23 SES 01 A, Early Childhood Education
The legal framework of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings in England requires the appointment of a key person for each of the children enrolled. The initial policy text that made the allocation of a key person to a child statutory was published Department for Children Schools and Families (2008) and the document itself as well as the non-statutory guidance emphasised the relationship aspects of this requirement and with it the inclusion of all attending children. By 2017 this statutory requirement continues to exist, though references to relationship building are mostly removed. Instead the administrative responsibilities are emphasises. In this paper I explore how the statutory requirement to name a key person, or the ‘policy in action’ turns into ‘policy in use’ (Ball and Bowe 1992).
The term key person can be traced back to Goldschmied and Jackson’s (1994) work on care for the youngest in childcare settings drawing on Bowlby’s (1979) attachment theory. The purpose and role of the key person in ECEC settings has been developed further in a book published by Elfer, Goldschmied, and Selleck (2003) just after the Guidance Birth to Three Matters (DfES 2002) became available and included the principle of the key person.
International comparison and increased interest in ECEC (OECD 2001, 2006, 2012; Cohen and Korintus 2016) has led to some convergence in thinking about the purpose and practice ECEC and in Europe to the Barcelona targets of provision. A comparison of the English and German system shows convergence in respect to a stronger emphasis on education and the acknowledgement of documentation of children’s learning. The complex development of ECEC services in each of the two countries (Penn 2009; Hohmann forth coming) results in an English system routed in neoliberalism whereas the German system is situated in a social-democratic ideology. On the one hand, the strong neoliberal orientation of the ECEC system and the tight net of statutory requirements, like the staff:child ratio and the named key person, are characteristic of the English system in contrast to German policy and a detailed examination of their impact on pedagogical practice deserves attention. On the other hand, attachment theory enjoys recognition in both of the countries and its relevance for care and education outside the parental home are discussed (for example, Grossmann and Grossmann 2015; Ahnert 2007; Elfer, Goldschmied, and Selleck 2012)
Literature reviewed for this paper seeks answers to the question in what way attachment theory informs structures of services and practices of the work with young children and their families in ECEC settings and the interdependency of structure, theory and policy interpretation at all policy making levels.
The paper presents some findings from a small scale, qualitative study. Data collection commenced after ethical approval of the Faculty’s Research Ethics Committee, Plymouth University. The sample: Three ECEC institutions in the Southwest of England: One ECEC institution was situated in an affluent area, one in a less affluent area and one in an area with high levels of poverty. In conducted semi-structured interviews in each of the institutions: with the head and three members of staff involved in caring and educating two year olds. There were interviews with one head of a German ECEC institution in an area of high deprivation and an interview with a member of staff of a small ECEC setting in an affluent area. Interviews took place in a quiet room of the ECEC setting. The interviews lasted between 30 minutes and 2 hour. Interview topics were: education and training and ideologies held at the beginning of their career; awareness of policy changes and effects on their work; daily routines, work-load, structure and changes that have taken place over time; most important aspects of working with two year old children and their families. Interviews were transcribed and analysed iterating between in vivo coding and comparison with emerging patterns, making use of the software programme NVivo. Analysis began with scrutinizing individual interviews, continued across their institution, followed by the analysis within the country sample. Finally the data from both countries are compared. The final analysis took place against the backdrop of the respective ECEC developments.
Interest by international bodies like the OECD and the European Commission (Cohen and Korintus 2016) in ECEC settings and attempts to formulate common indicators for high quality services (OECD 2012) led to the emphasis of a set of theories, a particular view of young children with consequences for pedagogical work. This small qualitative research project shows how practices in ECEC settings are shaped by contemporary theories, including attachment theory as it develops within a national context, by the ideologically underpinned structure of ECEC services of the respective country and the interpretation of ECEC staff. The English key person approach can be seen as an attempt to avoid negative effects of neoliberal structures of ECEC system, yet struggles with the powerful impact of a fragmented, market oriented system of services evolving around parents’ ability and willingness to pay.
Ahnert, Lieselotte. 2007. "Von der Mutter-Kind- zur Erzieherinnen-Kind-Bindung?" In Die Erzieherin-Kind-Beziehung: Zentrum von Bildung und Erziehung, edited by Fabienne Becker-Stoll and Marin R. Textor. Berlin, Düsseldorf, Mannheim: Cornelsen. Ball, Stephen J., and Richard Bowe. 1992. "Subject departments and the 'implementation' of National Curriculum policy: an overview of the issue." Journal of Curriculum Studies 24 (2):97-115. Bowlby, John. 1979. The Making and Breaking of Affectional Bonds. London: Tavistock. Cohen, Bronwen J., and Marta Korintus. 2016. "Making connections: reflections on over three decades of EU initiatives in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)." Early Years:1-15. doi: 10.1080/09575146.2016.1181050. Department for Children Schools and Families. 2008. Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage: Setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five. London: Department for Children, Schools and Families. Department for Education and Skills. 2002. Birth to three matters. London: DfES. Elfer, Peter, Elinor Goldschmied, and Dorothy Selleck. 2003. Key Persons in the Nursery: building Relationships for Quality Provision. London: David Fulton. Elfer, Peter, Elinor Goldschmied, and Dorothy Y. Selleck. 2012. Key Persons in the Early Years: Routledge. http://www.myilibrary.com?ID=344250. Goldschmied, Elinor, and Sonia Jackson. 1994. People Under Three: Young Children in Daycare. London, New York: Routledge. Grossmann, Klaus E., and Karin Grossmann. 2015. Bindung und menschliche Entwicklung: John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth und die Grundlagen der Bindungstheorie. 5th ed. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta. Hohmann, Ulrike. forth coming. "Found in translation: an analytical framework to explore national and regional Early Childhood Education and Care systems." Early Years. OECD. 2001. "Starting Strong: Early Childhood Education and Care." In.: OECD. ———. 2006. Starting Strong II: Early childhood education and care. Paris: OECD. ———. 2012. Starting Strong III: A Quality Toolbox for Early Childhood Education and Care. Paris: OECD. Penn, Helen. 2009. "Public and Private: the History of Early Education and Care Institutions in the United Kingdom." In Child Care and Preschool Development in Europe: Institutional Perspectives, edited by Kirsten Scheiwe and Harry Willekens. Basingstoke: palgrave macmillan.
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