Professor of childhood inclusion John Davis and freelance researcher Jamie Mann explain the thinking behind the second Common Weal Policy Lab on Early Learning and Childcare, which will be hosted by the University of Edinburgh on 21 September
IMAGINE a high quality Early Learning and Childcare system that is flexible, fosters childhood creativity and is responsive to parent’s needs. The second Common Weal Policy Lab to be hosted by The University of Edinburgh on the 21 September has asked parents, children, young people, policy makers, academics and professionals from across the country to identify the next key steps to be taken in Scotland.
The referendum debate saw childcare at the centre of discussions concerning the type of Scotland we’d like to live in. Participants at the policy lab will be asked to build on this debate and to answer key policy questions such as:
– What will a child-centred and creative environment look like?
– What types of inspection and professional registration are necessary?
– How do we fully fund flexible, high quality, early years and out of school provision?
Recent reports and reviews of early years learning and care have raised important questions about Scotland’s direction of travel. The Commission for Childcare Reform (CCCR) argued for an increase in provision to 50 hours per week and stressed that no family should have to spend more than 10 per cent of their net household income on the costs.
“The second Common Weal Policy Lab to be hosted by The University of Edinburgh on the 21 September has asked parents, children, young people, policy makers, academics and professionals from across the country to identify the next key steps to be taken in Scotland”
A Scottish Parliament report SPICE suggested that full-time learning and care might be paid for by increasing the number of women in the workforce and the amount of hours they are able to work. Key questions this report raised ahead of the policy lab include:
– Will the need for out of school and holiday childcare, and breakfast and after school clubs be addressed? And, should childcare be limited to early years?
– How can we improve early childhood education and care in Scotland while keeping within an austerity budget? What hidden resources might we be able to draw on?
– To date, research shows that most local authorities have carried out very limited consultations, delivered largely inflexible services and have so far have concentrated on bringing services ‘in house’. Will the aims of the Children and Young People Act be achieved with this type of approach? What alternatives exist?
– Could the funding committed to increasing provision be more effectively used in other ways to benefit children’s outcomes?
Further public response to recent reports has raised questions concerning who will be the primary carers for children: professionals, or parents? While academic specialists have argued that if children are going to spend increased time in Early Learning and Childcare services, we need to ensure they offer creative spaces that don’t institutionalise childhood.
“Further public response to recent reports has raised questions concerning who will be the primary carers for children: professionals, or parents?”
Other reports such as the Scottish Social Services Council SSSC Taking The First Steps Report have suggested that the status and quality of professionals has increased and that more work needs to be done to explain to the public and parents, the huge changes that have been made over the last decade.
The Education Scotland Report argued that professionals who had taken either the BA Childhood practice qualification for managers or post-graduate courses in Early Learning and Care led high-quality provision. Subsequent reports highlighted the need for more rigorous professional development for primary school head teachers who manage nurseries. Ahead of the policy lab, participants have identified key questions concerning professionalism such as:
– Should teachers without early years qualifications be required to carry out further training before working in early years? This is currently the case with social workers, nurses, and community educators.
– As professional training and expertise in early childhood care and education shifts, how can ensure we have the best training and the right people in place to look after young children (and their families)?
– What can we learn from other countries? Some are moving away from group care and back to more family-based services like childminding.
The SSSC report also highlights increased professional understanding of the need to engage with children’s perspectives and utilise creative approaches and outdoor spaces. Similarly, the need for creative, play-based approaches to children’s learning and care was also highlighted in the Learning Play and Care in Scotland Report .
“The need for creative, play-based approaches to children’s learning and care was also highlighted in the Learning Play and Care in Scotland Report.”
The Iram Siraj Workforce Review argued that the sector should deal with issues of pay inequality, reassess inspection criteria and develop new methods of evaluation.
These reports create an exciting discussion for the policy lab to contribute to. Participants have also raised key questions to be discussed concerning our visions for Early Learning and Care:
– Can we build on the history and culture of childcare in Scotland in a similar way to that which was achieved with the Te Wharik curriculum based on Maori culture in New Zealand?
– How can the private, public and voluntary sectors come together to develop lasting partnerships that continue to promote a high quality child-centred Scottish pedagogy, enable positive relationships and also cater for a range of diverse families?
– Can we sketch out a process where parents, family members, children and professionals work in partnership to define the pedagogy, curriculum and outcomes of early years and out of school services?
– Who defines the outcome and how can we balance the top-down performance indicator culture of the Siraj review with the Scottish tradition of local flexibility and local partnerships?
We’re very much looking forward to the event; Professor John Davis, freelance researcher Jamie Mann and Common Weal strategist Katie Gallogly-Swan have been working hard to ensure a diverse range of people from across Scotland are able to take part on the day.
The day’s discussions will be documented and turned into a policy paper and the answers to the key issues will be reported back through CommonSpace. We’re ready for a frank and open debate in which we’ll collaboratively chart our aspirations for the future of Early Learning and Care in Scotland.
For more information on the early years and childcare policy lab email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture courtesy of Common Weal