Quality and Leadership in the Early Years: Research, Theory and Practice

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Verity Campbell-Barr & Caroline Leeson

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    Acknowledgments

    We would like to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of the four practitioners – Cheryl, Jacky, Sandra and Sue – whose work in their settings is inspiring. Our time spent together in discussion and debate was uplifting and instructive with lots of opportunity to learn from each other.

    We would also like to thank Amy Jarrold for her support and commitment to our project and her encouraging comments throughout the writing process.

    Last, but by no means least, we wish to thank our families: Matt and Reuben, and Ian, Rob and Josh, who provide the important grounding for all the work we do.

    About the Authors

    Verity Campbell-Barr is a lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at Plymouth University where she teachers on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. She has extensive research experience in early childhood education and care (ECEC) policy, considering concepts of value for money, the reliance on the market in services provision and the role of ECEC in welfare-to-work reforms. Her core interest lies in the quality of ECEC services and particularly the role of the workforce in delivering quality provision. She has recently completed research on the quality of early years services for 2-year-olds in England and a European project on the attitudinal competences advocated for early childhood practitioners. She is about to embark on a research project to explore the knowledge, skills and attitudes required of ECEC practitioners across Europe within the context of the quality of provision. Her research experience and time spent in practice make her a true believer in the need for the voice of ECEC practitioners as the true experts in policy formation.

    Caroline Leeson is an associate professor in Early Childhood Studies at Plymouth University. She has particular interests in the welfare of looked-after children, children’s centre leadership and reflective practice and enjoys working with students towards their goal of being strong advocates for young children and their families. Her research interests are in social justice; children with a parent in prison; children who go missing and/or are vulnerable to sexual exploitation; and the involvement of children in decision-making processes. She is also active in researching the articulation of leadership in early years settings. Before working in higher education, she was a social worker in child protection, fostering and adoption and the leader of a family centre for a period of time. This experience proved particularly profound as she learnt the importance of communication, collaboration and the joy of spending time in the home corner making stone soup.

  • Glossary

    Term

    Overview

    Accountability

    Accountability requires a person or an institution to be answerable for their actions, decisions or comments. Explicit accountability asks that the level of answerability is open and transparent, understood by all rather than assumed or implied.

    Discourse

    Discourse represents a way of viewing, thinking and speaking about the social world. The way of speaking and thinking looks to normalise behaviour. The normalisation process means that bias and subjectivities become hidden. In the example of politics, discourses conceal assumptions and render political objectives and ideologies invisible.

    Educare

    Educare represents the combining of education and childcare to represent those who work in early years services as concerned with both the education and care of young children.

    Emotionology

    Emotionology explores the links between our thoughts and our emotions and how that linking informs or drives our subsequent behaviour.

    Human capital theory

    Human capital is an economic theory that represents how education is an investment in an individual’s knowledge, skills and other attributes. The knowledge, skills and other attributes are embodied and can be utilised in labour (paid employment) for economic gain.

    Managerialism

    Managerialism has become a global term for hierarchical and measurable decision-making processes that produce outcomes with a lack of consideration as to the impact on or implications for the individuals concerned. It is argued that managerialism is one-dimensional, anti-democratic and authoritarian (Klikauer, 2013).

    Modernity

    Modernity reflects a period in history, but also a set of socio-cultural norms that privilege a rational, objective, empirical (scientific) view of the world. Social life is regarded as structural and ordered.

    Neo-liberal government

    Neo-liberal governments are those that have moved away from a system of the state (the government) providing services to a system of a free-market economy. Under a free-market economy, privatisation is favoured as a means for governments to reduce the level of monies they are required to spend on services.

    Panoptic gaze

    The panoptic gaze represents the notion of an overseer (e.g. an individual, organisation or government) who looks to control and monitor social life. The gaze acts as a form of social control whereby individuals conform as they feel as if they are being watched.

    Paradigm

    A paradigm is an agreed world view, underlying theory(ies); it is an understanding of how something might be regarded.

    Post-structuralism

    Post-structuralism challenges the notion of the rational and coherent knowledge that is present in modernist approaches. It is a critical theory that highlights the complexities of human life rather than assume that it is rational and structural, as per modernity.

    Process quality

    Process quality relates to the experience of the child, such as adult–child interactions, parent relationships, the learning experiences of children, etc.

    Social agency

    Social agency is the ability of individuals to make free choices. It is the ability to act on one’s will. However, many structural features in society such as social class, age and gender can all limit how free an individual’s choice is.

    Social investment

    Broadly speaking, social investment is about investing in people. Governments seek to invest economic monies to achieve predetermined economic and social goals. Examples include education and health care.

    Structural quality

    Structural features of quality relate to things such as ratios, qualification levels of staff, furniture, square footage required for each child, etc. and are often regarded as those features that can be measured.

    Supranational organisation

    Supranational refers to those organisations whose scope extends beyond any one country. Examples include the World Bank, the OECD, Unicef and the EU. There are variations in the function of different supranational organisations, but in essence they look to secure international co-operation between countries.

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