

Along with my colleagues who work on BA Childhood Practice programmes, I take issue with these statements about practitioners.


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The idea that Childhood Practice is a managerial degree, without the educational element, is incorrect.

Childhood Practice requires learning about education and pedagogy, as expressed in section six of the Standard for Childhood Practice: “Managers/lead practitioners have a critical understanding of concepts and theories of curriculum and pedagogy,” it says.

“They have knowledge and understanding of concepts of curriculum; factors that drive the learning of children and young people; the settings in which children and young people learn; concepts of wellbeing, communication and creativity, inquiry and curiosity as determinants of effective learning on the part of children and young people; and circumstances and events conducive to effective learning.”

They must also understand “the developmental process in the delivery of specific concepts; the role of rest in ensuring that children and young people have the necessary energy and motivation to participate in play and creative engagement; and how play opportunities can be maximised to enhance the learning process.”

Most Childhood Practice students will also have learned about Curriculum for Excellence and pedagogical theory during previous study (HNC, PDA etc).

The SSSC-funded ‘Taking the First Steps’ project indicated that qualifications in the field of childhood practice have active learning, creative, and outdoor pedagogy at their heart and that the BACP makes a significant impact on professional learning in relation to pedagogy and curriculum. 

Pedagogy and curriculum are key areas of ELC where teachers and practitioners can learn from and with each other.

However, teachers could also do more to stand in solidarity with practitioners, and to recognize and value their experience and expertise. Practitioners face striking disparities in pay, working conditions, and overall respect as compared to teachers.

In early learning and childcare (ELC), if we are to avoid reproducing the same social hierarchies that we are supposedly combatting, we need to analyse and be reflexive about our own assumptions and biases.

For those of us who work in ELC, the expansion to 1140 hours is a key time to re-envision how we think about the purpose of ELC, examine our beliefs about young children as fellow human beings, and crucially, to consider how we might challenge the hierarchies that divide our profession.

Dr. Cara Blaisdell​ is lecturer in Early Years Education at the University of Strathclyde. See her speak at Holyrood's early years workforce event.

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