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Developing Professional Childhood Practice

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Submitted By kimx2014
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"There is ample evidence that high quality early education and childcare services can improve children's development, learning and behaviour. We also know that a well qualified professional workforce is by far the most important factor in delivering the best quality of services that give children the best possible start in life" Scottish executive (2006, p1)
The national review of the early years and childcare workforce has brought about positive change within the early years sector. Focus was given to develop leadership within the profession. The Scottish executive collaborated with the Scottish social services council to amend the registration requirements for lead practitioners and managers from 2011. This was to ensure a new degree level qualification was attained by staff working in a lead practitioner/management position.
"Research has indicated that the best outcomes and experiences for children come from the best qualified and best led services" Scottish government (2007, p12)
It was hoped that by creating a genuine career structure for the workforce that this would allow practitioners to develop their professional skills and knowledge needed to progress in their career. Thus increasing qualification and pay within the sector. "These actions will improve the status and recognition of the workforce and support improved recruitment, retention and progression within the sector" Scottish executive (2006, p4)
When practitioners work collaboratively with outside agencies, parents/carers and colleagues this will improve outcomes for children and enhance the knowledge and skills of the practitioner. This kind of approach will give them access to a wider range of resources and information which will in turn lead to better qualified staff.
The getting it right for every child document supports collaborative working. It states that "This approach is about how practitioners across all services for children and adults meet the needs of children and young people, working together where necessary to ensure they reach their full potential" Scottish government (2012, p9)
It promotes a shared approach that builds solutions with and around children, young people and families, enabling children and young people to get help when the need it. It supports a positive shift in culture systems and practice and involves working better together to improve life chances for children, young people and their families.
"The standard for childhood practice defines the professional knowledge and understanding, values and commitments, professional skills and abilities that are necessary for managers in early years and childcare services. By putting these elements together you produce sound professional action and so ensure the best outcomes for children, young people and their families" Scottish government (2007, p1)
To ensure the professionalism of practitioners the Scottish social services council (SSSC) made each worker responsible for their own continued professional development (CPD) and made it mandatory that all workers be appropriately registered to suit their job role. It was announced that all workers in day care of children services must undertake 10 days or 60 hours of training or learning within each 5 year registration period, with employers having a key role in supporting this.
The role of the Scottish social services council is to raise standards of practice, strengthen and support the workforce and increase the protection of people who use services. Their vision is a competent, confident workforce capable of delivering high quality services that has the confidence of the public, those who use services and their carers.
The Scottish social services council fulfil their role by setting up registers of key groups of social service staff, publish codes of practice for all social service workers and their employers, regulate the training and education of the workforce and promote education and training.
The Scottish social service council codes of practice are standards of conduct and practice that all social service workers and employers must follow. These give all workers within the sector a clear definition of what is meant by professional practice. One of the standards within the codes states "Social service workers must be accountable for the quality of their work and take responsibility for maintaining and improving their knowledge and skills" Scottish social services council (2009, p32)
In a recent key message by the Scottish government, it stated "Scotland needs a social services workforce which is competent, confident and valued; capable of delivering personalised and flexible services which deliver improved outcomes for people and communities; able to work effectively with partners in delivery of high quality, safe, continually improving user/carer focussed services. This requires a strategic focus on developing and improving the workforce, including appropriate registration and regulation, in addition to the key responsibilities of employers across the sector-public, voluntary and private, to ensure that they put in place a context in which their workforce is enabled to deliver improved outcomes for service users".
As well as improving their standards and qualifications, practitioners are increasingly expected to reflect on their practice in a number of ways in order to enhance their professional development.
The Pre-birth to three document encourages practitioners to research and reflect on their own practice when making informed decisions as this is more likely to have a positive impact for children and their families. The document states "That in order to improve and promote evidence-based practice staff could engage regularly in continuing professional development activity and reflect on different aspects of practice with colleagues, children and parents and focus on what is done and why" Scottish government (2010, p18)
Practitioners could engage in continuing professional development by working towards a professional development award in childhood practice. "This course gives candidates the opportunity to reflect on their own personal development allowing them to update and expand on their existing knowledge within the childcare field" South Lanarkshire College 2013). They could then go on to attain the BA childhood studies qualification, this award matches closely the standard for practice and is designed to develop degree level professionals and future leaders in the sector. "The BA in childhood practice aims to meet the developing professional needs of the early years and childcare workforce, the Scottish government has made this area of study a national priority by calling for a dramatic increase in the number of qualified childhood practice managers" University of Strathclyde.
Within my own workplace an issue i have faced has been working with a member of staff who lacked enthusiasm, she would often sit in one place within the playroom giving little or no interaction to the children in her care. Although i never worked directly with this staff member i felt the effects of her actions throughout the low morale of the staff team. I also felt frustrated at the staff member for not fulfilling her role and for not giving the children the care and education they deserve.
After speaking to other staff members we decided to approach management regarding this issue with our lead practitioner acting as spokesperson on our behalf. A meeting was then held between management and the staff member regarding her conduct, although the initial details where kept confidential management did inform us that they hoped from the outcome of the meeting the issue would now be resolved. This issue has made me reflect on how i handled my own feelings and has reshaped my view on how a practitioner should conduct themselves. Always remembering that the best interest of the children in our care is the main priority.
Whilst reflecting on this issue i found myself drawing upon Donald Schon's reflection theory. Schon believes there are 2 types of reflection; 1/ Reflection on action-retrospective thinking or thinking after the event. We can stop and think through what we did in an attempt to understand why things didn't work out as expected. 2/ Reflection in action-thinking on your feet. Thinking through what is happening without stopping the action, our thinking helps us to reshape what we are doing while we are doing it.
Had i used Schon's reflection in action approach this issue may have been resolved sooner, however it was only after watching this staff member conduct herself in this way for several months that it was decided management would be informed. Therefor on this occasion Schon's reflection on action approach was used to reflect on this issue.
"Schon suggested that reflection is used by practitioners when they encounter situations that are unique, and when individuals may not be able to apply known theories or techniques previously learned" Alice Paige-Smith & Anna Craft (2008, p16).
I also considered David A Kolb's experiential learning theory (learning styles) model whilst reflecting on this issue. Kolb's learning theory sets out 4 distinct learning styles, which are based on a 4 stage learning cycle. Four-stage cycle; 1/ Concrete experience- my own feelings of frustration towards the staff member. 2/ Reflective observation- watching how this staff member conducted herself and the effect this had on staff morale. 3/ Abstract conceptualisation- thinking of how to resolve the issue and what is best for the children in our care. 4/ Active experimentation- speaking to other staff , approaching lead practitioner and management to have the issue resolved. The 4 type definition of the learning styles are; 1/ Diverging 2/ Assimilating 3/ Converging 4/ Accommodating.
Kolb (1984) says that "ideally this process represents a learning cycle or spiral where the learner 'touches all the bases' i.e. a cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking and acting. Immediate or concrete experiences lead to observations and reflections. These reflections are then assimilated (absorbed and translated)into abstract concepts with implications for action, which the person can actively test and experiment with, which in turn enable the creation of new experiences".
Since the development of the national review of the early years and childcare workforce, the new degree level qualification and the Scottish social service council codes of practice there has been a dramatic change in the early years and childcare profession. This has been seen through practitioners being given responsibility for their own continued professional development and enhancing their knowledge and skills within their roles. The Pre-birth to three and Getting it right for every child documents have encouraged staff to work collaboratively and research and reflect on their own practice. They believe this to be an effective way to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families. When practitioners find themselves reflecting upon professional issues they can draw upon the work of theorists such as Schon and Kolb which can improve their thinking for future issues. All of these aspects will make for a stronger, better qualified, reflective and overall professional workforce across the early years sector.

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