Implementing Quality Improvement and Change in the Early Years


Edited by: Michael Reed & Natalie Canning

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  • Back Matter
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    This book is for Clare, Rachel, Joshua, Jacob, Molly, Olivia Grace, Pujaah, Simaren, Tess, Oliver, Christopher, Sian, Cassie, Caoimhe, Faolan, Phoebe, Dan, Jake, Jesse and children everywhere

    List of Tables and Figures

    • 4.1 – Defining reflective practice 58
    • 11.1 – The research process 177
    • 1.1 – Evaluating practice to identify quality 10
    • 1.2 – The ‘cogs’ of reflection to support quality improvement 11
    • 1.3 – Using interrelated skills to support a quality process 12
    • 3.1 – Towards integrated working: contributing factors 43
    • 4.1 – Weave of professional qualities and external factors 64
    • 5.1 – Cultivating the roots of quality play 79
    • 5.2 – The quality play tree 88
    • 6.1 – Olivia's exposure to increasingly familiar technologies 97
    • 6.2 – Olivia's journey to understanding a TV remote control 98
    • 6.3 – Olivia's digital landscape at 12 weeks old 100
    • 6.4 – How Olivia would currently meet technology at her local pre-school 101
    • 6.5 – A collective view of quality and resultant initiatives 103
    • 7.1 – The inter-relationship between children and practitioners 113
    • 7.2 – Components of creativity 119
    • 8.1 – Some of the benefits of supervision in safeguarding children 133
    • 9.1 – Models of leadership 143
    • 9.2 – Catalytic leadership 151
    • 11.1 – Reflections on a new collaboration 179
    • 11.2 – Professional practice consultants' reflections 180


    This book would not have been possible without the valuable contributions from individuals and groups who have taken part in research and been critical readers for chapters. In particular we would like to thank all the inspirational Early Years Professionals and the students from the BA and Foundation Degree in Early Years at the University of Worcester who have helped shape the views expressed in various chapters through their stimulating discussion and reflection on practice.

    We also thank colleagues from local authorities and members of the Birmingham Early Years and Childcare Team, partner agencies and childcare providers for their expertise and advice, and Professor Etienne Wenger who allowed his workshop materials to be shared. Particular thanks go to Karen Hanson for her support and Karen Campbell, Jo McLellan, Sue Podmore and Elaine Redding for help with critical reading. Finally, we would like to thank Alex Molineux and Jude Bowen at Sage for their advice and support.

    About the Editors and Contributors


    Michael Reed is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Early Childhood, within the Institute of Education at the University of Worcester. He teaches on undergraduate and postgraduate courses and shares a coordinating role for a large Foundation Degree programme in early years which is taught in partner colleges and at children's centres within the community. He has been part of course development and writing teams at the Open University and is an experienced author. He co-edited Reflective Practice in the Early Years (2010) and most recently Work-Based Research in the Early Years (2011), both published by Sage.

    Natalie Canning is a lecturer in Education – Early Years at the Open University. Her background is in playwork and social work, particularly supporting children to explore personal, social and emotional issues through play. She has published a number of articles relating to professional development and the early years and has presented at national and European conferences. Her main research is in the areas of children's empowerment in play and she is currently involved in research on developing children as autonomous learners. She has taught across a variety of early childhood undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and has edited Play and Practice in the Early Years Foundation Stage (2011) and co-edited Reflective Practice in the Early Years (2010), both published by Sage.


    Mandy Andrews is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Worcester in the Centre for Early Childhood within the Institute of Education. She teaches on Early Years Professional Status pathways and under- graduate and postgraduate modules in early childhood. She was formerly Project Director of a large Sure Start Local Programme and Children's Centre in Cornwall. Her research interests include leadership and children's play and empowerment.

    Karen Appleby is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood and Learning and Teaching Fellow at the University of Worcester. She is Partnership Coordinator for the Centre for Early Childhood, in the Institute of Education, and teaches across a variety of early childhood programmes. Previously she has worked as the Course Leader for the BA (Hons) Integrated Early Childhood Studies and HND in Early Childhood Studies.

    Sue Baylis is a Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for the Early Years Professional Status programme within the Centre for Early Child- hood, at the University of Worcester. She has extensive experience within the early years sector. Prior to working at the University of Worcester she was employed at a nursery assessment unit attached to a special school that catered for children with moderate to severe learning difficulties. Her main research is in areas of empowering children with special educational needs to have a ‘voice’. She has taught across a range of early childhood undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and co-authored a chapter in Reflective Practice in the Early Years (2010), published by Sage.

    Rory McDowall Clark originally trained as a nursery and primary teacher. She has had a wide range of experience in broader social contexts including community development with charities and voluntary organisations and outreach youth work. Rory worked as an educational consultant for a number of local authorities before taking up a post in the Centre for Early Childhood at the University of Worcester where she has been a Senior Lecturer for the past ten years. Her research interests include gender, cultural views of the child and continuing professional development. She is the author of Childhood in Society for Early Childhood Studies (2010), published by Learning Matters.

    Alison Murphy is a Senior Early Years Consultant for a rural local authority supporting quality improvement for early years care and education including childminding settings and children's centres. Alison has a background in early years teaching both in the UK and overseas, running a rural voluntary pre-school setting, in the regulation of daycare settings and more recently in supporting settings and children's centres to develop quality improvement through graduate leadership and continuous professional development.

    Sue Owen is Director of the Well-being Department at the National Children's Bureau (NCB) in London and before that was Director of NCB's Early Childhood Unit. Previously she was Deputy Director of the Early Years National Training Organisation and lead officer for early years at Humberside County Council. She has also worked as Information Officer for the National Childminding Association, as Playgroup Adviser for Manchester City Council, Childminding Adviser for the Save the Children Fund and as a freelance researcher. Sue's most recent publication, with Steph Petrie, is Authentic Relationships in Group Care for Infants and Toddlers (Jessica Kingsley, 2006), and her doctorate was on the development of organised systems of childminding. Sue is also currently Early Years Theme Lead for the Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children's and Young People's Services (C4EO).

    Claire Majella Richards is Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for the Integrated Early Childhood Studies Degree within the Institute of Education at the University of Worcester. She has extensive experience of multi-agency partnership working, having been employed within the voluntary and statutory sectors. Her roles have been varied, in the fields of mental health nursing, substance misuse services, and lately with the social concern of domestic abuse. As a qualified barrister, she remains a committed advocate to the rights of children and is engaged with the activities of the local Safeguarding Children Board.

    Parm Sansoyer is a freelance Early Years Inspector with extensive experience in inspecting the full range of early years provision. She has worked directly with families and children in various contexts and as a therapist dealing with domestic violence, sexual abuse and mental health issues. This brings her into contact with a range of other professional disciplines. She has recently been part of a team exploring communities of practice led by colleagues from the Open University. She holds a BA honours degree in Early Childhood Studies and has particular interests in equality, diversity and inclusion.

    Carla Solvason is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Early Childhood within the Institute of Education at the University of Worcester. Part of her role involves working closely with eight partner colleges that deliver the University's Foundation Degree in Early Years. Prior to lecturing Carla worked as a researcher, a consultant for schools looking to create communication-rich environments, and a primary school teacher. She has published work relating to school culture, educational equality and social justice, collaborative working and work-based research.

    Linda Tyler is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Worcester in the Centre for Early Childhood. Previously she has worked as a teacher and coordinator for ICT, Literacy and Science in a Becta award-winning school. She has designed and delivered ICT training for a local authority and developed several ICTogether groups to enhance parent ICT skills working with parents and children. She is researching the effects of podcasting on children's communication skills in order to develop a teacher training package for students. She has published work online about the use of avatars as a medium for improving literacy.

    Rosie Walker is a social worker by training who has worked in a variety of childcare settings, including social care, child guidance, NSPCC and child protection training. She has acted as a Guardian ad Litem and set up a Family Support Service as well as being an Associate Tutor on the NPQICL course for two years. For the last seven years she has managed two phase 1 children's centres and in 2010 joined the University of Worcester as a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Early Childhood.

  • Conclusion

    MichaelReed and NatalieCanning

    Quality can be seen in a microcosm where the impact of change and improvement is seen as localised and specific to a setting or community. However, in this book we have argued that perceptions of quality have to be located within a wider social, cultural and political context which considers issues such as the role of leadership, power relationships and the influence of outside agencies. The wider implications for quality are constantly changing through political and social influences and are further refined by the economic well-being of the country. This allows us to consider the process and experiences that children engage in. We have placed these at the centre of the argument that quality practice and change is an essential component of early years. The book has attempted to do this through exploring a diverse range of subjects in each of the chapters. It has also revealed the perceptions of practitioners and how they celebrate what works, how they analyse what does not and how they consider what can be built on to improve quality experiences. Many of the contributors have discussed the importance of personal reflection on practice and the way in which practitioners can influence a child's environment. We have therefore identified a strand that runs through the book: quality improvement emerges from recognising the impact of a practitioner's decisions and actions and how they can support but can also detract from children's experiences. Therefore, the book has attempted to challenge, question, refine, develop, change, review, shape and shed preconceived ideas of quality.

    Throughout the book quality is exposed in the individual ways practitioners work and approach quality improvement and change. Many of the chapters have argued for practitioners to have ownership and be inside their own practice. Being able to reflect on individual preferences and strengths and where there are areas for development has been identified in each section of the book. Another key theme is the careful examination of individual values and beliefs. Knowing what these are and how they emerge through practice is an important element of engaging in quality improvement because values and beliefs shape practice and are reflected in what practitioners say and do. We have argued that in the debate surrounding quality, values and beliefs lead the way in striving for quality improvement and change within an early years context.

    The question, ‘What is quality?’ has been addressed in each of the sections of the book. If we are honest, it remains unanswered, or perhaps more suitably, ‘difficult to define’. However, through analysing quality and change perhaps we are closer to a coherent understanding of what forms the main components of quality practice in the early years. This certainly involves a process of self-reflection, which in itself is important but even more so when coupled with actions and a clear rationale, knowledge and understanding that quality emerges from everyday practice. The book has also been about professional development and the importance of challenging the view of quality as solely developing mechanistic competencies and skills. Instead we have argued that quality improvement needs to be seen as a process focusing on considered knowledge that allows an understanding of what needs to be done and why. It has been important to recognise the motivation of practitioners, the leadership within a setting, the inherent goodwill and the dedication of those who want to see children do well. Another important aspect of the book has been to highlight the need for all children to have access to quality, through analysing not only what happens in practice but also the impact of external influences on the early years sector. External influences can be about regulation, but rarely does regulation in itself promote quality, although it may claim to measure it. Therefore, many of the chapters have argued that quality is a complicated mix of interrelated aspects of practice and that the judgements practitioners make are central to the way in which quality improvement in early years practice continues to evolve.

    Ensuring that children remain at the heart of practice enables the debate surrounding quality improvement and change to remain ‘on track’. Children's experiences are reflected not only in the quality of practice but in the knowledge and understanding that underpins practice and wider decisions that affect children's lives. The way in which decisions are made has been identified as central to how quality and change emerge from existing practice. Consequently, the book has recognised the significance of research and policy in practice. We have argued that continuing practice which champions quality requires a questioning response to what happens on a day-to-day basis. It requires personal and professional reflection on what has gone before, an understanding of current practice and planning for the future and how improvements to practice and proactive change can result in positive differences for children and families.

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